And the quest continues.
(The quest, for those of you who may be wondering, is to drag out a happy ending, kicking and screaming if necessary, from every story Hans Christian Andersen ever wrote.)
(Well, maybe not every story. But a lot of them.)
I believe Andersen is what I’m going to call a Religious Optimist. Basically what that means is that for a lot of his work, you have to shift your perspective for a thorough understanding, because his definition of a happy ending is based on a strong faith and a crappy life. Which means death=heaven=happily ever after, as opposed to the general misery of daily life.
If the idea of returning to school didn’t fill me with horror and dread, my big thesis paper would totally be on this topic. “Happily Ever After: The Religious Optimism of Hans Christian Andersen.”
The facts: Andersen was a deeply religious, deeply depressed gay man in the nineteenth century. We have documentation on this from the most reputable of sources, i.e. Andersen himself.
Just try to comprehend what it would mean, the level of love and joy in Heaven, to a man who was so sad and alone on earth.
And my man Hans, he’s a realist. Does a homeless child alone on the streets in winter get whisked away by her fairy godmother and become a princess? Of course not. Life doesn’t work that way. But can a girl with no chance of a happy, healthy life on earth be happy and healthy in Heaven?
Absolutely. That’s, like, a given.
Here’s the deal. You’re an orphan living on the streets in the dead of winter. You survive on selling matches. Shockingly, not a hugely profitable career.
You die. Of course you die. You hallucinate and you die and you welcome it, because life is hell and now you get to be where the hallucinations are. What is there to live for, anyway? You’re tired, and you’re hungry, and you’re cold. Everyone you love is dead already, and everything always hurts.
Why would you want to be alive?
There are days when every thought you have, every step you take, every sight you see, brings only sadness and pain. We don’t all get to be princesses. The world doesn’t work like that. Sometimes you’re lucky just to survive. Sometimes it’s not surviving that’s really lucky.
If I ever get my hands on a time machine, the first thing I’m doing is getting Hans on some antidepressants; poor dude needs them almost as much as I do.