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Nursery Rhymes,

Hans Christian Andersen,

& folk tale comparisons

Oral Tradition:
Myths explain the way things are. They are or were
believed in.
Fairy tales: broad groups of stories told for fun
Fables: Short, with morals, more animals than people
Legends: Longer, have a basis in reality Odyssey.
Robin Hood. King Arthur. Beowulf.
Tall tales: an American genre emphasis on
hyperbole. John Henry, Paul Bunyan.
Nursery rhymes: short poems told to the very young

Originally for all, now claimed by youth

The Real Mother Goose

Originally published in
Compiled by Rand
McNally & Company.
watercolor illustrations by
Blanche Fisher Wright.
305 traditional poems.

Nursery Rhymes
Often called Mother Goose rhymes.
Often the first literature children learn.
Part of the consciousness of English speaking
Told more for the sound than the meaning.
Often very old.
There are many different types.
Although, written now, they are still passed on

Images of Mother Goose

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the King's horses, and all the King's men
Cannot put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candle-stick.


Three blind mice!
See how they run!
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife
Have you ever see such a thing in your life
As three blind mice?

Simple Simon met a pieman
Going to the fair;
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
"Let me taste your ware."
Says the pieman to Simple Simon,
"Show me first your penny."
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
"Indeed, I have not any."
Simple Simon went a-fishing
For to catch a whale:
All the water he had got
Was in his mother's pail!

Hush-a-bye, baby, on the tree top!
When the wind blows the cradle will rock;
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall;
Down will come baby, bough, cradle and all.

Ba Ba Black Sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
One for the master, one for the dame,
And one for the little boy who lives down the lane.


As I was going to St. Ives
I met a man with seven wives.
Every wife had seven sacks,
Every sack had seven cats,
Every cat had seven kits.
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were going to St. Ives?


Jack and Jill went up a hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after

First literature
Children often know many
nursery rhymes long before
they can read.
These rhymes and stories
are an example of literature
that is still passed down
Even when these poems are
in books, they are more often
recited from memory rather
than read.
Children can learn to read by
matching language they
already know to words on the

Characteristics of fairy tales

They are more unpleasant than pleasant
Rely on archetypal characters (often defined by one
feature, such as a red hood, snow white, the prince).
Tricksters, silly, foolish, and absurd characters.
Setting is trivial (real place names would ruin the story)
Magic is very limited (or nonexistent).
Moves from disequilibrium to equilibrium unfairness to
fairness. The enchanted state is the wrong state, and by
the end, things are put right again.
True folk tales have no original because they have been
passed down orally.

Characteristics of fairy tales

Stories are not usually soft or sentimental.
Beauty may be important, but not virginity
Riches, but not learning
Worldly success, but not the means by which it is gained
Virtues that are rewarded.
Presence of mind
Willingness to take advice
The rewards sought after. (not romance or true love)
Comfortable living
Ideal partner

Three ways that characters in

fairy tales get power
Physical strength (males) wolf & hunter.
Chopping the pigeon-house and tree in
Love (females) marriage of stepmother,
marriage of Cinderella,
Tricks (either) Riding hood Tricks wolf, Wolf
tricks her. Cinderellas new clothes are a kind
of trick.

Reoccurring Traits

Justice is valued over mercy (especially in

German stories), and in versions closer to the
oral tradition.
Home away home pattern is common.
Lots of eating and wanting to eat.
Conflict cast in terms of good and evil. (very
binary mentality)
Things happen in threes.
Stepmothers and absent parents
Young protagonists (perhaps youngest sibling)

Literary Fairy Tales

These are tales which were written before they were
passed down orally. They do not belong to the oral
tradition. They can be traced to a particular author.
There is an original version, whereas traditional folk tales
have no known original and therefore no correct or first
version. Belong more to the author than to the people.
The structure often follows traditional oral tales and the
stories are often influenced by oral tales.
Most of Hans Christian Andersens stories are literary
fairy tales, but he also revised some.
Perrault and the Grimm brothers did not invent stories, so
their stories are not really theirs. They just translated the
stories from oral into written form. Their stories are not
literary fairy tales.


Hans Christian Andersen

Born in poverty, the son of a cobbler (shoe maker) and
achieved great fame and wealth.
Father died early. left home because of evil stepfather
Hated poverty. Always worried about money and social
status. A LOT.
Never married or had a home.
Not an educated member of the upper class. A poor kid
who told great stories. A member of the common people
Achieved world-wide fame; the patronage of kings and
princess. Became the darling of Europe.
Did paper cutting

One of Andersens Paper Cuts

Telling stories to children

Andersen fairy tales

Wrote 168 tales

(Also wrote six novels, two long plays, some short plays, 5 travel books,
many poems.)

His tales are very autobiographical and often reflect

aspects of his life and relationships with women. (When
Andersen died, he had a pouch around his neck with a love letter from a
woman who had jilted him 20 years earlier.)

He used fairy tales to settle scores.

Heavily influenced by Christian morality and themes.
Often pokes fun at nobility (as do many oral folk tales).
Less black and white than traditional fairy tales.
More smooth and clear than traditional tales.
Conveyed a romantic view of life.

Which Andersen stories are these?

Andersons recipe for writing a good story

(written to his friend B. S. Ingemannin 1843.)

I believe that I have now found out how to write fairy

tales! The first one I wrote were, as you know,
mostly old ones I had heard as a child and that I
usually retold and recreated in my own fashion;
those that were my very own, such as the Little
Mermaid, The Storks, The Daisy, and so on,
received, however, the greatest approval and that
has given me inspiration! Now I tell stories of my
own accord, seize and idea for the adultsand then
tell it for the children while still keeping in mind the
fact that mother and father are often listening too,
and they must have a little something for thought,

The Little Mermaid

1. What do you find interesting or surprising in
this story?
2. What examples can you find where the story
pokes fun at nobility?
3. What kind of lesson could one get out of this
4. Looking back over her life, how do you think
the little mermaid might do things differently?
5. What Christian ideas do you see in this

The little mermaid

The Swineherd

What gifts does the prince

offer the princess?
Why does she reject them?
Why does he continue to
pursue her?
Why does the prince behave
the way he does?
How does it end? What do
you think of this ending?
Is there a moral lesson here?

The Top and the Ball

Click here to read the story





Added morals
Just a few stories.
More forgiving.
Higher socioeconomic status of
Didnt try to
preserve original
words or style.
Happily ever after
endings. (Mostly,
but not for Red
Riding Hood)

Collectors to
preserve German
Fairy tales as a way
of looking at culture
Linguist approach
They edited out
profane language
and crude jokes.
More pagan

Joseph Jacobs
published some of the
earliest tales, but that
wasnt until 1890.
Has more legends than
fairy tales (Robin Hood
and King Arthur)
Puritans stamped out
pagan fairy tales and
replaced them with
moral tales. Fairy tales
are full of witchcraft.
Joseph Jacobs writes
pretty late.
Andrew Lang put
together 12 volumes of
international folk tales.
Blue Fairy Book, etc.

Sentimental &
Romantic image of life
Pathos (more emotion than
traditional folk tales).

Not too much magic

More Christian.
Mermaid becomes
Nuanced people.
Few only-good or onlybad characters.
Emperor's new clothes
Match seller
Princess & the pea
Ugly duckling
Brave Tin Soldier
The Tinder Box