Friday, April 02, 2010

Hans Christian Anderson, I love you so

the little mermaid
Originally uploaded by hkapeman
Was I a nerd because I read too many books? Or did I read too many books because I was, inherently, a nerd? Who cares. The point is, of all the gifts I received as a child; the dolls, the ponies, real and plastic, the clothes and rubber bracelets, my favorites always were, and will remain, books. There was a lot of upheaval in my early life, and many books I cherished, like an illustrated Beatrix Potter book, and a soiled, tattered copy of Lyle, Lyle Crocodile got left behind. One book I've managed to keep near, however, is a gorgeously illustrated collection of Hans Christian Anderson stories, given to me by my father in 1988. I remember him, and my step mother at the time, reading to us from this book before my brother and I went to bed. Is it weird that my parents still read me bed time stories once in a while when I was 12? Possibly, but reading for pleasure has been linked with success as adults, so whatever.

Anderson wrote some of the most cherished stories of contemporary childhood, though you may not recognize some of the original endings. "The Little Mermaid," for instance, ends with heart break and tragedy, not Ariel and the Prince dancing off into happily ever after. Anderson also wrote classics like "The Ugly Duckling," "The Snow Queen," and "The Princess and The Pea." And there are lesser known gems, like "The Tinder Box," and "The Elder Tree Mother," both of which I loved as a child. Anderson told a world that was both beautiful and sad, and often rife with danger, where love and loss both triumphed. His characters are fragile and flawed, but find reserves of personal strength, courage, and faith.

In honor of his birthday, which was today, 205 years ago, please explore the work of this wonderful tale teller:

And if you are already a fan, check out The Annotated Hans Christian Anderson edited and with notes by Maria Tatar, noted folklore scholar. It's loaded with intriguing and insightful commentary: