The Stories (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
The Red Shoes. Karen is such a poor little girl that she has to go barefoot in winter. An old mother shoemaker feels sorry for her and makes Karen a clumsy pair of shoes out of pieces of red felt. When Karen’s mother dies, the girl wears the red shoes to the funeral. An old lady, seeing Karen walking forlornly behind her mother’s coffin, pities her and takes the child home. The old lady thinks that the red shoes are ugly, and she burns them.
One day, Karen sees the queen and the little princess. The princess is dressed all in white, with beautiful red morocco shoes. When the time comes for Karen’s confirmation, she needs new shoes. The old lady, almost blind, does not know that the shoes Karen picks out are red ones just like those the princess wore. During the confirmation, Karen can think of nothing but her red shoes.
The next Sunday, as Karen goes to her First Communion, she meets an old soldier with a crutch. After admiring the red shoes, he strikes them on the soles and tells them to stick fast when Karen dances. During the service, she can think only of her shoes. After church, she starts to dance. The footman has to pick her up and take off her shoes before the old lady can take her home.
At a ball in town, Karen cannot stop dancing. She dances out through the fields and up to the church. There an angel with a broad sword stops her and tells her she will dance until she becomes a skeleton, a warning to all...
(The entire section is 2393 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Form and Content (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series, Supplement)
Hans Christian Andersen’s tales appeared nearly yearly in small collections from 1835 to 1872; the first complete edition was gathered during Andersen’s lifetime as Eventyr og Historier (1863-1874; fairy tales and stories); the English translation used here is The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories (1974), by Erik Haugaard.
Andersen often imitated the magic tale—ancient, oral stories that begin with the tantalizing “once upon a time” and, after many tribulations for hero or heroine, end with the deeply satisfying “and then they lived happily ever after,” as shown in “The Traveling Companion” (1835), “The Tinderbox” (1835), and “The Wild Swans” (1838). The same structure is used, if more freely, in “The Ugly Duckling” (1837), “The Snow Queen” (1845), and in “The Little Mermaid” (1837). The protagonists are striving for a goal, meet opposition, must pass tests, and finally are rewarded with their dreams being realized: In “The Snow Queen,” the powers of cold reason are defeated, and heroine and hero are reunited; “The Little Mermaid” seems to fail the tests that will grant her the prince’s love, but she is nevertheless rewarded by being the recipient of that which she desired most of all, not mortal love but an immortal soul. These tales tend to be optimistic, but, more explicitly than the folktales, they confront existential issues—such as growing up, dreaming oneself away from this world,...
(The entire section is 641 words.)
Bibliography (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Blegvad, Erik. Hans Christian Andersen: From an Artist’s Point of View. Washington, D.C.: Children’s Literature Center, Library of Congress, 1988. Critique of Andersen’s fairy tales from a noted Danish illustrator. Describes visual qualities of Andersen’s tales that are rarely noted. Based on a lecture, this book is casual about references; the reader needs some familiarity with Andersen’s works.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Hans Christian Andersen. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2005. Collection of essays about Andersen’s life and work. Some of the essays discuss the heroes and heroines in the fairy tales, Andersen and the European literary tradition, and “Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales and Stories: Secrets, Swans, and Shadows.”
Dahl, Svend. A Book on the Danish Writer, Hans Christian Andersen, His Life and Work. Copenhagen: Berlingske Bogtr., 1955. An introductory approach to Andersen’s life and work. Includes coverage of his story themes and relates them to events in his life.
Gronbech, Bo. Hans Christian Andersen. Boston: Twayne, 1980. Treats Andersen’s fairy tales in depth, primarily as literary compositions. Extensive bibliographical references.
Mortensen, Finn. A Tale of Tales: Hans Christian Andersen and Danish...
(The entire section is 361 words.)