Corps de l’article

1. Introduction

Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” is remarkably ambiguous. The ending leaves the reader in doubt, not so much about what happens, but about how and why. Textual cues point in different directions and therefore the ending is at the same time unresolved and irresolvable. When the tale was originally published in 1838 it was published without illustrations but subsequently it has been published together with many different sets of illustrations. Hans Christian Andersen is the most translated author in the world (Krogh Hansen and Wolff Lundholdt 2005: 15), and his stories have been published in numerous languages and in various versions in many of these languages. The verbal texts accompanying the different sets of illustrations have therefore more often than not also been different.

In an illustrated tale ambiguity can be created both verbally and visually and through the interaction between these two media. The aim of the present article is to examine how the interaction between the verbal and the visual reinforces and weakens the ambiguity in ten translations into Spanish and eight translations into Swedish as compared to Hans Christian Andersen’s unillustrated Danish text. The analysis focuses on two characters surrounded with indeterminacy. One is the little dancer with whom the main character of the tale, the tin soldier, falls in love. The other indeterminate character is the black bogey. Partly these characters are indeterminate because the reader cannot textually access their perspectives. For example, the reader cannot know whether or not the little dancer takes an interest in the tin soldier. Similarly, it might be that the bogey makes bad things happen, but possibly the bogey does not have such power at all. In sum, both the little dancer and the bogey are difficult characters to grasp for the reader of the verbal text and therefore interesting characters to analyze in relation to the illustrations. The visual texts will depict them in other ways than the verbal texts do, thus creating other conditions for the composition of meaning.

2. Theoretical vantage points

The analysis of the verbal and the visual is made from the perspective of the target texts readers. As such it draws not only from Toury (1980, 1995) but also from Iser’s theory on reading as presented in The Act of Reading (1978). To Iser, literary texts work with textual strategies that direct the reader during the act of reading. ‘Places of indeterminacy’ in the text invite the reader to interact actively with the text during the act of reading. The places of indeterminacy in the text invite the reader to make decisions about the meaning of the text and to negotiate these decisions during the act of reading since the same places of indeterminacy can be altered further on in the reading by new textual elements, taking the reader in other directions.

When both visual and verbal elements are present, each media affects the other. In relation to the translation of children’s literature Oittinen (2000: 100ff) provides extensive examples of how illustrations affect our interpretation of verbal texts and how words influence our interpretation of illustrations. Oittinen (2000: 103, 106) states that “in one way or another, illustrators always take stories in new directions; for instance, they stress certain scenes or certain characteristics of the persons described by the author. They add and omit and make the readers of the book pay special attention to certain parts of the story.” In Iserian terms this means that the places of indeterminacy change in an illustrated edition as compared to a non-illustrated one. When illustrations appear together with a literary text some places of indeterminacy will be filled and others created (Lagerwall, unpublished paper). There are clear parallels here with interlinguistic translation, a fact pointed out by Oittinen (2000: 106) who finds “many similarities between translation (into words) and illustration (translation into pictures) as forms of interpretation.” But there are also important differences. Illustrations are published side by side with verbal texts, whereas verbal translations are rarely published together with their source texts. This means that the possibilities of interaction between verbal texts and illustrations in a picture book or an illustrated book are radically different from the interaction between a translation and its source text.[2]

As stated above, the analysis is made from the perspective of the reader and therefore it is not within the scope of this paper to deal with questions of production. Still, it is important to bear in mind that the factors conditioning the production of the illustrations and the verbal translations in the books analyzed here vary. Sometimes the illustrations have been made to a new translation and sometimes already existing sets of illustrations have been recycled. Some translators have made their translations knowing with which illustrations the text will be published whereas other translations have been republished with new illustrations (cf. Bernárdez 2004 [1973]). Illustrated books have a bimedial character (cf. Rhedin 1992: 128 on picture books). The text prepares the reader for a simultaneous meeting with the verbal and the visual code and from a theoretical point of view the verbal code therefore does not have priority over the visual code. The expression “illustrated translation” should therefore be understood as a translation published together with one or several pictures and not as a translation with pictures that “illustrates” the verbal text.

The terms “reader” and “readers” here refer to “the reader’s role laid down in the text” (Iser 1978: 28) and not to real empirical readers actually reading the texts. “Text” refers to the bimedial code unless it is combined with the adjectives “verbal” or “visual.” Accordingly, no difference is made in this paper in the use of the word “reader” for visual vs. verbal texts. In a few exceptional cases the word reader is also used here to refer to hypothetical readers constructed from social and historical knowledge of an assumed reading situation (cf. Iser 1978: 28), e.g., in discussing differences between child readers and adult readers in section 7. In all these exceptional instances it is clear in the text that the word reader is not referring to a role.

