chapter  3
22 Pages

The consolidation of a genre: the Brothers Grimm to Hans Christian Andersen

This call to spearhead ‘a rejuvenating return to origins’ (Luke 1982: 20) by collecting the literatures and folk traditions of the German past had a significant impact upon a generation of young Romantic writers in Germany. It motivated Goethe, briefly, to collect folk ballads from Alsace. It also inspired the Romantic authors Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim to publish a collection of German volkslieder (folk songs) between 1805 and 1808 titled Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Alte Deutsche Lieder (The Boy’s Magic Horn: Old German Songs) (Luke 1982: 20-21). The fullest realisation of however, came with the efforts of the Grimm to recover, in their Deutsche Sagen (1835; German Mythology), Kinderund these collections of

traditions, as in Jacob Grimm’s German Grammar (1819-37) and the dictionary of the German language that he began to compile in 1837, the brothers sought to shore up an idea of German nationhood by rooting it in a long past and by giving it a coherent linguistic and cultural identity in the present. The initial impetus for the Grimms’ tale collection came from

Brentano and Arnim. Jacob had contributed a handful of songs to the second and third volumes of Des Knaben Wunderhorn, and Brentano had asked Jacob and Wilhelm if they would collect some volksmärchen for a projected future work concentrating on prose traditions rather than songs. Brentano and Arnim had cast the net wider too, issuing a call for stories in 1805 that resulted in them being sent two narratives, ‘Von dem Fischer un syner Fru’ (‘The Fisherman and his Wife’) and ‘Von dem Machandelboom’ (‘The Juniper Tree’), composed in Pomeranian dialect by the artist Philipp Otto Runge. The Grimms embraced the project with their characteristic enthusiasm for scholarly work. From 1806 they began procuring popular traditional tales, primarily from friends and neighbours in Kassel, and by 1808 they were able to send their former lecturer in law, Friedrich Carl von Savigny, and his children, copies of seven stories they had gathered, including a version of ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ collected from Lisette and Dortchen Wild (the latter, Wilhelm’s future wife) and a version of ‘Snow White’ collected from the 17-year-old Jeannette Hassenpflug. These stories were then incorporated into a manuscript of 56 tales that the brothers sent to Brentano in 1810 as evidence of their progress. Brentano, by this time, had lost interest in the project, and, in a demonstration of his diminishing interest, failed to acknowledge the arrival of the manuscript and later admitted that he had misplaced it; a development that was irritating for the Grimms, but not disastrous, for they had wisely made a copy of the manuscript before sending it. Brentano’s carelessness, however, has ultimately manuscript he lost in 1810 was Oelenberg in Alsace in 1920, vital information about the precious because the records of the stories they

In 1809 Arnim had also indicated that he no longer wished to continue with the collection, and handed the stories he had been given by Runge to the Grimms for their own use. The Grimms were thus free to develop the project on their own terms, which, for Jacob, meant endeavouring to maintain a greater fidelity to tradition than had been intended by Brentano and Arnim, who had sought to use folk narratives as a basis for artistic works of their own devising. Despite Arnim’s reluctance to remain involved in the project himself, however, he continued to show an interest in the Grimms’ work and, during a visit to the Grimms in January 1812, had asked to read the manuscript collection. ‘Pacing up and down the room,’ Wilhelm later recalled, Arnim ‘read sheet after sheet, while a tame canary, keeping its balance with graceful movements of its wings, was perched on his head’ (Michaelis-Jena 1970: 50-51). When he had finished reading, he told the brothers that it would be a mistake to delay publication in the interests of ‘completeness’, since in ‘striving for completeness, the job might be given up altogether in the end’ (Michaelis-Jena 1970: 50). Taking his advice, the Grimms began to prepare the selection of tales they had gathered for publication, and Arnim, using his connections in Berlin, secured them a publisher. The first volume of the Grimms’ tales, accordingly, was completed

in the course of the year, and went to press in December 1812 under the title Kinder-und Hausmärchen, gesammelt durch die Brüder Grimm (Children’s and Household Tales, Collected by the Brothers Grimm). The volume comprised 86 numbered tales from various sources, including most prominently: the two stories sent to Arnim by Otto Runge (‘The Fisherman and his Wife’ and ‘The Juniper Tree’); a handful of tales collected from a retired Captain of the Dragoons named Johann Friedrich Krause, who swapped his stories for used clothing; over 20 tales supplied by members of the Wild family who lived near the Grimms in Kassel; over 20 tales from in the Grimms’ social circle in published sources, including Kleine Romane (1790) and Montanus’s Wegkürtzer (c. was small, only 900 copies, was sufficiently

