The Shadow (fairy tale)

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Shadow Pedersen.jpg
Vilhelm Pedersen illustration
AuthorHans Christian Andersen
Original titleDanish: Skyggen
GenreLiterary fairy tale
Publication date

Shadow (Danish: Skyggen) is a literary fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen. The tale was first published in 1847.

Plot summary[edit]

A learned man's shadow becomes self-aware and takes on a life of its own. The shadow gains insight into the dark side of human behaviour, then returns to the man and enslaves him. Fearful of being discovered, the shadow has the man killed.[1]


Jacqueline Banerjee suggested that Andersen wrote the story as a form of indirect revenge against Edvard Collin, the son of Anderson's patron, who had rejected him.[1]

Literary critic Jack Zipes took the story to represent the Hegelian dynamic of master and slave.[2]


"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, again 18 December 1849 as a part of Fairy Tales. 1850. (Eventyr. 1850.), and 30 March 1863 as a part of Fairy Tales and Stories. Second Volume. 1863. (Eventyr og Historier. Andet Bind. 1863.).[3]


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":[1]

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.

Andersen's story in turn appears to have influenced Oscar Wilde's "The Fisherman and His Soul".[1]


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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Jacqueline Banerjee, The Impact of Hans Christian Andersen on Victorian Fiction, The Victorian Web, 12 December 2008.
  2. ^ Zipes, Jack (1995). Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: The Classical Genre for Children and the Art of Civilization. London: Routledge.
  3. ^ Hans Christian Andersen Center: Hans Christian Andersen: The Shadow
  4. ^ "The Song is a Fairytale". Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  5. ^ Van Gelder, Lawrence (29 May 2003). "Arts Briefing". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  6. ^ Dobbs Ariail, Kate (May 2003). "Carolina Ballet: The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen". Classical Voice of North Carolina. Retrieved 20 June 2009.

External links[edit]