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The Rags
Grimm Märchen

The Rags - Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Andersen

Reading time for children: 6 min

Outside the paper mill, masses of rags lay piled in high stacks. They had been gathered from far and wide. Every rag had a tale to tell, and told it, too; but we can’t listen to all of them. Some of the rags were native. Others came from foreign countries. Now here lay a Danish rag beside a rag from Norway. One was decidedly Danish, the other decidedly Norse, and that was the amusing part about the two, as any good Dane or Norwegian could tell you.

They could understand each other well enough, though the two languages were as different, according to the Norwegian, as French and Hebrew. „We go to the hills for our language, and there get it pure and firsthand, while the Dane cooks up some sort of a suckling-sweet lingo!“ So the rags talked – and a rag is a rag in every land the world over. They are considered of no value except in the rag heap. „I am Norse!“ said the Norwegian.

„And when I’ve said I’m Norse I guess I’ve said enough. I’m firm of fiber, like the ancient granite rocks of old Norway. The land up there has a constitution, like the free United States. It makes my fibers tingle to think what I am and to sound out my thoughts in words of granite!“ – „But we have literature,“ said the Danish rag. „Do you understand what that is?“ – „Understand?“ repeated the Norwegian. Lowland creature! Shall I give him a shove uphill and show him a northern light, rag that he is?

When the sun of Norway has thawed the ice, then Danish fruit barges come up to us with butter and cheese – an eatable cargo, I grant you – but by way of ballast they bring Danish literature, too! We don’t need the stuff. You don’t need stale beer where fresh springs spout, and up there is a natural well that has never been tapped or been made known to Europeans by the cackling of newspapers, jobbers, and traveling authors in foreign countries. I speak freely from the bottom of my lungs, and the Dane must get used to a free voice.

And so he will someday, when as a fellow Scandinavian he wants to cling to our proud mountain country, the summit of the world! „Now a Danish rag could never talk like that – never!“ said the Dane. „It’s not in our nature. I know myself, and all the other rags are like me. We’re too good-natured, too unassuming. We think too little of ourselves. Not that we gain much by our modesty, but I like it. I think it’s quite charming.

Incidentally, I’m perfectly aware of my own good values, I assure you, but I don’t talk about them. Nobody can ever accuse me of that. I’m soft and easy going. Bear everything patiently, envy nobody, and speak good of everybody – though there isn’t much good to be said of most other people, but that’s their business. I can afford to smile at them. I know I’m so gifted.“

„Don’t speak to me in that lowland, pasteboard language – it makes me sick!“ said the Norwegian, as he caught a puff of wind and fluttered away from his own heap to another. They both became paper; and, as it turned out, the Norwegian rag became a sheet on which a Norwegian wrote a love letter to a Danish girl, while the Danish rag became the manuscript for a Danish poem praising Norway’s beauty and strength.

So something good may come even of rags when they have once come out of the rag heap and the change has been made into truth and beauty. They keep up understanding relations between us, and in that there is a blessing. That is the story. It’s rather amusing and offends no one – but the rags.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Rags“

„The Rags“ is a lesser-known fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish author who lived from 1805 to 1875. Andersen is renowned for his prolific contribution to children’s literature, with over 160 fairy tales to his name. Some of his most famous works include „The Little Mermaid,“ „The Ugly Duckling,“ „The Emperor’s New Clothes,“ and „The Snow Queen.“ It is worth noting that Andersen’s fairy tales often drew inspiration from his own life experiences, Danish folklore, and the social and cultural context of the time in which he lived.

Born in 1805 in Odense, Denmark, Andersen grew up in poverty and experienced a difficult childhood. His stories often touch on themes of social injustice, the struggles of the poor, and the importance of empathy and compassion. „The Rags“ may have been influenced by these experiences and the social issues prevalent in the 19th century. Andersen faced many struggles during his early years. He came from a poor family, and his father’s death when he was just 11 years old left him with limited options. Despite the adversity, Andersen persevered and pursued a literary career, moving to Copenhagen at the age of 14. Over time, he gained recognition and success for his writing, eventually becoming a prominent figure in the literary world.

