What is Thumbelina About?

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  • 0:04 'Thumbelina' Background
  • 0:55 'Thumbelina' Summary
  • 2:10 'Thumbelina' Moral Message
  • 3:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

In this lesson, we will learn about one of Hans Christian Anderson's lesser known fairy tales ''Thumbelina.'' We'll examine how it was received when it was published and how it is received today.

''Thumbelina'' Background

Some of our most beloved fairy tales came from Hans Christian Andersen, including ''The Little Mermaid'' and ''Frozen.'' One of his fairy tales is ''Thumbelina.'' ''Thumbelina'' is a story with inspiration from the English folklore ''Tom Thumb.'' Both are stories about little people who were given to women as children, but from there the similarities end because ''Thumbelina'' tells the story of a sweet girl while ''Tom Thumb'' is about a mischievous boy.

''Thumbelina'' and many other of Hans Christen Andersen's fairy tales were not well received when they were first written. Critics felt that ''Thumbelina'' did not offer a proper moral story because children's stories were supposed to strictly teach morals. A few saw it as a cute fairy tale with beautiful imagination, but it wasn't well received. Today children's stories tend to be a lot more about the story, with a small moral or message wrapped into the story.

''Thumbelina'' Summary

''Thumbelina'' tells the story about a poor woman who wanted a child but could not have one. Then, a fairy tells her to plant a seed and ''see what will happen.'' The woman follows this advice and a beautiful flower grows. When the flower opens, a lovely girl is found inside. The woman names her Thumbelina, and she is also known as Tiny.

Eventually, Tiny is noticed by a toad, who steals her away to be his son's wife. But little fishes, admiring her beauty, set her free, and she has many other adventures. A butterfly carries her along, cockroaches determine she is ugly because she does not look like them, and she ends up alone when winter comes. But a kind mouse takes her in, and there she meets the blind mole. The blind mole is ''very rich and learned,'' and he eventually falls in love with Thumbelina. But Thumbelina is horrified by his cruelty when he harms a swallow. She ends up caring for the swallow and saving him. Once he is healthy, he flies her away from the cruel mole.

The swallow brings Tiny to a beautiful lake, where she meets a kind fairy prince. The prince renames her Maia, they fall in love and are married. In the end, we learn that the swallow has been watching Tiny the entire time and has fallen in love with her. He is the one who flies away saddened and tells this tale to Hans Christian Andersen.

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