Hans Andersen wrote many stories, and these are some of the best. We meet a very, very small child, a bird with a beautiful voice, a mermaid with legs, an ugly duckling with no friends – and an emperor with some very strange new clothes. These stories teach us lessons for life.
The tale has its source in a Scandinavian folk tale Andersen learned in his childhood, but similarities with Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp and other tales have been noted. The story was one of Andersen's first fairy tales, and was published on 8 May 1835.
The relationship between a daring young chamois hunter from the remote Bernese Oberland and a prosperous miller’s daughter living in the comfortable French-speaking Swiss canton of Vaud plays out a complex of themes, such as the instinctive life versus rational civilization and the role of early experience in shaping personal destiny, in this dark and affecting Hans Christian Andersen adult novella.
In the terrifying Ice Virgin and her eerie minions, with their implacable hatred of mankind, we get a glimpse of the fairy tale Andersen. But The Ice Virgin, the most disturbing, ambitious, and searching of all of Andersen’s narratives, is also a thoroughly absorbing story of the real world. Andersen here is writing about a world he saw as something of a paradigm of the human condition, and this lies behind the story’s multilayered complexity.
This splendid new translation by Paul Binding and his erudite and comprehensive afterword together make a compelling case for just why The Ice Virgin deserves to be placed in the first rank of world literature.