positive to persuade the Grimms to proceed with a second volume containing an additional 70 stories, published in time for Christmas 1814 (pre-dated 1815). Two fresh sources of narratives helped shape the distinctive character of the second volume. In 1809, Wilhelm had begun to form a close friendship with the brothers Werner and August von Haxthausen, sons of a wealthy Westphalian landowner. August had supplied a couple of stories for the first volume of tales, but from 1811 onwards Wilhelm enjoyed a series of visits to the family estate at Bökendorf, which led to the collection of a large quantity of fictions from the Haxthausen family and their circle of friends and acquaintances, including, for the 1815 volume, ‘The Gnome’ (in Paderborn dialect) fromWerner’s sister, Ludowine, and ‘The Worn-out Dancing Shoes’ from a relation of the Haxthausen’s Jenny von Droste-Hülshoff (Michaelis-Jena 1970: 56-59). All told, this connection led to the acquisition of 66 tales for the Grimm collection (Zipes 1992: 728). The second new source for the 1815 volume was Frau Katharina

Dorothea Viehmann, the widow of a tailor living in the village of Zwehrn near to Kassel whom the brothers had met through their acquaintance Charles François Ramus, a pastor to the French community with which Viehmann was associated. Viehmann, as the Grimms record in the preface to the second edition of the tales, retained a host of ‘old tales firmly in her memory’ and was able to reproduce them word-for-word ‘carefully, confidently, and with great vividness’ (Luke 1982: 27). From her they collected 35 tales, including ‘The Goose Girl’, ‘The Clever Farmer’s Daughter’ and ‘Hans my Hedgehog’; narratives that appear more directly concerned with peasant lives than the tales of the first collection collected from young bourgeois women. The Grimms clearly saw Viehmann as a model of the kind of storyteller they wanted their collection to be associated with. A large engraved portrait of her by Ludwig Grimm (another brother) appeared as the frontispiece of the second and Viehmann is mentioned by one of the few Grimms in their published Grimms saw Viehmann as wanted their collection to be was a better

embodiment of the idea of the German volk than the young middleclass ladies who formed the bulk of their informants. She was in her later years (about 57 when the brothers met her), of relatively low class origins, and her name was suggestive of solid German stock. The Grimms accordingly dubbed her Die Märchensfrau, and made her the iconic storyteller of the Kinder-und Hausmärchen. Together the two volumes that comprised the first edition of the

Grimm collection contained 156 tales. Over successive editions further tales would be added to this initial store; but already the best-known stories in the Grimm canon were in place, including ‘Rapunzel’, ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘Aschenputtel’, ‘Little Red Cap’, ‘The Juniper Tree’, ‘Snow White’ and ‘Rumpelstiltskin’. What is perhaps surprising for the modern reader is that this collection of remarkable and highly distinctive narratives did not meet with unmixed approval upon its first publication. Brentano complained that the stories were dull and under-worked, still advancing the claims of his own ‘improved’ models, whilst Arnim worried that the presentation was too scholarly to appeal to children (Luke 1982: 29; Kamenetsky 1992: 193-94). Parents and educators, meanwhile, expressed concern that the collection peddled dangerous superstitions and was too frightening for children (Luke 1982: 30-31; Tatar 2003: 15-18). Alongside critical responses, however, there was growing evidence that the collection was being read enthusiastically by adults and children alike. Sales at least were sufficient to persuade the publisher Reimer to issue a second edition in 1819. This edition incorporates revised versions of the two previously published volumes, and adds several new fictions to the Grimm repertoire, including ‘Faithful Johannes’ from Viehmann (who had died in 1815), ‘Clever Else’ from Dortchen Wild, and ‘The Two Brothers’ from the von Haxthausen family. The most interesting characteristic of the second edition, however,

is not the new tales it adds but the existing tales it leaves out. As a concession about the level of violence in of the more grisly entries, narrative called ‘How Some in which the accidental the extermination of an entire also made some

of the stories less confrontational for children by transforming the wicked mothers of stories such as ‘Hansel and Gretel’ and ‘Snow White’ into wicked stepmothers (Luke 1982: 31; Tatar 2003: 36-37). Also omitted in the second edition of the Grimms’ tales are those fictions from the first edition that obviously derive from non-German sources. ‘Puss in Boots’ and ‘Bluebeard’, both deriving from Perrault, have been omitted, as has ‘Okerlo’ which was too close to d’Aulnoy’s ‘L’oranger et l’abeille’, and ‘The Hand With the Knife’ which was taken directly from a Scottish source. Tales that were related to foreign sources but that had been given a distinctive German twist, however, such as ‘Little Red Cap’, were allowed to remain. Five further editions of the Kinder-und Hausmärchen followed in

the Grimms’ lifetime: in 1837, 1840, 1843, 1850 and 1857, and Wilhelm was working on an eighth edition when he died in 1859. The 1857 edition, known as the Grosse Ausgabe, or ‘Large Edition’, contains a total of 210 stories, ten of them religious tales for children, and it is this version of the tales that forms the basis of most modern editions and translations. From 1825 the Grimms also produced a shorter edition (the Kleine Ausgabe) of 50 of the most popular stories, illustrated by Ludwig, which went to ten editions in their lifetime, and became standard fare in the nineteenth-century nursery, in which context they functioned to reinforce conventional ideas about family, about German cultural identity and about society. Comparisons of each of the editions of Kinder-und Hausmärchen,

and of the published editions with the 1810 manuscript discovered at Oelenberg, show that the brothers, particularly Wilhelm who had effective control of the tales from 1819 onwards, continued to rework the stories throughout their lives, adapting them to make them more aesthetically even, more consistently Germanic, more conventional in their morality, and clearer in character motivations (Luke 1982: story of ‘Hansel and Gretel’, for spanning from 1810 to we recognise today. These the addition of the they are only ‘little of direct

speech, the importation of Christian elements (the children appeal to God twice), the elaboration of the wickedness of the witch, and the diminishment of the father’s complicity in the abandonment of the children (Zipes 1997: 42-43 and 46-49). In the 1819 text the ‘mother’ is then transformed into a wicked ‘stepmother’; and in the 1843 text there is a considerable expansion of description and detail throughout (Zipes 1997: 43-44 and 49-50). By the 1857 edition, as Zipes points out, the story is nearly twice the length of the manuscript version (Zipes 1997: 44). Early analysts of manuscripts and editions of the Kinder-und Hausmärchen did not regard these transformations as problematic so far as the integrity of the Grimms’ claim to be collecting authentic examples of German tradition was concerned (see Ellis 1983: 41-43). In the mid-1970s, however, the German scholar Heinz Rölleke formulated the provocative and discipline-changing argument that the alterations made by the Grimms to the narratives they had collected had materially transformed the aesthetic character of the stories and, in many instances, changed their meaning. In the story of ‘Hansel and Gretel’, for instance, the exculpation of the father from blame in the abandonment of the children, coupled with the transfer of the blame from a mother to a stepmother, fundamentally alters the source tale, transforming it from a bleak narrative about the threat posed to the child by parents, into a ‘domesticated’ narrative that preserves sentimental nineteenth-century ideals about the nurturing birth-mother and the just patriarchal authority of the father (Zipes 1997: 50-51). Rölleke’s groundbreaking research into the tales in the mid-1970s

also revealed that certain established ideas concerning the Grimms’ informants were incorrect. In the 1890s, Wilhelm Grimm’s son Herman, on the basis of marginal notations in the Grimms’ own copy of the tales, had attributed many of the most important stories in the collection, including ‘Little Red Cap’ and ‘The Robber Bridegroom’, in the Wild family’s pharmacy’ (Rölleke 1988: 105). demonstrated that the ‘Marie’ have been ‘Old Marie’ (the wrong), but must have been pretty … Marie

Hassenpflug’ born in 1788 into a highly privileged upper-middleclass Huguenot family named Droume, and educated to the highest standards of the day (Rölleke 1988: 106). Far from being an authentic German nursemaid, in other words, this Marie, like the majority of the Grimms’ informants, belonged to the same class that the Brothers belonged to. Rölleke also contested the description of Frau Viehmann offered by the Grimms in their 1815 preface as ‘a peasant woman from the village of Zwehrn’ who communicated ‘genuinely Hessian tales’. As the daughter of an innkeeper and widow of a tailor, he observed, she could not be considered a member of the rural peasantry, but in fact belonged to a relatively educated, certainly literate, artisan class. She was also descended from Huguenot immigrants and spoke French as well as German, facts that may explain the ‘influence of French fairy-tale collections’ on her repertoire (Rölleke 1988: 103-4). In light of such evidence, Rölleke proposed a comprehensive reassessment of ‘the field of direct contributors to the Grimm collection’. Contrary to the prevailing view that the Grimms had collected their stories from old German peasant women, the majority of the stories were told by ‘very young ladies (between fifteen and twenty years old)’ who had ‘an excellent command of French’ or were ‘from families that come from France (the Wild family was from Switzerland)’ (Rölleke 1988: 106). Those narratives that did not come from these middle-class contributors, moreover, such as the stories of Frau Viehmann, could hardly be considered to be authentic oral Hessian traditions, as initially claimed by the Grimms, since they were collected from a woman able to speak and read French, and likely to have been strongly influenced by literary traditions from France (Rölleke 1988: 104). When this research was first disseminated in the 1970s and

1980s it triggered a widespread reassessment, in scholarly circles, of the myth that the Grimms had collected their fairy tales directly from the more or less undefiled by touches of of this reassessment was One Fairy Story Too Many, that the Grimms had in their misrepresentation of elision of

the extent to which the narratives in the Kinder-und Hausmärchen had been rewritten. Observing that the brothers had appeared to intentionally mask the true identity of their middle-class, literate informants by only giving vague indication of the provenance of the stories, Ellis made the explosive claim that the Grimms had perpetrated a hoax upon their public, comparable to the hoax mounted half a century previously by James Macpherson, who, in the 1760s, had assembled the epic poem Fingal from disparate sources and falsely attributed it to the ancient Gaelic poet Ossian (Ellis 1983: 96-98). At least Macpherson ‘worked hard to collect much genuine material’, Ellis asserts:

In formulating these arguments Ellis exposes a raw nerve of folk-narrative studies: scholars and collectors of folklore in the nineteenth century, in the interests of creating coherent national myths, engaged in a large-scale invention of tradition, homogenising highly disparate narrative materials, and attributing spurious national authenticity to traditions that were, in fact, of complex inter-cultural provenance. In describing the Grimms as literary charlatans who had set out intentionally to deceive the public, however, Ellis overstates the case. Certainly, the Grimms adapted and added to their materials, concealed the extent to which this was done, romanticised their tale-tellers, and promoted an ideal of authenticity that could not be sustained, but they did not be found in popular tradition, and Scholarship today has, explanation. It is now widely reworked their material to their own aesthetic standards, and as an expression

of the world-view of the Grimms and their social circle. At the same time, however, it is also recognised that the brothers mediated, with a degree of fidelity that was uncommon in the period, traditions that were widespread in popular culture, and that genuine folk tales therefore remain the sine qua non of their collection. As Rölleke argues in his riposte to Ellis:


The success of the Kinder-und Hausmärchen helped institutionalise a genre that, until the early nineteenth century, had flourished primarily on the margins of literature. By reshaping the narratives until they became more consistently expressive of a bourgeois world-view, the Grimms paved the way for fairy tales to enter into the middle-class nursery as officially sanctioned texts, and by linking fairy tales and perpetuation of cultural but desirable for the and social theorists – to of expression that had hitherto of serious men. The result intellectual

interest in the fairy tale that reshaped attitudes to the genre in the nineteenth century, and that has ensured that it has remained a dynamic element of European literature up to the present day. As might be expected, the artistic and intellectual responses to

the Grimm collection in the nineteenth century were wide-ranging and diverse; but two broad directions in the treatment of the genre may be discerned. On the one hand, inspired by the Grimms’ endeavour to draw together an archive of national tradition, scholars across Europe, both amateur and professional, began to make equivalent collections designed to represent, and if necessary to fabricate, the traditional heritage of their own nations, regions and ethnicities. By the end of the nineteenth century, the result of this fruitful process of collection is plain to see in a prodigious and growing corpus of ‘national’ or ‘regional’ folklore anthologies which includes Thomas Crofton Croker’s Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (1825-27), Elias Lönnrot’s epic assemblage of Finnish songs, the Kalevala (1835-49), Jorgen Moe and Peter Asbjornsen’s Norske Folkeeventyr (Norwegian Folktales, 1841-44), Vuk Stefanovic´ Karadžic´’s Srpske Narodne Pripovijetke i Zagonetke (Serbian Folktales and Riddles, 1854), and Aleksander Afanás’ev’s Rússkie naródnye skázki (Russian Folktales, 1855-64). The principal objective of these collections is to preserve, as much as possible, the narrative traditions of a defined set of people at a time when those traditions were felt to be fast disappearing under the pressure of urbanisation and industrialisation. Simultaneously, however, nineteenth-century novelists, poets,

playwrights and storywriters were also engaged in a process of using the tales newly popularised by the Grimms as a basis for the creation of new fictions and new works of art. Fairy tales, for this group of writers, were not, as they were for the folklorists, portals into the past; neither were they a means of reconstructing the world-view of an ancient folk who had polished their stories into conveying the unique artistic vision complex spiritual, philosophical is exemplified by the Hoffmann 1992), John (1851), William Makepeace (1855), the stories

inset in George MacDonald’s 1864 novel Adela Cathcart (see MacDonald 1999), Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1872) and Andrew Lang’s The Gold of Fairnilee (1888). Preeminent in this tradition, however, is the Danish novelist, playwright, poet and story writer, Hans Christian Andersen, who, in a series of stories published between 1835 and 1872, seized the model of fairy-tale writing that had been established by the Grimms, and reinvented the genre for mid-to late-nineteenth-century audiences. Andersen was born in the city of Odense on the Danish island

of Fyn on 2 April 1805, the son of a shoemaker and a near-illiterate mother. His life story is the prototypical tale of a disadvantaged boy who makes good. At 14, poor and with limited prospects outside of factory work, he travelled to Copenhagen with a handful of savings intent on making his name in the theatre. By the end of his life, as Edmund Gosse records, he had become ‘one of the most famous men at that time alive in Europe’ (Wullschlager 2001: 5). In letters and autobiographies, Andersen frequently compares his remarkable rags to riches trajectory to that of a protagonist from fairy tale. Like Aladdin, whose story Andersen identified with closely, he began life on the lowest rung of the social ladder and, through a potent mixture of luck, the support of powerful patrons, skill and determination, he ended up associating with those on the highest rung. ‘Twenty five years ago,’ he wrote to his friend and mentor Edvard Collin in 1844, ‘I arrived with my small parcel in Copenhagen, a poor stranger of a boy, and today I have drunk my chocolate with the Queen, sitting opposite her and the King at the table’ (Wullschlager 2001: 1). Little wonder that he titled his third autobiography Mit Livs Eventyr (The Fairy Tale of My Life; 1855). If Andersen’s life story is a fairy tale, however, it is a fairy tale with the psychological and social complexity of one of his own self-reflexive narratives, for his transition have shown, came at considerable successfully translated himself he retained, throughout his (see Zipes 1983; Prince feelings of marginalisation stories. The

sentimental narrative, ‘The Little Match Girl’ (1848), in which an impoverished child match seller gradually succumbs to hunger and cold, expresses solidarity with the oppressed and operates as a form of protest against the conditions of the nineteenth-century poor that is reminiscent of the work of Charles Dickens. In a slightly different generic vein, the story of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ (1837), which Andersen adapted from a medieval Spanish story of Arabic origin, becomes a vehicle for satirising the jaded and corrupted perceptions of a venal elite. Andersen’s adaptation of this story typifies his practice. In the original narrative, which appears in Infante don Juan Manuel’s collection Libro de los ejemplos del conde Lucanor y de Patronio (1335; Book of the Examples of Count Lucanor and of Patronio), the fraudulent weavers announce that any man who is unable to see a Moorish king’s new clothes is not the truly begotten son of his father (Andersen 2004: 427n). Andersen removes this indelicate plot mechanism, and replaces it with the more socially acceptable notion that the clothes would be invisible to ‘any person who was unfit for his position or inexcusably stupid’ (Andersen 2004: 91). Anderson also added the detail of the child who is able to pierce the self-deceptions of the adult world, and see things as they are, thus emphasising one of the most recurrent themes in his work: that it is the children, the innocent, the neglected and the unusual who are best able to perceive the truth of the world, not the conventional figures of social authority and establishment wisdom. Andersen’s first fairy tales were published in 1835 in two slim

volumes titled Eventyr, fortalte for børn (Tales, Told for Children). The first of these volumes, issued in the May of that year, contained four stories, three of which – ‘The Tinderbox’, ‘Little Claus and Big Claus’ and ‘The Princess on the Pea’ – were artistic versions of the traditional folk tales he had heard in his childhood in the spinning room of an asylum in Odense where his grandmother worked The fourth, ‘Little Ida’s modelled upon a Thiele, daughter of the begins with a conversation paper cut-outs for children, Ida’, who is

wondering why her flowers are withered and faded (Andersen 2002: 22). The student tells her that the flowers have been at a ball all night, which is why they are tired, and improvises an elaborate tale in which various kinds of flowers with human characteristics visit a king’s castle for a ball. A ‘tiresome privy councillor’ who is also visiting little Ida, and who does not like the student, is scornful of the story, and wonders ‘How can any one put such notions into a child’s head? Those are stupid fancies’ (Andersen 2002: 25). But Ida’s imagination is galvanized by the story, and that night she sees a dream vision of a flower ball in which a yellow lily plays a piano, a birchwood rod dances a mazurka, the forbidding councillor is transformed into a ‘little wax doll’, and roses become kings and queens (Andersen 2002: 27). The following morning, having allowed the flowers to live in her imagination, she is able to bury them in a stately ceremony, and to look forward to their reappearance the following summer. This story, as Andersen’s first entirely original tale, may be seen

as a kind of manifesto for his storytelling: it celebrates the imaginative poet-intellectual who is able to improvise a fantasy that will kindle the imagination of the child; it condemns the arid rationalist who is unable to comprehend the value of fairy tales and who is affronted by the story’s refusal to confront reality; and it shows how a child, suitably inspired by a storyteller, is capable of taking pleasure in, and consolation from, enchanting fantasy visions. The story also reveals Andersen’s willingness to stoop to the level of the child, in order to see the world from her point of view; a world in which flowers might talk, in which common nursery objects have an animate life, and in which explanations for phenomena such as drooping flowers need not resort to crude science, but may remain poetic and fantastical. Here quite explicitly Andersen rejects the pedagogic rationale for children’s fiction; and advances his post-Romantic thesis: that the value of children’s fiction resides not in instruction and wild fancy. The second in 1835

(December) (1835), an original tale the folk tale ‘Tom Thumb’ and Floh (1822; Master Flea); ‘The revised version

of a traditional Fyn ghost story he had first experimented with in 1830 under the title ‘Dødningen’ (The Ghost); and a story called ‘The Naughty Boy’ which reworks a poem about Cupid by Anacreon that had been popularised by Byron in an English translation of 1807 (Robb 2004: 222). ‘Almost two centuries on,’ Wullschlager notes, ‘it is hard to imagine the impact on a child in the 1830s who opened an obscure little volume’ and read the innovative, expressive and highly colloquial first lines of ‘The Tinderbox’:

Today, Wullschlager argues:

It was in large part because of the originality of vision in these stories, and their striking colloquial style, that early reviewers were, in the main, hostile in their responses. As Andersen anticipates in the figure of the tiresome privy councillor from ‘Little Ida’s Flowers’, the stories were accused of impeding children’s education by filling their minds with fantasy, and were even judged in the Danish literary magazine casual murder of his but quite unpardonable’ pea that had been placed under the Danish title of the story, to Alison Prince,

is more suggestive than the common English translation ‘The Princess and the Pea’; Prince 1998: 163-64.) The response of early reviewers also reveals the originality of Andersen’s informal style: ‘It is not meaningless convention,’ complained The Danish Literary Times of Andersen’s collection, ‘that one does not put words together in print in the same disordered manner as one may do quite acceptably in oral speech’ (quoted in Wullschlager 2001: 160). That we would today regard the simulation of oral performance in fiction for children as unexceptionable is in large part due to the revolution in style initiated by Andersen in the 1830s and 1840s. Despite the critical reception of his early fairy tales, the books

