From the Wall Street Journal:
One of Andersen’s weirdest and greatest gifts is that his stories live in an animistic cosmos, in which there are no mere objects whatsoever. Every tree, bush, animal, artifact, or item of clothing has an anxious soul, a voice, sexual desires, need for status, and a terror at the prospect of annihilation. Andersen’s episodes of alternating grandiosity and depression are very much at variance with this created world, where mermaids and ice maidens, swans and storks, ducklings and fir trees, collars and garters, snowmen and wood nymphs, witches and toothaches, all possess consciousness as capacious, cruel, and desperate for survival as our own.
Ostensibly a Christian, Andersen from the start was a narcissistic pagan who worshipped Fate, she being for him a sadistic goddess we could name as Nemesis. His genius is deeply founded upon an ancient animism, older than “The Arabian Nights.”