Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

What the Moon Saw-Twenty-Third Evening

Moon by Ashe ArterberryWhat the Moon Saw-Twenty-Third Evening

On the twenty-third evening the moon talks about somewhere a little closer to home for the artist, Copenhagen. The moon says that some years ago he was looking in through a window. A little by was asleep there, or was he? He was in fact awake. His parents were soundly sleeping. The little boy was not looking at the moon or thinking of nightmares; he was looking at his mother’s spinning wheel.

Nothing fascinated him more than the spinning wheel, although he was forbidden to touch it. He often sat by his mother for hours as she spun. He wanted to touch the spinning wheel so badly. At firs just a foot stuck out from under his blankets, but soon all of him was out. He crept up to the spinning wheel and spun it and spun it. The thread flew off. The mother soon woke up and was startled. She thought that perhaps there was a gnome or an imp in the house. She woke her husband. He looked and said, “It’s only Bertel.”

The moon then begins to speak about Rome where he sees the statues made of marble. The moon mentions the Laocoon, the muses, and a statue of Eros specifically. He remarks on how much like Eros Bertel is.

Years have passed since this time and Copenhagen has grown. People have found new gods to worship and new things to appreciate. The people near the docks in Copenhagen shout, “Hurrah for Bertel Thorwaldsen!”

That was the twenty-third evening.


This one kind of excites me for several reasons. First off, my grandmother has a spinning wheel. I have always admired it. I don’t know that she has ever actually used it to make thread or yarn, but it’s always been there. My uncle made it himself. My family is quite artistic in some manners. Making a spinning wheel is not easy and really it’s no wonder that Bertel was fascinated.

Second of all, Bertel is real. His name is actually Bertel Thorvaldsen. He was a sculptor. He followed the neoclassical style of sculpture, meaning that his sculptures looked very similar to the sculptures that the moon mentions in this story, specifically the Laocoon. If you don’t know what the Laocoon is, look it up; it’s pretty nifty. A sculpture of Bertel’s that I have seen about a million times in pictures and books is the Christus. Bertel sculpted the original Christus, but a famous copy is in the visitor center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Salt Lake City, UT. Some people call it “galactic Jesus” because it has a background of stars.

Bertel actually went to Rome to study sculpture. That’s why the moon mentions Rome and Roman sculpture in this tale. He learned from observing the masters.

Let me tell you something, sculpting is something you have to enjoy. In my opinion, it’s more difficult that working in 2D. You have to think of how something looks from 360 degrees instead of just from the front. That leg or that person, has to look like a leg or a person all the way around. It can’t look like a leg from one angle and look like a claw from another angle. You have to dot your “i”s and cross your “t”s when you’re doing sculpture. Marble is not easy to work with. I’ve tried it. It’s a stone and it’s difficult to shape. You have to have hard tools and a constant design in your head of what you’re doing. Marble also has veins in it which can cause your entire piece to fall apart. One errant whack on a vein and your sculpture is a pile of gravel. I admire people who can work with marble like Bertel or like Michelangelo.

I couldn’t find anything about Bertel liking spinning wheels. I would have been really impressed if Hans had written that and it had been true. However, I did find out that Bertel was something of a ladies man, maybe it was the women shouting, “Hurrah for Bertel Thorwaldsen.”


I really enjoyed this story so much, especially after I did the research on Bertel. Something that I’m seeing from this story is that childhood fascination can lead the limitless possibilities. Bertel, story Bertel, as a child, was fascinated by the spinning wheel. He was fascinated by its shape. He was fascinated by its movement. He was fascinated by its function. This later on spurred him to become a sculpture, a great sculptor, an amazing sculptor. If you have ever looked at the Christus, you will see that it’s a gorgeous sculpture. It’s very fine. The craftsmanship is wonderful. Bertel was freaking amazing.

This all came about because he held a childhood fascination for something. It may not have actually been a spinning wheel. His father was a wood sculptor. He was probably fascinated by the things his father made. As a wood sculptor it may have very well been that he had made a spinning wheel for his wife and that his son was fascinated by it.

It really just goes to show you that you have to foster these little whims in your children. If your kid likes playing with play dough a lot, let him. If he likes taking things apart and putting them back together, foster that in him. I don’t think there is anything better than a person doing something for a living that he or she has loved to do their entire life. Let your children be curious and express their creativity, but maybe not let them express their creativity on the wall, although, I did know a woman who pretty much turned the hallway of her house over to her children to draw on and everyone seemed happy with the arrangement.


Hey, that weird thing your kid does might be their living when they grow up.

Weigh In

My oldest cousin’s youngest daughter once wrote on her white couch in red marker, “Ho, ho, ho,” all over it. How would you deal with this situation?

Would you let your children draw on your walls?


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