Thumbelina

Illustration by Eleanor Vere Boyle, 1872
Illustration by Eleanor Vere Boyle, 1872

I have mixed feelings about Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. Some are just so moralistic and some just too sad. “Thumbelina,” however, has a happy ending and though there are a few sad moments it’s overall an enjoyable story. The version I read was from Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Mrs. Henry H. B. Paull, 1875.

The tale opens in a rather traditional way with a woman who desperately wants a child. She goes to a fairy for help and the fairy sells her a barleycorn which she plants in a flower-pot. It grows a lovely flower and when the flower opens, a tiny girl, Thumbelina, also called Tiny, emerges. Thumbelina has a lovely life with the woman until one night, when she is asleep in her walnut-shell cradle, she gets carried off by a toad who wants the miniature maiden as a bride for her son. With the help of friendly fish and a butterfly, Thumbelina escapes the toad and her son, and drifts on a lily pad until captured by a cockchafer, which is a type of beetle. The insect discards her when his friends reject her company, leaving Thumbelina out in the wide world all on her own. Thumbelina tries to protect herself from the elements, but when winter comes, she is in desperate straits. She is finally given shelter by an old field mouse and does the chores around her house in gratitude. The mouse suggests Thumbelina marry her neighbor, a mole, but Thumbelina finds that idea repulsive. Eventually, the field mouse insists, but she escapes the situation by fleeing to a far land with a swallow who she had nursed back to health during the winter. In a sunny field of flowers, Thumbelina meets a tiny man with a crown on his head, the angel of the flower, the king of all the tiny people who live in flowers. They get married and she is given many gifts, including a pair of wings to accompany her husband on his travels from flower to flower, and a new name, Maia.

At the end of the story the swallow flies off to Denmark where he has a nest over the window of a fairy tale writer’s house. And from his song came the whole story.

Throughout the story, Thumbelina is described as tiny but beautiful, her loveliness is emphasized even over her kindness. It’s like her beauty is the most important thing about her, but that’s pretty standard fairy tale fare. Really, is it any wonder girls/women so often think being pretty is worth more than being smart or kind or generous. Thumbelina was smart and courageous, but that’s not what she gets praised for.

I actually don’t remember much of this story from when I was a kid, just a vague picture a girl in a flower. Is it one you’re familiar with?

Thursday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, I love them all.

This is my T post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

 

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