When I was little, my parents used to read to me a Chinese version of the story, The Red Shoes, by Hans Christian Andersen. Though, I was not aware of the story's Christian themes and motifs until I read the English version, a language that I am more fluent in.

There are some defining characteristics:

  • the girl cannot wear red, presumably because it's a sinful color (?)
  • the girl must wear black shoes to church
  • the girl cannot wear red during her mother's funeral; it's socially forbidden
  • the red shoes are very distracting to the girl, perhaps the epitome of sin
  • the girl must literally repent and forsake her "sinful" life, marked by the red shoes
  • the type of Christian that Andersen depicts cannot show pride when other people admire her dress or her looks; she must be modest or humble, and that means ignoring the good things about her

What type of Christianity is this, or is this just a figment of Hans Christian Andersen's imagination, or is it a generic nameless type of Christianity as in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale?

  • I believe there were Jesuits in The Handmaid's Tale, whatever the Generic Christianity was, it was not Jesuitical! (to me, this makes it slightly less generic)
    – Peter Turner
    Dec 8, 2013 at 6:39
  • Yeah, plus the fact that Catholics were discriminated against in the story.
    – Double U
    Dec 8, 2013 at 14:56
  • @PeterTurner I meant to refer to The Handmaid's Tale in my previous comment.
    – Double U
    Dec 8, 2013 at 15:02

1 Answer 1


In western culture, Red is the color of passion and it's disordered vice of lust is cooped up in the color. (see also, the Scarlet letter). I see the esteemed Revered V says the sin is pride. I don't disagree, I just think the real sin that is being covered here is lust and not pride. Karen has a disordered desire to dance and be seen when she should stand still and keep quiet.

As far as the particular religion is concerned. I don't see it being Catholicism:

She went to the parsonage, and begged that she might be taken into service there.

Parsonage is a is a Protestant term, now, either he's just using the wrong word there, which is understandable or he's referring to someone else, if it were Catholic, we'd call it a Rectory, not a parsonage. I don't think he didn't wrote deliberately Catholic stories like the Grimm brothers did, but I'm not an expert and have read more Grimm's Fairy Tales than his.

So, my answer would be, the same type of Christianity that Nathanael Hawthorne portrays in The Scarlet Letter, good old fashioned puritanism.

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