H. C. Andersen’s travel books – a fairy-tale vision of Europe


  • Andrey Korovin


Danish literature, Romanticism, H.C. Andersen, travel books, fairy tales


Hans Christian Andersen is well known as a writer of fairy tales, but a corpus of travel books also constitutes a large part of his literary heritage. Influenced by the poetics of the novel, the focus of travel books shifted from images of foreign countries, landscapes and descriptions of unusual situations, to the inner world of the traveller, which might be more interesting for a reader than the external world. The narrator thus becomes the protagonist of the tale, bringing such travel books closer to fiction. It is argued that Andersen's fairy tale poetics has its roots in his travel books. These books include many stories, each of which could be considered a separate text. The first book, Skyggebillede (1831), was based on his trip to Germany and contains a number of small narratives similar to fairy tales published after 1835. Here, Andersen transformed the traditional form of travel book, with his poetic vision of Germany more important than reality, which was only the background for the author's fantasy. His later travel books, En digters bazar (1842) and I Sverige (1849), contain texts which were included in Andersen's collections of fairy tales and stories. Here, his images of European cities, nature and other famous sites are not mere descriptions but also romantic pictures where fairy tale fantasy plays a very important role.