3. Synopsis of the story

A boy is given twenty-five tin soldiers on his birthday. One of them, a one-legged tin soldier, takes a fancy to a little paper dancer and wants to marry her. There are several symmetries between the two characters: both have the colour blue in common and both have, at least seemingly, only one leg (the dancer has two legs but the tin soldier only sees one). A black bogey warns the tin soldier telling him not to look at the dancer. The tin soldier does not heed the warning and the next day he falls out of the window. Perhaps the bogey caused this but there might also have been a draught. The tin soldier experiences a series of adventures but finally comes back to the house where the little dancer is. A boy throws the tin soldier into the fire, but possibly this is also the bogey’s doing. Then a draught carries the little dancer into the stove. Both vanish in the flames. A small tin heart is left of the tin soldier and a sequin burnt coal black of the dancer.

4. Ambiguity as a textual strategy in “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”

The tale leaves itself open to several possible interpretations (cf. Knowles and Malmkjaer 1989). It can be read as a romantic story in which the tin soldier and the dancer fall in love and die together. But there are also other possible readings that contradict the romantic one. For example, the heart and the sequin that remain in the end are puzzling. On the one hand, this ending opens up for the interpretation that they are together at last as something remains of them both. On the other hand, a sequin burnt coal black is something of much less value than a heart of tin. Additionally they can be perceived as isolated one from the other. In fact, they did not merge into one and the same thing. Also it can be born in mind that the colour blue that the dancer and the tin soldier had in common at the beginning of the story disappears in the flames. In the end the dancer’s sequin is black, which means that new colour symmetry is established, this time between the dancer and the bogey.

The black bogey is an interesting character because of its indeterminacy. The reader cannot really know whether or not it is the bogey who makes the tin soldier fall out of the window and who makes the boy throw the tin soldier into the fire. This uncertainty invites speculation and necessitates attentive reading. The verbal text spurs readers to wonder if the bogey is at all important, and, if so, what it stands for.

5. The verbal translations

The textual strategies in translations of the “Tin Soldier” work in other ways than in Andersen’s text (cf. Alvstad in press). The openness and the indeterminacy are significantly reduced in many of them whereas the strategies preparing an unambiguous romantic ending are strengthened. In one ending the tin soldier and the little dancer turn into one and the same heart and this means that textual elements challenging the romantic reading disappear. In another ending the stove is omitted altogether. Instead of burning up, the couple in this translation dance all night long. The openness of the ending disappears together with the indeterminacy of the tin soldier’s and the dancer’s relations.

The part played by the black bogey in the translations varies. In the verbal texts of one Spanish translation (Todolibro) it has disappeared altogether, whereas it appears more frequently in some other translations than in Andersen’s text, playing more important parts. In one translation, for example, the bogey throws the tin soldier into the fire (Kärnan 1980). The indeterminacy regarding the black bogey in Andersen’s text is not as salient in the verbal texts of this translation as it is more unequivocally evil.

6. The illustrations and their interaction with the verbal texts

6.1 Pedersen’s indeterminate illustrations

As stated above, when ”The Steadfast Tin Soldier” first appeared in 1838 the tale was not illustrated. Vilhelm Pedersen (1820-1859) made the first illustrations for a German translation and subsequently a new edition of the tales with Pedersen’s illustrations was published also in Danish. Pedersen’s two illustrations to the ”Tin Soldier” are still republished and this is the most frequent set of illustrations in the translations analyzed here. Pedersen’s illustrations to the “Tin Soldier” appear in the translations of Welinder (2002), Adell (2001), Anderberg (1982), Bordoy Luque and Fernández Romero (1957) and Payarols (1959).[3] The first of Pedersen’s two illustrations presents the scene. It represents the tin soldier and the dancer among other toys. The bogey is between the tin soldier and the dancer. The bogey has a pair of horns on his forehead, a fact that strengthens the idea of him as an evil, and even, devilish character. The tin soldier clearly has only one leg but the dancer’s legs are blurred and it is really not possible to tell if there are one or two legs. This illustration, which at first appears to present a static view, at a closer look reveals another dancer in the right back corner of the illustration (this can, of course, also be the first dancer the reader notices). And to the left there is a third dancer-looking lady. The dancer in the right back corner is raising her leg high up in the air, so high in fact, that it is hardly recognizable as a leg. Below her is another character, possibly a tin soldier. The illustration raises questions. Are the three dancers in the illustration one and the same? In the verbal text only one dancer is mentioned. Is the character in the back, below the dancer, the steadfast tin soldier or is it one of his twenty-four brothers?

