Summary of The Snowman by Hans Christian Andersen

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

A snow man who has a fascination with fire? What's going on here? In this lesson, you'll learn more about Hans Christian Andersen's ''The Snowman,'' and what causes the winter creature to long for the heat.

To Everything a Season

A long time ago, a rock band called The Byrds found a hit with a tune called, ''Turn! Turn! Turn!'' In it, they sang lyrics taken almost exactly from a book in the Bible, explaining how there's a season for everything. That idea is both literal (a time to plant and a time to reap) and metaphorical (a season for love and a season for hate).

The title character in Hans Christian Andersen's ''The Snowman'' knows a thing or two about the impact of the seasons. Yet, built for cold weather, he looks through the window and pines for the heat of the stove. It's a story worth a closer look.

Summarizing ''The Snowman''

What we see in the opening of ''The Snowman'' is a lovely depiction of a snow man in the style of Frosty: triangular pieces for eyes and a man made of a broken rake. He is the handiwork of some area boys.

Night is falling on the snow man, and he perceives the sun and the moon to be the same: ''Ah, I have cured him of staring, though; now he may hang up there, and shine, that I may see myself.'' Just then, a dog comes on the scene, a dog that speaks instead of barking. He used to be an indoor dog, but was turned outside after biting his master's son's leg.

The dog has some bad news for the snow man: ''The sun will make you run some day,'' he says, recounting the snow man before him, and the one before him, who came and went with the changing seasons.

The dog proceeds to explain the difference between the moon and the sun, and how the sun will send the snow man running ''down into the ditch by the well.''

The Weather Changes

The next morning brings a winter wonderland. There is lots of fog and wind, and though the sun shines, it does not warm the earth. Instead, it causes everything to sparkle and shine, ''as if diamond dust had been strewn about.''

Young lovers come along, marveling at the scenery and the snow man in particular. The snow man expresses curiosity about the couple and the dog explains who they are. He then proceeds to tell the snow man about his time inside his master's house - how he was loved and petted and how he used to sleep beneath the stove to enjoy its heat.

The snow man is inquisitive about the stove, asking if it is beautiful. He spies it through the window: ''...a bright polished thing with a brazen (or brass) knob, and fire gleaming from the lower part of it.'' It causes the snow man to feel a longing for the stove, though he can't quite put his finger on why.

Fire Fascination

Now that the dog has brought up the stove, it's all the snow man can think about. It causes a strange crackling (or anticipation) within him. He begins to wish to go indoors to be near the stove, which the dog strongly discourages: ''...if you approach the stove, you'll melt away, away.'' The snow man admits that he is already breaking up and does not care. The fire from the stove is especially appealing to him after dark.

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