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The Snowman
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The Snowman - Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Andersen

Reading time for children: 14 min

„It is so delightfully cold,“ said the Snowman, „that it makes my whole body crackle. This is just the kind of wind to blow life into one. How that great red thing up there is staring at me!“ He meant the sun, who was just setting. „It shall not make me wink. I shall manage to keep the pieces.“ He had two triangular pieces of tile in his head, instead of eyes. His mouth was made of an old broken rake, and was, of course, furnished with teeth.

He had been brought into existence amidst the joyous shouts of boys, the jingling of sleigh-bells, and the slashing of whips. The sun went down, and the full moon rose, large, round, and clear, shining in the deep blue. „There it comes again, from the other side,“ said the Snowman, who supposed the sun was showing himself once more.

„Ah, I have cured him of staring, though. Now he may hang up there, and shine, that I may see myself. If I only knew how to manage to move away from this place, – I should so like to move. If I could, I would slide along yonder on the ice, as I have seen the boys do; but I don’t understand how. I don’t even know how to run.“

„Away, away,“ barked the old yard-dog. He was quite hoarse, and could not pronounce „Bow wow“ properly. He had once been an indoor dog, and lay by the fire, and he had been hoarse ever since. „The sun will make you run some day. I saw him, last winter, make your predecessor run, and his predecessor before him. Away, away, they all have to go.“

„I don’t understand you, comrade,“ said the Snowman. „Is that thing up yonder to teach me to run? I saw it running itself a little while ago, and now it has come creeping up from the other side.“

„You know nothing at all,“ replied the yard-dog. „But then, you’ve only lately been patched up. What you see yonder is the moon, and the one before it was the sun. It will come again to-morrow, and most likely teach you to run down into the ditch by the well. For I think the weather is going to change. I can feel such pricks and stabs in my left leg. I am sure there is going to be a change.“

„I don’t understand him,“ said the Snowman to himself. „But I have a feeling that he is talking of something very disagreeable. The one who stared so just now, and whom he calls the sun, is not my friend. I can feel that too.“

„Away, away,“ barked the yard-dog, and then he turned round three times, and crept into his kennel to sleep. There was really a change in the weather. Towards morning, a thick fog covered the whole country round, and a keen wind arose, so that the cold seemed to freeze one’s bones; but when the sun rose, the sight was splendid. Trees and bushes were covered with hoar frost, and looked like a forest of white coral. While on every twig glittered frozen dew-drops.

The many delicate forms concealed in summer by luxuriant foliage, were now clearly defined, and looked like glittering lace-work. From every twig glistened a white radiance. The birch, waving in the wind, looked full of life, like trees in summer; and its appearance was wondrously beautiful. And where the sun shone, how everything glittered and sparkled, as if diamond dust had been strewn about. While the snowy carpet of the earth appeared as if covered with diamonds, from which countless lights gleamed, whiter than even the snow itself.

„This is really beautiful,“ said a young girl, who had come into the garden with a young man; and they both stood still near the Snowman, and contemplated the glittering scene. „Summer cannot show a more beautiful sight,“ she exclaimed, while her eyes sparkled. „And we can’t have such a fellow as this in the summer time,“ replied the young man, pointing to the Snowman: „He is capital.“

The girl laughed, and nodded at the Snowman, and then tripped away over the snow with her friend. The snow creaked and crackled beneath her feet, as if she had been treading on starch. „Who are these two?“ asked the Snowman of the yard-dog. „You have been here longer than I have. Do you know them?“

„Of course I know them,“ replied the yard-dog: „She has stroked my back many times, and he has given me a bone of meat. I never bite those two.“

„But what are they?“ asked the Snowman. „They are lovers,“ he replied. „They will go and live in the same kennel by-and-by, and gnaw at the same bone. Away, away!“

„Are they the same kind of beings as you and I?“ asked the Snowman. „Well, they belong to the same master,“ retorted the yard-dog. „Certainly people who were only born yesterday know very little. I can see that in you. I have age and experience. I know every one here in the house, and I know there was once a time when I did not lie out here in the cold, fastened to a chain. Away, away!“

„The cold is delightful,“ said the Snowman. „But do tell me tell me. Only you must not clank your chain so. For it jars all through me when you do that.“

„Away, away!“ barked the yard-dog. „I’ll tell you. They said I was a pretty little fellow once. Then I used to lie in a velvet-covered chair, up at the master’s house, and sit in the mistress’s lap. They used to kiss my nose, and wipe my paws with an embroidered handkerchief, and I was called „Ami, dear Ami, sweet Ami.“ But after a while I grew too big for them, and they sent me away to the housekeeper’s room. So I came to live on the lower story. You can look into the room from where you stand, and see where I was master once. For I was indeed master to the housekeeper.

