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"The Red Shoes" (Danish: De røde sko) is a fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen first published by C.A. Reitzel in Copenhagen 7 April 1845 in New Fairy Tales. First Volume. Third Collection. 1845. (Nye Eventyr. Første Bind. Tredie Samling. 1845.). Other tales in the volume include "The Elf Mound" (Elverhøi), "The Jumpers" (Springfyrene), "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep" (Hyrdinden og Skorstensfejeren), and "Holger Danske" (Holger Danske).[1]

The Red Shoes
IIlustration by Vilhelm Pedersen, for Hans Christian Andersen's "Red Shoes".jpg
Illustration by Vilhelm Pedersen
AuthorHans Christian Andersen
Original titleDe røde sko
GenreFairy tale
PublisherC. A. Reitzel
Publication date
7 April 1845
Media typePrint

The tale was republished 18 December 1849 as a part of Fairy Tales. 1850. (Eventyr. 1850.) and again on 30 March 1863 as a part of Fairy Tales and Stories. Second Volume. 1863. (Eventyr og Historier. Andet Bind. 1863.).[2] The story is about a girl forced to dance continually in her red shoes. "The Red Shoes" has seen adaptations in various media including film.

Plot summaryEdit

A peasant girl named Karen is adopted by a rich old lady after her mother's death and grows up vain and spoiled. Before her adoption, Karen had a rough pair of red shoes; now she has her adoptive mother buy her a pair of red shoes fit for a princess. Karen is so enamored of her new shoes that she wears them to church, but the old lady scolds her: it's highly improper and she must only wear black shoes in church from now on. But next Sunday, Karen cannot resist the urge to put the red shoes on again. As she is about to enter the church, she meets a mysterious old soldier with a red beard. "Oh, what beautiful shoes for dancing," the soldier says. "Never come off when you dance," he tells the shoes, and he taps the sole of each with his hand. After church, Karen cannot resist taking a few dance steps, and off she goes, as though the shoes controlled her, but she finally manages to take them off.

One day, after her adoptive mother becomes ill, Karen leaves her alone and goes off to a ball in town in her red shoes. She begins to dance, but this time the shoes won't come off. They continue to dance, night and day, rain or shine, through fields and meadows, and through brambles and briers that tear at Karen's limbs. She can't even attend her adoptive mother's funeral. An angel appears to her, bearing a sword, and condemns her to dance even after she dies, as a warning to vain children everywhere. Karen begs for mercy but the red shoes take her away before she hears the angel's reply.

Karen finds an executioner and asks him to chop off her feet. He does so but the shoes continue to dance, even with Karen's amputated feet inside them. The executioner gives her a pair of wooden feet and crutches, and teaches her the criminals' psalm (presumably, Psalm 50/51 Miserere). Thinking that she has suffered enough for the red shoes, Karen decides to go to church so people can see her. Yet her amputated feet, still in the red shoes, dance before her, barring the way. The following Sunday she tries again, thinking she is at least as good as the others in church, but again the dancing red shoes bar the way.

Karen gets a job as a maid in the parsonage, but when Sunday comes she dares not go to church. Instead she sits alone at home and prays to God for help. The angel reappears, now bearing a spray of roses, and gives Karen the mercy she asked for: her heart becomes so filled with sunshine, peace, and joy that it bursts. Her soul flies on sunshine to Heaven, where no one mentions the red shoes.


Andersen named the story's anti-heroine Karen after his own loathed half-sister, Karen Marie Andersen.[3] The origins of the story is based on an incident Andersen witnessed as a small child. His father, who was a shoemaker, was sent a piece of red silk by a rich lady to make a pair of dancing slippers for her daughter. Using some red leather along with the silk, he carefully created a pair of shoes only for the rich customer to tell him they were awful. She said he had done nothing but spoil her silk. To which his father replied, "In that case, I may as well spoil my leather too," and he cut up the shoes in front of her.[4]


  • The Red Shoes is a 1948 British feature film about ballet. The film tells the story of a young ballerina who joins an established ballet company and becomes the lead dancer in a new ballet called The Red Shoes, based on the fairy tale. Her desire to dance conflicts with her need for love, ultimately leading to her death.
  • The Red Shoes was adapted as a ballet by the choreographer Matthew Bourne, and premiered at Sadler's Wells Theatre London in December 2016.
  • British singer-songwriter Kate Bush's seventh album, The Red Shoes, was named after Michael Powell's film and Andersen's fairy tale.
  • The Red Shoes is a 2013 novel by John Stewart Wynne. It is a re-visioning of the story, set in contemporary New York City.[5]
  • The Red Shoes is a 2005 Korean horror film inspired by the fairy tale.
  • Barbie in the Pink Shoes is a 2013 Barbie movie loosely based on the fairy tale.
  • "The Red Shoes" has been adapted by the Cornish theater company, Kneehigh.
  • "The Red Shoes" has been adapted by the Austin-based aerial arts collective Sky Candy into a cirque noir aerial ballet. It debuted May 6, 2011 at the Vortex theater in Austin, Texas.
  • The Supernatural episode, "Out with the Old", deals with a pair of cursed ballerina slippers.
  • "The Red Shoes" is a flamenco fairytale - a flamenco music and dance adaptation by A'lante Dance Ensemble choreographed by Olivia Chacon [6][7][8]
  • "The Red Shoes" became an inspiration for a song of the same title, performed by South Korean singer IU, from her third studio album Modern Times.
  • "The Red Shoes" was parodied in the 1951 Looney Tunes short, "The Wearing of the Grin".
  • "The Red Shoes" are the apparent inspiration for the Dungeons & Dragons cursed item, "Boots of Dancing".
  • "The Red Shoes" inspired Yuri's concept photo for Girls' Generation's third studio album The Boys.
  • "The Dance of Death" is a novel by Jo Gibson featuring a pair of red shoes that grant the wearer a massive amount of talent but at a price. The wearer is eventually struck with a case of bad luck. At one point a girl almost dances herself to death.
  • The computer horror game The Witch's House includes a puzzle that references this fairy tale along with other stories such as Cinderella.
  • In the ABC television series Dance Academy the main character, Tara Webster, performs Victoria's solo from "The Red Shoes".
  • Kneehigh show.
  • "Dark and Deepest Red" is a magical realism novel by Anna-Marie McLemore.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Hans Christian Andersen : Nye Eventyr. Første Bind. Tredie Samling. 1845. [Danish title]".
  2. ^ "Hans Christian Andersen : The Red Shoes".
  3. ^ "Bedtime stories". The Guardian. 18 January 2006.
  4. ^ Zizek, Slavoj (2012). Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. Verso Books. p. 548. ISBN 9781844679027.
  5. ^ "Home « The Official Website of author John Stewart Wynne aka John Wynne".
  6. ^ "Flamenco Fest expands in its third outing".
  7. ^ "Visual art Archive - Weekender 24/7".
  8. ^ "A'lante Flamenco Dance Ensemble Tours Texas with "The Red Shoes: A Flamenco Fairytale"".

External linksEdit