You are here

SCAND 232 A: Hans Christian Andersen and the Fairy Tale Tradition

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 12:30pm - 1:20pm
BAG 154
Photo of Marianne Stecher
Marianne Stecher-Hansen

Syllabus Description:

Hans Christian Andersen and the Fairy Tale: 

The Child and the Storyteller

This quarter’s SCAND 232 course will focus on the figures of the Story Teller and the Child in the fairy tale, particularly in the tales of Hans Christian Andersen.  Who are the story-tellers, the authors, and the narrators of the fairy tales?   Is the role gendered? Were storytellers traditionally men or women?  Is the storyteller a performer, a narrator, or ‘just’ an author working in a particular literary genre?  What is the author Hans Christian Andersen’s relationship to his Danish storytelling roots? Secondly, we will look at the figure and the function of the child in the fairy tale.  Is the child the subject of the fairy tale or the audience for the fairytale?   Does the fairy tale seek to appeal to the emotional or experiential world of the child?  Who is the intended audience or readership of the fairy tale? Perhaps the child is employed as a poetic metaphor or symbol that serves as a vehicle for other meanings in the text?

We will begin the quarter by looking at some of the classic or internationally known fairy tales, such as “The Little Red Riding Hood,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” “Cinderella” and “Donkey Skin.”  We will consider the function and the figure of the storyteller and the child in these texts.  We will also consider the various critical and theoretical approaches that have been used to interpret fairy tales as an important aspect of culture and literature.  Next, the investigation turns to the the origins and authorship of the folk fairy tale, especially the relationship between the variants of these tales attributed to Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm.  What are the origins of the literary fairy tale?  Were fairy tales written for children as an audience or readership – or about children as objects of entertainment?  Why are poor and helpless girls and boys often the subjects of fairy tales?  How are the relationships between parents and children depicted in fairy tales? 

In the second half of the course, we will engage a closer study of the child and the storyteller in relation to some of Hans Christian Andersen’s masterpiece fairy tales. Do Hans Christian Andersen’s tales develop and reinvent the idea of the child and the entire concept of children’s literature in the nineteenth century?  We will delve into readings of the famous tales, for example “The Little Mermaid,” “The Snow Queen,” “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Little Match Girl.”  We will study these tales in relation to to literary and cultural history, social contexts, and the author’s life story and examine some of the predominant themes in Andersen’s tales.


Required Reading:

  1. Hans Christian Andersen, Fairy  Tales, trans. Tiina Nunnally (Viking, 2004). REQUIRED BOOK (abbreviation in syllabus: FT)!
  2. Maria Tatar, ed., The Classic Fairy Tales.  Norton Critical Edition (Norton, 1999). REQUIRED BOOK (abbreviation in syllabus: CFT)  !
  3. All supplementary texts (marked**) will be posted on Canvas for SCAND 232.


Student Learning Objectives:

  1. To gain knowledge of fairy tales in various cultural, historical, and literary contexts, including C. Andersen’s world famous tales.
  2. To introduce various critical approaches to reading fairy tales and other literary texts.
  3. To improve skills for interpreting and writing about literary texts and other media.

Lectures and Assigned Reading:

It is important to read the assigned texts in advance of class in order to be prepared for class.   Following class each day, most lecture outlines will be posted on Canvas, along with any paper topics and study guidelines for exams.  Look under “Files” and “Modules.”



Grades will be based on in-class tests (including objective and essay questions) and two  short essays (1 – 2  pages) as well as participation in peer-group discussions and exercises.                    

20%                 Short essay #1  Due: Thursday, April 25th (Week #4)   

20%                 Midterm           Date:  Thursday, May 9th  (Week #6)

20%                 Short essay #2  Due:  Thursday May 30th (Week #9)    

30%                 Final tests         I: Wednesday, June 5 (objective questions)

                                                II: Thursday, June 6 (in-class, essay)

10%                 Participation in peer-group discussions in class


Writing Assignments:

SCAND 232 is not a W (Writing) course, although student writing is important.  Ad Hoc W credit is NOT available for this course.  Please see UW policy on plagiarism:

Catalog Description: 
Influence of Hans Christian Andersen and the fairy tale on modern Scandinavian tales and stories. Investigates the significance of the fairy tale in the modern world, with attention to writers such as Isak Dinesen, Knut Hamsun, Villy Sorensen, William Heinesen.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:19pm