Danish literature

- Karen Blixen & H. C. Andersen -

In the past week we have been working with the two Danish authors Karen Blixen and H. C. Andersen and their great significance for Danish literature and whether literature is an important part of the idea of a national conception.

H. C. Andersen - Through Denmark

Hans Christian Andersen is a Danish author, who lived in the 19th century. He is especially known for all his fairy tales, like The little Mermaid and The ugly Duckling, and his travelling descriptions which he wrote on his journeys to southern Europe.
We are working with a collection of small stories, tales and descriptions mainly of the capitol of Denmark, Copenhagen.
The Collection contain lots of information's, so we chose to focus on only a couple of stories, that would relate to our theme, religion.

Starting out with an extract of "God's picture book":
"Years went by. A navy was spotted in the Sound. Was it Russia or Denmark this time?…The enemy was in Copenhagen; it lightened in flames. We lost the navy, but never the courage and belief in God.
…Times have been hard, it has blown a storm, but the sunshine hasn't been blown away, it stays! An yet stronger than the brightest sunshine is God! Our Lord is master of more than Copenhagen."

Our interpretation is that Denmark is now a "we", and even though we loose our material goods, like the navy, we will never loose our belief in God.
Times have been hard, but the spirit of optimism is never a lack. God is with everyone, the good people as the evil ones.

An extract of the Snow Queen:
The Roses grows in the valley
There we will talk to Jesus Christ!

"And the little ones took each others hands, kissed the roses and looked into the bright sunlight of God and talked to it, as if Jesus Christ was there."
God is also with the weak ones: the poor and the children. He lets his divine light shine on everybody. And Jesus protects the children, like the Bible said. "Let the small children come to me".
And then there is a great symbolic in the roses. H. C. Andersen uses the roses as something almost divine in a lot of his stories. The roses play a great part.

Finally he wrote a poem called Oestergade, which symbolises a life from birth to death "wrapped" into a street of Copenhagen. The last two lines sounds like this:

"We ponder -- ah! Only short is here our stand
one step - and then - goodbye our Oestergade!"


As if there is more than just this life and this world, which leads us to H. C. Andersens view on religion.
H. C. Andersen, his view upon religion and Denmark:
His belief in God is very strong. He sees God in almost everything and is a very fine example of a Golden age writer, who may have a "habit" of making a perfect idyll of a not so perfect world.
He is also very national. Not in a xenophobic way, but in a very loving and thankful way. No matter how far away he is, his home will always be in Denmark. Which the song or poem "Denmark, -my homeland" very clearly shows. It was actually written on one of his many journeys.


Karen Blixen - Babette's banquet


Karen Blixen is a Danish author, born in April 1885. She received, in her life, a great respect and world-wide acknowledgement for her novels and stories. The Nobel Literature Award was mentioned several times, though she never got it.
She lived in Africa for a number of years, where she ran a farm, but returned to Denmark, to her childhood home in Rungsted lund, where she died in September 1962.

Babette's banquet
The story is about two sisters, daughters of the local minister, who lives in a little religious, pious and withdrawn village, Berlevaag in Norway. They never married, but one sister meets the love in general Lorens Löwenhielm. They are also paid a visit by a French opera singer Achille Papin, who wants the other sister to sing at the opera in Paris. Many years go by, the old "priest" dies and the inhabitants in the little village starts to have small quarrels. But one night, a stranger knocks on the door, where the two sisters live. It is Babette, a French woman, who seeked refuge with the two sisters, from the revolts in Paris, send by Achille Papin. The two sisters let her in, and she becomes their maid.
In the beginning the inhabitants, shut the stranger out from the society. They are afraid of anything new and strange, but as time goes by they start to accept her.
In the meantime Babette wins 10.000 francs in a lottery, which she wants to spend on a great dinner, a the memorial feast of the old priest, on the day he would have become 100 years.
They accept, but when the day is near, they have serious doubts and the little parish, actually gets frightened, when they see the ingredients, that counts turtles and wine. And they now think that she wants to poison them, and they swear not to say a single word about the food.
The big day arrives, the parish enter the little house promptly, where also the general Löwenhielm attends. Despite the others he can talk. And he praises the food to the skies.
And as night falls, and the wine is gone, the inhabitants forget about their small quarrels and enjoy the company of one another. They feel the glory of the conception.

A story about an artist (Babette), who came to a little withdrawn and xenophobic parish and became their saviour. If anything, art is the one thing we as humans have in common.

Karen Blixen's view on God and religion:
Karen Blixen believes in fate. That everything is a part of God's plan. Of charity.
You spend a whole life in abstinence, in stead of letting go and enjoying it. "We should in stead recognise that life is full of temptations and exactly those is a part of God's plan."
You should live in harmony with the nature and follow your call.


Is Danish literature an important part of the idea of a national conception?
Yes, because we, in this rootless and superficial world, maybe have a need of knowing that we belong somewhere. Today's society is marked by greediness. It is all about being on the top of the world. We are never satisfied, we always want more. But the lack of true conception today may course a feeling of alienation or emptiness.
But if anything, we have a common past. Like we now talk of H. C. Andersen he talked of the Vikings. He knew that he "belonged" to Denmark, and he talked proudly of all the ancient Danish national symbols, as our flag and the Vikings. He as Karen Blixen achieved world-wide acknowledgement, which also makes us proud to be Danes, to be a part of something bigger.


Lea, Trine and Sarah