Welcome to Week 2

This week we’ll investigate Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales from a genre perspective. In the following steps, we will introduce you to the folk tale genre and to useful analysis models.

As we shall see, Hans Christian Andersen was profoundly inspired by the folk tale tradition. Thus, getting familiar with this special genre is fundamental for your understanding of his fairy tales.

We will introduce you to the typical forms of the folk tale and to a couple of models which are useful when analysing its elements and structures: the so-called actantial model and the narrative pattern called ‘home-away-home’. The latter is not only specific to the folk tale but can also be found in the Bildungsroman. This German term is used in the English language and refers to novels like Goethe’s ‘Wilhelm Meister’s Lehrjahre’ or ‘Wilhelm Meister’s apprenticeship’.

You will also get the opportunity to test your analysis skills on a folk tale which is particularly important in our context: ‘The Blue Light’, collected and published by the Grimm Brothers. This tale has a lot of features in common with one of Hans Christian Andersen’s earliest fairy tales, ‘The Tinderbox’. Comparing the two tales, we will be able to study Hans Christian Andersen’s use and manipulation of the folk tale. Finally, PhD student Torsten Bøgh Thomsen will propose his analysis and interpretation of ‘The Tinderbox’.

Week 2 contains all the theory you will need to participate. So don’t worry, the rest of the course will be lighter.

As you go through this week, here are some questions to bear in mind:

  • How can we understand the interest that Hans Christian Andersen takes in the orally transmitted folk tales?
  • In what way is he manipulating this genre and why?
  • What is characteristic of Hans Christian Andersen’s special way of telling fairy tales?

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This article is from the free online course:

Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales

Hans Christian Andersen Centre