"THUMBELINA" /ˌθʌmbəˈliːnə/ (Danish : Tommelise) is a
literary fairy tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen
first published by C. A. Reitzel on 16 December 1835 in
Denmark , with "The Naughty Boy" and "The Traveling Companion" in the
second installment of
Fairy Tales Told for Children . "Thumbelina" is
about a tiny girl and her adventures with appearance- and
marriage-minded toads, moles, and cockchafers . She successfully
avoids their intentions before falling in love with a flower-fairy
prince just her size.
"Thumbelina" is chiefly Andersen's invention, though he did take
inspiration from tales of miniature people such as "
Tom Thumb ".
"Thumbelina" was published as one of a series of seven fairy tales in
1835 which were not well received by the Danish critics who disliked
their informal style and their lack of morals. One critic, however,
applauded "Thumbelina". The earliest English translation of
"Thumbelina" is dated 1846. The tale has been adapted to various media
including television drama and animated film.
* 1 Plot
* 2 Background
* 3 Sources and inspiration
* 4 Publication and critical reception
* 5 English translations
* 6 Commentaries
* 7 Adaptations
* 7.1 Animation
* 7.2 Live action
* 8 Footnotes
* 9 References
* 10 External links
In the first English translation of 1847 by
Mary Howitt , the tale
opens with a beggar woman giving a peasant's wife a barleycorn in
exchange for food. Once planted, a tiny girl,
emerges from its flower. One night, Thumbelina, asleep in her
walnut-shell cradle, is carried off by a toad who wants her as a bride
for her son. With the help of friendly fish and a butterfly ,
Thumbelina escapes the toad and her son, and drifts on a lily pad
until captured by a stag beetle who later discards her when his
friends reject her company.
Thumbelina tries to protect herself from the elements, but when
winter comes, she is in desperate straits. She is finally given
shelter by an old field mouse and tends her dwelling in gratitude. The
Thumbelina marry her neighbor, a mole , but Thumbelina
finds repulsive the prospect of being married to such a creature
because he spent all his days underground and never saw the sun or
sky. The field mouse keeps pushing
Thumbelina into the marriage,
saying the mole is a good match for her, and does not listen to her
At the last minute,
Thumbelina escapes the situation by fleeing to a
far land with a swallow she nursed back to health during the winter.
In a sunny field of flowers,
Thumbelina meets a tiny flower-fairy
prince just her size and to her liking, and they wed. She receives a
pair of wings to accompany her husband on his travels from flower to
flower, and a new name, Maia.
Hans Christian Andersen
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 and chronicles the story in a
Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense,
Denmark on 2 April 1805
to Hans Andersen, a shoemaker, and Anne Marie Andersdatter. An only
and a spoiled child, Andersen shared a love of literature with his
father who read him
The Arabian Nights
The Arabian Nights and the fables of Jean de la
Fontaine . Together, they constructed panoramas, pop-up pictures, and
toy theatres, and took long jaunts into the countryside.
Andersen in 1836
Andersen's father died in 1816, and from then on, Andersen was left
to his own devices. In order to escape his poor, illiterate mother, he
promoted his artistic inclinations and courted the cultured middle
class of Odense, singing and reciting in their drawing-rooms. On 4
September 1819, the fourteen-year-old Andersen left Odense for
Copenhagen with the few savings he had acquired from his performances,
a letter of reference to the ballerina Madame Schall, and youthful
dreams and intentions of becoming a poet or an actor.
After three years of rejections and disappointments, he finally found
a patron in Jonas Collin, the director of the Royal Theatre, who,
believing in the boy's potential, secured funds from the king to send
Andersen to a grammar school in Slagelse, a provincial town in west
Zealand, with the expectation that the boy would continue his
Copenhagen University at the appropriate time.
