History of creation
The tale was first published in 1861. Being at that time a recognized classic of the genre of author’s literary fairy tales, Andersen continued to amaze his readers with the simplicity and at the same time the unexpectedness of fairy-tale stories he had invented.
Literary direction and genre
If in his youth Andersen entered literature as a romantic, albeit a “late” romantic, with a large share of the bitter irony characteristic of this literary era, then by old age the creative method of the storyteller could justifiably be called realistic. It cannot be said that there were no traces left of his romanticism: they remained, like traces of young lovers, left by them in the ice crust that covered the whole earth in the garden, only for several hours (!) That shone with a wonderful romantic splendor of the departing winter beauty.
Theme and issues
The theme of the tale is the meaninglessness of human existence and the stupidity of human self-conceit based on nothing. In the limited space of a fairy-tale text, the problem of realistic life orientation with all sharpness and persuasiveness is posed on the example of the fate of two fairy-tale characters.
The plot and composition
The plot of the tale is based on a simple and understandable even for a child natural phenomenon – melting snow in early spring. Blinded by the boys, the Snowman, who (according to the Yard dog) “only yesterday came out into the light of day” and at the same time (according to the young man) looks “so well done”, is already doomed, although he himself does not know about it.
Vague suspicions of hostile intentions towards him are caused by the sun, which he, however, confuses with the moon. At night, the Snowman triumphs over an imaginary victory over the sun, peacefully (in the form of a month) “now creeping out from the other side.”
Yard dog by his own example is trying to inspire the Snowman with the idea of the insecurity of happiness. He was a beloved domestic puppy and slept in a house near a warm stove, but bit a little velvet, which tried to take away his bone, and for this he was expelled into the yard and put on a chain.
The snowman looks out the window of the house, sees the stove. He ignited her with the most tender feeling (“he felt that the Stove was a female being”). “I also suffered from this, but got better,” said Dog.
Then the thaw began, the Snowman began to gradually melt. When he finally collapsed, only the poker remained in its place, on which the boys strengthened it. The dog philosopher “understood everything”: the poker as the core of the Snowman’s personality moved from time to time in him; she, according to the Dog, was the cause of the Snowman’s longing.
In the finale, the girls sing a freckle. Everyone immediately forgot about the Snowman.
Compositionally, the fairy tale is structured in such a way that the information the reader needs to understand the plot story is not immediately given out, but as if in small portions, with different characters, from different points of view. First, the world is given in the sense of a Snowman. Then comes the dog’s critical look at the personality and situation of the Snowman. Next is a couple in love who sees the whole world (i.e., a snowy, icy, sparkling garden in the sun and Snowman in it) in a bright, romantic light. And to the question of the uninformed Snowman: “Do these two mean anything?” – The dog replies indignantly: “Why, they are gentlemen!” Here he tells his sad story, which clearly shows the power of the masters over the fate of bonded creatures.
From this story, the Snowman learns about the Stove. As Dog thinks and as the Snowman himself believes, this is where the sorrow-melancholy begins, destroying the gentle snow creature.
Vesnyanka in the final confidently declares what is the true cause of the death of such snowmen – from the point of view of people. But if everything is so relative and so depends on the point of view – it is just right to doubt whether we humans are omniscient.
The protagonist of the tale is a stupid, naive, knowing and understanding Snowman. Together with the “wise life” Dog (he knows a little more, but he is far from “true wisdom”, of course) they make up a touching pair of sufferers. Both of them dream of a stove inaccessible to them, its warmth, its hot tongue sticking out, which “goes to it like that”. The stove, the moon and the sun shine differently, which is important for the Snowman, but in fact they are impersonal and indifferent to the fates of snowmen, dogs and even two people in love with each other, the whole meaning of love and mutual warmth of which is wise Dog’s remark that in the near future “to settle in a kennel and swallow bones together”. The super-realism of a fairy tale actually consists in over-typing the characters and circumstances in which the personal qualities of the characters, their advantages, as well as their shortcomings, are not so important, but only objective reality is important, more or less (but never completely) cognizable.
Realistic characters of a fairy tale are the flip side of overtyping images and characters. So, the central image – the Snowman – can be taken as a symbol of the mortality of life and the stupidity of those who trust in this mortal life on their own mind and their own significance. A carefully painted winter landscape stands out clearly, ending with a comparison of hoarfrost with diamond dust and snow with large diamonds. All this will sparkle for a moment and in a moment it will melt …