Book Cover
Title A Treasury of Hans Christian Andersen
Author Hans Christan Andersen
Cover Art ---
Publisher International Collector's Library - 1974
First Printing ---
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Title Andersen's Fairy Tales
Author Hans Christan Andersen
Illustrated By Arthur Szyk
Publisher Grosset & Dunlap - 1945
First Printing ---
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Title Hans Christian Andersen Stories
Author Hans Christan Andersen
Illustrated By Rene Cloke
Publisher Award Publications - 1982
First Printing ---
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Title The Ugly Duckling
Author Lucy Kincaid
Illustrated By Gillian Embleton
Publisher Brimax Books - 1981
First Printing ---
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Title The Little Mermaid
Author Disney
Illustrated By Disney
Publisher W.H. Smith Publishers - 1989
First Printing W.H. Smith Publishers - 1989
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Title The Emperor's New Clothes
Author Hans Christian Andersen
Illustrated By Disney
Publisher Random House - 1975
First Printing ---
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Title The Book of Goodnight Stories
Author Vratislav Stovicek
Illustrated By Karel Franta
Publisher Royce Publications - 1982
First Printing ---
Category Children
Warnings None
Main Characters Many
Main Elements Fairies, Wizards, Witches, Ghosts, Angels, nthropomorphic

Click to read the summaryA Treasury of Hans Christian Andersen

Click to read the summaryAndersen's Fairy Tales

Click to read the summaryHans Christian Andersen Stories

Hans Christian Andersen was a prolific Danish poet and writer from 1805-1875. Upon discovering A Treasury of Hans Christian Andersen that belonged to my mother, and Andersen's Fairy Tales that belonged to my father, and the Disney-fied Little Mermaid that belonged to my younger sister, plus the remaining books that all belonged to me, I decided to read them all and compare.

Everyone knows of The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling and Thumbelina (Inchelina), but there were so many I had never read before. Or there were many that I had heard of, like The Little Match Girl but for some reason couldn't remember it at all. There are probably not that many people who can repeat the story of The Professor and the Flea, or The Teapot. Actually there are so many of them it would be impossible to remember them all unless you were an Andersen scholar! And for what it was worth, a lot of the shorter ones were very similar to each other so I don't highly recommend reading them all one after another like I did across a couple of weeks.

I started off reading them assuming they were simply silly children's fairy tales, but there is also a fable aspect to many of them, a moral wrapped up in the tale. Or a satirical commentary about the world. He even has some stories discussing modern technology such as the underwater telegraph system that was being installed in the late 1800's, and how all the fishes of the ocean thought it was some great sea serpent. Or a great comment about how the world was turning into a tourist attaction for rich American tourists! While witches, and wizards and fairies abound, you won't find many other fantasy creatures like unicorns or dragons, just talking animals, plants and objects. And there are a fair share of tales that have no magical element at all other than the way the story was told! Several of the stories have a very Christian (as in religion, not the author!) aspect to them, others are more folk tales.

While some of the tales he wrote were retelling of older folk stories, his most famous stories were his own creations. The Ice Queen, the Little Mermaid and Thumbelina all sprouted from his imaginative mind. While the Brother's Grimm are famous in their own right, they tended to retell existing stories (for example I always thought Cinderalla was theirs but it really belongs to French author Charles Perrault).

One warning when reading accurate translations as opposed to retellings of the tales, the vast majority of the tales do not have happy endings. The Little Mermaid does not get her prince, her sacrifices were in vain! This is generally the case with fairy tales, often they weren't there just to entertain, some where to teach and others to frighten. While Grimm stories can be scary, Andersen never is (well other than the story of the red shoes where the only way the girl who wore them could stop dancing was to ask a farmer to cut off her feet, and even then her shoes with her severed feet inside followed her around dancing...ick), but there are a lot of sad or bittersweet endings.

Now to each of the books themselves.

A Treasury of Hans Christian Andersen was the most complete collection out of the set, and while I can't compare to the original Danish in which it was written, the translator's introduction explained how he strove to not just translate the stories, but to keep the style in tact as well. And indeed there is a distinct style to Andersen's writing, it's very choppy with short sentences, it certainly doesn't flow smoothly, but that is as much a part of the story as the story itself.

Andersen's Fairy Tales also has quite a few stories, less than the previous, but it has four that the Treasury was missing. Now you might look at the listing above and think that there are many more, but that's just due to a different translator, the words differ a little but the stories are the same (I checked!). This book however has lovely illustrations, though some of them are a little creepy, it's the way the artist drew human eyes.

Hans Christian Andersen Stories is a retelling of the tales for young readers, not direct translations. The tales may not be complete, or might be slightly changed. But this is one of the books that will live on from my childhood memories, a picture tells a thousand words and will stay with you long after the words have faded from memory, and this book has lovely illustrations.

I have separate reviews for The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor's New Clothes and The Little Mermaid. Which brings me to the last book which I included simply because I found a few stories in there. The book was designed such that for every day of the year a little story could be read to your child, some taking two or three days to complete. Thus unless the story was really short to begin with, they will be very abridged.

And of course, a good source of Andersen's fairy tales is right on the internet. Project Gutenberg has a great deal of Andersen's writings, and while I haven't had a chance to look at everything yet, there are some writings that are not part of his fairy tale collections that I'd like to read through.

Posted: February 2011


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