Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tales of Andersen

1) The Shadow. We've probably all experienced the sensation: somewhere, somehow, we saw a new possibility open up before us, or felt a strange impulse to follow a desire that we could hardly name. We were wise, or so we thought, to resist the temptation, to stay on the path of our sober-minded, plan-in-advance selves. And then, perhaps years later, we wondered why, and what things might have been like if we hadn't.

"The Shadow" takes up this question -- decidedly one that haunts adults rather than children -- in a strange allegory that reads like a fairy tale but burns at the soul like some mad tale of Poe. And like Poe (and Shelley, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, and many others), Andersen hit upon the folk legend of a double, or doppelgänger, as a metaphor for this desire deferred. With roots deep in popular folklore, these tales of someone with an uncanny resemblance to one's self are chilling enough as far as they go -- for it seems that there's only room in the universe for one of them: either the double or the self must die.

In Andersen's tale, the "learned man" (perhaps "scholar" would be a more apt English translation) permits his shadow to do pursue a course of action he himself was too timid to attempt, and initially counts himself fortunate. The lack of a shadow, after all, was but a minor inconvenience -- what of it? The twist here is that this decision precipitates the birth of a separate entity, one that eventually comes to possess all of the boldness and sense of purpose that the student lacked. The student, gradually and inexorably, is fated to become the shadow's shadow, and eventually even less than that.

2) The Red Shoes. A bloodcurdling tale of "friendly" woodcutters who chop off girls' legs, dancing disembodied limbs, and bloodied toes. No, it's not SAW VIII, it's another strange tale from the twisted mind of Andersen, designed it seems to haunt children throughout their lives and cast a shadow on the love of shoes. Not surprisingly, perhaps, it's the tale of his most often "bowdlerized"-- in many editions up through the 1960's, the whole bit about the woodchopper and the legs was left out -- a fate that befell other stories as well, among them the Little Matchgirl and the Snow Queen. And yet, despite the grim turns of the tale, it's been a favorite of many readers, and the inspiration for a number of adaptations.

The best known of these is certainly the 1948 film, produced and directed by the legendary team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Filmed in luminescent three-strip Technicolor, it tells the tale of a tragedy within a tragedy -- of a young woman whose ambition to become a star ballerina, and her appearance in an ballet adaptation of Andersen's tale, foreshadows her own tragic romance and death. Martin Scorsese has spoken often about his love for this film, and although panned by critics at the time, it's risen steadily in the estimate of film scholars and historians; the British Film Institute rated it #9 in its list of the Top 100 British Films of all time.

3) The Little Mermaid. It may be one of the best-known fairy tales of all time, but it took its time to het there. Although written in 1837, it wasn't translated into English until 1872, and although Andersen considered it one of his fairy tales "for children," there seems to have been some shyness about handing a tale to little girls that clearly seems to take as its underlying theme the subject of sexual maturity. Andersen himself sealed the ending of the story with what may be one of the most moralistic morals ever penned"
"For every day on which we find a good child who pleases his parents and deserves their love, God shortens our days of trial. The child does not know when we float through his room, but when we smile at him in approval one year is taken from our three hundred. But if we see a naughty, mischievous child we must shed tears of sorrow, and each tear adds a day to the time of our trial."
As P.L. Travers (Mary Poppins) said, "A year taken off when a child behaves and a tear shed and a day added whenever a child is naughty? Andersen, this is blackmail. And the children know it and say nothing. There's magnanimity for you."

Disney, in converting Andersen's antique moralizing into modern family fare, actually did a remarkable job of holding on to the charged understory of a girl coming of age with desire, not just for the human world, but for a human prince. They discretely applied two scallop shells, along with water-bound as well as air-bound sidekicks, and made the sisters into the same sort of annoying wannabes as those of Cinderella. But it was with the Sea Witch that they worked the best magic; by having her, with Ariel's stolen voice (thankfully not her actual tongue) embody Ariel's rival they considerably upped the ante on the final climax. And of course, the little mermaid -- who doesn't die -- gets both legs and man.

