“The Tinderbox”, analysis of the tale by Hans Christian Andersen

History of creation

The fairy tale “The Tinderbox” was written by thirty-year-old Andersen in 1835. It was included in the first collection of fairy tales, entitled “Fairy Tales Told for Children,” published in the same year. Most of the tales of this collection are based on folklore. Such is the fairy tale “The Tinderbox”.

Literary direction and genre

According to the plot, the author’s fairy tale “The Tinderbox” resembles traditional fairy tales. Such tales are based on the adventures of the hero, as a result of which his status changes (a soldier becomes a king). To achieve this, magic objects (tinderbox) and magic assistants (three huge dogs) help. Often in such tales a witch appears, associated with the world of the dead.

Romantics were the first to be interested in fairy tales, began to collect folklore and write their own tales on a folklore basis. It was from this that the romantic storyteller Andersen began his career.

Theme and problems of the tale

“The Tinderbox” is one of the few tales of the writer, in which he hardly goes beyond the framework of folklore. There are no fresh ideas or subtext. The theme of the tale is true values. They become stubbornness in achieving the goal, love, courage, and not money at all, which are depreciated in a fairy tale, equal to rubbish, not without reason they are so easy to get and lose.

The main problem of the tale is also traditional: social restrictions, an insurmountable gulf between different classes, wealth and poverty, which is overcome with the help of magic. This problem reflected Andersen’s own difficult relationship with the authorities and patrons. Other problems of the tale are less noticeable, for example, the problem of education, which should not be associated with violence. The princess rejoices in the death of the king’s father, because it means her adult life and liberation. The problem of true and false friends disappearing in an impoverished hero is traditional for folklore and literature.

The plot and composition

A fairy tale is always built according to a certain canon. The hero overcomes difficulties and reaches the goal, turning first to the world of the dead. The tree through the hollow of which the soldier descends into the dungeon is a world tree, in the roots of which is located the underworld, the world of the dead.

From the underworld, a soldier gains wealth, a magic item, and magic assistants. The main among the gifts is tinderbox, because the possessor becomes the master of otherworldly beings.

The plot of the tale is based on triple repetitions and gradations (strengthening the attribute). Each next dog is many times larger than the previous one. She guards great treasures.

A soldier collects three times in a satchel, pockets, and then in boots copper, silver and gold. An important plot move – the test of a soldier with wealth, which he passes with honor, helps the poor a lot. But the soldiers do not pass the test of vanity, he believes in false friends, calling him a glorious fellow and a real gentleman, and he really likes it. The soldier is bold, but this quality helps him achieve the forbidden fruit.

The magic property of a tinderbox is revealed to a soldier by chance. The number of blows to the flint depends on which dog appears in front of the owner.

Three times the soldier orders the smallest dog with eyes like tea cups to deliver him to the princess at night, and only on the third night the maid of honor came up with a bag with a groats to be attached to the princess’s back.

The motive of prophecy is often found in fairy tales. The soldier was sentenced to death so that the prophecy about his marriage to the princess would not come true. But, on the one hand, it is impossible to deceive fate, on the other hand, ingenuity helps a soldier send a boy behind a tinderbox, call magic dogs and become the king and happy husband of the princess.

Heroes of a fairy tale

The protagonist of the tale is a soldier. This is a traditional hero of folklore. Unlike a folk fool, a soldier in a fairy tale is quick-witted, and not just lucky. This is an example of a hero who, under favorable circumstances, can build his own happiness.

The hero of the fairy tale is a seasoned, “serving” person. His service is over, he returns home from the war. This is a person before the start of a new life. The hero has neither a profession nor money, only a saber on his side and a satchel behind his back. The hero is like a knight at a crossroads. According to the laws of a fairy tale, he copes with the situation by turning to the world of the dead.

The image of a soldier is spelled out in more detail than in folklore. He is generous and wasteful, conceited, adventurer, brave. The soldier’s fear conquers with laughter, he jokes even in the face of death. To the terrible dogs, the soldier says: “Well done,” “You have nothing to stare at me,” “My respect”. And with the boy sent for the flint, the soldier on the threshold of execution jokes: “After all, things will not do without me.”

A witch in a fairy tale is a guide from the world of the dead. Therefore, she herself resembles a dead man: “The ugly, nasty, lower lip hung from her to the very chest.” The witch is false and flattering. She begins the conversation by praising the soldier: “Here is a brave soldier!” She wants to trick the soldier cunningly, offering him to take as much as she wants, and presenting the old flint as something worthless.

The witch is forced to look for an ally who will go down into the hollow. One can only guess why she herself does not dare to do this, because the tinderbox has been lying in the dungeon for 300 years. When a soldier pulls out a tinderbox, the witch’s behavior changes. She is rude to a soldier, for which he kills her. She should not be sorry, because she is disgusting both externally (see her portrait at the beginning) and internally.

Three dogs, guarding copper, silver and gold, are the native sisters of Cerberus, guarding the kingdom of the dead. Terrible guards turn into obedient servants with the help of magic items. The checkered apron of the witch neutralizes the aggression of dogs, paralyzes them. Flintily makes them obedient servants, fulfilling any desire.

The reader guesses about the size of dogs only in one detail – the size of the eyes. Already a dog with eyes, like tea cups, is huge.

Dogs are not only loyal to the owner, but also humanly intelligent. So the dog put crosses on all the houses so that the maid of honor would not find the soldier’s house marked with a cross. In addition, in the finale of a fairy tale at a wedding feast, dogs sit at the table and goggle. And the dogs know how to dance and shout “Hurray.”

And even more so a dog whose eyes are the size of mill wheels or the Round Tower.

The king and queen personify evil, cruel and unreasonable rule. At the same time, the queen is a smart and hardworking woman. The king locked the princess in a copper castle, afraid of the prophecy of her marriage to a soldier. So no one regrets the death of the king, even the offended princess.

Artistic originality

In contrast to the folklore tale, the action in which is in no way connected with the earthly kingdoms, all the images of “The Tinderbox” are associated with Andersen relatives Denmark and Copenhagen. The eyes of the largest dog are the size of the Round Tower (the astronomical tower in Copenhagen), and for the gold of the dog a soldier could buy all of Copenhagen.
Another difference from a folk tale is the constant emotional presence of the author, whose narrative is addressed to the child. He steps with the soldier: “One or two! One-two! ”The soldier’s wealth is measured by how many sugar pigs, tin soldiers and snouts he can buy. The author emotionally comments on what is happening with interjections, sympathizes with the soldier in prison: “How boring it was!” The storyteller warns the reader about the most tense moments of the story: “Now let’s listen!”

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