The animistic cosmos of Hans Christian Andersen

One of [writer Hans Christian] Andersen’s weirdest and greatest gifts is that his stories live in an animistic cosmos, in which there are no mere objects whatsoever. Every tree, bush, animal, artifact, or item of clothing has an anxious soul, a voice, sexual desires, need for status, and a terror at the prospect of annihilation. Andersen’s episodes of alternating grandiosity and depression are very much at variance with this created world, where mermaids and ice maidens, swans and storks, ducklings and fir trees, collars and garters, snowmen and wood nymphs, witches and toothaches, all possess consciousness as capacious, cruel and desperate for survival as our own.

— Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities and English, in his article “Great Dane,” The Wall Street Journal, April 20, 2005.


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