It was certainly a smaller room than those up stairs; but I was more comfortable. For I was not being continually taken hold of and pulled about by the children as I had been. I received quite as good food, or even better. I had my own cushion, and there was a stove – it is the finest thing in the world at this season of the year. I used to go under the stove, and lie down quite beneath it. Ah, I still dream of that stove. Away, away!“

„Does a stove look beautiful?“ asked the Snowman, „is it at all like me?“ – „It is just the reverse of you,“ said the dog. „It’s as black as a crow, and has a long neck and a brass knob. It eats firewood, so that fire spurts out of its mouth. We should keep on one side, or under it, to be comfortable. You can see it through the window, from where you stand.“

Then the Snowman looked, and saw a bright polished thing with a brazen knob, and fire gleaming from the lower part of it. The Snowman felt quite a strange sensation come over him. It was very odd, he knew not what it meant, and he could not account for it. But there are people who are not men of snow, who understand what it is. „And why did you leave her?“ asked the Snowman, for it seemed to him that the stove must be of the female sex. „How could you give up such a comfortable place?“

„I was obliged,“ replied the yard-dog. „They turned me out of doors, and chained me up here. I had bitten the youngest of my master’s sons in the leg, because he kicked away the bone I was gnawing. „Bone for bone,“ I thought. But they were so angry, and from that time I have been fastened with a chain, and lost my bone. Don’t you hear how hoarse I am. Away, away! I can’t talk any more like other dogs. Away, away, that is the end of it all.“

But the Snowman was no longer listening. He was looking into the housekeeper’s room on the lower storey. Where the stove stood on its four iron legs, looking about the same size as the Snowman himself. „What a strange crackling I feel within me,“ he said. „Shall I ever get in there? It is an innocent wish, and innocent wishes are sure to be fulfilled. I must go in there and lean against her, even if I have to break the window.“

„You must never go in there,“ said the yard-dog, „for if you approach the stove, you’ll melt away, away.“

„I might as well go,“ said the Snowman, „for I think I am breaking up as it is.“ During the whole day the Snowman stood looking in through the window, and in the twilight hour the room became still more inviting, for from the stove came a gentle glow, not like the sun or the moon. No, only the bright light which gleams from a stove when it has been well fed. When the door of the stove was opened, the flames darted out of its mouth. This is customary with all stoves. The light of the flames fell directly on the face and breast of the Snowman with a ruddy gleam.

„I can endure it no longer,“ said he. „How beautiful it looks when it stretches out its tongue?“ The night was long, but did not appear so to the Snowman, who stood there enjoying his own reflections, and crackling with the cold. In the morning, the window-panes of the housekeeper’s room were covered with ice. They were the most beautiful ice-flowers any Snowman could desire, but they concealed the stove. These window-panes would not thaw, and he could see nothing of the stove, which he pictured to himself, as if it had been a lovely human being.

The snow crackled and the wind whistled around him. It was just the kind of frosty weather a Snowman might thoroughly enjoy. But he did not enjoy it. How, indeed, could he enjoy anything when he was „stove sick?“ – „That is terrible disease for a Snowman,“ said the yard-dog. „I have suffered from it myself, but I got over it. Away, away,“ he barked and then he added, „the weather is going to change.“

And the weather did change. It began to thaw. As the warmth increased, the Snowman decreased. He said nothing and made no complaint, which is a sure sign. One morning he broke, and sunk down altogether; and, behold, where he had stood, something like a broomstick remained sticking up in the ground. It was the pole round which the boys had built him up.

