In ‘The Story of a Mother and the Dead Child’, Death comes to people in the guise of an old man. Death has a realm in the shape of a great greenhouse where he cares for the lives of the living people which are in the shape of flowers and trees that grow in the greenhouse. When Death is ordered by God to take someone’s life, he uproots the tree or flower that is that person’s life from his greenhouse and plants it in the garden of paradise.
The mechanism of the afterlife does not seem to be particularly well thought out in this story. In Hans Christian Anderson’s time, before universal vaccination and the discovery of penicillin, it was a lot more common for people to die in their childhood. ‘The Story of a Mother and the Dead Child’, which portrays the anguish and the yearning of a bereaved mother along with the fate of the dead child, may have been written both for grieving parents and for the children of those time, who used to witness the deaths of a lot of their siblings, cousins and schoolmates, to ease their worries about death and the fate of their lost companions and to reassure them that the afterlife will be beautiful. ‘The Dying Child’ portrays the child’s death from the child’s perspective, in it, the child is tired of living and wishes to join the angels he sees in his sickly visions. Here too, the purpose is to reassure the reader that death is beautiful and one must not be over sad at those that have passed away because they are now in a better place.
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