Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen

Just a couple of weeks ago I noticed some very familiar-looking scenes on the Google home page and realized they depicted several of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales. It turns out April 2 was Andersen's 205th birthday, and by a nice coincidence I happened to have been reading his fairy tales that same week.

As for the book itself, it's yet another one of Penguin's deluxe classics. I grabbed it off a shelf at work mostly because of the cover design--I love the illustrations.

The introduction to the book is one of the better ones I've read--it actually doesn't give away major plot points and sheds a lot of insight into Andersen's psyche, what drove him to write the stories he did.

Much like the Grimms' fairy tales, these translations are a bit darker and more violent than the more commonly told versions today. The little mermaid's tongue is cut out in exchange for her legs (which feel like sharp pins every time she walks on them). And I don't even want to tell you the real story of "The Red Shoes" (the basis for the 1948 movie about ballerinas).

Maybe the best part of the book is the paper cutouts (made by Andersen himself) accompanying each story. Above is "The Snow Queen" (perhaps my favorite of the fairy tales)

and here is "The Red Shoes."

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