were popular with readers and sold well, first in Denmark, then, after their translation into German in 1839 and English in 1846, throughout Europe. Strong sales persuaded Andersen to continue writing fairy tales, so new collections appeared in 1837 (with ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’), 1838 (with ‘The Wild Swans’ and ‘The Steadfast Tin Soldier’), 1839 (with ‘The Flying Trunk’) and, after a one-year hiatus caused by Andersen’s trip through Europe, 1841. The tales of 1835-41 effectively comprise Andersen’s first period of fairy-tale composition; a period during which he was writing directly to an audience of children and making substantial use of existing folk traditions or existing literary fantasies. From his 1843 collection of tales onwards, however, Andersen began to write more explicitly for a double audience of adults and children, and ceased to rely so consistently upon motifs and plot lines drawn from existing fictions. He marked this transition by naming the collection published 1843 (dated 1844) Nye Eventyr (New Fairy Tales), and by dropping the subtitle fortalte for born. ‘I have now discovered how to write fairy tales,’ he wrote to his friend Bernhard Ingemann after completing it:

In the nineteenth century, a similar model of storytelling was used by Lewis Carroll in the Alice books, by George MacDonald in his fairy tales, and by Oscar Wilde in his story collections The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888) and A House of Pomegranates (1891). In some instances, the debt to Andersen is explicit: Wilde revisits Andersen’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ in ‘The Fisherman and his Soul’ (1891), telling the story of a fisherman who severs his soul from his body in order to enter the sea and live with an enchanting mermaid (see Wilde 1994: 115-48). Before it is detached, the fisherman’s soul begs to be able to keep the fisherman’s heart, but the fisherman refuses, and so the soul goes into the world heartless, and returns periodically to tempt the fisherman into evil deeds. This story, in some respects, stages a rejection of the central assumptions made in Andersen’s narrative. In ‘The Little Mermaid’, as elsewhere, Andersen advocates, as an ideal, physical self-denial and transcendence of the flesh; the Little Mermaid is made to suffer because of her desire for the Prince, and at the conclusion of the tale, the bodily part of herself must die before she can seek redemption. Wilde, by way of reply, argues that the separation of the soul from the body, and the corresponding segregation of the sensual and spiritual self, will result in the corruption of the soul (see Small 1994: xx-xxi). Despite the philosophical differences apparent between the stories, however,Wilde’s willingness to engage in a dialogue with Andersen’s fictions is also an indication of a fundamental sympathy in their approach to fairy tales. Both writers rejected the common nineteenthcentury model of the moral tale for children that was designed to bully or cajole children into conforming with ‘the norms and values of adult culture’, and sought instead to write from a position of sympathy with the child (Small 1994: xiii); both, moreover, posed a challenge to the conventional notion that it is the role of the adult to civilise the child, proposing instead that the purity and simplicity operate as a corrective to the Andersen’s upon more recent

writers who fiction for children and Philip Pullman’s His Dark 1995; The

Golden Compass in North America), echoes ‘The Snow Queen’ in its account of a young girl’s redemptive quest to the frozen North to save her companion, and in its philosophical exploration of a conflict between the life-giving human spirit and arid doctrinal rationalism. More generally, writers from C. S. Lewis to Salman Rushdie owe a literary debt to Andersen for pioneering the artistic practice of reimagining the world from both an adult and a child’s perceptions simultaneously. Nowhere is this debt better expressed than in the similarity between Andersen’s description of his ‘new’ fairy tales cited above, and Salman Rushdie’s description of his allegorical and philosophical novels for children, Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990) and Luka and the Fire of Life (2010). ‘It has been my aim, in Luka as in Haroun,’ Rushdie observes:

