Fairy Tales 8: The Travelling Companion

An alternative title for a Bible book?

When I started to write about Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale The Travelling Companion, I intended it to be thoughts on the tale alone. I had not intended it as a comparison with another story, that it became

I found the parallel between The Travelling Companion and the book of Tobit, in the Catholic Bible’s Old Testament (Tobit is not in the Anglican Bible) by coincidence.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, by Sally Vickers (reviewed here) is based on Tobit and includes extracts of Tobit in the story.

When I read the extracts of Tobit I immediately saw the similarities to Hans Anderson’s tale. Indeed, The Travelling Companion might even be an alternative title for the book of Tobit. Han’s Christian Anderson may have known the story of Tobit and it became his inspiration for The Travelling Companion.

In Tobit, we find Tobias, the son of old Tobit,  being sent on what is essentially a quest. He is to recover from a trusted friend of his father money left for safe keeping. Fearing to travel alone, Tobias finds a man called Azarias in the local market place, who becomes his travelling companion and later his friend too. As Tobias and Azarias make their way, Azarias advises and assists the young man. We come to realise, as the story unfolds, Azarias posesses foreknowledge.

In Anderson’s The Travelling Companion, the young man’s name is John. His reason for leaving home is different, and so is the way in which he meets his travelling companion. John’s companion, sometimes referred to as comrade, joins him on the road. He is never named in the story. Like Azarias, John’s travelling companion advises and helps him as they go, also, apparently, with foreknowledge of events in John’s future.

In both stories with the help of the companion both John and Tobias meet and save a girl from, lets say so as not to give too much away, enchantments or curses using items that were collected on their respective journeys. I’m sure you can guess that in the fairy tale, John marries the girl, makes his fortune and lives happily ever after. You can surmise Tobias’ outcome from that.

As Tobit is a bible story, it probably won’t surprise that Azarias turns out to be an angel, and not just any angel but Raphael, one of the seven archangels. In the fairy tale, John’s unnamed companion is never explicitly shown as an angel but the implication is clear.

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