Image of a painting of Hans Christian Andersen reading a fairy tale to 3 children
H. C. Andersen reading the tale 'The Angle' to the painter's children

Summary of the course

The course week by week

In week 1 we learnt that Hans Christian Andersen was as a mould breaker in the established, literary community having come from a background as a working class lad. And we saw that his fairy tales are both universal and culturally specific. They are read all over the world – but they are also rooted in a Christian culture confronted with modernity.

In week 2, we gave you an introduction to the fairy tale genre and to the folk tale which inspires it. We introduced you to two useful analysis models and used them to compare Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Tinderbox’ with the folk tale ‘The Blue Light’. We saw how the author plays with the genre conventions of the folk tale.

In week 3, we compared two experimental rewritings of the same folk tale: ‘The Travelling Companion’, written in Hans Christian Andersen’s characteristic, narrative style, and his work of youth ‘The Spectre’ which is completely different.

In week 4, we focused on Hans Christian Andersen’s original, self-invented fairy tale ‘The Little Mermaid’. We studied the complexity of the text and its way of reflecting upon both Christianity and modernity. We compared it to Disney’s version which is much closer to the folk tale genre than Hans Christian Andersen’s literary faire tale.

In week 5, we analysed and interpreted two of Hans Christian Andersen’s so-called “new fairy tales”: ‘The Story of a Mother’ and ‘The Snow Queen’. We saw how the author transforms the fairy tale genre into a modern reflection on religious meaning as well as on the medium of fiction.

In week 6, we have analysed how ‘The Red Shoes’, one of Hans Christian Andersen’s “new fairy tales”, recycles folk tale motifs and opens a dialogue between traditional and modern storytelling as a method to express a value crisis.

Take a moment to reflect on your participation in this course:

  • What have you learnt?
  • What was your favourite part?
  • What surprised you the most?
  • What would you like to learn more about?

Post your response below, study and comment on the responses of fellow learners.

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This article is from the free online course:

Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales

Hans Christian Andersen Centre