Thumbelina is one of the most famous works of the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen. Andersen, who is known around the world for his fairy tales, is still considered one of the most beloved and most-read writers of this genre. His works have been translated into more than 40 languages, while many generations have grown up reading his fairy tales. In his time he was neither popular nor famous. His success came much later. So was the success of Thumbelina.
The story of Thumbelina came to Danish children in 1835 as part of the Fairy Tales for Children collection. When this magical story is written remains a mystery. Andersen did not submit new works to the press as other writers - he postponed them for editing.
When creating the character, the author drew inspiration from legends about little people. But Thumbelina can also boast of a real woman - Henrietta Wolf, the daughter of a Danish translator. A short, hunchbacked woman with an angelic character was Hans' friend. A prototype was also found for the mole: they say the narrator copied this character from a strict school teacher.
At the time when Thumbelina was published, the critics were not interested in his works. The published story did not arouse critical admiration. The writers were dissatisfied with the simplicity of the language and the lack of moralizing, as didactic notes and pronounced morals were valued at the time. On the other hand, readers enthusiastically accepted Andersen's new fairy tale, which is more important than the assessments of literary connoisseurs.
And everywhere the character was called differently. For example, in the homeland, the heroine of this fairy tale was called Tommelis, in England and France - Tambelin and Pucelina (both translated as a thumb), and in the Czech Republic, simply - Malenka.
The character reached Russian readers late, as always. In the late 19th century, the couple Peter and Anna Hansen were engaged in adapting the stories of the Danish writer, carefully preserving elements of the original. In the first translation, the girl's name was Lizok-s-vershok, later she turned into Thumbelina.
From the beginning, Andersen retold many stories he heard from others. Later, he began to create characters and plots on his own. In the best possible way, in his works, he combined myths, fiction, and legends with real-life situations.
Thumbelina differed in many ways from the works published by other authors at that time. While other writers had one pattern where they mostly wrote stories with a happy ending, Andersen created avant-garde fairy tales which often had brutal endings and were not intended only for children. That is why today, it is difficult to find a collection of fairy tales in which there is not at least one story that Hans Christian Andersen brought to the world.
Thumbelina was a little girl, not bigger than a thumb. From the very beginning, she experiences several unpleasant situations. Some parts of the story are even scary, but like any other fairy tale, this one brings us a beautiful and happy ending. This little girl, with her kindness and pure, uncorrupted heart, manages to overcome all the problems that lie in front of her, and in the end, she is rewarded with happiness and sincere love.
During her travels, she met many characters. From the bad ones, such as the terrible frog who wants Thumbelina to marry her son, to the good ones, such as the merciful mouse who also wants Thumbelina to marry one annoying mole with the best intentions. However, for someone so good, honest, and kind, life has other plans, so our main heroine finally meets the king for whom she immediately falls in love and lives happily for the rest of her life.
This fairy tale brings us a very important lesson that many obstacles and problems will appear in our life, that many will want to make us do things we don't want to do, but that we must be persistent in doing good. We must always believe in ourselves. Goodness and self-belief will help us reach the desired goal. Sometimes, a good soul will appear before us to help us in our trouble. So we need to return the favor and help others whenever we can. Just like our heroine, we will eventually get what we deserve for our good deeds.
This story is full of symbolism, hidden meanings, recognizable characters, and situations.
The very birth of the main character of the fairy tale is shrouded in mystery, the most understandable of which is the magical seed that the lonely woman brought to her house.
This tiny little girl, who came out of a flower bud, was destined for the role of "favorite child", as is often the case with long-awaited children. And everything Thumbelina had while she was with her mother was special: the riverbed with beautiful petals and her private lake with the boat made of flowers - describing that she is so small and fragile like a flower.
Now, throughout the story, the grooms walk around her all the time, but she is still the same: small and helpless - a girl-child. Men (male animals) are attracted to her because they feel strong and brave in her company, and simply by looking at her, they can feel as if they can care for her and protect her. But desire is one thing, and embodiment is quite another.
Every time, Thumbelina becomes a victim of other animal's plots and circumstances: falling into the clutches of the ruling frog mother and her weak-willed son, as well as into the clutches of the conformist bug, for whom the opinion of his "insect society" is more important than his own opinions and attitudes. And Thumbelina, even though she is so sweet and beautiful, is bitter, annoying, and insulting that not even an insect will accept her.
From the time Thumbelina met the mouse, the most intense inner struggle took place between the desire to dedicate oneself to others, to be obedient, to please (the image of a hole, as a symbol of one's own life, restraint) and the desire for freedom, change, even if it is not known (a picture of a bird as a symbol of dreams and hope).
For example, the swallow represents her dreams - the swallow almost died (Thumbelina almost buried her dream), but then she realized the swallow was still alive, she began to revive her. At first, Thumbelina was even afraid to approach the bird because it was bigger than her (to get closer to her dream), but she overcame her fear and made her choice at the decisive moment.
The fact that, in the finale, the heroine was given wings and a new name, apart from heavenly life and the beautiful prince, can be understood in such a way that overcoming all difficulties and obstacles a person can become different, so life can be changed in a way we couldn't even imagine.
Genre: fairy tale
Setting: the setting remains unspecified; once upon a time
Point of view and Narrator: third-person with omniscient narration
Tone and Mood: wishful, magic, melancholic
Style: informal, storytelling
Protagonist and Antagonist: the protagonist is Thumbelina, while the main antagonist remains Grundel Toad, simply known as Grundel
Major Conflict: when Thumbelina was kidnapped by an ugly toad
Climax: the climax of Thumbelina can be found in the ninth paragraph as this was the part when Thumbelina made a decision that impacted how the story went
Ending: Thumbelina marries the flower-fairy prince
Symbols and Metaphors
A toad - In fairy tales, the toad is usually a malevolent creature or a symbol of another character's evil. These ideas exist outside the fairy tale genre as well.
A butterfly - Thumbelina attracts the butterfly and then traps him for her intentions, to enable her escape. The butterfly is lured to her because of her beauty, but in the end, she realizes that he will die as a result of his attraction.
A cockchafer - symbolizes society and the modern crowd, for which it is most terrible to be different from "friends", to be different from everyone else. The value of anything to such people is not measured by their own ideas, but by the way others judge it. The fairy tale "Thumbelina" gives us an understanding of terrible evil, which consists in rejecting love for the sake of public opinion.
The swallow - represents Thumbelina's dreams. The swallow almost died (Thumbelina almost buried her dream), but then she realized the swallow was still alive, so she began to revive her. At first, Thumbelina was even afraid to approach the bird because it was bigger than her (to get closer to her dream), but she overcame her fear and made her choice at the decisive moment.
The mole - represents a prosperous life, since the mole is rich and has a luxurious fur coat. Although Thumbelina marrying the mole would have everything, she will be missing one thing that is important to her - light.