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Romantic Concepts in "The Swineherd"

Hans Christian Andersen's story "The Swineherd" employs a number of Romantic concepts to advance the notion that the natural world is more valuable and beautiful than the world of man-made things. It is not so much that man-made things--especially wondrous or expensive man-made things--are useless or have no value, but rather that the living entities of nature (in this story, the rose and the nightingale, and the poor prince himself) are far more precious. Human happiness, in the Romantic tradition, is closely connected to an ability to appreciate these natural wonders.

Although analysts of Romanticism note that the term is used to mean many different things to many different people, there are common elements to the Romantic traditions of various places and times, including "an increasing interest in Nature, and in the natural, primitive and uncivilized way of life; a growing interest in scenery; an association of human moods with the 'moods' of Nature; emphasis on the need for spontaneity in thought and action; increasing importance attached to natural genius and the power of the imagination; a tendency to exalt the individual and his needs and emphasis on the need for a freer and more personal expression" (Cuddon 588).

All of these aspects of Romanticism are present in Andersen's "The Swineherd." The most important element is the power, beauty and truth of nature and the living entities of nature, including the poor prince himself and the way he expresses his feelings and thoughts. He is portrayed as a Romantic hero who believes in natural life, in natural feelings, in love, and in the natural object of his love. However, the transformation he undergoes at the end of the story shows that a Romantic hero is by no means necessarily a fool who will have his emotions manipulated by the woman he loves, no matter how corrupted she is by her separation from nature. To the contrary, the change the prince experiences shows that he re...

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