Hans Christian Andersens Stories

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In the stories of Hans Christian Andersen generally, and particularly in the two considered here, The Child in the Grave and The Story of a Mother, the theme of death is not only prevalent, it is central to the framework of the story. It is a theme with a purpose and in these pieces, death is the key component that drives the plot.


Further, death is obviously painful for both mothers on an individual level, but it is also an agent for redemption and the strengthening of faith. Andersen brings both stories to the same conclusion of trusting a God who knows what is best.
Unlike many authors who treat death as an abstract concept, Andersen personalizes it and gives it a character role in the stories. He isn't using a philosophical idea or physiological fact in a conceptual way; he is embodying and personifying death itself. For example, in the book of Andersen's tales translated by H. W. Dulcken where we find the Story of a Mother, death is an old man who nods his head in a strange fashion (Andersen, 1835/2002, p. 230) and even speaks to the mother by asking her "[h]ow have you been able to come quicker than I" (p. 233) when she chases him down after considerable sacrifice on her part. He has a greenhouse where the lives of the people he takes are flowers, replete with an employee who watches the place while he is out making his rounds. In this setting, he and the mother engage in a dialogue that addresses the impact of destiny. The effect of this approach is quite dramatic. The reader is not looking at a theory; we are looking at a face. Andersen's anthropomorphism puts the deeper concepts of life after death and faith in God into tangible reality. ...
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