Study Guide

Andersen's Fairy Tales Love

By Andersen, Hans Christian

Love

Cupid is a rascal! Don't ever have anything to do with him! Imagine, he once shot your poor old grandmother, right through the heart; it's so long ago that it no longer hurts, but she hasn't forgotten it. (The Naughty Boy.16)

Oh, that Cupid, always going around and shooting people with his arrows in order to make them fall in love. That doesn't make falling in love sound very appealing, does it? Maybe if you could choose whom you fall in love with, and make sure that they love you back, it wouldn't be so bad. But love doesn't work like that, at least not as far as we can tell.

Day by day the prince grew fonder and fonder of her; but he loved her as he would have loved a good child, and had no thought of making her his queen. (The Little Mermaid.85)

We like to call this getting friend-zoned! The tragedy here is that the little mermaid loves the prince with all her heart, but she can't express her love for him, since she gave up her voice in the bargain with the sea witch (we guess she never learned to write, since what could you write with under the sea?). Platonic love isn't a bad thing, but since her life's on the line, we can see why the little mermaid is pretty bummed about the whole thing.

Her delicate hands picked the horrible nettles, and it felt as if her hands were burning and big blisters rose on her arms and hands. But she did not mind the pain if she could save her brothers. (The Wild Swans.53)

Elisa will go to any lengths to save her brothers from the curse that turned them into swans, and that includes weaving nettles into shirts for them. If you've never accidentally run into some nettles, be thankful—those suckers sure sting! The fact that Elisa works with nettles day in and day out really says something about how much she loves her brothers.

The more the top thought about the ball, the more in love with her he was. And because he couldn't have her, he wanted her all the more. (The Sweethearts.13)

Okay, so this is a love story with inanimate objects as the main characters, but it still proves a point: people always want what they can't have. Ah, human nature.

But Kai sat still and stiff and cold; then little Gerda cried and her tears fell on Kai's breast. The warmth penetrated to his heart and melted both the ice and the glass splinter in it. (The Snow Queen.203)

Gerda's love helps to free Kai from the Snow Queen's spell. Guess it really is one of the strongest forces in the world.

"Life is given to use by the grace of love. How incredible it is!" (A Story from the Dunes.6)

From a religious viewpoint, yeah, God's love is what led to the creation of life and all that stuff. It seems like Andersen subscribes to this point of view, since he puts it in the mouths of his characters, and doesn't contradict them. In this case, it's a young married couple talking. They're both really religious, really happy, and really in love. Coincidence? We think not.

"Then I would take Morton, for it is he I love. But you can't live on love." (A Story from the Dunes.114)

Here's a sad truth: love won't pay the rent. Even Andersen's characters, who are good and pious, have to acknowledge that there's a gap between how love makes us feel and what love can actually accomplish.

Rudy was jealous and this amused Babette… She was so young that love was still a game to her. (The Ice Maiden.251)

If love is a game, how does one win? That might be worth thinking about before you toy with the emotions of someone who loves you, as Babette does with Rudy. They sort of break up because of it, but luckily they get back together, since they really do love each other.

"Now I know what life is," rejoiced the young man. "It is love! And it is to be able to appreciate loveliness and to delight in beauty." (Psyche.17)

We already covered the whole love = life thing, but here it appears again with an additional element. Apparently, it's also important to be able to appreciate beauty wherever you see it, whether it's in the arts or nature.

"No suffering is so heavy that true love cannot lighten it." (Godfather's Picture Book.98)

This line is written about a king's daughter who is exiled with her husband. The basic idea is that since they're together, life can't be all that bad. Our reaction: yes and no. Sure, misery loves company, and being able to share your sorrow with someone makes it suck less. But would having a loved one with you lighten a truly terrible situation? Ehhhhh.

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