The Snowman

In The Snowman a snow man is built in a garden at the height of the winter season. He revels in the cold and in the snow, ice, and wind. He distrusts the sun because he has a feeling that it is not his friend. He knows next to nothing because he was literally born yesterday. He is kept company by a dog who explains how the world works to him. Why he can’t move, who the sun and moon are and about the family that lives nearby and about the house.

In hearing about all of this he hears about and beholds the warm stove in the housekeeper’s room. The dog was with the stove once, slept underneath it to keep warm, but he has since been ejected for biting a boy that kicked his bone from his mouth and now sleeps out in the cold with the snow man. The snowman admires the curves of the stove, and the heat that it contains, he admires the flames that lick out of the mouth and he wants so badly to be with the stove even as he knows deep down doing so would harm him. The dog warns him away but he can’t help pining for the company of the stove. When the window is iced over and she is blocked from view (for the snow man is convinced it is a she) he can find no enjoyment in the snow, the ice, or the wind anymore.

Winter starts to leave and he starts to slowly melt. The snow man is resigned to this fate. When he is gone all that is left is the pole he was built around. The pole that was attached to the shovel used to clean out the snow man’s beloved stove, in other translations it is a poker used for the fire.

Just like in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Butterfly, his fairy tale The Snowman has homoerotic undertones that cannot be denied. The snow man remains alone and unmoving as he regards and tries to discover the world around him. With the help of the dog he discovers what lovers are and what that means and then meets a past object of the dog’s affection, the warm stove. The stove is described as female and the snow man longs for it, desires it, but finds himself stuck and unable to move or do anything about it. The dog also informs him that doing anything about it will only harm him in the end. His obsession robs him of the happiness he once found in other things, but ultimately he pines and desires for naught as nothing can ever come of that which he loves.

This is seriously autobiographical in nature for Hans Christian Andersen, a man that could never keep any sort of female companion throughout his life. The warmth and comfort of female love was something he was frozen by and could never act on, especially as he secretly desired men as well as women. He was left a rooted observer, always looking but never touching the love and companionship of any nature that he desired most.

Some time before he wrote The Snowman he embarked on a brief affair with a ballet dancer named Harald Scharff. The affair was destined to be brief but it provided some joy and fulfillment while it lasted and Andersen described him in his diary as being, “deeply devotedā€¦ very intimateā€¦ ardent and loving.” The affair ended on good terms and the two men often crossed paths afterward with no hard feelings. Andersen attempted to rekindle things a few times but was ultimately shot down. Following all of this he wrote the fairy tale The Snowman.

Throughout his life Andersen has embraced the life of a overly sensitive poet which allowed him to distance himself from people, and ultimately left him to suffer through life alone, largely because of his sexuality. The Snowman shows his despair at the ending of his relationship with Scharff and of ever finding the warmth and comfort of love he so desperately desired but never attained.

One Response to The Snowman

  1. Tif
    8:47 am on December 12th, 2010

    Wow! You brought in some very interesting insight on this one! I really do not know much about the man behind the stories, so you’ve got me thinking I need to do some reading on Andersen now!

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