Whether intentional or not, the intellectual heritage of this statement begins with Andersen. Much as Andersen has been a vital influence upon the develop-

ment of literature for children, however, his stories can appear excessively punitive to modern sensibilities. In the story of ‘The Little Mermaid’, the heroine must endure protracted suffering, including enforced dumbness, before she finally martyrs herself for a selfish prince. In the story of ‘The Red Shoes’, comparably, the protagonist Karen, because of her desire for a pair of red shoes (which symbolise forced to endure a painful redemptive the ultimate expiation of her agony of both these Travers accuses Andersen of and argues that ‘his subtle, often

demoralising’ (quoted in Tatar 1999: 212). Comparably, Angela Carter, in a tongue-in-cheek response to Andersen’s fairy tales written for New Society in 1975, reflects on the violence done to women in ‘The Red Shoes’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’ and concludes that ‘[a] sensitive child might come to less emotional harm if he sticks to soft-core porn, rather than Andersen’ (Carter 1997: 452). Feminist critics of Andersen’s works have also found evidence of misogyny in these elaborate portraits of suffering women, arguing that Andersen demonstrates in them a fear of female sexuality, and a desire to counteract that fear by promoting self-sacrifice and silent suffering as ideals for female behaviour. Andersen’s depictions of female characters, however, are never straightforward. In ‘The Snow Queen’, Gerda, like the Little Mermaid and Karen in ‘The Red Shoes’, must endure a process of self-sacrifice and ritualistic purification before she is able to redeem her companion Kai, and in this respect she may be seen as another female victim who is asked to give up her agency for the sake of male selfrealisation; but her long struggle to rescue Kai also has heroic dimensions, and on her journey she is aided by powerful female figures such as the old Lapp woman and the old Finn woman. This narrative also gives us one of the most potent female characters in the canon of classic fairy tales: the entrancing and ambiguous figure of the Little Robber Girl who rides a reindeer and always sleeps with her knife, but who, unusually in fairy tales, remains unpunished for her agency and her subversive tendencies (‘I got a lot of very positive input from the splendid little robber girl,’ Carter concedes: she is ‘a small image of emancipation’; Carter 1997: 452). The critique of Andersen’s attitude to women in his tales also needs to be tempered by the recognition that Andersen, working in the autobiographical mode, often casts himself in the role of his female characters. As Hans Brix proposed early in the twentieth century, ‘The Little Mermaid’ is a complex allegorical self-portrait of his feelings of being split between his childhood, and the his working-class origins, and he came to move (Wullschlager also, Wullschlager argues, a created at a

moment of crisis for Andersen, when Edvard Collin, with whom he had formed an intense attachment, was married to Henriette Thyberg. Edvard, in this reading, is the faithless prince, who is unable or unwilling to recognise the adoration of the mermaid, and so marries another; Andersen is the silent suffering half-half creature, unable to speak his love, but also unable to give it up (Andersen 2004: notes 426). The redemptive suffering that Andersen often enforces upon his female characters, if the stories are read in these terms, is at least in part a portrait of his own suffering, and his inclination to punish and purify is a product of his complex response to his own feelings of ambiguity and uncertainty about sex and sexuality. By the time Andersen died in 1875, he had transformed the

literary fairy tale into a mainstay of children’s literature, and created a modern form for the genre: contemporary in setting, direct in style, allegorical in intent. Ever restless as an artist, however, Andersen by this stage was moving beyond the convention he himself had established and exploring new artistic territory. In 1852 he changed the title of his story collections once more to Historier (Stories), omitting the phrase ‘fairy tale’ altogether; and finally, from 1855 to the end of his fairy-tale writing career in 1872, he combined the two titles into Nye Eventyr og Historier (New Fairy Tales and Stories) (see Godden 2004: 36). These last tales comprise Andersen’s final phase of story-writing; they are often experimental in conception and in form, and they resist the conventions of linear narrative. His final story, ‘Aunty Toothache’, for instance, with its disjointed and fragmentary structure, its impressionistic style and surreal imagery, anticipates by some twenty years the experiments with fiction that would be conducted around the turn of the century by a new generation of artists and writers who would reject the certitudes and complacencies of nineteenth-century literature, and begin to create a fiction for a more uncertain time. The following passage, in which toothache becomes

Not without reason does Angela Carter claim that ‘[t]hose Arthur Rackham illustrations to Anderson [sic] are all wrong’ and that ‘Munch would have been far more suitable’ (Carter 1997: 451). The passage above not only anticipates Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream (1893) with its stark depiction of human suffering; it also anticipates the lean and disorientating style of the Expressionist movement more generally. Thus Andersen, in his final work, strikes the death blow to the upholstered prettiness of the nineteenthcentury fairy tale and, in so doing, ushers into the era of experimental modernity a genre that had been imagined by the Grimms to be forever backward looking.