Hans Christian Andersen was a nineteenth-century Danish writer who wrote fairy tales about various events. In his short fairy tale "What the Moon Saw", in the part named "First Evening" he writes,

“Last night”, I’m quoting the Moon’s own words, “I was gliding through the cloudless Indian sky. My face was mirrored in the waters of Ganges, and my beams strove …. Forth from thicket tripped a Hindoo maid, light as gazelle, beautiful as Eve. Airy and and ethereal as a vision, and yet sharply defined amid the surrounding shadow, stood this daughter of Hindustan

What was the reason for Hans for specifically choosing India for this story? In the nineteenth century, the Dutch didn’t have any colonies in India; a few centuries ago they agreed with British on a deal and left India to take up Indonesia and some parts of Malay Archipelago.

He even mentions a very little know custom of India:

She knew that if the lamp continued to burn so long as she could keep it in sight, her betrothed was still alive; but if the lamp was suddenly extinguished, he was dead.

He mentions one of the main Hindu Gods:

She thought only of Bramah and of her betrothed.

I’m looking for facts of how Andersen knew so much about India.

  • 3
    Why do you mention Dutch colonies? What do the Dutch have to do with your question?
    – user14111
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 17:33
  • 2
    Why do you think andersen wouldn't be well informed about India? Although he is most famous as a writer, presumably he also read books.
    – user14111
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 17:37
  • People have written books and scholaorly articles about "Nordic Orientalism" and Andersen's role in it. Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 18:11
  • 3
    According to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danish_India , at the time HCA wrote the story in question, there were Danish colonies in India. Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 21:30

1 Answer 1


By the time Anderson wrote, India was already known to Europeans quite well. Earlier poets such as Goethe wrote in one of his poems about the characters of Kalidasa's Shakuntala, who wrote in Sanskrit 1400 years before Goethe.

  • Hi and welcome to Literature Stack Exchange. Is your answer meant to imply that because authors such as Goethe knew about India, Andersen should also have known about it? I think the question is looking for information that is more specific to Andersen.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Mar 28, 2021 at 0:48

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