Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The stories in Winter’s Tales, although they are many-faceted and highly complex, place a heavy emphasis on the role of women in human existence. Women are portrayed as insightful, resourceful, and powerful; although most of their activity takes place behind the scenes, they are in control of the truly important events of life. Other themes of the volume, such as the role of art and the place of religion, are all informed by Isak Dinesen’s larger concern with the nature of the universal female force. Dinesen wrote Winter’s Tales, which was published after Dinesen’s homeland, Denmark, had been occupied by Germany during World War II, partly to encourage her countrymen in their hour of need. Her emphasis on the life-giving female power, as opposed to the destructive masculinity of war, was a way of reminding her readers that the war would not last forever; there would be better times ahead.

The eleven stories in the volume are arranged slightly differently in the American and the Danish editions. In the American version, tales 1 and 11, “The Young Man with the Carnation” and “A Consolatory Tale,” are both focused on the function of art in human life. The Danish edition of the book is introduced by “The Sailor-boy’s Tale,” which is a forceful story about female archetypal power. The difference in organization between the two editions is probably a function of the different circumstances in Denmark and the United States...

(The entire section is 558 words.)