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

Hans Christian Andersen

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Course Hero, "Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) Study Guide," October 6, 2017, accessed December 14, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Fairy-Tales-of-Hans-Christian-Andersen-Selected/.

Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Selected) | The Traveling Companion | Summary



Poor John has a dream of fortune, but when he wakes, he realizes he must make his own way in the world without any resources. He recognizes God's glory in all of nature and has faith he will rejoin his dead father once his earthly journey is done.

John sets off, and when he comes to a distant churchyard, he finds many of the graves have been neglected, so he weeds them and straightens the wreaths, hoping some good person will attend to his father's grave in his absence with the same kindness. Some days later, John takes refuge from a storm inside a church, only to find two evil men trying to throw a dead body from its coffin. When they tell John it is because the dead man owed them a debt, he pays it and restores the body to its coffin for burial.

Sometime later, a mysterious stranger calls out to John and offers to travel with him, an arrangement John welcomes. It isn't long before John realizes his companion is no ordinary person, for he has a salve for mending puppets' broken legs, making them as good as new. In fact, the salve can even enable the puppets to move on their own. The stranger also acquires a bundle of switches, a sword, and a pair of swan's wings as they travel together in the mountains. When they arrive at a distant town on the other side, they find themselves in a land troubled by a most beautiful but wicked princess.

All suitors to the princess's hand must answer three questions. If they can't, the princess has them killed and decorates her garden with their bones. However, with the help of magic in the objects the stranger has acquired, John and his companion find out the princess is really under the spell of a wicked sorcerer. John is quite able to correctly answer her questions and, with the companion's help, manages to free her from the evil spell and marry her.

Before the stranger leaves, he reveals to John he was the dead man John had saved from the evil men. Now having repaid the debt, he is free to continue his journey to the afterlife.


Transformation stories are common in traditional folk literature. In this story a dead man comes to life and an enchanted princess is freed from an evil spell. In both cases the transformation is accomplished through the main character's inherent goodness and faith, which allow him to overcome steep obstacles.

The story can be read as a Christian allegory, with the traveling companion representing Christ. He dies and comes back to life in order to save humankind, represented in the evil princess. The main character, John, can be seen as a disciple or follower of the traveling companion. He is like the disciples in the Christian gospels who encounter the risen Christ, do not immediately recognize him, and are ultimately transformed by him.

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