14 comments:

  1. The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen is about a little girl named Karen who loved red shoes. The shoemaker’s wife had made her a pair of red shoes, but Karen was told to burn them by the old woman who took care of her. When the queen and her daughter, the princess, were traveling through the country, Karen saw that the princess wore red shoes. Karen, who was to be confirmed, needed a new outfit, so she picked out a pair of red shoes that looked like those which the princess had worn. The old lady would never have purchased them, but she could not see well. The red shoes were the only thing of which Karen could think. She wore them to church and everyone whispered. When the old lady realized what had happened she told Karen only to wear black shoes. Both on the way in and out of the church, a crippled soldier outside of the church said “Dear me, what pretty little dancing shoes!” The second time he said this, she began to dance and could not stop; they were able to take the shoes off. She was invited to a ball to which she wore the red shoes, and again she could not stop dancing. The soldier appeared again and said the same thing. This time the shoes had grown to her feet and began to dance everywhere. An executioner cut off her legs and made her a pair of wooden ones. However, the shoes with her legs still danced. Anytime she approached the church, her legs with the shoes danced near her. She could not hear the word of God. When the angel showed her what she wanted to see and hear, she died and went to Heaven.
    Before reading this I really did not know how dark and twisted Andersen was. I had read the Little Mermaid and saw the play about the Little Match Girl prior to this, so I was aware that his stories were not your average happy fairy tale. The idea, that by putting on a pair of shoes which would grow to your feet and make you dance forever and where it seemed that the only solution was to cut off your own legs, was scary. What was creepier was that her legs with the red shoes continued to dance after they had been detached from her. It seemed as though Andersen was trying to scare children into behaving by conveying the message that, if they did not, they would be sorry. Mission accomplished! (Amanda Lussier)

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  2. The little mermaid is definitely different from what I expected. When you think of the little mermaid from when you were little, you think of the Disney movie with Ariel and flounder. This little mermaid was about 6 different "little girls”. On their sixteenth birthday they get to go above water and see the whole world. After the youngest goes out and she sees this prince that is also having his birthday celebration on a ship. A bad storm approaches and the ship starts to sink. She ends up saving him and bringing him to the shore. Her, and her grandma talk about not having an immortal soul and the only way for her to have one is if she finds someone who loves her more than their mother and father. Once they get married he will share his soul. A sea witch tells the mermaid that in order to get two legs she has to drink this "draught" that the witch makes. After she drinks this her tail will start to become two legs but, it will be really painful. The mermaid still wants to go through with this. The prince finds her at the steps of his palace and takes her in but yet she can't talk. He then tells her that he still loves the person who saved him but he will never see her again. He never realizes that it was the little mermaid all along. He then has to take a journey to go see the princess. When they arrive he says that he wants to marry the princess which means the little mermaid will die because he will not marry her. After the princess and the prince gets married she knows that she will turn to foam the next day. Her other sisters come to the top of the water and tell her the only way she can live and become a mermaid again is to stab him with this knife and let his blood run on your feet. She ends up tossing it into the water. At this point the prince and princess is looking for her but she is now foam. She encounters the "daughters of air" which are daughters that have tried to do the same thing the little mermaid did which was to find love and they also don’t have an immortal soul unless they do good deeds. This was a really good story but is definitely not a happy ever after story like Disney. It starts off as all happy and flowers but then it changed. She takes a chance and it doesn't work out for her. This could be really scary to little children because of the fact that he includes trying to tell a little mermaid to kill someone else with a knife. It also shows people to not take a chance at love. This is supposed to be cute little stories. This Anderson guy is definitely twisted like Amanda said.
    (Jaimee Barrett)

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  3. I found the story “The Shadow” very compelling. Here the “nerdy” man in the story may not seem very popular, but his shadow certainly is. Many people seem to be scared of their shadows, but here the shadow is the bolder part of the man. The man lets his shadow overpower him, and life ends up not turning out so good the man. He allows himself to keep on settling for less and less until he doesn’t have any desires at all. I feel that many people have high expectations for small life occurrences and are commonly let down when it actually comes to happen. For example, it is very common for many people to have high expectations for the holidays, and then once they come they realize that it wasn’t as good as they had hoped and they feel sad/let down. Therefore, it is not only the man in this story that can feel down after a realization that life isn’t is good as your expectations. This story makes it clear to not take looks for granted--just because it may make it easier to talk to a pretty girl, doesn’t mean that you will live a happier life if you are more “attractive.” We shouldn’t allow ourselves to have such strong focuses on appearance, when that is not what can make you truly happy. Also, to take life one day/moment at a time, high expectations are hard to meet, and bring about unnecessary stress and sadness in life.