This illustration presents the scene from the narrator’s perspective. In spite of being detailed, it does not clarify much that is not already clear in the verbal text. This means that it works with rather than against the textual strategies of the verbal text.

Illustration 1

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The second of Pedersen’s illustrations shows the dancer moving, presumably towards the stove as this is her only movement in the verbal text. The perspective, just as in Pedersen’s first illustration, is the narrator’s.

This illustration does not alter or contradict the textual strategies of the verbal text. It does not reveal whether the dancer willingly goes into the fire or if it really is the wind that carries her there. Her open arms bear a double possibility. They might signal that she is opening them so as to embrace the tin soldier, or this is merely the way she keeps her balance. The illustration is as indeterminate and open as Hans Christian Andersen’s verbal text.

Illustration 2

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6.2 A play with perspectives

A set of illustrations similar to Pedersen’s in its indeterminacy was created by the Spanish artist Elena Odriozola (published in Bernárdez 2004). The first illustration depicts the dancer facing the reader.

The perspective in Odriozola’s dancer differs from Pedersen’s. Whereas the perspective in Pedersen’s dancer is clearly the narrator’s, the perspective is not at all clear in Odriozola’s illustration. The direct look of the dancer can be seen as an invitation to the reader to see her through the eyes of the tin soldier, but ambiguously it can also be interpreted as a portrait of the dancer presented to the reader, which would alter the perspectives of the verbal text. The ambiguity is strengthened by the fact that characters of other tales in Odriozola’s illustrations are also illustrated in this portrait-like manner (see e.g. Bernárdez 2004: 21, 41, 51, 62). Rhedin (1991: 167-168) uses the term ‘camera-look’ to refer to illustrations that present characters in this perspective. Rhedin points out that the use of the camera-look can create a Verfremdungs-effekt as it works against the creation of illusion. Odriozola’s dancer, facing the reader, can thus be seen as an invitation to the reader to reflect upon questions of illusion-making. This meta-literary feature is not textually present in Andersen’s text but it works very well together with it as it does not add to the determinacy of the tale. Instead it adds a new perspective out of which the indeterminacy can be approached.

Illustration 3

Odriozola’s dancer

Odriozola’s dancer

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Another issue of perspectives is the relation between toys and humans. The two sets of illustrations dealt with leave out the humans completely, focussing instead entirely on the level of the toys. In other sets of illustrations both levels are present at once. This is the case in Koser-Michaels’ only illustration to the tale in which two boys are watching the tin soldier as he sails away in the paper boat they made for him (published in Gunnarsson 1995).

In a way this illustration, just like Odriozola’s, alters the perspectives of the verbal text and can be seen as an invitation to the reader to follow the boys’ gaze and reflect upon how they see the tin soldier. As in Odriozola’s text, this alteration of perspectives does not add determinacy to the tale. Rather it presents a new angle out of which the indeterminacy of the text can be approached.

Illustration 4



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6.3 A more romantic tale

Like many of the verbal translations, some sets of illustrations strengthen the textual strategies that invite a romantic reading. This means that the reader meets a less open, more determinate version of the tale. This is achieved through various means, the most frequent being the introduction of hearts in the illustrations in other contexts than the final metamorphosis of the tin soldier into a tin heart. In Kärnan (1980) the tin soldier and the dancer are placed inside a heart on the cover of the book.

Inside the book, when the dancer first appears in the verbal text, there is an illustration of the dancer’s head inside a pink heart. A third heart appears between the two characters in the second to last illustration, showing them in the fire, which strengthens the romantic possibilities of interpretation. This heart is red, as is also the slightly bigger fourth heart the maid finds in the final illustration on the same opening. The parallelism between these two red hearts strengthens the romantic possibilities of interpretation. Contrary to what is said in the verbal text, the heart in the stove seems to represent the love between the two characters rather than the tin soldier. This is further strengthened by the colour. A heart of tin would not be red.

Illustration 5

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In Clásicos para contar (Todolibro, no year) a pink heart is placed between the two characters when they are first introduced. In another set of illustrations (by Mårdøn Smet published in Harris 2003) the last image represents the tin heart and the sequin placed together against a romantic pink background, shaped like a heart.

This illustration adds determinacy to the tale, underlining the romantic strategies of the text. The ambiguity of the verbal text concerning the tin heart and the sequin disappears. The pink heart surrounding both objects mitigates the possibility of seeing them as isolated from each other. The first illustration parallels this final one. It depicts the tin soldier and the little dancer in a pink cloud, very similar to the heart of the final illustration.

