The Shadow (fairy tale)
Vilhelm Pedersen illustration
|Author||Hans Christian Andersen|
|Original title||Danish: Skyggen|
Once a learned man from the northern regions of Europe went on a voyage south. One night, he sat on his terrace, while the fire behind him cast his shadow on the opposite balcony. As he was sitting there, resting, the man was amused to observe how the shadow followed his every movement, as if he really did sit upon the opposing balcony. When he finally grew tired and went to sleep, he imagined the shadow would likewise retire in the house across the street. The next morning however, the man found to his surprise that he in fact had lost his shadow overnight. As a new shadow slowly grew back from the tip of his toes, the man did not give the incident another thought, returned to northern Europe, and took up writing again. Several years passed by until one night there was a knock at his door. To his surprise, it was his shadow, the one he lost years before in Africa, and now stood upon his doorstep, almost completely human in appearance. Astonished by his sudden reappearance, the learned man invited him into his house, and soon the two sat by the fireplace, as the shadow related how he had come to be a man.
The learned man was calm and gentle by nature. His main object of interest lay with the good, the beautiful and the true, a subject of which he wrote often but was of no interest to anyone else. The shadow said his master did not understand the world, that he had seen it as truly was, and how evil some men really were.
The shadow then grew richer and fatter over the years, while the writer grew poorer and paler. Finally he had become so ill that his former shadow proposed a trip to a health resort offering to foot the bill as well, but on condition that he could act as the master now, and the writer would pretend to be his shadow. As absurd as this suggestion sounded, the learned man eventually agreed and together they took the trip, the shadow now as his master. At the resort, the shadow met with a beautiful princess, and as they danced and talked with each other each night, the princess fell in love with him.
When they were about to be married, the shadow offered his former master a luxurious position at the palace, on condition that he now became his own shadow permanently. The writer immediately refused and threatened to tell the princess everything, but the shadow had him arrested. Feigning distress, the shadow met with the princess and told her:
When the shadow wed the princess later that night, he learned that the man was already executed.
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The Shadow is an exemplary story in Andersen's darker fairy tales. Throughout the tale, the writer is portrayed as a moral person, concerned with the good and true in the world. But as it says, the people around him are not much interested in his feelings on the subject. Indeed, his shadow says he does not see the world as it truly is.
The shadow claims to have seen all that is in the world, but does not own a soul himself. He strongly desires to own a shadow of himself, and later asks his former master to reverse the roles on their trip. When the learned man finally realises how far his shadow has degraded, it is already too late.
The ending is especially bleak for a fairy tale, as Andersen suggests that it is not always good that triumphs, and that evil does indeed have a powerful grip over the good and just.
Some critics have suggested that Andersen wrote the story as a form of indirect revenge against Edvard Collin, his patron's son, who had rejected him.
"The Shadow" was first published 6 April 1847 as a part of New Fairy Tales. Second Volume. First Collection. 1847. (Nye Eventyr. Andet Bind. Første Samling. 1847.). The work was re-published December 1847 as a part of A Christmas Greeting to my English Friends, and again 18 December 1849 as a part of Fairy Tales. 1850. (Eventyr. 1850.). The tale was re-published 30 March 1863 as a part of Fairy Tales and Stories. Second Volume. 1863. (Eventyr og Historier. Andet Bind. 1863.).
In 1814, three decades before the publication of "The Shadow", Adelbert von Chamisso had published "Peter Schlemihl's Miraculous Story", a story about a man who sells his shadow to the devil in exchange for a bottomless wallet. Andersen's story was prompted by Chamisso's, and he refers to it in "The Shadow":
He was very annoyed, not so much because the shadow had disappeared, but because he knew there was a story; well-known to everybody at home in the cold countries, about a man without a shadow; and if he went back now and told them his own story, they would be sure to say that he was just an imitator, and that was the last thing he wanted.
The Shadow became the first text of some considerable length to be published in Esperanto. It was contained in the 1888 Dua Libro (Second Book) by the creator of that language, L. L. Zamenhof (the first book had contained only single bible verses, short poems and the like).
Evgeny Shvarts has explicitly based his Tyen (The Shadow) play on Andersen's tale, introducing additional characters and plot lines and a different ending.
In 1945 the story was adapted as an episode of the syndicated radio program The Weird Circle.
In 1994 Frederik Magle, Thomas Eje, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and others released the album The Song Is a Fairytale with songs based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairytales. "The Shadow" is one of the songs.
Skuggaleikur (Shadow Play) is an opera by Icelandic composer Karólína Eiríksdóttir with libretto by Sjón. Premiered in November 2006.
In 2003, the Carolina Ballet premiered a ballet version of The Shadow with choreography by artistic director Robert Weiss, set to the music of Khachaturian, Kabalevsky, Gyorgy Ligeti, Fauré and Rachmaninoff. The ballet features an eerie[opinion] sequence in which the poet contemplates his shadow in the mirror. The image, which at first copies his movements in complete synchrony, seamlessly emerges from the mirror frame (through effective[opinion] changes in lighting) as another dancer in a gray full body stocking.
- List of works by Hans Christian Andersen
- 1847 in literature
- Vilhelm Pedersen, first illustrator of Andersen's fairy tales
- Jacqueline Banerjee, The Impact of Hans Christian Andersen on Victorian Fiction, The Victorian Web, 12 December 2008.
- Hans Christian Andersen Center: Hans Christian Andersen: The Shadow
- "The Song is a Fairytale". magle.dk. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- Van Gelder, Lawrence (29 May 2003). "Arts Briefing". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-20.
- Dobbs Ariail, Kate (May 2003). "Carolina Ballet: The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen". Classical Voice of North Carolina. Retrieved 2009-06-20.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Shadow (fairy tale).|
- "The Shadow" Jean Hersholt's English translation
- Skyggen Original Danish text
- English translation (full text) from "Andersen's Fairy Tales"