Is the ugly duckling a hero? Philosophical inquiry as an approach to Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales in Danish primary school teaching

Forum for World Literature Studies 11 (2):226-241 (2019)

Caroline Schaffalitzky
University of Southern Denmark
Hans Christian Andersen is a cultural icon, and his fairy tales are famous around the world. But despite the positive ring to this description, his status as a canonized author poses a challenge when he is passed on to new generations of readers. In this article, we show examples of how this challenge reveals itself in Danish primary school teaching where Andersen is an obligatory figure in the subject Danish where he is frequently framed as a national romantic author of morally unambiguous texts. Taking the current use of “The Ugly Duckling” (1844) in primary school teaching materials as a point of departure, we aim to show Andersen’s potential to be presented as an element in primary school teaching that draws on dialogic inquiries rooted in Philosophy with Children. Philosophical inquiries are characterized by an open mindset that incite teachers as well as school children to engage with the rich ethical themes and literary qualities of Andersen’s fairy tales. We conclude the article with our own inquiry manual to “The Ugly Duckling” to illustrate a way to overcome the current hegemonic framing of Andersen and reopen his fairy tale for future discussions and interpretations.
Keywords Hans Christian Andersen  Cultural studies  Philosophy with Children
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