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

Spring 2023
TTh 12:30pm - 2:20pm / CDH 109
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
C LIT 252 A , GLITS 252 A
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

SCAND 232/GLITS 252A: Hans Christian Andersen and the Fairy Tale

with CLIT252A: Introduction to Comparative Literature: Genres  (5 credits, A&H)

Department of Scandinavian Studies, 318 Raitt Hall

Professor: Marianne Stecher-Hansen (, office hours: Tuesdays, 3:00 - 5:00pm,  305-Z Raitt Hall

Teaching Assistants: 

Ian Gwin (, office hours: Mondays, 1:30 - 3:20pm, 305-T Raitt Hall.

David Whitlock (, office hours: Thursdays, 10:30am -12:20pm, 305-S Raitt Hall.

Course Description:  Why do we love fairy tales? Where do fairy tales come from?   This course, taught in-person, will focus on storytellers and the figure of the child in the fairy tale genre, particularly in the tales of Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen (1805 - 1875).  Who are the authors and narrators of the fairy tales?   Is the role gendered? Is the storyteller a performer, a folklorist, or a creative writer?  Who was Hans Christian Andersen and what was his relationship to Danish storytelling roots and his literary contemporaries?  We explore the figure of the child in the fairy tale.  Is the child the subject of the fairy tale or the audience for the fairy tale?    Do children have agency in the fairy-tale?   How about the animal figures and inanimate objects (“things”)?

The quarter begins with an investigation of globally recognized fairy tales, such as “The Little Red Riding Hood,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” “Cinderella” and “Donkey Skin.”   Students will also explore various critical and theoretical approaches that have been used to interpret fairy tales as an aspect of culture and literature.  Next, the investigation turns to 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 quarter, we engage a closer study of these questions in relation to Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairy tales. Do Hans Christian Andersen’s tales reinvent the idea of the child and the entire concept of children’s literature in the 19th century?  We delve into readings of tales, such as “The Little Mermaid,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Snow Queen,” “The Ugly Duckling,” “The Red Shoes,” “The Shadow” and “The Little Match Girl” and also consider contemporary adaptions for these stories.   This course is an opportunity to study fairy tales in relation to literary and cultural history, social contexts, and to examine some of the predominant concerns in Andersen’s celebrated tales.

Required Books to purchase  (University Bookstore):

  1. Hans Christian Andersen, Fairy Tales, trans. Tiina Nunnally (Penguin, 2004). ISBN: 0 14 30.3952 0
  2. Maria Tatar, ed., The Classic Fairy Tales. Second Norton Critical Edition (Norton, 2017). ISBN: 0-393-97277-1

Student Learning Objectives:

  1. To practice the skill of daily “deep reading” (i.e. 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading of hard copy text – ideally, without electronic devices present; highlighting with pen or pencil).
  2. To exercise critical writing skills in order to address topics in the arts, culture, literature, and society.
  3. To acquire knowledge in order to identify genres (the fairy tale, the folk tale) as well as forms of narration.
  4. To improve skills for speaking and writing about literary texts and other media.
  5. To optimize educational opportunities at UW for intellectual community building.

Evaluation:  Grades will be based on two exams (including objective and essay questions),  two short essays, contributions to class discussions and regular online "discussions” on Canvas

20%                Six online 'Discussions'  (ca. 150 words each; worth 2+ points each)

20%                Short, peer-reviewed essay #1  (max. 750 words)

20%               Short, peer-reviewed essay #2  (max. 750 words)

10%               Midterm quiz (multiple-choice); ca. 30 minutes

30%               Final Test (multiple-choice/short essay); ca. 90 minutes

Writing Assignments:  SCAND 232 is not a W (Writing) course, although student writing is important.  Ad Hoc W (Writing) credit is not available for this course.  Please make an appointment with the Odegaard Writing and Research Center for help with the short essays: .  Please review Academic Misconduct (WAC 478-121-107) in course Modules.