„The Rags“ was first published in 1861 as part of a collection of fairy tales by Andersen. The story takes place in a paper mill where rags from different countries are piled up. The tale revolves around a conversation between a Danish rag and a Norwegian rag, both of whom are proud of their origins and share contrasting perspectives on their respective countries. The story serves as a vehicle to discuss nationalism, unity, transformation, and communication, ultimately highlighting the importance of understanding and harmony among nations.

As for the story itself, „The Rags“ might be an allegorical tale that highlights the importance of inner values, such as kindness and humility, over material possessions or social status. As with many of Andersen’s works, this story likely seeks to teach readers an important moral lesson. However, without access to the full text of „The Rags,“ it is difficult to provide more specific information about its background. To gain a better understanding of the tale, it would be helpful to locate and read the story in its entirety. Though „The Rags“ may not be as well-known as some of Andersen’s other fairy tales, it still embodies the author’s unique ability to blend humor, fantasy, and moral lessons within an engaging narrative.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Rags“

„The Rags“ by Hans Christian Andersen can be interpreted in various ways:

Unity in diversity: The story highlights how two seemingly different entities, the Danish and Norwegian rags, can coexist and contribute to fostering unity and understanding between their respective nations. The tale serves as a reminder that despite differences in language, culture, or beliefs, people can find common ground and work together for the greater good.

The power of transformation: The rags, initially considered worthless and insignificant, are transformed into paper, which carries messages of love and admiration across borders. This highlights the potential for transformation in all aspects of life and the importance of recognizing the value in things that may initially seem unimportant.

The value of humility and self-awareness: The Danish rag, despite being aware of its own strengths, remains humble and modest. The story emphasizes the importance of being self-aware and not overly boastful, as well as appreciating the value in humility.

The importance of communication: The tale illustrates the significance of communication in fostering understanding and harmony between people or nations. Through the exchange of words and ideas, the Danish and Norwegian rags are able to create a bridge between their respective countries and promote mutual respect.

A commentary on nationalism: The story can be seen as a subtle critique of excessive nationalism, as both rags initially prioritize their own country’s virtues above everything else. Through the transformation into paper and the messages they carry, the rags learn that cooperation and mutual appreciation are more beneficial than focusing solely on one’s own superiority.

Overall, „The Rags“ serves as a reminder of the importance of unity, humility, communication, and transformation in fostering harmony and understanding among individuals and nations.

Summary of the plot

„The Rags“ is a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen that centers around the conversation between two rags – one Danish and the other Norwegian – in a paper mill. Each rag is proud of its origin and boasts about the unique qualities of their respective countries. The Danish rag praises its modesty, good-nature, and the rich Danish literature, while the Norwegian rag boasts of its firm fiber, constitution, and the untapped beauty of its land.

The rags often argue about their differences and criticize each other’s languages. The Norwegian rag dismisses Danish literature as unnecessary, while the Danish rag appreciates the charm in its modesty and self-awareness. The rags become paper, and, as fate would have it, the Norwegian rag is used to write a love letter to a Danish girl, while the Danish rag becomes a manuscript for a poem praising Norway’s beauty and strength.

In the end, despite their initial animosity, the rags contribute to fostering understanding and unity between the two nations. The story teaches that something good can come from even the most insignificant objects, like rags, when they are transformed into truth and beauty. The tale is amusing and holds a message of harmony and friendship that does not offend anyone, except perhaps the rags themselves.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, IT
Readability Index by Björnsson25.3
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index79.6
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level5.4
Gunning Fog Index7.5
Coleman–Liau Index8.5
SMOG Index8.9
Automated Readability Index4.6
Character Count3.469
Letter Count2.652
Sentence Count49
Word Count642
Average Words per Sentence13,10
Words with more than 6 letters78
Percentage of long words12.1%
Number of Syllables865
Average Syllables per Word1,35
Words with three Syllables47
Percentage Words with three Syllables7.3%
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