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In a Thousand Years
Grimm Märchen

In a Thousand Years - Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Andersen

Reading time for children: 6 min

Yes, in a thousand years people will fly on the wings of steam through the air, over the ocean! The young inhabitants of America will become visitors of old Europe. They will come over to see the monuments and the great cities, which will then be in ruins, just as we in our time make pilgrimages to the tottering splendors of Southern Asia.

In a thousand years they will come!

The Thames, the Danube, and the Rhine still roll their course, Mont Blanc stands firm with its snow-capped summit, and the Northern Lights gleam over the land of the North; but generation after generation has become dust, whole rows of the mighty of the moment are forgotten, like those who already slumber under the hill on which the rich trader, whose ground it is, has built a bench, on which he can sit and look out across his waving corn fields.

„To Europe!“ cry the young sons of America; „to the land of our ancestors, the glorious land of monuments and fancy– to Europe!“

The ship of the air comes. It is crowded with passengers, for the transit is quicker than by sea. The electro-magnetic wire under the ocean has already telegraphed the number of the aerial caravan. Europe is in sight. It is the coast of Ireland that they see, but the passengers are still asleep. They will not be called till they are exactly over England. There they will first step on European shore, in the land of Shakespeare, as the educated call it. In the land of politics, the land of machines, as it is called by others.

Here they stay a whole day. That is all the time the busy race can devote to the whole of England and Scotland.

Then the journey is continued through the tunnel under the English Channel, to France, the land of Charlemagne and Napoleon. Moliere is named, the learned men talk of the classic school of remote antiquity. There is rejoicing and shouting for the names of heroes, poets, and men of science, whom our time does not know, but who will be born after our time in Paris, the centre of Europe, and elsewhere.

The air steamboat flies over the country whence Columbus went forth, where Cortez was born, and where Calderon sang dramas in sounding verse. Beautiful black-eyed women live still in the blooming valleys, and the oldest songs speak of the Cid and the Alhambra.

Then through the air, over the sea, to Italy, where once lay old, everlasting Rome. It has vanished! The Campagna lies desert. A single ruined wall is shown as the remains of St. Peter’s, but there is a doubt if this ruin be genuine.

Next to Greece, to sleep a night in the grand hotel at the top of Mount Olympus, to say that they have been there; and the journey is continued to the Bosphorus, to rest there a few hours, and see the place where Byzantium lay; and where the legend tells that the harem stood in the time of the Turks, poor fishermen are now spreading their nets.

Over the remains of mighty cities on the broad Danube, cities which we in our time know not, the travellers pass; but here and there, on the rich sites of those that time shall bring forth, the caravan sometimes descends, and departs thence again.

Down below lies Germany, that was once covered with a close net of railway and canals, the region where Luther spoke, where Goethe sang, and Mozart once held the sceptre of harmony. Great names shine there, in science and in art, names that are unknown to us. One day devoted to seeing Germany, and one for the North, the country of Oersted and Linnaeus, and for Norway, the land of the old heroes and the young Normans. Iceland is visited on the journey home. The geysers burn no more, Hecla is an extinct volcano, but the rocky island is still fixed in the midst of the foaming sea, a continual monument of legend and poetry.

„There is really a great deal to be seen in Europe,“ says the young American, „and we have seen it in a week, according to the directions of the great traveller“ (and here he mentions the name of one of his contemporaries) „in his celebrated work, ‚How to See All Europe in a Week.'“

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „In a thousand years“

„In a Thousand Years“ is a lesser-known fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, published in 1852. Like many of his other works, this story is set in Denmark and reflects the socio-political atmosphere of the time.

The story begins with a vision of a Danish city in the future, a thousand years from the time Andersen was writing. It envisions a future filled with technological advancements and modern architecture, contrasting significantly with the city’s appearance in Andersen’s time. This futuristic city has new inventions, such as steam-powered machines and electric lighting, as well as a grand museum that displays artifacts from the past.

At the center of the story is a conversation between two spirits: one from the past and one from the future. The spirits discuss the changes that have taken place in Denmark over the centuries, reflecting on the impact of human progress and the passage of time.

The story highlights the importance of preserving culture and history while embracing change and technological advancement. Andersen’s tale serves as a reminder that, even as society progresses and transforms, it is essential to remember and cherish the past.

„In a Thousand Years“ is a contemplative piece that encourages readers to ponder the passage of time, the inevitability of change, and the ways in which societies evolve throughout history.

