Table of Contents
Hans Christian Andersen was born in Denmark in 1805 in a poor family; it is one of the reasons why many of his stories are quite sad and focus on the sufferings of the poor. His fairytales like “The Princess and The Pea”, “The Snow Queen”, “The Ugly Duckling” and many others made him famous worldwide.
The boy was quite sensitive from early childhood, and he hated school because of corporal punishment that was practiced there, so his mother moved him to Jewish school where violence was forbidden. In his youth Andersen moved to Copenhagen to seek a better living and was lucky enough to be accepted in a theater where he played secondary parts. Even though he became a writer with his first story in 1929, he always wrote with grammar mistakes. He never married and had no children.
There are many popular stories by Andersen; some of the famous ones are “The Snow Queen” and “The Little Mermaid”, based on which films and cartoons were created in different countries. “The Snow Queen” is a fairy tale that tells a story of a courageous girl who travels far away to save her best friend from the evil queen and to melt his heart.
“The Little Mermaid” is a tragic and romantic story of a mermaid named Sirenetta, a beloved daughter of the underwater king. Her dream is to travel to the world of humans and to live their life, even though it is dangerous for her. Eventually, she falls in love with a prince but because of her mermaid nature it is impossible for her to be with him. Sirenetta wants to get human feet and human soul but the price is too high: the witch demands her tongue and her most beautiful voice vanishes. The mermaid could only get the immortal soul after a kiss of true love, but her feet would hurt her anyway to make her suffer. Yet, the prince falls in love with a princess and marries her, and in case Sirenetta killed him, she could become a mermaid again. Yet, because of her love she cannot do so, so she has to die. The fairies of the air she meets after her death tell her that she will get an immortal soul for her true love.
Reading for Meaning
The author’s purpose is to convey a message about true love and true good, which are not always rewarded on earth. He manages to achieve his purpose because the tale makes one think about the meaning of human love and motivation for actions.
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Even though the fairytale is believed to be a children’s one, it would be wrong to say that it is solely for children. On the contrary, it looks like the message can be understood fully by adult people who know life and its tragedies. The author treats the audience as his equals, and he also believes in good moral qualities of the readers. The viewpoint of an omnipresent narrator who is wise and empathic is taken by the author.
Andersen addresses the theme of love and sacrifice as well as morality and how it affects human actions. He shows that justice does not always manifest itself on earth, even though a person does their best. The author’s thesis, however, is based on the idea that the reward for true love and devotion exists, and that it can be given in Heaven, not on earth. This ending makes the tragic story more hopeful because it shows that the sacrifice of Sirenetta was not in vain.
At the same time, there is a different idea in the tale which suggests that it is very difficult to change one’s nature, and it is not certain whether one should do so. Should a mermaid try and become a human, or her true nature would be more harmonious?
The author breaks the pattern of a happy ending fairy tale because one expects the prince to fall in love with the mermaid. Yet, he falls in love with a princess instead, which is quite realistic because it shows that life does not always offer happy endings. It also makes the readers disappointed as it means that the prince is probably not worth the efforts and sacrifice of Sirenetta. Yet, in the end, Andersen implies that actions in the name of love cannot be judged, and the essence of love is not only in getting but also in giving. However, in Andersen’s view, love is closely related to pain: the mermaid loses her voice and suffers awful pain with every step she makes. The overall idea of the author is that love involves too much suffering.
When speaking about the organization of the story, it is chronological, and Andersen uses description of events and emotions to reveal the transformation of the character. The author’s tone is soft and sympathetic; he feels deep empathy for the mermaid and shares her pain. The language is of medium difficulty, easy enough for children to understand the meaning, yet the symbols are complex and refer to religion. Such symbols as the sea, the soul, the voice, the feet are recurrent in the story.