via mortisia:

The Shadow (Danish: Skyggen) is a fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen, an exemplary story in Andersen’s darker fairy tales. The tale was first published in 1847. Is about a goodhearted writer who loses his shadow. Years later it turns up on his doorstep, having seen the world and decided being goodhearted is for sissies. In the months that follow the two live together—the writer being good and becoming poorer and unhealthier; and the shadow becoming richer and fatter. Finally, the shadow offers the writer a trip to a health resort—all-expenses paid—so long as the writer agrees to switch places and become his shadow. At the resort they meet a princess; the shadow woos her and hatches a plot to take the writer’s place permanently.

Wow, how will the writer get out of this one?
Spoiler: by being executed. When he realizes the shadow’s plan the writer tries to stop him; only to be arrested while the shadow marries the princess. He disappears and—as an afterthought, we’re later told he was executed. The good man dies and the evil doppelgänger gets to marry royalty. Source

The ending is especially bleak for a fairy tale, as Andersen suggests that it is not always good that triumphs, and that evil does indeed have a powerful grip over the good and just. Some critics have suggested that Andersen wrote the story as a form of indirect revenge against Edvard Collin, for whom he felt an unrequited love.


I’ve been a writer all my life, and a visual artist, too. When I was in private practice, I used creative tools with my psychotherapy clients, drawing from Jungian traditions, from global mythology, from creative arts of all kinds. From sand-tray to self-inquiry, my territory was the creative inner world.

And then my love drowned in front of me on an otherwise ordinary day.

Tell me, what use is it to rearrange mythic figures on a board when life has exploded that way? Where is the relevance of self-inquiry in the face of such reeling pain? A paintbrush is not going to solve anything.


There’s a deep cultural presumption that creating something out of grief somehow makes it all even out in the end. That your deepest call is to transform your grief into a work of art that touches others. That when you do that, when you turn to creative expression in the depths of pain, you are, in fact, healing your grief. Creativity is a way to transform pain. The results of your creativity, if they’re good enough, can help others transform their pain. It all works out.

But the truth is, there is no fair trade.


The truth is, pain, like love, needs expression. Some of us use words. Some paint. Some build, some invent, some serve. We are story-telling creatures.

Creative expression is part of me. It’s part of you. It’s in all of us.

That you make something beautiful and useful out of your pain, whether for yourself or others, is a wonderful thing. It’s a healing thing. But it’s not a prescription, and it won’t fix anything.

But the truth is, there is no fair trade.

A harrowing counterpoint to the art-as-therapy idea from author and grief counselor Megan Devine. Pair with Meghan O’Rourke’s sublime memoir of grief.

(HT Cheryl Strayed)