Hans Christian Andersen was a dreamy little boy whose thoughts were very much like those of many of the characters in his fairy tales. When his father died and his mother remarried, he asked to go to Copenhagen to make his fortune. A soothsayer told his mother that her son would be Denmark’s pride, so she let him go. When he tried to enter the theater, he had little success. Some influential men, however, realized that he was a poet and helped him until his publications began to attract attention. By the time Andersen died, he was Denmark’s most beloved countryman. His tales may be fantastic, encompassing many moods, but they merely reflect his own character, which was equally fantastic, though lovable.
The 168 tales written by Andersen may be classified in two general groups. The first group comprises the traditional European folktales retold by Andersen and includes selections such as “Little Claus and Big Claus,” “The Wild Swans,” and “The Three Little Pigs.” These are excellent versions in which the spirit of the source is maintained while the tale is enhanced by the author’s gift for storytelling. The majority of the tales, however, belong to the second group, composed of Andersen’s original stories; among these one finds a great variety, ranging from stories imitative of the folktale style, to moral allegories, to stories that seem to foreshadow modern fantasy tales. Despite their diversity, however, all of Andersen’s tales are...
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