Resource Guide - H.C. Andersen: Although a research paper is not required for this course, please consult this research guide for online sources and relevant scholarship:

 Religious Accommodations Policy: Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( (Links to an external site.).

Land acknowledgment: The University of Washington acknowledges the Coast Salish peoples of this land, the land which touches the shared waters of all tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot nations” including the Duwamish, on whose traditional lands the University of Washington-Seattle stands.

Coronavirus and Covid-19: Facts and Resources: The faculty remains committed to providing a high-quality Husky Experience for every student, supporting the University of Washington’s vital research and service missions, and continuing to provide the outstanding medical care that keeps our community healthy.


Preliminary Reading  and Lecture Schedule: Spring 2023

FT = Fairy Tales by H.C. Andersen, translated by Tiina Nunnally.

CFT = The Classic Fairy Tales, ed. Maria Tatar.

The most recent English translations (by John Irons) of H.C. Andersen's complete tales and stories are here: (it is not the translation recommended for this class).

Please find the schedule below and additional reading assignments posted in the "Modules" of this Canvas. 


Week #1:   Introduction/Telling Tales - H.C. Andersen, the Storyteller and the Fairy tale.

Tu March 28:

READ FT (Fairy Tales): "The Princess on the Pea" and “The Collar”

Thu March 30:.

READ FT (Fairy Tales): "The Little Match Girl" and “The Little Mermaid.”

READ (on Canvas): short biography of H.C. Andersen.

READ CFT (Classic Fairy Tales):  Maria Tatar “Introduction: Hans Christian Andersen” (278-283);

DO: Discussion online #1


Week #2: Folk Origins & Authorship: Tales for Children?

Tu April 4 & Th April 6: “Little Red Riding Hood” “Hansel and Gretel” and Nordic Children's Reading Cultures

READ CFT: “Introduction, Little Red Riding Hood (5 – 14); “The Story of Grandmother” (14 – 16); Charles Perrault, “Little Red Riding Hood” and Brothers Grimm, “Little Red Cap” (16 – 18).

READ (on Canvas): "The Cult of Childhood" by Jens Andersen.

READ CFT:  Grimm brothers, “Hansel and Gretel” (236 – 241).

READ (on Canvas): Danish folk-tale, “The Pancake House.”

READ (on Canvas): from Nordic Childrens Literature, 1780-1820.

READ CFT: Don Haase, “Yours, mine, or ours? Perrault, Brothers Grimm, & Ownership of Fairy Tales” (435 – 46).  

DO:  Discussion online #2


Week #3: Feminist Readings: “Snow White” and the Disney Fairy Tale film

Tu April 11:

READ CFT: Jack Zipes, “Breaking the Disney Spell: Oral & Literary Fairy Tales” (414 – 420).

READ CFT: “Introduction: Snow White” (84 – 92); Grimm, “Snow White” (95 -102);

READ CFT: Grimm, “Briar Rose” (Sleeping Beauty) (130 -133). READ CFT: Susan Gubar & Sandra Gilbert, “Snow White and Her Wicked Stepmother” (387 – 393).

Thu April 13:

READ CFT: Jack Zipes: “Casting the Commodity Spell with Snow White,” (427 – 435).

READ CFT:  Maria Warner, “The Old Wives’ Tale” (405 – 414).

WATCH: Walt Disney animation, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937).  

Do: Discussion online #3 – See prompts for Essay #1


Week #4: Ancient  to Modern “Cinderella” and "Donkey-Skin"– Tale Typologies

Tu April 18:

READ CFT: “Introduction: Cinderella” (139-145); Brothers Grimm, “Cinderella” (148-153);

READ (on Canvas): Charles Perrault, Cinderillla, or The Little Glass Slipper.”

READ CFT: Charles Perrault, “Donkey-skin” (154-162).

