Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

A Story from the Sand Hills

A Story from the Sand HillsA Story from the Sand Hills

There was once a Spanish couple aboard a ship. They were wealthy and had a discussion about their lives and the eternal progress of their souls. While on board the ship a terrible storm arose. It tossed people about, but none survived. The ship wreck was off the coast of a few dunes and a sandy land. There local people tried to save the ship wrecked people, but only one person was brought to shore alive, the woman.

She was sick and injured and gave birth to a baby boy, but then died. The couple decided to keep the child as their own as no one knew where the people had come from. They named the boy Jorgen. He loved the sea and the sand hills. When he was grown he went out to see and even visited the same town his real parents had been from, but he did not know it.

He grew up. His foster parents died and left him their house. He loved a woman named Else, but she loved his friend Martin. He asked Else if she preferred Martin over him, and she did. He let Martin and Else live in his house, but Martin was murdered and Jorgen was blamed for it.

Jorgen spent a year in prison. During that time no one released him. He was kept in terrible surroundings. Finally, it was made known that he was innocent. Martin had boasted of money he did not have. He was followed home one evening and murdered.

Jorgen went off on the boats again and eventually came to Skagen. There he fell in love with a young woman named Clara. She loved him too. She went away on a trip for a while, but on the way back, her boat was caught in a storm, not too far off shore. Jorgen tried to save her. He swam with her and swam with her, but by the time he got to shore, it was apparent that Clara had died. Jorgen had been swimming with a dead woman. Jorgen was also injured.

He was sick. After the accident, Jorgen was much like a little child. He went to church on Sundays and sang hymns, but he was not the same Jorgen. Some said it was better off if he had died. One day there was a terrible storm. Jorgen sought refuge in the church. There he prayed, but it appeared as if there were other people in the church with him. His foster parents were there. The inhabitants of the grave yard were there. Clara was there and a priest married them right then. The ship that was kept in the church was lowered down and everyone got on board. Jorgen’s soul left his body and sailed away with the people he loved.

The storm buried the church in sand. When the congregation saw this, they knew they had to build a church elsewhere. They never found Jorgen. They thought a wave had got him, but he was buried in the church. His soul was at rest.

photograph by  Hideko BondesenObservations

This was a very long story for Hans. Skagen is a real place, which Hans visited in his life time. Apparently, he was impressed with Skagen, impressed enough to write an entire story about its church.

The church does exist. The picture I chose for this post is a picture of what remains of Den Tilsandede Kirke. “Kirke” means “church” by the way. The church was buried in sand and so was a nearby village. The process took about two hundred years total, but for twenty years the villagers fought to keep their church. Each Sunday, the church had to be dug out. In the late 1700s the church was abandoned and even decreed closed by the royalty of Denmark. Most of the church was demolished, but the tower was left standing, that’s what is in the picture. Some believe that portions of the church are still buried underneath the sand.

Hans would have seen this tower and heard its story. The entire story of how the church came to be as it was, buried in the sand, was interesting enough to build a story around. Who says there couldn’t be one lone man whose body resides in the former chapel of the church buried in sand?


Hans has taken on such a religious tone in some of these stories. Ultimately, Jorgen is reunited with his family. Jorgen had such a sad life, but he did love people. He experienced many unfortunate things along the way, but you can’t say this man didn’t put his heart into his life. He loved his foster parents. He loved his best friend enough to let him have the girl and his house. He loved Clara enough to risk his life for her. Jorgen was a big-hearted man.

Some people believe that in the afterlife, you’re reunited with your loved ones; lots of Christian religions believe this actually and I know there are other non-Christian religions that believe in something similar. Where you come from is an important part of who you are.

Notice that Jorgen is not reunited with his birth parents. He is reunited with his foster parents. They were the ones who raised him and took care of him. Also notice that Jorgen was able to be married to Clara after he was dead. Some people believe this can happen, and others do not. There are not many religions that believe you can be married to someone after they’re dead. Jorgen’s reunion says that the people who cared for him were more important than the people who gave birth to him and also that he could form lasting relationships even after death.

All of this takes us into a grey area, firstly because we just don’t know what happens to our consciousnesses or souls after we die, and secondly, because there are disagreements about familial relations after death. Can you get married? Do you stay with your family? If you’re a child when you die, are you an adult in the afterlife? Can you fall in love in heaven? What if you love dies before you die? Can you still marry them?

Some religions do think this far, while others do not. Hans obviously really got into the whole idea of what happens to you after you die. He was really wondering after how the afterlife worked. In these stories we see Hans pondering the complexities of religion that we humans try to wrap our heads around.


I think Hans and Stephen King would have gotten along really well. Stephen King says to kill your characters off for good stories, and Hans was all about killing characters off.

Weigh In

Do you think Jorgen would have done anything differently had he known he would have been reunited with his loved ones?

If Jorgen had had this knowledge, would it have made his life easier?


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