Andersen's Fairy Tales

Monday, October 18, 2010


Andersen's Fairy Tales
Hans Christian Andersen, originally written in 1830's-40's
translation date unknown

One last free Fairy Tale collection and then I'm on to something else.

I had more Kindle version formatting issues this week, I'm afraid.  There are a few points at which there should be poetry or quotations (italicized, indented text) but they are missing.  Not a huge problem, but this means a long poem is missing from “The Shoes of Fortune” and the punch line of “The Old House” is lacking.

Aside from that, I found this collection uneven, and remembered why as I child I largely preferred Grimm's Tales.

There are a few real winners.  I forgot how much I like “The Snow Queen”.  It's a long meandering tale with plenty of intriguing minor characters and the edges of lots of other stories surrounding the core.  The scene in which Gerda hears the story that each flower knows was beautiful and very surreal.  I adore the side plot about the vicious, but ultimately kindhearted, little robber girl.  The ending is sort of a let down, sadly, but only because the first 3/4 are so good.
But every flower stood in the sunshine, and dreamed its own fairy tale or its own story: and they all told her very many things, but not one knew anything of Kay. 
…..What did the Convolvulus say? 
"Projecting over a narrow mountain-path there hangs an old feudal castle. Thick evergreens grow on the dilapidated walls, and around the altar, where a lovely maiden is standing: she bends over the railing and looks out upon the rose. No fresher rose hangs on the branches than she; no appleblossom carried away by the wind is more buoyant! How her silken robe is rustling! 
"'Is he not yet come?'" 
"Is it Kay that you mean?" asked little Gerda. 
"I am speaking about my story—about my dream," answered the Convolvulus. 

I also really enjoyed the other long one: “The Shoes of Fortune.”  It consists of a series of sub-stories about the eponymous shoes, which cause the wearer to receive whatever they wish for.  Unlike in a more traditional fairy tale, the wish-receivers have no knowledge that it is the shoes that are affecting them, and the overall moral is 'be careful what you wish for'.  The second section is especially amusing, in which a townsperson who had thoroughly romanticized the middle ages finds himself back there...much to his dismay.

“The Fir Tree” is moralizing, but has quite lovely use of language.  “The Emperor's New Clothes” is a classic.  "The Shadow" is proto-Twilight Zone.  I approve of that.

There are quite a few more that are up and down: either not that interesting, or simply too odd for me.  A few are quite creepy, and a few like imitations of older stories.

Then there is the one in which Cupid is represented as a “naughty boy”, that one should attempt to avoid, although usually in vain.  It was so bizarre that I hopped over to Wikipedia for a bio, and, sure enough, Andersen was plagued by unrequited love. No surprise there.

Then there are a few that I hated.  Ones like “The Story of a Mother” or the infamous “Little Match Girl,” or even “The Red Shoes.”  They are well written, often pretty, but I am personally not okay with stories, ostensibly for children, in which the end is about how beautiful it is when poor children die horribly, because they go to heaven.  Not okay.  That is some pernicious and nasty stuff there.

So in sum, I found “The Snow Queen”, “The Shoes of Fortune”, and a few others quite good, and the rest decent to aggravating.  That means on average:

3 Stars: A Good Book

FYI: this collection does NOT include popular stories “The Little Mermaid”, “The Ugly Duckling” or “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”.

Download for Free from Amazon
Or try Project Gutenberg or Manybooks for other formatting, selection.

Next Time I'll review something for adults, I promise.

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