Fairy Tales 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Shadow

by Hans Christian Andersen.

First, "The Shadow" is set in a non-descript location, some sort of village with a lively main street and friendly townspeople. The village is in a very hot country that suffers from a heat blazing from the sun. It is the kind of heat that "turns the people a deep mahogany brown," and the man suffering from the heat is a "young and clever scholar from the colder north." The story interestingly personifies the man's shadow, which stretches and grows and regains strength.

The supernatural element is not very magical in this story, it's more just... strange. One day the man wakes up and says: "Look at this, I haven't got any shadow!" And years after a new shadow had grown in its place, the old shadow comes back wearing flesh and clothes, gold watches and rings. They sit down for a meal and story-telling time. The shadow had left him to be with Poetry herself. She lived in a brilliantly lit home. For some reason the shadow is very arrogant, insisting he not be addressed as "old friend" and reminding the man that he knows all. Years later, the shadow returns and asks the man to become HIS shadow! He is careful to take the place of the "master" and calls the man by his first name while he must be addressed by last.

Lastly, the story includes a princess. She is lovely, but considering that her malady was "seeing too clearly," the shadow fools her without problem. The shadow woos the princess with the unknowing help of the man, and they are prepared to elope. The man refuses to say he is his shadow's shadow, so they throw him in prison, kill him, and live happily ever after! But the lack of a happy ending for the poor scholarly man was a grave departure from normal fairy tales.

This tale dramatizes Anderson's mixed feelings toward the patronage of the upper class, according to Zipes. But the strangeness and simplicity of the story, as well as the unfair ending, are rather different than other tales.

1 comment:

  1. One of the roles that folk tales/fairy tales played in society was to act as almost an analogy to some real world lessons, which is why they tend to have some kind of moral (especially the Perrault fairy tales where it was explicitly stated), so people could learn a lesson to apply to their life. Robert Darnton believed that there were lessons to be learned about society at the time of the telling of the folk tales he studied. Therefore, I believe that it makes sense that this story could be considered a fairy tale with all it's real world connections.

    In choosing to write the story under the cover of a fairy tale allows people to loosen up their imaginations and prepare to believe what would otherwise be unbelievable. By snapping the story back to the fact that those otherwise unbelievable things were true creates a shock factor in dealing with the reality of the situation, which is what would gain attention to promote a change in the situation - which I assume is the author's motivation. For this reason, the fairytale genre could be appropriate.