„Ah, now I understand why he had such a great longing for the stove,“ said the yard-dog. „Why, there’s the shovel that is used for cleaning out the stove, fastened to the pole.“ The Snowman had a stove scraper in his body. That was what moved him so. „But it’s all over now. Away, away.“ And soon the winter passed. „Away, away,“ barked the hoarse yard-dog. But the girls in the house sang,

„Come from your fragrant home, green thyme. Stretch your soft branches, willow-tree. The months are bringing the sweet spring-time, when the lark in the sky sings joyfully. Come gentle sun, while the cuckoo sings, and I’ll mock his note in my wanderings.“

And nobody thought any more of the Snowman.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Snowman“

„The Snowman“ is a fairy tale written by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, who is best known for his other classic stories, such as „The Little Mermaid,“ „The Ugly Duckling,“ and „The Emperor’s New Clothes.“ The story was first published in 1861 as a part of a collection of fairy tales for children. The tale, set during the wintertime, revolves around a snowman who longs to experience the warmth of the stove inside the house.

Andersen was born in 1805 in Odense, Denmark, and began his career as a writer in the 1820s, initially publishing poetry and plays. However, it was his fairy tales that garnered him fame and recognition. Andersen’s fairy tales are known for their imaginative worlds, vivid characters, and moral lessons. Often, his stories contain elements of tragedy, melancholy, and a sense of wonder. They have been translated into numerous languages and have inspired various adaptations, including films, plays, and ballets.

„The Snowman“ was first published in 1861 as part of a collection of Andersen’s fairy tales. Like many of his stories, „The Snowman“ delves into themes of change, longing, and the cycle of life. The tale reflects Andersen’s unique storytelling style, which often combines fantastical elements with poignant observations about the human experience. The background to this story likely stems from Andersen’s own experiences and observations of Danish winters. The harsh and cold climate of Denmark during wintertime would have provided ample inspiration for a story about a snowman. The tale, like many of Andersen’s works, is a reflection on human nature, longing, and the passage of time.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Snowman“

„The Snowman“ by Hans Christian Andersen can be interpreted in several ways, touching on themes of change, longing, the fleeting nature of life, and the cycle of seasons.

Change and transformation: The story emphasizes the impermanence of life and the world around us. As the weather changes from cold to warm, the snowman’s existence comes to an end. This serves as a reminder that change is inevitable, and life’s various phases must be accepted and embraced.

Longing and desire: The snowman’s fascination with the stove represents a deep yearning for something unattainable or dangerous. Despite the risks, the snowman cannot resist the allure of the warm stove. This could symbolize the human desire to reach for something beyond our grasp or the temptation of forbidden love. The snowman’s longing for the warmth of the stove symbolizes human desires for things that are out of reach or incompatible with their nature. This theme of unattainable desires can be applied to various aspects of life, such as love, wealth, or success.

The fleeting nature of life: The snowman’s short-lived existence highlights the transient nature of life. As the seasons change, so do the lives of living beings, and their memories fade. The story serves as a reminder to cherish the present moment and appreciate the beauty and experiences of life while they last. The snowman’s short existence serves as a metaphor for the transience of life. It reminds readers that everything, including happiness and sorrow, is temporary, and that time inevitably passes. This message encourages readers to appreciate the present and live in the moment.

The cycle of seasons: The tale showcases the natural cycle of seasons, from the cold of winter to the warmth of spring. The story demonstrates that each season brings its own unique beauty and experiences, and that the world is in a constant state of renewal and transformation. This theme can be extended to the cycles of human life, emphasizing the importance of personal growth and adaptation.

The power of nature: The story also highlights the power of nature, as the snowman’s existence is dictated by the weather and elements. This can be a reminder of the force of nature and the need for humans to respect and understand the environment in which they live.

Importance of accepting one’s nature: The snowman’s desire to experience warmth ultimately leads to his destruction. This can be seen as a cautionary tale about the dangers of denying one’s nature and trying to become something one is not. By embracing our true selves and acknowledging our limitations, we can find contentment and avoid unnecessary suffering.

The power of imagination: Despite the snowman’s physical inability to experience warmth, his longing for it demonstrates the power of imagination. The story can be seen as a celebration of the human ability to dream, imagine, and explore different perspectives, even if they are unattainable or illusory.