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  4. Throughout Hans Christian’s The Little Mermaid, it seems like a nice story of a mermaid who has big aspirations and achieves her goals at any cost. Unlike the Disney version of The Little Mermaid, this isn’t the case. There are similarities between the two versions, but there are greater differences. Some similarities are, the little mermaid is very intrigued by the human world and wishes to be part of it. In the Hans Christian version though, the little mermaid has her grandmother to tell her all about the human world, as well as her sisters, once they’ve visited the surface of the ocean. The Disney version cuts out the grandmother and makes the sisters almost unnecessary to the story. The sisters help set the scene for the story and without them the story would have no background. I liked how they are more incorporated into the story in the original version. Another similarity is the sea witch, and how she “helps” the little mermaid become a human. She also takes the little mermaid voice in both versions. The difference between the two is that in the original, the sea witch is much more violent and takes the little mermaid’s tongue instead of using magic as in the Disney version. When the little mermaid is transformed into a human it is much more uncomfortable in the Hans Christian version. The Disney version makes it seem like a pain free spell that just happens to give the little mermaid legs, but in the original version the little mermaid’s transformation is very painful and every step she takes on her new legs feels like knife blades on her feet. The biggest difference of all between the two versions of The Little Mermaid is that in the original there is no happy ending. Unlike in the Disney version, the little mermaid not only doesn’t get her prince, but also dies and is turned into the foam of the ocean. She is so upset that her prince chose another princess over her, that she threw herself overboard and was swept up in the waves. It was a very dark ending to the story, but it made it all the more interesting. Like in real life, there aren’t always the happy endings that you hope for. (Elizabeth Cook)

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  5. Each of these three stories were definitely interesting. Going from the Shadow to The Little Mermaid. AS I have never heard of the Shadow or The Red Shoes besides in class, I have heard of the little mermaid. But this story is very very different than the Disney version. When I think of The Little Mermaid, I think of happiness at the end when she gets her prince. But in this original they don't leave anything out! There is no happy ending. She doesn't get her Prince. She actually ends up dying. Not is this the only difference for the two versions, but there was no magic in the original as well. I do feel that the original is of course better, because they normally are. Very rarely there are movies that come out better than the original. But for sure I do feel like it is more realistic that way than the Disney version! (Amanda Rosa)

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  6. I have to admit that I do enjoy the fact that the Anderson versions of these tales are so different from what we have all grown up with; disney. Some of his twisted stories aren't as bad and some .. well they make you shiver. My 3rd birthday was The little mermaid, as I recall i first read Anderson's version in 6th or 7th grade for my grandfather gave me the complete set of his tales. I didn't think it was that scary at the time although it wasn't pleasant.
    Its funny to think that in the disney version of The Little Mermaid, the scariest parts are with the sea witch ursula. As in the darker version the worst part is the fact that The Little Mermaid must kill someone else in order to save her own life, and in the end she can't even bring herself to do it, because really she knows its just wrong. So The Little Mermaid ends up dying and never seeing her family and friends or the prince. It's sad to think that you must sacrifice someone else's life so that you can right your own wrongs. I also agree with Amanda, the original version is more real because the situations the little mermaid go through realistic and there is no magic, compared to the disney counterpart.

