Study Guide

Andersen's Fairy Tales Memory and The Past

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Memory and The Past

We're thinking Andersen was one giant history nerd, based on how much history (of Denmark and Europe in general) he includes in his stories. Famous kings and inventors pop up in his tales, and many of his characters think about the past and long for it. Some of them are haunted by old, unhappy memories, while others relive joyous memories as often as they can. But indulging in nostalgia can have a hefty price: if you live in the past too much, you'll neglect the present.

Questions About Memory and The Past

  1. Why do you think so many of Andersen's characters obsess over the past? What are they looking for when the mine their memories, and do they seem to find it?
  2. Did you learn anything new about history from these tales? If so, what? What do you want to know more about? (Encyclopedia, ho! Okay, we'll be more realisitic: Wikipedia, ho!)
  3. Where do you draw the line between memory and fantasy in Andersen's tales?
  4. Which kinds of characters are most likely to reminisce in Andersen's tale? Why?

Chew on This

Living in the past is no substitute for living in the present.

If we can't learn from the past, we're screwed.

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