Andersen's Fairy Tales Essay - Critical Context

Critical Context

Hans Christian Andersen’s tales made him world famous; his tales are translated into numerous languages, and the anthologies that continue to be published suggest that he is very much alive today. His other works—novels, plays, and poetry—have fared less well, but his lively travel chronicles—for example, En Digters Bazar (1842; A Poet’s Bazaar, 1988)—have kept their charm. He has also had an impact on other writers of tales, who have often tried to interpret his complex texts by rewriting them; a notable example is the Dutch author Cees Nooteboom’s In Nederland (1984; In the Dutch Mountains, 1987), in which “The Snow Queen” is playfully redone. The film industry has, naturally, taken to Andersen’s fairy tales, for example with versions of The Red Shoes (1948) and The Little Mermaid (1989). These films tend to demonstrate how difficult it is to transfer the complexity of Andersen’s tales to the big screen.

By using the ancient form of the tale in experimental ways, Andersen incorporates the entire gamut of human emotions, from rollicking comedy to bleakest tragedy, and in that span of emotions—as in his truly innovative narrative technique—lies his greatness.