Study Guide

Andersen's Fairy Tales Tales 51-60

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Tales 51-60

Tale 51: The Flax

  • Some flax is enjoying the sunshine when it's picked and painfully transformed into linen. It's happy to be linen for a while, but then it's turned into paper. From there it becomes a manuscript. Finally, it's burned. Flax to linen, linen to paper, paper to dust. Presto change-o!

Tale 52: The Bird Phoenix

  • When the angel with a fire sword banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, a spark from the sword ignited a bird's nest. One of the eggs hatched the Phoenix. The Phoenix sets itself on fire every hundred years. From the ashes rises a new bird. The Phoenix can be seen everywhere in the world and is also known as Poetry.

Tale 53: A Story

  • A minister always preaches about hellfire and damnation, saying how sinners will burn in hell eternally. One day his wife falls ill and dies, and then she comes back to haunt him, saying she'll be able to go to heaven if the minister can obtain a hair from the head of a sinner who's doomed to hell. The minister travels all over and meets weirdos and creeps, but he believes God will redeem each of them. This is apparently the lesson the minister was meant to learn, so that he'll stop preaching those pessimistic sermons. And then he wakes up to see his wife still alive, since apparently the whole thing was just a dream. Go ahead, pinch yourself. We'll wait.

Tale 54: The Silent Album

  • Some travelers pass by a coffin with an old man inside it. A nearby farmer explains that he'd been a student who'd gone mad and been sent to live on the farm. He's being buried with a book full of pressed flowers and herbs because of the memories they held for him. Then there's a bunch of ruminations about what the various plants symbolize. Students interested in random ruminations (um, philosophers?) and amateur botanists should really check this tale out.

Tale 55: The Old Gravestone

  • A family is talking about some old gravestones lying in their yard, and the grandpa says he remembers who was buried in those particular graves. A small child listens to the story of the buried people's lives, and then an angel kisses his forehead and tells the child to remember it and rewrite it someday.

Tale 56: There Is a Difference

  • A woman picks a flowering apple branch to bring indoors. The apple branch talks to the sun about how the poor dandelion is reviled by all. But then they see children playing with the flowers, and an old lady plucking the stems to brew a beverage with. Finally the apple branch realizes that everything in nature is beautiful, even if all things in nature are different from one another.

Tale 57: The World's Most Beautiful Rose

  • A queen will die unless the world's most beautiful rose is brought to her. People talk about various kinds of beautiful roses (like the blossom on a child's cheeks), but finally it's the queen's own son who talks to her about Christ on the Cross. The rose that grew from His blood is the most beautiful rose in the world. Obvi. The queen is cured.

Tale 58: The Year's Story

  • Some sparrows have a conversation about the meaning of the New Year in the depth of winter. They meet Winter, who's an old man. Spring, symbolized by two children, eventually replaces Winter. Then Summer comes, and finally the year returns to Winter. Then it starts all over again with the next batch of sparrows arriving and asking who that old man is. This is the song that never ends, it just goes on and on my friends... (We're cool cuz we're retro, okay?)

Tale 59: On the Last Day

  • Apparently the day you die is the most sacred day of your life. This one dude dies, and is taken through a bizarre landscape where all his evil thoughts and unkind words are transformed into loud birds and sharp stones. He's questioned at the gate of heaven, and realizes that he's unworthy to enter. He unexpectedly receives God's mercy, though, and realizes how important mercy is. Thanks again, God!

Tale 60: It Is Perfectly True!

  • This tale is basically a game of telephone: a hen says something about plucking one feather, and as each animal hears and repeats it, the story transforms from the loss of a feather to five hens dying in a gory fight to the death.

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