The role of the dog as a foil: The dog in the story, who is familiar with the stove’s warmth and uninterested in it, contrasts with the snowman’s desperate longing. This contrast highlights how one’s perspective and experiences shape their desires and understanding of the world.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Snowman“

„The Snowman“ by Hans Christian Andersen has inspired several adaptations and interpretations in various forms of media. There haven’t been many direct adaptations of „The Snowman“ by Hans Christian Andersen. Here are some notable adaptations of the story:

Animated Films: „The Snowman“ (1982) – This British animated short film is based on a children’s book by Raymond Briggs. While it is not a direct adaptation of Andersen’s tale, it shares similarities in its themes of the fleeting nature of life and the magic of snowmen. The film tells the story of a young boy who builds a snowman that comes to life and takes him on a magical adventure. The film’s wordless narrative and enchanting music have made it a holiday classic. „Frosty the Snowman“ (1969) – This American animated television special, based on the popular Christmas song, tells the story of a snowman that comes to life and brings joy to the children who created him. While not an adaptation of Andersen’s story, it shares the theme of the temporary nature of life and the magic of snowmen. „Frozen“ (2013) – Although Disney’s blockbuster animated film „Frozen“ is primarily based on Andersen’s „The Snow Queen,“ it features a snowman character named Olaf, who longs for the warmth of summer. In this sense, Olaf’s character can be seen as a nod to „The Snowman“ in his desire for something that is inherently incompatible with his nature. „The Snowman and The Snowdog“: In 2012, a sequel to the original animated film was released, titled „The Snowman and The Snowdog.“ The film features a new character, a snowdog, and continues the story of the boy and his magical snowman.

Children’s books: „The Snowman“ by Michael Morpurgo (2018) – This children’s book is an adaptation of Raymond Briggs‘ story and includes a forward by Morpurgo discussing the influence of Andersen’s „The Snowman“ on Briggs‘ original work. While not a direct adaptation, the connection between the two stories highlights the enduring appeal of snowman-themed tales. The Snowman – Picture Book: In 2012, author and illustrator Michael Morpurgo released a picture book adaptation of „The Snowman.“ The book features new illustrations and a rewritten version of the story that remains faithful to the original but adds a few new details.

Theater: The Snowman – In 1993, a stage adaptation of „The Snowman“ premiered in London’s West End. The play features music and dancing, as well as a live orchestra, and has been performed in theaters around the world.

Ballet: The Snowman – In 1993, a ballet adaptation of „The Snowman“ premiered in Birmingham, England. The production features choreography by Robert North and music by Howard Blake, who also composed the score for the original animated film.

Overall, „The Snowman“ has inspired a wide range of adaptations and interpretations, demonstrating the enduring appeal and relevance of Andersen’s timeless tale. While there haven’t been many direct adaptations of „The Snowman,“ the themes and ideas presented in Andersen’s tale continue to inspire new works that capture the imagination of audiences.

Summary of the plot

„The Snowman“ by Hans Christian Andersen is a fairy tale about a snowman brought to life on a cold winter day. The snowman is built by boys and has triangular pieces of tile for eyes, a broken rake for a mouth, and teeth. The snowman marvels at the world around him, particularly the sun and the moon, and wishes he could move and experience the world like the boys who created him.

The snowman befriends an old yard-dog, who explains the world and its workings to him. The dog, once a beloved indoor pet, has experienced a fall from grace and is now chained up outside, his voice hoarse from living in the cold. The dog explains the changing weather, the sun’s melting power, and the nature of love, as demonstrated by a young couple who visit the snowman in the garden.

As the snowman gazes into the housekeeper’s room, he becomes infatuated with the stove, which he sees as a beautiful creature. The yard-dog warns the snowman that he will melt if he gets too close, but the snowman is captivated by the stove’s warmth and glow. He longs to be near it, despite the danger it poses.

As the weather begins to thaw, the snowman’s condition deteriorates, and he eventually collapses. All that remains is the broomstick used to build him, with a shovel attached to it for cleaning the stove. The yard-dog realizes that the snowman’s longing for the stove was due to the stove scraper within him. As winter ends and spring arrives, the girls in the house sing of the changing seasons and the return of life. No one remembers the snowman, whose existence was but a fleeting moment in the grand cycle of nature.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, IT, NL
Readability Index by Björnsson23.2
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index88.3
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level4
Gunning Fog Index6.5
Coleman–Liau Index7.6
SMOG Index7.3
Automated Readability Index3.4
Character Count10.340
Letter Count7.800
Sentence Count161
Word Count1.962
Average Words per Sentence12,19
Words with more than 6 letters217
Percentage of long words11.1%
Number of Syllables2.462
Average Syllables per Word1,25
Words with three Syllables79
Percentage Words with three Syllables4%
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