The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen

Some readers may characterize the fairy tales of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen as melancholic, sad, and sentimental – true, it’s all there – but Andersen is a complex author whose tales are wonderfully rich and multifaceted.

Harold Bloom once said, “Andersen was a visionary tale-teller, but his fairy-realm was malign. Of his aesthetic eminence, I entertain no doubts, but I believe that we still have not learned how to read him.” Be that as it may – generations have been entertained by Andersen and for more than a century he has made people smile, snicker, snivel, shudder, and laugh. To read Andersen can be a sweet and tender experience, but it can also be nerve wracking or like taking a knife in your heart. And his humor is often as drastic and unexpected, as here, in The Traveling Companions. “Then the [marionette show] started, and it was a nice play with a king and a queen. They sat on the loveliest of thrones, with golden crowns on their heads and long trains on their garments, because they could afford it. […] It was quite a charming play, and it wasn’t the least bit sad. But just as the queen stood up and walked across the stage, then… Well, God only knows what that big bulldog was thinking. But since the fat butcher wasn’t holding on to him, the dog leaped at the stage and grabbed the queen around her slender waist, making it say ‘crick, crack!’ It was simply dreadful!”

What in the world!

The directness of Andersen’s storytelling, closely related to the traditional folk tales, makes it relentlessly powerful, and his imagery is splendid, stark, vivid, loving. “With fear in her heart,” it says in The Wild Swans, “as if she were about to commit an evil deed, she crept out into the moonlit night, down to the garden. She walked down the long lanes out to the deserted streets and over to the churchyard. There she saw, sitting on one of the widest headstones, a group of Lamias, hideous witches. They were taking off their rags, as if they were going to bathe, and then they buried their long, gaunt fingers in the fresh graves, pulled out the bodies, and ate their flesh.”


In Andersen’s fairy tales, the reader will encounter the Little Mermaid, the Emperor who marches naked down the street, the steadfast Tin Soldier, the Ugly Duckling, a Princess on top of twenty mattresses and twenty eiderdown quilts, the Snow Queen, and Death, witches, and trolls. His world is a world of wonder and terror, where salvation is not always granted, and where ancient folk tales collide and mingle with Christian sentiments.

Hans Christian Andersen’s writing is one of the wonders of the world.

Find and reserve the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen in our catalog.


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