Sorry, this course is not currently running. Browse other Literature courses.

  • Logo for Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales

Explore the fairy tale world of HC Andersen - the inspiration behind The Little Mermaid and Frozen - with this free online course.

33,753 enrolled on this course

Illustration of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    5 hours

This free online course will introduce you to some of Hans Christian Andersen’s most popular fairy tales, as well as a few less well known. It will help you analyse the themes in these fairy tales, and give you the possibility to discuss the author’s relationship with his own age as well as his cross-cultural importance today, as the inspiration behind many popular books and movies.

Interpret Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales with experts from his birthplace

You will learn with experts from the HC Andersen Center at the University of Southern Denmark – an internationally renowned research institution located in the writer’s birthplace, Odense.

Each week, these experts will guide discussions, analyses and interpretations of one or more of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, including:

  • The Tinderbox
  • The Travelling Companion
  • The Little Mermaid
  • The Snow Queen (the inspiration for Disney’s Frozen)
  • The Story of a Mother
  • The Red Shoes

New English translations of the fairy tales will be used. You can download them from this website .

You will explore the themes of each story, and investigate how they both conform with and digress from the basic elements of the fairy tale and the folk tale.

The fairy tale genre became very popular in the period of literary history to which Hans Christian Andersen belongs, Romanticism, when childhood was discovered as an age that is important in its own right. What Hans Christian Andersen did with this genre is absolutely unique - there are no other writers of fairy tales like him.

Through the course, you will understand how Hans Christian Andersen’s authorship developed. From the rewriting of old folk tales via self-invented fairy tales to his so-called new fairy tales characterized by a modern approach.

Explore Hans Christian Andersen’s enduring, universal appeal

Hans Christian Andersen often described himself as a “bog plant” – his roots were figuratively speaking deeply anchored in mire and mud, his very humble beginnings, but he constantly stretched up for the light of the sun, ie. for acceptance and recognition as an artist and a writer. And in fact he grew from these humble beginnings to achieve fame and acknowledgement as an artist in both Europe and America while he was still alive. After his death, he has also become famous in Asia and all other parts of the world.

The majority of Hans Christian Andersen’s around 200 fairy tales have been translated into at least 150 languages. They not only create a fantasy world for children, but also explore universal, sinister and more adult themes such as death, grief and loss.

Through this course, you will discover why his stories have such an enduring and universal appeal - for both children and adults.

Download video: standard or HD

What topics will you cover?

  • Introduction to Hans Christian Andersen, his life, works and contemporary society.
  • Introduction to the fairy tale genre and the folk tale inspiration.
  • Models for analysis of folk tales and fairy tales: the actantial model and the home-away-home model.
  • Analysis and comparison of a folk tale ‘The Blue Light’ and a fairy tale Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Tinderbox’.
  • Hans Christian Andersen’s experimental rewritings of folk tales with the folk tale ‘The Riddle’ and Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Spectre’ and The Travelling Companion’.
  • Biblical themes in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales.
  • An original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale – ‘The Little Mermaid’.
  • Hans Christian Andersen’s new fairy tales with ‘The Snow Queen’ and ‘The Story of a Mother’.
  • Hans Christian Andersen’s recycling of the folk tale with ‘The Red Shoes.
  • Hans Christian Andersen’s contemporary and cross-cultural relevance.
  • How to engage in further studies of Hans Christian Andersen.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe the life and works of the writer Hans Christian Andersen.
  • Describe the fairy tale genre.
  • Apply relevant models to the analysis of fairy tales.
  • Interpret fairy tales and uncover themes and meanings.
  • Discuss and compare different analyses and interpretations of fairy tales.
  • Explain the themes embedded in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales.
  • Reflect on and discuss Hans Christian Andersen’s contemporary and cross-cultural relevance.

Who is the course for?

You will need a basic ability to read and understand Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales in English. Otherwise, a curiosity about and a love for the fairy tale genre is the sole prerequisite for the course.

Who will you learn with?

Professor at The Hans Christian Andersen Centre, University of Southern Denmark. Has written a book, edited several anthologies and written numerous articles about Hans Christian Andersen.

Ivy York Möller-Christensen is a professor at the Department for the Study of Language, Literature and Media at Europa-Universität, Flensburg, Germany, and a visiting fellow at the HC Andersen Center.

Johs. Nørregaard Frandsen is a professor at and Head of The Hans Christian Andersen Centre at the University of Southern Denmark.

Mette has an MA in comparative literature and is the facilitator on the course Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales.

Torsten Bøgh Thomsen is a PhD at the Hans Christian Andersen Centre, University of Southern Denmark. His research includes studies in Romanticism, Ecocriticism and Aesthetic Theory.

Who developed the course?

Hans Christian Andersen Centre

The Hans Christian Andersen Centre at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, Denmark is the world’s leading institution within the field of Hans Christian Andersen research.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLfairytales to talk about this course on social media.