The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

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2018 Group Reads - Archives > Christmas Around the World: Denmark

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message 1: by Gem , Moderator (new)

Gem  | 685 comments Mod
Denmark - The Last Dream of Old Oak (1858) by Hans Christian Andersen

An unlikely conversation between an old oak and a mayfly that delightfully illustrates the wonder of perspective.


message 2: by Linda2 (last edited Dec 14, 2018 06:48PM) (new)

Linda2 | 3742 comments I haven't read any of his other stories. This one has an unusual amount of imagery for a children's story. It looks like Andersen has been underrated as a writer.


message 3: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2065 comments Mod
A lot of his stories are philosophical and some are very dark, with death as the ending, such as The Little Match Girl. There is also one about a Christmas tree that I think gets burned up at the end. The Snow Queen and The Little Mermaid are much creepier than in the Disney version. I had a book of Anderson's fairy tales as one of the few books I owned as a child, and I had mixed feelings about the stories. The worst one is The Girl who Trod on a Loaf. The girl is ungrateful and cruel and she gets punished by going to Hell, which is described in some detail. I guess this was supposed to be instructive for children!
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message 4: by Linda2 (last edited Dec 15, 2018 02:25PM) (new)

Linda2 | 3742 comments Robin wrote: "A lot of his stories are philosophical and some are very dark, with death as the ending, such as The Little Match Girl. There is also one about a Christmas tree that I think gets burned up at the e..."

I know many of his stories, just haven't read them. Children's stories were always moralistic until maybe the 1940's. I wonder why he killed the Little Match Girl, as she hadn't done anything bad except to be born poor.

I'm not close to any children, so I stay away from the Disney versions of anything :-( . The few faithful stories that were done date back to Disney's lifetime.


message 5: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2065 comments Mod
I think the point of the Little Match Girl was that the only way she could be happy was in death. It's actually rather Dickensian in showing the suffering of the poor. But generally I don't think Anderson wrote from the point of view of social issues.


message 6: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3742 comments The "Old Oak" is also a sad story. At the height of his happiness, he dies.

I'm going to move to some of the other short stories.


message 7: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2785 comments Mod
The Old Oak is a bittersweet story, but don't think it is sad. The tree had a good long life and the dream was beautiful.


message 8: by Wendel (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 229 comments The quality of this story is the description of the short life of the mayfly and the old oak’s dying dream. In fact, except for dying, nothing much happens. Andersen clearly did not aim (here at least) to write for children. This is a literary tale: form is as important as content.

The message is (long before Einstein) that time is relative: a difficult concept really. I tend to simplify the matter to the observation that, while death is waiting for us all, quality trumps quantity. Not the same thing, but anyway a long leap from the classic fairy tale’s long life ever after.

I’m not sure the ephemeral would necessarily agree with the words put in its mouth (if it had one). And the oak’s dream seemed a bit toxic (like a concise version of Dante’s Paradiso). Still I am seduced by Anderson's storytelling: this is how it is, or might be.

If there is a thing here to test my credulity, it must be the sailors’ singing. That’s is unlikely to happen. Not while they are sober, not on Xmas morning.


message 9: by Gem , Moderator (new)

Gem  | 685 comments Mod
What I took away from this story was perspective. A reminder to us to look for the beauty, regardless of our circumstances.


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