The Family in four of Andersen’s tales: An Empty Shell or a Community in a Nutshell?
Family is a key institution in Andersen’s fiction, but my focus on its role will be limited to the four tales in which (forms of) the word family appear(s) in the very title: (1) “Nabofamilierne” [The Neighboring Families] (1847), (2) “Den lykkelige Familie” [The Happy Family] (1948), (3) “Hønse-Grethes Familie” [Chicken Grethe’s Family] (1869), and (4) “Hvad hele Familien sagde” [What the Whole Family Said] (1872). Taken as a whole, these four texts, spanning a quarter of a century, reveal how the topoi of family and community – major signifiers of collective sameness versus otherness – typically reinforce and problematize each other within Andersen’s corpus. As his narratives display the variations of this “dialectic” over time, they invite us to reflect on the intricate boundaries between family and community past and present, be it as sociocultural domains or aesthetic tropes.
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