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Christian Symbolism In Fairytales Essay

1948 words - 8 pages

Symbols and allegories are used to promote a deeper engagement with morality, discuss this statement in light of The Snow Queen and Thumbelina and by Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen promotes a resounding meaning of morality throughout his fairy-tales, (1), as eighteenth century author Schiller stated “deeper meaning resides in fairy tales told to me in my childhood than the truth that is taught in life.” (2) He is able to present various morals specifically targeted towards children by using an intricate web of symbols throughout his tales. The underlying roots of Andersen’s tales could be ascribed to Christian ideology and teachings which are depicted in the Bible. The ...view middle of the document...

” Andersen uses the symbol of the tulip to demonstrate the perfect love of a mother bringing a child into the world. (6) In parallel to a Bible teaching upon the mother figure “blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed.” (7) Andersen uses the tulip as a symbol to subtly represent this Bible teaching to his young reader base. ‘Thumbelina’ was the first tale in which Andersen used his reoccurring symbol of a swallow. The meaning of the swallow in Andersen’s tales has been debated as “symbols employed by writers can sometimes be private…this can pose problems for the reader in interpretation.” (3) Some believe the swallow to be a representation of his own “poetic soul,” (8) while others believe “the swallow represents hope and good fortune.” (6) Conversely regarding Christian teachings the swallow has its own symbolic significance, representing “incarnation; because of its return in the spring: resurrection.” (8) In fitting when Andersen introduces the character of the Swallow he appears to be dead or at least very near death “quite lifeless to the ground.” Nursed by Thumbelina the swallow is able to regain its life and “as soon as spring came…the swallow said goodbye to Thumbelina and…flew out into the sunshine.” Here Andersen uses a lexical field of bliss with an almost melancholy feeling, this emphasises the theme of hope within the possibility of resurrection. Through the use of lexis and plot Andersen is able to implant ideas of resurrection similar to that of Jesus Christ in the Bible into a child’s mind subconsciously. Folklorist Maria Tatar (10) also commented on the reoccurrence of the theme of resurrection in ‘Thumbelina’ suggesting Andersen was enforcing this key Christian belief throughout the tale. The symbols in ‘Thumbelina’ imperceptibly implement Christian ideas into a child’s mind without directly confronting the notions. It could be said Andersen, by basing his tales on religious text, was employing common convention of the zeitgeist. As equally it could be argued that Lewis Carroll used symbols to represent religion, as the basis for his stories. “The garden may symbolize the Garden of Eden, an idyllic space of beauty and innocence that Alice is not permitted to access.” (11) Both authors use the Bible as the underlying roots of their morals and themes in their work.
‘The Snow Queen’ is another tale by Andersen in which he uses symbolism to convey Christian ideas. The presentation of ice and snow can be “symbolically linked to rationality and the aims of reason.” (12) When looking at a snowflake Kay compares it to a flower, “how beautifully formed they are…much more interesting than real flowers…there isn’t a single blemish on them…they’re quite perfect.” However although Kay tries to obtain ‘eternity’ from with use of the snow, it is only with Gerda’s love he is able to reach this state. Symbolically, the snow represents reason that cannot be obtained without love, God’s love in particular. This idea...

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