chapter  5
24 Pages

Hans Christian Andersen and the Discourse of the Dominated

If the Brothers Grimm were the fi rst writers in the nineteenth century to distinguish themselves by remolding oral folktales explicitly for a bourgeois socialization process, then Hans Christian Andersen completed their mission so to speak and created a canon of literary fairy tales for children and adults between 1835 and 1874 in praise of essentialist ideology. By infusing his tales with general notions of the Protestant Ethic and essentialist ideas of natural biological order, Andersen was able to receive the bourgeois seal of good housekeeping. From the dominant class point of view his tales were deemed useful and worthy enough for rearing children of all classes, and they became a literary staple in Western culture. Niels Kofoed underlined that Andersen had basically one tale to tell, not unlike the Horatio Alger myth, and he repeated it so persuasively and charmingly that it was embraced by the imagination of nineteenth-century readers:

Fortunately for Andersen he appeared on the scene when the original middleclass prejudice against imaginative fairy tales was receding. In fact, there was gradual recognition that fantasy could be employed for the utilitarian needs of the bourgeoisie, and Andersen proved to be a most humble servant in this cause.