At Slagelse, Andersen fell under the tutelage of Simon Meisling, a
short, stout, balding thirty-five-year-old classicist and translator
Aeneid . Andersen was not the quickest student in the
class and was given generous doses of Meisling's contempt. "You're a
stupid boy who will never make it," Meisling told him. Meisling is
believed to be the model for the learned mole in "Thumbelina".
Fairy tale and folklorists Iona and
Peter Opie have proposed the tale
as a "distant tribute" to Andersen's confidante, Henriette Wulff, the
small, frail, hunchbacked daughter of the Danish translator of
Shakespeare who loved Andersen as
Thumbelina loves the swallow;
however, no written evidence exists to support the theory.
SOURCES AND INSPIRATION
“Thumbelina” is essentially Andersen’s invention but takes
inspiration from the traditional tale of "
Tom Thumb " (both tales
begin with a childless woman consulting a supernatural being about
acquiring a child). Other inspirations were the six-inch Lilliputians
Jonathan Swift ’s Gulliver\'s Travels ,
Voltaire ‘s short
Micromégas “ with its cast of huge and miniature peoples,
E. T. A. Hoffmann
E. T. A. Hoffmann ’s hallucinatory, erotic tale "Meister Floh "
in which a tiny lady a span in height torments the hero. A tiny girl
figures in Andersen‘s prose fantasy "A Journey on Foot from Holmen's
Canal to the East Point of Amager" (1828), and a literary image
similar to Andersen’s tiny being inside a flower is found in E. T.
A. Hoffmann’s "Princess Brambilla” (1821).
PUBLICATION AND CRITICAL RECEPTION
Andersen published two installments of his first collection of Fairy
Tales Told for Children in 1835, the first in May and the second in
December. "Thumbelina" was first published in the December installment
by C. A. Reitzel on 16 December 1835 in Copenhagen. "Thumbelina" was
the first tale in the booklet which included two other tales: "The
Naughty Boy" and "The Traveling Companion". The story was republished
in collected editions of Andersen's works in 1850 and 1862.
The first reviews of the seven tales of 1835 did not appear until
1836 and the Danish critics were not enthusiastic. The informal,
chatty style of the tales and their lack of morals were considered
inappropriate in children’s literature. One critic however
acknowledged "Thumbelina" to be “the most delightful fairy tale you
could wish for.”
The critics offered Andersen no further encouragement. One literary
journal never mentioned the tales at all while another advised
Andersen not to waste his time writing fairy tales. One critic stated
that Andersen "lacked the usual form of that kind of poetry and would
not study models". Andersen felt he was working against their
preconceived notions of what a fairy tale should be, and returned to
novel-writing, believing it was his true calling. The critical
reaction to the 1835 tales was so harsh that he waited an entire year
before publishing "
The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid " and "The Emperor\'s New
Clothes " in the third and final installment of
Fairy Tales Told for
Mary Howitt, c. 1888
Mary Howitt was the first to translate "Tommelise" into English and
published it as "Thumbelina" in Wonderful Stories for Children in
1846. However, she did not approve of the opening scene with the
witch, and, instead, had the childless woman provide bread and milk to
a hungry beggar woman who then rewarded her hostess with a barleycorn.
Charles Boner also translated the tale in 1846 as "Little Ellie"
while Madame de Chatelain dubbed the child 'Little Totty' in her 1852
translation. The editor of The Child's Own Book (1853) called the
child throughout, 'Little Maja'. H. W. Dulcken was probably the
translator responsible for the name, 'Thumbelina'. His widely
published volumes of Andersen's tales appeared in 1864 and 1866. Mrs.
H.B. Paulli translated the name as 'Little Tiny' in the
In the twentieth century,
Erik Christian Haugaard translated the name
as 'Inchelina' in 1974, and Jeffrey and Diane Crone Frank translated
the name as 'Thumbelisa' in 2005. Modern English translations of
"Thumbelina" are found in the six-volume complete edition of
Andersen's tales from the 1940s by
Jean Hersholt , and Erik Christian
Haugaard’s translation of the complete tales in 1974.
