Fairy tales have carved their way into the contemporary zeitgeist. Even if people don’t remember all of the plot points in “Thumbelina”, “The Princess and the Pea”, or “The Little Mermaid”, they recognize the names and themes from them. But fairy tales have a long history. They developed long before the Disney Renaissance of 1989-1999 and long before they were made into silent films in the early 1900s. They were woven together from much earlier stories and cultural ideas.
Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) penned many of the fairy tales best known today, including “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “The Snow Queen”, and “The Ugly Duckling”. FutureLearn, an online education center, is offering a free class on Andersen’s fairy tales. The course runs for 6 weeks and features lectures and discussions with professors from the HC Andersen Center at the University of Southern Denmark, the university located in Andersen’s natal city.
According the course page, the class will guide participants to examine the following ideas.
“You will explore the themes of each story, and investigate how they both conform with and digress from the basic elements of the fairy tale and the folk tale.
The fairy tale genre became very popular in the period of literary history to which Hans Christian Andersen belongs, Romanticism, when childhood was discovered as an age that is important in its own right. What Hans Christian Andersen did with this genre is absolutely unique – there are no other writers of fairy tales like him.”
The next round of the course starts on October 24, and if it interests you, I suggest you check out the course page at https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/hans-christian-andersens-fairy-tales/. If you would like to read Andersen’s works but don’t want to commit to a class, you can also peruse the H.C. Andersen Collection at Project Gutenberg.
Though I haven’t taken this class before, I have taken several online courses on business and technology. They are typically very informative, and since this one is a free class, it won’t be a disaster if you fall a bit behind on any of the lectures. (For those of you who have a commute, listening to lectures like these on your way to work or school is a fabulous way to pass the time.)
If you’ve explored fairy tales before or know of any other resources, please feel free to share! I’m sure I’m not the only one interested in delving more deeply into the subject.
Gutenberg.org, “Stories from Hans Andersen with illustrations by Edmund Dulac”, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1911.
Elena Ringo, “The Snow Queen,”1998, http://www.elena-ringo.com.