Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) | Study Guide

Hans Christian Andersen

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Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) | Quotes


None of his friends came to see him, because there were too many stairs to climb.

Narrator, The Tinder Box

Andersen here makes a wry comment, as if delicately sidestepping the real reason the soldier's "friends" no longer visit him. It is because he no longer has any money to spend on drinking and carousing. Being poor is never socially attractive, as Andersen himself was painfully aware. In his stories the poor struggle to find lodgings out of sight and mind of fashionable groups, in damp basements or drafty attics.


Don't expect me to carry you there in a sack, because you're too heavy for me, but if you walk to the river and crawl into the sack, I'll throw you in with the greatest of pleasure.

Little Claus, Little Claus and Big Claus

Little Claus lets Big Claus take advantage of him only up to a point. Then he cleverly uses the momentum of Big Claus's greed to take the situation past credulity—a storytelling device Andersen knew would delight children.


The tulips and tiger lilies are the old chaperones, who see to it that the dancing is done well and everyone behaves properly.

The student in "Little Ida's Flowers", Little Ida's Flowers

The idea that each flower has a specific personality expressed at a dance party delights Little Ida. It also provides an element of plausibility based on a child's own observations (for instance, from the stairs before being sent to bed) of how adults behave at dance parties.


Love vanishes when one's sweetheart has been soaking in a roof gutter for five years. Yes, you don't even recognize her when you meet her in a dustbin.

Narrator, The Sweethearts

Andersen here cautions his readers that the skin-deep glamour of beauty fades beyond recognition with time and age. Taking great pride in one's "red Moroccan leather and cork center" is empty vanity to begin with and nonsensical in the end.


Meet my son. He is to be your husband, and you will share a delightful home in the mud.

The toad, Thumbelina

The toad minces no words in her assumption of guardianship of Thumbelina and the tiny girl's assets as a marketable bride. Lovely but poor young women were commonly bartered off to the highest bidder by their closest male relatives in Andersen's era. The toad further assumes her notion of "a delightful home" in the mud is universal, never once considering Thumbelina might have a very different view.


I can do without the money. I have my healthy, strong arms and Heaven will always help me.

John, The Traveling Companion

John's simple, direct, and honorable statement typifies many of Andersen's stories. Even though real life rarely rewards those with such faith in their hearts, the rightness of it always brings reward at the end of an Andersen tale.


With eyes already glazing she looked once more at the prince, hurled herself over the bulwarks into the sea, and felt her body dissolve in foam.

Narrator, The Little Mermaid

The little mermaid has been given one last chance to save her own life at the expense of the prince's. She can't take it, so at this moment she sacrifices herself to the purity of her love. In the dissolution of her human/mermaid body into foam, she doesn't yet know she will join the daughters of the air to gain an immortal soul. The little mermaid can't gain earthly love, but through this denial has a chance to gain an eternal divine love.


The soul by itself is clever enough. It's the body that makes it stupid.

Narrator, The Galoshes of Fortune

The separate but related attributes of body and soul are often explored by Andersen. They reflect the interplay of the seven deadly sins and the seven blessed virtues from medieval morality plays, where they are characters attempting to influence the soul. While virtues appealed to higher motives, sins appealed to the carnal and self-serving desires of the body.


The next day, when a servant took up the ashes she found him in the shape of a little tin heart.

Narrator, The Steadfast Tin Soldier

The tin soldier remains faithful through all the trials to which he is subjected. When at last his tin body is melted in fire, the strength of his fidelity and constancy leaves its distilled residue in the shape of a heart.


And they sat there, grown-up, but children still—children at heart. And it was summer, warm, glorious summer.

Narrator, The Snow Queen

It is her pure and simple, childlike intent that brings success to Gerda's search for her friend, Kay. Even though she is threatened by many obstacles, her constancy inspires the help of such unlikely people as the robber girl. Andersen was keenly aware of the fact "grown-up children at heart" are rarely rewarded with success in the real world, but in his stories, love alone is capable of transforming the deepest winter ice into summer warmth.


I am older than you are. I am an old heathen. The Greeks and Romans called me their god of dreams.

Ole Lukoie, Ole Lukoie

Andersen here alludes to the idea underneath a staunch Christian faith and allegiance to scientific observation there lies a pre-Christian foundation of "wild," pagan power and nature-worship. This notion was imparted to him by his superstitious mother and grandmother when he was a child.


My shadow has gone mad. He takes himself for a man, and—imagine it! He takes me for his shadow.

The shadow, The Shadow

Andersen here criticizes his society's glorification of the shallowness of superficial attributes, like fine clothing or polite behavior, at the expense of artists like himself. The story also makes reference to servants and poor relatives coerced into providing amusement, companionship, and flattery to those who are more powerful and wealthy.


I have seen tears in the Emperor's eyes. Nothing could surpass that. An Emperor's tears are strangely powerful. I have my reward.

The nightingale, The Nightingale

While the emperor is seduced by the technical perfection and gaudy exterior of the mechanical nightingale, he is moved when he realizes nothing compares to the "wild and free" inspiration of the real nightingale. The genuine bird is an artist whose song inspires awe in the rich and powerful.


My days are over and past. Why didn't I enjoy them while I could? Now they are gone—all gone.

The fir tree, The Fir Tree

A young and impatient child is, like the fir tree, all too eager to get quickly through childhood and get to "the good part" of being an adult. However, many a grown-up and old person looks back wistfully on his or her life only to realize he or she did not appreciate childhood pleasures at the time.


But on the corner, leaning against the wall, sat the little girl with red cheeks and smiling mouth, frozen to death on the last evening of the old year.

Narrator, The Little Match Girl

No one passing by can recognize the warmth her memory and imagination, sparked by the matches she struck, provided the little match girl. She is smiling because she was comforted in the end by her grandmother's love.

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