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. They
point out that
Thumbelina is a passive character, the victim of
circumstances whereas her male counterpart
Tom Thumb (one of the
tale’s inspirations) is an active character, makes himself felt, and
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. She detects parallels between
Andersen’s tale and the Greek myth of
Demeter and her daughter,
Persephone , and, notwithstanding the pagan associations and allusions
in the tale, notes that "Thumbelina" repeatedly refers to Christ‘s
suffering and resurrection , and the Christian concept of salvation .
Andersen biographer Jackie Wullschlager indicates that
“Thumbelina” was the first of Andersen's tales to dramatize the
sufferings of one who is different, and, as a result of being
different, becomes the object of mockery. It was also the first of
Andersen's tales to incorporate the swallow as the symbol of the
poetic soul and Andersen’s identification with the swallow as a
migratory bird whose pattern of life his own traveling days were
beginning to resemble.
Roger Sale believes Andersen expressed his feelings of social and
sexual inferiority by creating characters that are inferior to their
The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid , for example, has no soul while her
human beloved has a soul as his birthright. In “Thumbelina”,
Andersen suggests the toad, the beetle, and the mole are
Thumbelina’s inferiors and should remain in their places rather than
wanting their superior. Sale indicates they are not inferior to
Thumbelina but simply different. He suggests that Andersen may have
done some damage to the animal world when he colored his animal
characters with his own feelings of inferiority.
Jacqueline Banerjee views the tale as a failure story. “Not
surprisingly,“ she writes, “”Thumbelina“ is now often read as
a story of specifically female empowerment.“ Susie Stephens
Thumbelina herself is a grotesque, and observes that “the
grotesque in children’s literature is a necessary and beneficial
component that enhances the psychological welfare of the young
reader“. Children are attracted to the cathartic qualities of the
grotesque, she suggests. Sidney Rosenblatt in his essay "Thumbelina
and the Development of Female Sexuality" believes the tale may be
analyzed, from the perspective of Freudian psychoanalysis , as the
story of female masturbation.
Thumbelina herself, he posits, could
symbolize the clitoris, her rose petal coverlet the labia, the white
butterfly "the budding genitals", and the mole and the prince the anal
and vaginal openings respectively.
The earliest animated version of the tale is a silent,
black-and-white release by director Herbert M. Dawley in 1924.
Lotte Reiniger released a 10-minute cinematic adaptation in 1954
featuring her "silhouette " puppets.
Dyuymovochka was a Russian popular animation version from 1964 of a
film studio "
Soyuzmultfilm ". One of the best statements of the
Leonid Amalrik : in "Thumbelina" Andersen's heroes loved by
all play the pressing history of sufferings of the least girl on the
In 1983, a Japanese version was released called Oyayubihime (Princess
Thumb); 世界名作童話 おやゆび姫 (Sekai Meisaku Dōwa
Oyayubi-hime; World Classic Fairytale Princess Thumb), a Toei
Animation anime movie, with character designs by
Tezuka Osamu from
In 1992, The
Golden Films released of
Thumbelina (1992), and Tom
An animated, Japanese series adapted the plot, Thumbelina: A Magical
Story (1992) and made it into a movie, released in 1993.
In 1994, Warner Brothers released the animated film Thumbelina
(1994), directed by
Don Bluth and
Gary Goldman , with
Jodi Benson as
the voice of Thumbelina.
The 2002 direct-to-DVD animated movie, The Adventures of Tom Thumb
Thumbelina , brought together the two most famous tiny people of
Thumbelina voiced by
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Jennifer Love Hewitt .
