When I was selected to go for a training program to Denmark two years ago (June, 2010), I was excited at the prospect of visiting the land of Hans Christian Andersen whose fairy tales I have loved since my childhood. The Little Mermaid, the Ugly Duckling, the Little Match Seller, the Princess and the Pea, Thumbelina and the Emperor’s New Suit are among my favorites.
I knew little about all of Andersen’s (1805-1875) writings before I left for Denmark but in a nice cozy bookshop in Copenhagen, I came across and bought a bound copy of the collection of all of his 169 fairy tales. I have yet to finish reading all of them but each story carries me into another world and transports me back to my childhood days when I would curl up somewhere with a book in hand. Many of his stories carry a sense of poignancy and rarely end with “…..and then they lived happily ever after….” like many of the other popular fairy tales do.
I’ll include a few paragraphs from each of my favorites from HCA’s fairy tales for those of you who adore this man’s writings as much as I do.
The Little Match Seller
The little Match Seller always made me feel so sad and still does whenever I read it. Here’s a paragraph which is so very moving.
“The Christmas lights rose higher and higher, till they looked to her like the stars in the sky. Then she saw a star fall, leaving behind it a bright streak of fire. “Someone is dying,” thought the little girl, for her old grandmother, the only one who had ever loved her, and who was now dead, had told her that when a star falls, a soul was going up to God.”
The Little Mermaid
There is a statue of The Little Mermaid in the Copenhagen harbour which has become a national symbol in Denmark. The Mermaid sits looking longingly out into the sea waiting for her Prince Charming to come and get her. Sadly when I was there, the statue had been taken to China for an exhibition and I hence missed out on seeing it for real even though I’ve seen so many photographs of it. Here’s a paragraph from The Little Mermaid.
“The little mermaid lifted her glorified eyes towards the sun, and felt them, for the first
time, filling with tears. On the ship, in which she had left the prince, there were life and noise; she saw him and his beautiful bride searching for her; sorrowfully they gazed at the pearly foam, as if they knew she had thrown herself into the waves. Unseen she kissed the forehead of her bride, and fanned the prince, and then mounted with the other children of the air to a rosy cloud that floated through the aether.”
The Emperor’s New Clothes
The Emperor’s New Clothes has become a story that has a lot of political undertones. It’s a story that exposes the blindness of rulers all over the world who live in a vacuum, detached from the citizenry. Here‘s a telling paragraph from that story.
“The emperor marched in the procession under the beautiful canopy, and all who saw him in the street and out of the windows exclaimed: “Indeed, the emperor’s new suit is incomparable! What a long train he has! How well it fits him!” Nobody wished to let others know he saw nothing, for then he would have been unfit for his office or too stupid. Never emperor’s clothes were more admired.”
“But he has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last. “Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. “But he has nothing on at all,” cried at last the whole people.”
The Ugly Duckling
The Ugly Duckling is one of my favorites too. It gives hope of those of us who are far from perfect.
“Then he felt quite ashamed, and hid his head under his wing; for he did not know what to do, he was so happy, and yet not at all proud. He had been persecuted and despised for his ugliness, and now he heard them say he was the most beautiful of all the birds. Even the elder-tree bent down its bows into the water before him, and the sun shone warm and bright. Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck, and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”
HCA’s writings show us the genius of the man whose stories remain household names in lands across the world.