Illustration 6

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The verbal text accompanying this set of illustrations does not clearly strengthen the textual structures leading to a romantic ending. In this book, the verbal and the visual texts therefore work with different textual strategies. In the interaction between the visual and the verbal, the visual mainly reinforces some of the strategies of the verbal text, namely those that offer a romantic ending. This entails more determinate conditions for the composition of meaning, especially since there are no obvious contradictions between the two media to challenge this closure.

In another translation (Cardeñoso 2004, illustrations by Liora Grossman) the romantic possibilities of interpretation are considerably strengthened both verbally and visually:

Illustration 7

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This illustration, which is the last one of the book, shows the reader a happy couple dancing together. The verbal text also ends the same way. The tin soldier asks the dancer to dance and after that “there were never any jealousy or other problems again in the room of the toys” (Cardeñoso 2004: 209).

6.4 The black bogey

The role played by the black bogey differs radically between different sets of illustrations. Some sets of illustrations portray the black bogey in several illustrations whereas it is completely absent in other sets of illustrations. This variation might be linked to the indeterminacy of the character in Andersen’s text. The fact that the reader cannot really know whether it is the bogey who causes everything to happen or has nothing to do with it, functions as an invitation to speculation. The verbal text invites readers to ask themselves if the bogey is at all important, and, in that case, what it stands for. Because of the indeterminacy of the bogey in the verbal text, it is interesting to analyze the new conditions for composition of meaning that the interaction between the verbal and the visual generate.

Verbally the black bogey is mentioned in three different contexts. The first time is at the beginning of the tale when it warns the tin soldier not to look at the little dancer and the tin soldier falls out of the window. The reader cannot know for sure if there is a connection or not between the bogey and the fall since the narrator claims that it could just as well have been a draught.[4] This indeterminacy is maintained throughout the tale.

The second time the bogey is mentioned is when the tin soldier thinks about the bogey as he is passing through a series of difficult events. The tin soldier blames the bogey for his situation.[5]

The third time the bogey is mentioned is when the tin soldier is back in the room where he first noticed the little dancer and one of the boys picks him up and throws him into the stove. Again the bogey appears as a possible explanation to the event, but the reader cannot be sure because the word bestemt (definitely) weakens the claim, as it indicates insecurity despite its original semantic meaning.[6] As we have seen above, there might also be a final allusion to the black bogey by the fact that the sequin of the dancer in the ending is burnt coal black and black is the bogey’s colour.

In some sets of illustrations the bogey has a frightening look. This is the case in the romantic illustration above of the tin soldier and the dancer inside a heart (first illustration in 6.3) in which the bogey appears as an antagonist. Inside this book the bogey is present in five illustrations with a similar frightening appearance which means that it is depicted visually more times then it is mentioned in Andersen’s text. The bogey is depicted together with the tin soldier both when he falls out of the window and into the fire. There are stars around him indicating his magical powers. This contributes to a strengthening of the part played by this character in the tale. In fact, this strengthening on the visual level is combined with a strengthening on the verbal level since the bogey also is mentioned verbally more times than in Andersen’s text, furthermore, in more determinate ways. For example, it is the bogey (and not one of the boys), who pushes the tin soldier into the stove.

Also in Cardeñoso’s translation there is a strengthening of the bogey in the verbal text. The bogey is already introduced before it comes out of the box and in the end the bogey’s guilt is clear as it explicitly asks the tin soldier to forgive him. In the illustrations the bogey’s box appears first. In the next illustration, the bogey is peeking out of the box. In the following illustration a huge bogey points with his finger at the tin soldier and the little dancer is peeking out behind the bogey.

The part played by the bogey in this version of the tale is strengthened as compared to Andersen’s text and the places of indeterminacies in the text are less evident.

Illustration 8

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In another book (Martínez Vega and Raebel 1999) the part played by the bogey is not strengthened in the verbal text but only in the illustrations. It appears three times and interestingly enough it is the location of the last of these illustrations that makes it so prominent. The following illustration appears as the last illustration of the tale.

The bogey’s expression in this illustration is puzzling. It appears as if he is trying to make out what happened. In the previous illustration the dancer flies into the fire towards the tin soldier with open arms. There is no depiction of the tin-heart or the sequin. The troubled expression on the bogey’s face could very well be similar to that of the reader trying to make sense of the tale. In this sense there is a clear strengthening of the bogey in this set of illustrations but interestingly this strengthening works with the textual strategies of the verbal text, without adding determinacy to the tale.

