Hans Christian Andersen was a master of other literary forms besides the fairy story - in particular, the novella for an adult readership. The Ice Virgin (1862) is the most ambitious and searching of all his narratives. Its subject is Switzerland, which Andersen saw as a paradigm of the human condition. The relationship between a gifted young climber-hunter from the remote Bernese Oberland and a prosperous miller's daughter from a comfortable French-speaking canton plays out themes such as instinct versus reason, daring versus security, the role of early experience in shaping identity. In the terrifying Ice Virgin and her eerie minions, with their implacable hatred of humankind, we have a glimpse of the fairy tale Andersen. But this is a thoroughly absorbing story of the real world. In his Afterword Paul Binding situates The Ice Virgin in its author's life and work and explains why he places this novella in the first rank of world literature.
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