Thumbelina was written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen and first published in 1835 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
I’m sure everyone has heard of Thumbelina but do you know the story? In a nutshell Thumbelina has fallen on hard times and is avoiding being propositioned by an array of creatures she doesn’t like, such as a Toad who wants her to marry her son and a Beetle. But other creatures such as the fish and a butterfly come to her aid to help her as she goes along. As winter sets in Thumbelina tries to protect herself from the elements but becomes cold and hungry.
Feeling a little desperate, one day she encounters a field mouse who offers her shelter and invites her to her house to help her and she ends up having dinner with Mouse and her friend the Mole underground. The Mole is very taken with Thumbelina and wants to marry her. The mouse tells her she has to marry him because he is wealthy etc, etc. She doesn’t want to though. And she doesn’t want to live underground in the dark. However she reluctantly agrees.
On her last day before her wedding, with sorrowful heart, she heads out into daylight to say goodbye to the sunshine and the sky and to nature for the last time and meets a Swallow there on his own taking a rest. She tells the Swallow she doesn’t want to marry Mole and the Swallow says don’t, come away with me. So she get’s on the Swallows back and they fly off to a far away land.
Once they get there she meets some flower spirits. And the most handsome one of all asks her to dance. This Flower Prince falls in love with her and wants to marry her and she is very happy to find a kindred spirit and to be with the flower people. And then she gets her wings and becomes one of the fairies and they all live Happily Ever After! She is reborn and gets a new name Maia. Interestingly, Maia is a name that has significance in both Greek and Roman Mythology and in Roman myth is associated with growth.
There are many variations of this Fairy Tale. I have included an animation from 1954 above by Lotte Reiniger who is known as “The Silhouette Girl”. This is one of the earliest ever adaptations of the story and, in my eyes, one of the best. If you have ten minutes it’s beautiful to watch.
Charlotte “Lotte” Reiniger was a German artist and film director and one of the earliest creators of silhouette animation. As a child she was fascinated with the Chinese art of paper cutting and silhouette puppetry, staged her own shows and went on to make her own animations.
In the original fairy story unbeknown to Thumbelina a Bluebird has been watching her from afar and has fallen in love with her. His heart is broken when she marries the prince and he flies off dejected and tells her story to a man who then writes the story.
“In Hans Christian Andersen’s version of the story, a bluebird had been viewing Thumbelina’s story since the beginning and had been in love with her since. In the end, the bird is heartbroken once Thumbelina marries the flower-fairy prince, and flies off eventually arriving at a small house. There, he tells Thumbelina’s story to a man who is implied to be Andersen himself, who chronicles the story in a book.”
Thumbelina was one of seven fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen that are today very popular fairytales, however several Danish critics, back in the day, were thought to have disliked their informal style and what they deemed, a lack of morals. Things never did run smooth in the world of fairy tales but there is a happy ending as today they are world famous and much loved.
“For fairy tale researchers and folklorists Iona and Peter Opie, “Thumbelina” is an adventure story from the feminine point of view with its moral being people are happiest with their own kind.
Folklorist Maria Tatar sees “Thumbelina” as a runaway bride story and notes that it has been viewed as an allegory about arranged marriages, and a fable about being true to one’s heart that upholds the traditional notion that the love of a prince is to be valued above all else.
She points out that in Hindu belief, a thumb-sized being known as the innermost self or soul dwells in the heart of all beings, human or animal, and that the concept may have migrated to European folklore and taken form as Tom Thumb and Thumbelina, both of whom seek transfiguration and redemption.” (Wikipedia)
Well isn’t it nice that Thumbelina escaped the darkness and found a Happy Ending with some flower people. 🙂 And the moral of the story is don’t marry a mole for the money, because other people think you should or society holds him in high regard due to his status. If you don’t like where you are living, leave. And travel is good for the soul. True love could be just around the corner.
I feel a bit sorry for the mole. But if she didn’t love him she was doing him a favour leaving.
I think Thumbelina shows a female who remained true to her spirit and went through hard times alone rather than conform or settle. But ultimately this brought her to the right place.
The Thumbelina Song below was written in 1952 and sung by Danny Kaye in the Hollywood Musical Film, “Hans Christian Andersen”.
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