Interpretations to fairy tale „In a thousand years“

„In a Thousand Years“ by Hans Christian Andersen can be interpreted in several ways, touching upon themes such as change, progress, and the importance of history and tradition. Here are a few possible interpretations:

Embracing change and progress: The story presents a vision of the future that is drastically different from Andersen’s time, illustrating how technological advancements and societal changes can lead to a transformed world. This perspective encourages readers to embrace change and progress, recognizing that it is an inevitable part of human existence.

The importance of preserving history and tradition: While celebrating progress, the story also emphasizes the value of remembering and honoring the past. The spirits‘ conversation highlights the significance of understanding history and learning from it, as well as preserving cultural traditions even as society evolves.

The passage of time and its effects: The tale serves as a reflection on the passage of time and its impact on people, society, and culture. The conversation between the spirits from different eras demonstrates how the world can change in unforeseen ways over time, and how these changes affect every aspect of life.

The power of imagination: Andersen’s story can also be seen as an exploration of the power of imagination and the ability to envision the future. By creating a vivid picture of a future world, the author shows how creative thinking can inspire and shape our understanding of what is possible.

Human resilience and adaptability: Despite the drastic changes that occur over a thousand years, the story also highlights the resilience and adaptability of human beings. The future society depicted in the tale has adjusted to the new technologies and societal structures, demonstrating the enduring nature of human spirit and the capacity for adaptation.

Overall, „In a Thousand Years“ offers a contemplative look at the passage of time, the inevitability of change, and the importance of balancing progress with an appreciation for history and tradition.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „In a thousand years“

The story has not been adapted into popular movies, TV series, or theatrical productions like some of Andersen’s other works such as „The Little Mermaid“ or „The Ugly Duckling.“

„In a Thousand Years“ is a lesser-known work of Andersen, and it may not have captured the imagination of filmmakers and artists in the same way as his more famous stories. Nonetheless, the story remains an interesting exploration of themes like change, progress, and the importance of history and tradition, and it has the potential to inspire creative adaptations in the future.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „In a thousand years“

The fairy tale „In a Thousand Years“ by Hans Christian Andersen has inspired a number of adaptations over the years. Here are some notable adaptations:

„The Thousand Year Old Lime Tree“ by Yuri Olesha: This 1924 short story by the Russian writer Yuri Olesha is a loose adaptation of Andersen’s tale. It tells the story of a thousand-year-old lime tree that becomes the site of a supernatural encounter between a young boy and an old man.

„In a Thousand Years“ by Valdimar Asmundsson: This 1900 Icelandic novel is a more literal adaptation of Andersen’s tale. It tells the story of a young man who discovers a flower that blooms only once every thousand years and sets out on a quest to find it.

„A Thousand Years of Good Prayers“ by Yiyun Li: This 2005 collection of short stories by the Chinese-American writer Yiyun Li includes a story called „A Thousand Years of Good Prayers,“ which is loosely based on Andersen’s tale. The story tells of an elderly Chinese man who visits his daughter in the United States and reflects on the meaning of life and death.

„Tales of a Thousand and One Nights“: This collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian folk tales includes several stories that are similar in theme and tone to Andersen’s tale. These stories often feature characters who embark on quests for immortality or transcendence.

„The Curious Case of Benjamin Button“ by F. Scott Fitzgerald: This 1922 short story tells the story of a man who is born old and ages backwards. Like Andersen’s tale, it explores themes of mortality and the human desire for something more than the limited experience of a single lifetime.

Summary of the plot

„In a Thousand Years“ is a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale that explores the passage of time and the development of society. The story is narrated by a talking oak tree that has been standing for more than a thousand years.

In the story, a man visits the oak tree and tells it about the many changes that have taken place over the past thousand years, such as the rise and fall of empires, advancements in technology, and shifts in social and religious beliefs. The oak tree is amazed by these tales and wonders if it will be able to witness some of these changes for itself in the future.

One day, a group of children come to play near the oak tree, and the tree asks them to come back in a thousand years so it can hear about the changes that will have occurred by then. The children laugh, and one of them points out that in a thousand years, they will all be dead, and the oak tree may not even be standing anymore.

The oak tree falls asleep and dreams of the world a thousand years in the future. In its dream, the tree sees a futuristic city with advanced technology, flying machines, and tall glass buildings. The tree is in awe of the progress humans have made but is saddened to see that it has been replaced by a tall building. As the oak tree wakes up from its dream, it realizes that change is inevitable and appreciates the beauty of the present moment.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „In a thousand years“

„In a Thousand Years“ is a fairy tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, who is best known for his classic stories such as „The Little Mermaid,“ „The Ugly Duckling,“ and „The Snow Queen.“ Born in 1805 in Odense, Denmark, Andersen began his career as a writer in the 1820s, initially focusing on plays, novels, and poetry. However, he gained international recognition for his fairy tales, which were published in several volumes between 1835 and 1872.

