Study Guide

Andersen's Fairy Tales Tales 21-30

By Andersen, Hans Christian

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Tales 21-30

Tale 21: The Rose Elf

  • A tiny elf that lives inside a rose is out one night, and he sees a beautiful young woman and man saying goodbye, since the woman's brother is sending her lover away on a task. The elf ends up inside a rose that the young man takes with him—but then the brother murders him and buries the body. The elf tells this to the woman in a dream, and she goes and digs up his head and plants a jasmine bush on top of it. She dies too. The evil brother keeps the jasmine bush, til the elves that live inside it murder him. An eye for an eye, a murder for a murder.

Tale 22: The Swineherd

  • A not-very-rich prince courts the emperor's daughter with a rose and nightingale, but she rejects him because his gifts are too humble. He disguises himself as a swineherd and bargains to get kisses from her for the sake of some enchanted toys. The emperor finds out and kicks his daughter out, and the swineherd reveals himself to be the prince. But the prince tells the princess that he hates her now, so she's on her own. How do you like them apples?

Tale 23: The Buckwheat

  • A tree tells a sparrow this story, and the sparrow tells it to a man: buckwheat was the proudest, most beautiful grain. It refused to bow its head(s) down during a storm, so lightning singed it as punishment. This is why buckwheat often appears burned after a thunderstorm. No science here, just discipline in action.

Tale 24: The Angel

  • An angel picks up a dead boy to bring him to heaven, but first the dead boy gets to gather some flowers to bring along. The angel directs the boy to grab one particular flower, a wildflower that has wilted and died, and tells the boy a story about a boy on crutches whose only companion was that wildflower. The boy died and became the angel in the story, while the wildflower waited for him. Now the boy gets to join the wildflower in heaven. Awww.

Tale 25: The Nightingale

  • This Chinese emperor has a really swank garden. He hears of a nightingale in his garden who sings beautifully, so he tasks his courtiers with finding it and bringing it to him. A servant girl knows where it lives and leads them there.
  • The nightingale agrees to come to court and sing for the emperor, who's so moved by the beauty of its song that he weeps. The nightingale stays at court, with a posh cage and everything, and sings wonderfully for everyone.
  • Another emperor sends this emperor a mechanical bird that sings the same song as his nightingale, over and over and over. The emperor and his people like it better than the real nightingale, which is banished.
  • Eventually the mechanical bird breaks and the emperor falls ill. Double fail. The emperor's dying when the nightingale shows up and sings at his window. It totally heals him. The emperor asks the nightingale to stay once more, but the nightingale says it'll come and go as it pleases, and sing for the emperor, and bring him news. Which, if you ask us, is pretty generous, since the emperor and his court were just all head-over-heals for a dumb robot instead of its real-deal singing talents.

Tale 26: The Sweethearts

  • A top and a ball are stored next to each other in a toy chest. The top proposes to the ball, who snubs him because she wants to get with a swallow. Then the ball is thrown so high in the air that she disappears. Eventually the same thing happens to the top, who lands in a trash can and sees the ball there, rotting. But luckily the maid sees him and picks him up before he has to actually, like, talk to her. Because that'd be awkward.

Tale 27: The Ugly Duckling

  • A mother duck waits for her eggs to hatch. The biggest one takes the longest, and what hatches is a very large, very ugly duckling. Still, mama duck teaches all her babies to swim, waddle, and so on, including this ugly duckling.
  • All the animals mistreat the ugly duckling because he's so weird-looking, even his own siblings. You know how mean you're peers can get just because you like wearing old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirts (wait, isn't that cool now?).
  • So finally, the ugly duckling has had enough, so he runs away to a swamp. The wild ducks don't accept him either. But the wild geese like him, and so he goes with them to another swamp.
  • Hunters kill the geese, but the duckling survives. The poor ugly duckling's luck hasn't changed quite yet though. He ends up in various situations where humans and other animals torment him.
  • Eventually, he sees some birds that are so stunning he wants to just be near them. He expects them to mock him or hurt him, but it turns out that they're swans and so is he. Now that he's past the awkward baby-swan phase, he's a beautiful bird just like them. Take that, duck jerks!

Tale 28: The Pine Tree

  • A young pine tree can't wait to grow bigger. Finally it does, and then it's chopped down and sold as a Christmas tree. It loves being covered in sparkles and lights—but the next day it's tossed in an attic, where it only has mice for company. Finally, it's burned for firewood. Can't win 'em all.

Tale 29: The Snow Queen

  • The subtitle of this one is "a fairy tale told in seven stories." We're gonna go with seven bullet points.
  • First: the devil makes a mirror that makes everything good/beautiful, evil/ugly, and vice versa. The mirror breaks while it's being carried up to heaven to mock God, and the shards and splinters fall all over the earth. Getting a sliver in your eye means you'll see everything distorted, while a sliver in your heart means that your heart will turn to ice.
  • Second: Kai and Gerda are neighbors, and they always play together. Old Grandmother tells them about the Snow Queen, who appears during snowstorms. Kai gets evil-mirror-slivers in both his eyes and heart, so he starts being nasty to Gerda. While out sledding, Kai ties his sled to a bigger sled, which turns out to belong to the Snow Queen. She's insanely beautiful, and when she kisses him, he longer feels the cold. Cuz he's all warm and fuzzy inside.
  • Third: Gerda goes to look for Kai, and throws her red shoes into the river in case it had claimed him. But she ends up floating along the river until she reaches an old woman's garden. The old woman treats her like a daughter, and all the flowers there tell Gerda their stories. The roses believe that Kai is not dead because they haven't seen him underground, so she continues her quest.
  • Fourth: a crow tells Gerda about a boy with shining hair who goes to a city and marries a princess. Convinced that it's Kai, Gerda gets into the palace, only to find that it's some prince she doesn't know. The prince and princess are sympathetic, though, so they outfit her with a fab carriage with some attendants and send her on her way.
  • Fifth: robbers attack the carriage and kill everyone but Gerda. A robber girl takes a liking to Gerda, and keeps her as a pet. When Gerda tells her about Kai, the robber girl decides to let her go, and puts on her on the back of a reindeer, who can bring her farther north, to where the Snow Queen lives.
  • Sixth: the reindeer stops at the hut of a Lapp woman, who sends them to a Finnish woman. The Finnish woman instructs the reindeer to bring Gerda to the Snow Queen's garden and leave her there, because Gerda's innocence is her strength. As Gerda walks into the garden, tiny angels appear to warm her bare hands and feet and defend her from the Snow Queen's guards.
  • Seventh: while Kai's been chillin' at the Snow Queen's, he's been playing with ice crystals and convincing himself that it's Serious Business. Gerda shows up, weeps on him, and her tears melt the ice splinters in his eyes and heart. They go home, encountering the Lapp and Finnish women, the robber girl, and the reindeer. It's spring when they get home and greet the Grandmother, and they realize that they've grown up. Egads, adulthood!

Tale 30: Mother Elderberry

  • A little boy catches cold, and an old man neighbor comes to tell him a story while his mom makes him some elderberry tea. The boy dreams/hallucinates an elderberry tree growing out of the teapot, with the figure of Mother Elderberry looking at him. She tells a story of him growing up, marrying, and getting old, and she is his companion in youth and old age. Mother Elderberry is a symbol for memory, it turns out. Trippy stuff. Like, Inception-grade trippy stuff.

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