    (Kelsey Overly)

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  7. Hans Chrisitian Anderson’s stories were so interesting that little kids at the time loved the brilliant plots, but there purpose was to make sure kids listened to their parents and obeyed their rules. If you don’t listen, your feet fall off. While I didn’t personally grow up with his stories as a child, reading them now reminds me of the stories my grandmothers would tell me when I was younger. The very purpose of it was that if I was out of line “behave or the chucho will get you” and in an instant you did as you were told. So I can definitely see why they were popular stories back then with parents and grandparents. Of course none of these stories would be told to kids nowadays. They are so horrific and would give any child nightmares. But at their core, they are beautiful stories that with a little adaptation, Disney could profit from. I loved the Red Shoes story, so simple. Teaches a child that if you don’t listen to your loved ones and get caught up on the glitz and glamour of an item, you’ll get caught up or in this case swept away with the permanent dancing. Personally, I think Anderson went too far with having the girl’s feet cut off by an executioner, but nonetheless a story that gets to the point.
    (Cindy Xon)

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  8. In my FYS class the course is called "Grimm and Glitter". We look back on the old fairy tales before Disney sweeten them up. Hans Christian Anderson recorded and wrote many fairy tales. One of them we read from him was The Little Mermaid. Growing up Ariel was and still is my favorite princess so to read this gruesome version of where Disney got their story from shocked me. Definitely not a version you want to read to kids before they go to bed!

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  9. Andersen's "fairytales" are never what you'd expect a fairytale to be. Instead of a happy ending and an important life lesson, there is usually twisted and dark humor. The Red Shoes, automatically made me think of the Wizard of Oz, but I was completely wrong! A small girl named Karen, desperately wants a pair of red shoes after she seen the princess wearing a pair, like any girl, and is told she couldn't have them. Again, like any female, Karen ends up with a pair of red shoes just like the princesses and turns into a dancing machine, especially in church. Karen ends up getting her legs taken off after too much undesired dancing and has her legs replaced by wooden ones. An angel speaks to Karen basically manipulating her and telling Karen everything she wanted to hear, and she ends up dying and going to heaven. This was such a twisted story, especially because of a little girl getting her legs taken off. (Amanda Belluscio)

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  10. The fairytales by Anderson are not the typical fairytales you know. For example, The Little Mermaid was a love letter Anderson wrote to a guy he likes. This is not what you usually see because all fairytales are about a man and woman that fall in love and live happily ever after.

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  11. Reading Andersons Fairytales, I can say that this was the last thing I was expecting. I thought that it would be something that people would read to their kids back in the day, but it is more of a darker tale and more for adults then kids if anything. Which is why I think not many people who haven't heard of Anderson don't know of these tales. (Brad Auger)

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  12. The story "The Shadow" is intriguing and leads me to question it's deeper meaning. Reading it I was compelled to think of the shadow as as representation of the man's insecurities and fear. The shadow has everything the man does not and he manifests all of the man's anxieties. While the man struggles to find his footing, the shadow is excelling, he is striving. No one would believe he was a shadow because he was so successful. This made me think of the idea of alter egos as well. The way we see ourselves as more successful or empowered in an imaginative way often accompanied with a persona is an alter ego. In this case, the shadow was the man's alter ego because he embodied all the qualities that the man wanted. This was dangerous however because his alter ego became a better version of himself. He was too afraid to have the qualities he wanted and therefore the shadow ran with them. I think this idea is interesting and can be made to fit several metaphors as it is versatile in meaning and open to deep thought.

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  13. Each of the three stories by Hans Christian Anderson were interesting in my opinion. Knowing the Disney version of the Little Mermaid and then reading the version in the book, they were extremely different. Disney shows her with a happy ending and a Prince, and the original shows the complete opposite and shows that she dies. I really like the original version better than the Disney version because it showed that not everything ends well and everyone doesn’t always get what they want. (Kelsey Wood)

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  14. I personally didn't really enjoy reading Hans Christian Andersens 3 tales. Although I didn't enjoy The little Mermaid slot. Growing up as I child The a little Mermaid was one of my favorite movies. So reading the original version was pretty cool. I did like how both versions were very different. I also likes how Andersens version wasn't a happy ending like the Disney version. I don't want to say it was more realistic because it's a tale about a mermaid but the ending wasn't like all the Disney movies, where they fall in love and live happily ever after.

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