Course Hero. "Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) Study Guide." Course Hero. 6 Oct. 2017. Web. 12 Nov. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fairy-Tales-of-Hans-Christian-Andersen-Selected/>.
Course Hero. (2017, October 6). Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 12, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fairy-Tales-of-Hans-Christian-Andersen-Selected/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) Study Guide." October 6, 2017. Accessed November 12, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fairy-Tales-of-Hans-Christian-Andersen-Selected/.
Course Hero, "Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) Study Guide," October 6, 2017, accessed November 12, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fairy-Tales-of-Hans-Christian-Andersen-Selected/.
A mahogany-carved faun on a parlor chest is called General Headquarters-Hindquarters-Gives-Orders-Front-and-Rear-Sergeant-Billygoat-Legs by the children of the household. This faun is in love with a most charming porcelain shepherdess positioned on a shelf above. Her self-proclaimed grandfather, the Chinaman sitting on the shelf next to her, is quite agreeable to the match, stating the general probably has untold riches in his chest, and would make her a fine husband. But the shepherdess is in love with the matching figurine of the chimney sweep, and together they plan to escape into the wide world.
This is an extremely risky venture for a pair of porcelain figurines, but the two sweethearts manage to get as far as the top of the chimney on the roof. The view is too overwhelming for the delicate little porcelain shepherdess, who begs the chimney sweep to take her back to their shelf in the parlor. Once safely there, they find that the Chinaman has fallen and broken his back. Even though he has been repaired and placed once again on the shelf, he no longer has the ability to nod his head as he once did. The porcelain shepherdess and chimney sweep remain next to one another "until the day they broke."
Andersen credits one of the tales of the German writer E. T. A. Hoffmann (1776–1822) with having influenced this story, but he does not say which one it was. In any case the tale is an example of commedia dell'arte plots. In this theatrical form, which spread from 16th-century Italy throughout Europe, a charming pair of sweethearts somehow manages to overcome the wishes of more powerful persons to realize their desire.
Andersen curbs this intent with a realistic rendering of how difficult it would be for fragile creatures to survive in the outside world. He was aware of how delicate his own feelings were. Once broken and repaired, like the Chinaman, they could never quite be the same.