Illustration 9

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In other versions of the tale there is no clear strengthening in the visual level of the part played by the bogey. This is the case with Vilhelm Pedersen’s illustrations (see above) in which the bogey appears together with the other toys. Other sets of illustrations omit the bogey altogether, e.g. Jorge Alberto Avila’s illustrations published together with Birgitte Bønning’s translation (1998). Another interesting case are the anonymous illustrations published together with Stjernquist’s (1963) translation. There are six illustrations in this edition and in none of them appears the bogey. One illustration depicts the tin soldier falling out of the window, the curtain fluttering considerably.

The fluttering curtain together with the absence of the bogey in the illustrations strengthens the possibilities of interpreting the wind as the force behind the tin soldier’s and the dancer’s movement at the same time as it makes the bogey’s part less prominent than in the books with many illustrations of the bogey.

Illustration 10

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The last bogey to be discussed here appears only in the illustrations. In the verbal texts the bogey is omitted altogether and it is determinately the wind that makes the tin soldier fall out of the window. The bogey appears twice in the illustrations, not as a frightening character but as a friendly-looking clown.

Illustration 11

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6.5 Simultaneous scenes

Some of the books have only one illustration that joins together elements and characters that do not meet in the verbal text. They are like curtain calls in the theatre as all the characters of the play meet on the scene but outside the play. There are two clear example of this among the translations analyzed here. Freixas’ illustration published in Nadal (1939) depicts the castle, the dancer, the tin soldier and the bogey among other toys. In a prominent position is the rat, which only appears further on in the tale and not in connection to the dancer, the bogey or the castle. In Tobiasse’s illustrations (published in Asklund 1980) there is another example. Here the tin soldier and the little dancer are both standing on the fish, at the same time as the bogey is popping out of his box.

The simultaneous scenes are interesting in relation to the places of indeterminacy, as they do not follow the events as presented by the verbal texts. By depicting some characters and not others they signal what characters are important and therefore they open up for some interpretations rather than others. At the same time, they break the narrative norms established by the verbal texts and as such they function as an invitation to the reader to interact attentively with both media.

Illustration 12

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7. Final reflections

Due to the important differences in the verbal and visual texts and to the interaction between these two media the conditions for composition of meaning are sometimes, far from identical, and not even remotely similar to each other in the different versions of the “Tin Soldier” analyzed here. In any case, four major tendencies can be discerned. One of these is when the illustrations and the interaction between the verbal and the visual lead to more determinate conditions for the composition of meaning. Generally this is achieved through reinforcement in the illustrations of some textual strategies present in the verbal text. This is the effect when hearts are introduced in the illustrations as means of signalling love between the two main characters or the bogey appears more frequently and in more determinate ways in the illustrations than in the verbal texts.

Another tendency is to introduce the scene and the characters in a neutral way. Pedersen’s first illustration can be taken as an example since it gives an idea of what the characters look like and how they relate to each other without altering the strategies present in the verbal text.

The third tendency is to challenge the strategies of the verbal text, introducing new perspectives. This is the case with Odriozola’s dancer and Koser-Michaels’ playing boys, which invite the reader to approach the tale in other ways than Andersen’s text and the verbal texts of the books they are published with.

A fourth tendency is to synthesize various elements into one illustration and to depict characters together who do not meet textually in the tale. This can also be seen as challenging the verbal text, which draws attention to the tale as construction.

There are several interesting aspects of the verbal and the visual in these translations that are not analyzed in this paper. Firstly, many of the “Tin Soldier’s” analyzed here are published in volumes together with other tales. Only in one specific case (that of Odriozola’s illustrations) the other illustrations of such a volume has been taken into account in the analysis. This can be seen as a weakness of the study as such an analysis without doubt would have provided a more full account of the illustrations as the readers generally meet them.

It would also be interesting to dwell more upon different target audiences. How does the illustrations clearly targeting a child audience (e.g. the books published by Kärnan) differ from the books addressing adults (e.g. Lehmann 1977)? Another issue worthy of more attention is differences as regards child readers’ and adult readers’ perspective. Literate readers can see exactly where in a text an illustration is placed whereas somebody who “only” listens to the story accesses all the illustrations on an opening at once. Likewise, children are not assumed to read pictures in the same ways as adults as they are just starting to familiarize themselves with the conventions of illustrations (cf. Rhedin 2004: 17ff).

The intertextual relations between different sets of illustrations also constitute a possible subject to develop. It seems that some illustrators’ are acquainted with previous illustrator’s work. For example there are striking similarities between Archipowa’s bogey (Martinez Vega and Rabel 1999) and the classic illustrations made by Rackham (republished in Nadal 1933). Some of these threads will hopefully be further investigated in future studies, as they certainly are worthy of more attention.