In 2005, there was H.C. Andersens eventyrlige verden: Tommelise
The 2009 direct-to-DVD animated movie,
Barbie tells the story of the Twillerbees, with
the main character. in a modern-day tale. She meets Makena, the
daughter of a wealthy couple, who became the Twillerbees' only hope
for saving their home (which was being torn due to a building
construction by Makena's parents). At the end,
Barbie waves at
Thumbelina and her friends before the Twillerbees magically make a
plant grow in the sight of a little girl, revealing it is a true
In 2015, a modernized version of
Thumbelina appears in the Disney
Goldie and Bear . In the episode, Thumbelina's Wild
Thumbelina is hired to babysit for Goldie and Bear. The two
friends are initially put off by her small stature, thinking she's
almost helpless. When she tries getting the kids a snack, she falls
down the kitchen sink and slides into the river behind the house.
Goldie and Bear try to save her, but soon see that
resourceful, agile, and can lift several times her own weight. She
saves herself from the river and even rescues the kids when they fall
in trying to save her. The kids take an instant liking to her and
can't wait for the next time she babysits.
Thumbelina is voiced by
Debby Ryan (Speaking) and
Shannon Chan-Kent (Singing).
On June 11, 1985, a television dramatization of the tale was
broadcast as the 12th episode of the anthology series Faerie Tale
Theatre . The production starred
Carrie Fisher .
A version of the tale was filmed in 1970 as an advertisement for
"Pirates World", a now-defunct Florida theme park. Directed by Barry
Mahon and with Shay Garner in the title role, this version was reused
in its entirety as filler material for "Santa Claus and the Ice Cream
Bunny", a rival to such films as "Plan 9 from Outer Space" and "Manos:
the Hands of Fate" for the title of most inept film ever made.
* ^ Wullschlager 2002, p. 165
* ^ Opie 1992 , pp. 221–9
* ^ Wullschlager 2002 , p. 9
* ^ Wullschlager 2002 , p. 13
* ^ Wullschlager 2002 , pp. 25–26
* ^ Wullschlager 2002 , pp. 32–33
* ^ Wullschlager 2002 , pp. 60–61
* ^ Frank 2005 , p. 77
* ^ A B C Frank 2005 , p. 76
* ^ A B C D Opie 1974 , p. 219
* ^ Wullschlager 2000 , p. 162
* ^ Frank 2005 , pp. 75–76
* ^ "Hans Christian Andersen: Thumbelina". Hans Christian Andersen
Center. Retrieved 2009-08-22.
* ^ Wullschlager 2002 , p. 165
* ^ Andersen 2000 , p. 335
* ^ Eastman , p. 258
* ^ Haugaard 1983 , p. 29
* ^ Classe 2000 , p. 42
* ^ Tatar 2008 , pp. 193–194, 205
* ^ Wullschlager 2000 , p. 163
* ^ Sale 1978 , pp. 65–68
* ^ Banerjee, Jacqueline (2008). "The Power of "Faerie": Hans
Christian Andersen as a Children\'s Writer". The Victorian Web:
Literature, History, & Culture in the Age of Victoria. Retrieved
* ^ Stephens, Susie. "The Grotesque in Children’s Literature".
* ^ Siegel 1998 , pp. 123,126
* ^ "
Thumbelina (1924)". IMDb. 27 September 1924.
* ^ boblipton (13 October 2013). "Däumlienchen (1954)". IMDb.
* ^ TheLittleSongbird (19 October 2013). "Dyuymovochka (1964)".
* ^ A B "H.C. Andersens eventyrlige verden: Tommelise (Video 2005)
- IMDb". IMDb. 29 March 2005.
* ^ TheLittleSongbird (8 June 1992). "
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* ^ Clements, Jonathan ;
Helen McCarthy (2001-09-01). The Anime
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* ^ MissyBaby (30 March 1994). "
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* ^ The Adventures of
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* ^ "
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* ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5339018/?ref_=ttep_ep6
* ^ "DVD Verdict Review - Shelley Duvall\'s Faerie Tale Theatre:
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* ^ emasterslake (15 January 2011). "
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