"Drømme i H. C. Andersens Eventyr og Historier".
This paper has been published in Andersen og Verden, Odense 1993.
Psychoanalytic Interpretations in Hans Christian Andersen's TextsAnnelies van Hees
(summary for pages 376-84)
In my paper I discuss the subject of dreams in H. C. Andersen's tales. The occurrence of dreams in approximately ten percent of the tales is worth considering, since these dreams provide information about Andersen's understanding of what a dream really is as well as about his explicit and implicit psychological understanding, and, in a single case, about his poetical views and his technical mastering of story-telling composition.
In some cases the main function of the dream is to be the vehicle of the story, in so far as there would be no story at all without the dream ("Ole Lukøie"). In other cases dreams seem to have a merely decorative function; for example the short embedded dreams of the flowers in "The Snow Queen".
As soon as we start looking for the psychological function of a dream in a tale, several types seem to appear. There is the apparent one of reconciliation with death that we find in "The Child in the Grave", in "A Story" and in "Anne Lisbeth", the latter, however, having as its apparent goal the necessity of Anne Lisbeth discovering mother-love before she can relinquish it again.
A second type is the simple wish fulfilment dream: boy meets girl or boy flies away with girl ("Little Tuk", "Hyldemoer").
As a last type I consider dreams with an even more clearly sexually loaded content, dreams about sexual overpowering or sexual fantasies ("The Travelling Companion", "Little Ida's Flowers").
The author's, or rather the narrator's, comment about dreams changes according to their content. Innocent dreams, like Hjalmar's in "Ole Lukøie", are not commented on at all.
Dreams that contribute to the narrative of the story, like the one in "The Last Dream of the Old Oak Tree", are commented on by the narrator in a matter-of-fact way. The old oak tree always dreams of something that has happened to it, "just as in real life".
However, if the dream has a sexual content, the comment indicates a slight tone of disapproval. Both Little Tuk and the boy in "Hyldemoer" dream of flying away with a beautiful girl but they don't remember this when they wake up. Just as well, the narrator comments.
The more sexually dangerous the dream content, the greater the defence mechanism which sets in. The dream is moved to a deeper layer of the unconscious in that it is embedded in another dream. Type: he dreamed that he dreamed, or: she is not sure whether this was a dream at all.
Dreams are, technically speaking, embedded in a way that once more makes the reader admire Andersen's skill in story-telling. In "Hyldemoer" the frame about a little boy being ill and having stories told to him contains two other embedded tales which reflect each other with regard to time and content. In between these two tales the frame reappears to comment on the nature of the story versus the fairy-tale.
In "The Travelling Companion", Johannes starts by having a dream in three parts: a wish fulfilment dream about the stars and the sun bowing to him; about his father being alive again; and about a beautiful princess he is going to marry. Later in the story this dream in three parts about his dead father, about a woman, and about power is reflected in the three so-called dreams his companion tells him about in order to make him win not only the princess's heart but also victory over her mind and over the troll. Johannes is therefore both the destroyer of the father's phallic power and the restorer of it.
"Little Ida's Flowers" is read as a story about a little girl's sexual fantasies and overnight discovery of real sexuality, in which the student functions as the teacher, the one who knows all about flowers and butterflies; the clerk as the forbidden conscience; the dance of the flowers as the king and the queen as the final excitement. The death of the flowers represents the fading of sexual excitement while the promise of even more beautiful flowering next summer indicates the certainty of sexuality as a recurrent fact of life.
Finally, "A Rose on Homer's Grave", which repeats dream and subsequent event, is read as a narcissist mirror-dream, in which Homer functions as the mirroring author, in whom "the poet from the North" may see himself reflected. If the poet from the North proves to be an author in Homer's class, the victory of art, of the nightingale, over love, or the rose, will be guaranteed.