Hans Christian Andersen’s the Tinderbox, a Near Perfect Traditional Folktale

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Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Tinderbox” is a near perfect example of traditional folklore. In “Literature for Children: A Short Introduction”, David Russell defines the various storytelling conventions often found in traditional folklore under the subjects of setting, character, plot, theme and style. Despite the fact that “The Tinderbox” lacks a clear moral theme and has an unusually complex main character, most of the mechanics including setting, plot, and style, are overwhelmingly apparent.

Unlike the majority of traditional folktales, The Tinderbox lacks a clear moral theme. Typically, a traditional folktale attempts to teach children a specific lesson that will guide them on their path to adulthood. “The Tinderbox” does not have any such message. It is simply an enjoyable and entertaining tale for children. In this way, “The Tinderbox” does not fit the definition of a traditional folktale.

Traditional folklore is often populated by uncomplicated characters. Although many of the characters in “The Tinderbox” fit this definition, (the old witch, the king, and the queen), the main character is a much more complex character than is usually expected. Our "hero", the soldier, demonstrates many levels to his character. As a soldier returning from war, one assumes our hero is a good and loyal person, but later in the story, one questions his character as he is overcome with greed, filling his pockets with more and more coins of higher and higher denominations until he can barely walk. To add to the uncertainty, the soldier kills the old witch merely because she will not tell him what she wants the tinderbox for. This does not fit the characteristics of a hero. Neither does the soldier’s apparent desire to waste his money on the finest things he can buy “for he was rich, now that he had so much money.” (Andersen 214). On the next page, the reader gets a glimpse of the hero again as it is discovered he also gives some of his money to the poor because “He...
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