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Andersen, Moral Values and the Children's Ideas for Good

The imperatives of the contemporary define the main accents in the work with children, regarding their introduction to universal moral values, and mostly to compassion, respect of other people, sympathy, etc.

The training of 56 year old children to universal moral values is realized in the framework of a concrete (in this case a Bulgarian) cultural environment. It is accomplished by clarifying the children's images for good and stimulating their activity and independence in defining moral contradictions in real and assigned situations.


The Children's Images for Good

*= at the beginning **= at the end




* being obedient ** being brave
* do not fight ** being powerful (strong)
* do not offend ** being compassionate
* do not make stupidities ** having respect for others
* doing good deeds ** being understanding
* protecting the weak ones ** being beautiful
* not being cruel

According to pedagogic studies, in contents the children's images for good are fragmented, limited in action, in the surrounding of coevals and close adults. The ideas for good are in connection with: being obedient, do not fight, do not offend, do not make stupidities, doing good deeds, protecting the weak ones, not being cruel, etc. The fact that children associate obedience with good, talks about the style of the relationships between child and adult, and about the need for extending children's images for good to the universal moral values, and more specifically to understanding for compassion, respect of other people's personality. The extension can be realized, in the whole pedagogic process, as well as through games and literature.


Why tales of H. C. Andersen? Which ones?

By supposing that literature allows the opportunities of the suggestive function of the speech to be used as a method for persuading ideas, images and ways of acting, and that through the feelings and the acts of the characters, models of acting and knowledge are given to the children, we use Andersen's fairy tales for extending the children's images for good. His fairy tales are enriched with models and situations, which affect emotionally. Through rich and easily comprehended images, which very often are animals and by that are close to the children, the great writer manages to convey his ideas of the cruelty of social injustice, of the fight between right and wrong, of the stupidity and the bravery. The chosen tales represent different levels of difficulty. They are appropriate for the 56 year old kids and close to them and contain understandable moral messages.


List of Fairy Tales

        
*** = easiest ** =average * = difficult

*** Thumbelina
** The Little Mermaid
** The Little Match-Seller
*** The Tinderbox
** The Emperor's New Clothes
*** Little Ida's Flowers
** The Staunch Tin Soldier
*** The Princess and The Pea
*** The Ugly Duckling
** The Swineherd
* The Nightingale

The children take a special interest in the experiences of the little mermaid, Thumbelina, and the brave soldier from "The Tinderbox". They feel for the dead flowers of little Ida, and suggest different variations for saving them ("I'll make a road for the water, to reach the flowers"). When the children are well acquainted with the text, and understand the meaning of the story, it is easier for them to define the behavior, relations and actions of the characters.

In order to help the children to understand the idea of the tale and the hero's behavior, we use different methodological approaches:

During the discussions the following questions were asked:

  1. Which of the heroes would you be like? Why?
  2. Which of the heroes wouldn't you be like? Why?
  3. Who is bad? Why?
  4. Which of the heroes is good? Why?
  5. Which hero would you like to help, if you can?
  6. Do you like the way the tale ends? What kind of an ending would you choose?
  7. Which tale do you like most? Why?
  8. Which of the tales makes you most sad? Why?
  9. If you were brave and rich, what would you do in order to help?

As a result of the conversations and analysis, the children's images for good are enriched and come out of the fragmentary. The features such as brevity, beauty, and power are added. The children reach a point where they can define a particular action as being good, even thought it belongs to a negative character (the witch from "The Tinderbox", because she helps the soldier to become rich). The extension of the images for good and the realization, as far as this is possible, of the tale's essence, gives the children the opportunity to think also about what is bad, which one of the characters is bad, etc.

At first, the analogies are very simple - everyone, who is not good, is bad. Later on, the children try to analyze the behavior of the characters, and when they cannot find in them the characteristics of the good person, they come to the conclusion that they are bad. Usually a bad person is one who does bad things to others, who lies, steals or kills. A point is reached, where for children a bad guy is the stupid one, who cannot do anything to help the others (the emperor from "The Emperor's New Clothes" is bad, because he is stupid: "What kind of king is he, when he is so stupid? Nothing becomes of him!").

Results

In the process of work, the children's ideas for good are enriched from their efficient side. The children are now ready, e.g., to help one of Andersen's characters, and can explain their preferences. On the question "Which hero would you like to help?" most children prefer to help those in trouble, they sympathize with them, and they try to find the reasons for their misfortune. Most children want to help the little Match-Seller, because she is poor, unfortunate, cold and lonely. Of course their wishes are childlike naive, but in this case it is more important that there is such a wish ("I'll give her money", "I'll buy her a heater, so she can warm up", "I'll take her to a warmer place").

Obviously, listening to his pal's suggestions, a child reaches a more complicated suggestion for his age: "I will take her home, and I will invite her to live with us". The children are especially sensitive to injustice, even if it is not directed toward them. That is why they are ready to help Thumbelina escape from the old ugly mole, who is rich but lives underground, which she doesn't want at all.

Children also feel for the Ugly Duckling, but they are ready to be like him, because they like the perspective of becoming beautiful when they grow up. Unlike the older children, the 56 year old kids choose to be like a character from the opposite sex. Several boys wanted to be like the little Mermaid, the Ugly Duckling or Thumbelina, just because of the opportunity to be beautiful or live in a nicer world.

The stories of the great writer, offered in a reachable way for the children of pre-school age (46 year old), provoke a deep thought process in them. His moral messages and suggestions for social justice, good and heroism, become obtainable for the small children, and form a suitable basis for later work in creating citizen behavior in the older children.


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Bibliographic information about the text:

Fakirska, Jordanka: "Andersen, Moral Values and the Children's Ideas for Good" , In: Johan de Mylius, Aage Jørgensen and Viggo Hjørnager Pedersen (ed.): Hans Christian Andersen. A Poet in Time. Papers from the Second International Hans Christian Andersen Conference 29 July to 2 August 1996. The Hans Christian Andersen Center, Odense University, Odense University Press. 576 pages, Odense, Denmark 1999.

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