Andersen’s fairy tales often contain moral lessons, social commentary, and reflections on human nature. His stories were inspired by Danish folklore, his personal experiences, and his vivid imagination. While some of his tales have happy endings, many also deal with darker themes, such as loss, suffering, and the complexities of life.

„In a Thousand Years“ was first published in 1853 as part of a collection titled „New Fairy Tales. Second Volume. First Collection.“ The story presents a vision of the future and offers an imaginative exploration of technological advancements, human curiosity, and the importance of preserving cultural heritage. It also serves as a critique of the superficial nature of travel and the fleeting nature of fame and power.

Andersen’s stories have been translated into over 150 languages and continue to be beloved by children and adults alike. His fairy tales have inspired countless adaptations, including films, plays, ballets, and musicals, solidifying his legacy as one of the most important figures in world literature.

Interpretations to fairy tale „In a thousand years“

„In a Thousand Years“ by Hans Christian Andersen can be interpreted in various ways. Here are a few possible interpretations:

Technological advancements: The story highlights the rapid progress of technology, predicting the development of air travel and other innovations that would make it possible to explore the world in a shorter time. It serves as a reminder of how technology can significantly impact the way people experience and interact with the world.

The fleeting nature of fame and power: The story emphasizes the idea that the great cities, monuments, and names of the present will eventually be forgotten, replaced by new ones. This concept reflects the transient nature of human achievements and the cycle of life, where everything that rises must eventually fall.

The importance of preserving cultural heritage: Andersen’s fairy tale encourages readers to appreciate the rich history and cultural heritage that Europe holds. By visiting these ancient sites and learning about their past, people can gain a deeper understanding of their roots and the value of preserving the legacy of their ancestors.

The superficiality of modern travel: The story satirizes the way people in the future might approach travel, seeking to visit as many places as possible in a short time without truly engaging with the local culture or history. This critique urges readers to be mindful of their approach to travel, emphasizing the need to appreciate the depth and significance of the places they visit.

The timelessness of human curiosity and exploration: Despite the changes that occur over a thousand years, the story highlights the enduring human desire to explore and understand the world. This timeless curiosity drives people to visit the remnants of the past and imagine what life was like for their ancestors.

Overall, „In a Thousand Years“ offers a thought-provoking glimpse into a possible future, while also commenting on the human experience, the passage of time, and the importance of appreciating and preserving our shared cultural heritage.

Summary of the plot

„In a Thousand Years“ by Hans Christian Andersen is a fairy tale that envisions the world a thousand years into the future, where people travel on the wings of steam and visit the ancient ruins of Europe. The story follows young Americans who embark on a week-long journey to explore their ancestral land and admire the remnants of once-great civilizations.

The air steamboat, carrying passengers eager to explore Europe, first arrives in England, the land of Shakespeare and politics. The travelers spend a day there before continuing their journey through the tunnel under the English Channel to France, the land of Charlemagne, Napoleon, and Molière. They celebrate the names of heroes, poets, and scientists yet to be born in Paris and elsewhere.

Next, they travel to Spain, where the memory of Columbus, Cortez, and Calderon still lingers in the songs and valleys. The journey continues to Italy, where Rome once stood, now reduced to a single ruined wall that may or may not be the remains of St. Peter’s. The travelers spend a night in Greece, on Mount Olympus, before moving on to the Bosphorus, where the legend of the harem and Byzantium once thrived.

They pass over the Danube, where they occasionally descend to explore the ruins of cities yet to be built. The journey includes Germany, the land of Luther, Goethe, and Mozart, and the Nordic countries of Oersted, Linnaeus, and the old heroes. They visit Iceland, where the geysers no longer burn, and Hecla has become an extinct volcano, but the rocky island remains a monument of legend and poetry.

The young American travelers marvel at the wonders of Europe, having seen it all in just a week, following the guidance of a renowned contemporary traveler’s book titled „How to See All Europe in a Week.“

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, IT
Readability Index by Björnsson35.8
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index70.7
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level8.5
Gunning Fog Index10.9
Coleman–Liau Index9.4
SMOG Index11.2
Automated Readability Index9
Character Count4.044
Letter Count3.150
Sentence Count36
Word Count736
Average Words per Sentence20,44
Words with more than 6 letters113
Percentage of long words15.4%
Number of Syllables1.004
Average Syllables per Word1,36
Words with three Syllables69
Percentage Words with three Syllables9.4%
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