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Online course

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.

Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales

Discover why HCA’s tales have such universal appeal for both children and adults

This course will introduce you to some of Hans Christian Andersen’s most popular fairy tales, as well as a few less well-known ones. It will help you analyse the themes in these fairy tales, and give you an opportunity to discuss how these works were viewed in the author’s own times as well as their cross-cultural importance today, as the inspiration for many popular books and movies. Each week, experts from the internationally renowned HC Andersen Center will guide discussions, analyses and interpretations of one or more of the author’s fairy tales.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsWelcome to an open on-line course that has the author and writer of fairy tales Hans Christian Andersen and his works as the subject. The researchers you will meet here – and who are looking forward to meeting you – represent the Center of Hans Christian Andersen at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense in Denmark. We hope you will enjoy the course. I would like to quote the first lines of one of Andersen’s

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 secondsbest-known fairy tales: ‘A soldier came marching along the highway: left, right! left, right! He had his knapsack on his back and a sword at his side, for he had been out fighting a war, and now he was on his way home.’ That is how ‘The Tinder-Box’ begins. It dates from 1835, which makes it one of the earliest fairy tales he wrote. As the quotation demonstrates, Andersen, using very simple means, was able to build up a distinctive universe in his writing.

Skip to 1 minute and 15 secondsFor this is exactly how a soldier has to move: left, right! left, right! Every child understands this logic, and it is equally clear that we are talking about a soldier when he marches left right, left right! What do soldiers do? Well yes, they go out to fight wars, and then long for home! The mind of a child can grasp this, and in that way the story is now ready to unfold. Something is bound to happen, something remarkable,

Skip to 1 minute and 50 secondsfor here comes a soldier, ready for the unexpected: left right, left right! A scene has been set, a universe created and a foundation laid that set the powers of the imagination going and open up the story. There are many readers and many different readings of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories and fairy tales in the world. We look forward to meeting some of them here. In particular, we look forward to exploring Hans Christian Andersen’s artistic universe together with you and your reading of his fairy tales. Welcome!

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.

When would you like to start?

  • Available now

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.

What software or tools do you need?

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

Who will you learn with?

Jacob Bøggild

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

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.

Johannes Nørregaard Frandsen

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

Mette Dam Laursen

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

Torsten Bøgh Thomsen

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?

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.

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  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes

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