READ CFT: “Yeh-hsien” (146- 148)

READ (CFT): Hans-Jorg Uther, from "The Types of International folk tales" (491-497)

WATCH: Walt Disney flip (clip): “Cinderella” (1942)

Thu April 20 Guest Lecture - Professor and folklorist Guntis Smidchens

Topic: Three critical approaches to interpreting folk-tales (ATU tale types; V. Propp; Bengt Holbek).

READ (FT): READ (FT), H.C. Andersen,"Little Claus and Big Claus" and “The Wild Swans”

DUE: Sun (midnight). April 23: Essay #1


Week #5: From Nordic & Baltic Folk-tales to Literary Fairy Tales: National Romanticism

Mon - Tuesday: "Peer-Review" 2 essays, as assigned on Canvas.

Tu April 25: 

READ (FT):  H.C. Andersen, “The Traveling Companion.”

READ (on Canvas): Asbjornsen & Moe, "The Companion."

READ (CFT): Vladimir Propp, "From Folklore and Literature" and "from Morphology of the Folktale" (498 - 507).


Th April 27: Beast and Bridegroom tales and Bewitched Princesses

READ (CFT: 30 - 50): Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, "Beauty and the Beast"

READ (on Canvas): "The Adder's Bride" and "Fearless and the Devils" (Baltic Tales)

DO: Review Study Questions for Midterm Quiz and Discussion online #4


Week #6:  H.C. Andersen and Animated Objects -

Tu May 2:

Midterm Quiz Review in-class.

READ (on Canvas):  H.C. Andersen, “Clod Hans – An Old Folktale Retold”

READ (on Canvas): Asbjornsen & Moe, “The Princess who always had to have the Last World”


Thu May 4: H.C. Andersen and "Thing - Fairy Tale" - Steadfast Tin Soldier

Midterm Quiz (in-class, online)

READ (FT):  H.C. Andersen, "The Steadfast Tin Soldier"


Week #7:  Un-Disneyfied and Queer Andersen - Thing-Fairy tales and Tales of Alterity

Tu May 9:

READ (FT):  H.C. Andersen, "The Sweethearts"

READ (On Canvas): H.C. Andersen, "The Two Maidens," "The Pen and the Ink Jar" and "The Darning Needle"

Review/re-read: (FT): H.C. Andersen, “The Little Mermaid”

READ (on Canvas): Jens Andersen, “The Men of Romanticism.”

WATCH (clips): Adaptations "The Little Mermaid" (1987/2022)

Thu May 11.

READ (FT): Andersen, “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Shadow”

Optional WATCH film: Young Andersen (2005)

DO: Discussion online #5 (see prompts)

Week #8:

Gothic modes and “Uncanny” Andersen –  Aesthetics of Death, Decay and Grief

Tu May 16:

READ (in Fairy Tales): "The Shadow" and “The Red Shoes”;

READ (in Classic Fairy Tales): Andersen, “The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf"

Th May 18:

READ (in Fairy Tales): "The Shadow" and  “The Story of a Mother”

Presentation by Ian Gwin on the Gothic and Andersen's "The Psyche"

READ (on Canvas): Andersen, “The Psyche”


 Week #9:  Romanticism's ‘Patrons of the Arts’ – Andersen and Politics

Tu May 23.

READ (FT):  Andersen, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “The Nightingale”;


Th May 25. 

READ (FT):  Andersen, “The Snow Queen.”

WATCH (clips): Disney’s Frozen and Frozen II

Presentation by David Whitlock on Romanticism and the Gothic in Music.

Last online Discussion #6

DUE: Sun. May 28: Essay #2  (no peer-review this time)

Mon. May 29 (Memorial Day holiday)


Week #10: Looking Glass into the Future:  Andersen’s Science Fiction.

Tu 30 May: 

Final Lecture

READ (FT): “The Wood Nymph” and “In a Thousand Years’ Time.”

READ (on Canvas): “The Wicked Prince” and “The Small Green Ones”

Thu 1 June:

12:30 Final test (Timed online; multiple choice and short essays - Open Book)

Course Evaluations

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 Met:
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated:
February 23, 2024 - 6:09 am