Fiction, fairy tales and Hans Christian Andersen 

The authors of fiction and a few authors of children’s books often describe toys and play from a different perspective from that used by pedagogues and psychologists.

The inspiration for this chapter, “what toys Danish children own and what they themselves say they play with”, is principally found in the type of children’s books where toys and play are a significant part of the tale or story. An overview of some of these children’s books in Danish is to be found in Steenhold (1989:62-63).

In the Norwegian and Danish tradition, Hans Christian Andersen plays a central role in the description of toys, play, children and existence.

He communicated an attitude to play where “play is born, develops, lives, dies and evaporates”, never to be played again. The toys text the play.

In “My Life’s Adventure” (Mit Livs Eventyr) he tells of the toys his father made for him, his moving pictures, his dolls’ theatre and especially his peepshow (box with a lens and spy-hole) but everything was used as a toy, gained an identity and played a role and position, took part in long conversations and dialogues - and died at the end.

In “Only a Minstrel”(Kun en Spillemand), a spinning top (“a flower which dances”) is buried. In “Cares and Woes” (Hjertesorg) a mop is buried and in “Little Ida’s Flowers” (Den Lille Idas Blomster), dead flowers are buried. Next time the same game is played again it is a new game. Dolls, maids, soldiers and cavaliers are toys in Hans Christian’s rich world of play and all the toys which can be bought for money are symbolised in the fairy tale “The Piggy Bank” (Pengegrisen). Even weapons are included in his tales as toys.

In “Five from a Pea Pod” (Fem fra en Ærtebælg), all five peas are shot out into life by a boy with a rifle and in “Little Ida’s Flowers” (Den Lille Idas Blomster) the Norwegian cousins are meant to shoot their arrows over the coffin with flowers. The adult role (the father’s) in the child’s (Hans Christian’s) imagination and play has definitely been significant - as indeed the adult role in play with the child always has been.



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