Author(s): Hans Christian Andersen
Andersen's bittersweet fairy tales propelled their troubled author to international fame and revolutionized children's writing.
'There sat the dog with eyes as big as mill wheels.' Though criticised for their anarchic immorality when first published, Hans Christian Andersen's tales made him an international star, taken to the hearts of children and adults for their beauty, sorrow and strangeness. Included here are 'The Steadfast Tin Soldier' and 'Big Klaus and Little Klaus'.
Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions.
Hans Christian Andersen (1805–75) was born in Odense, Denmark, the son of a poor shoemaker and a washerwoman. As a young teenager, he became quite well known in Odense as a reciter of drama, and as a singer. When he was fourteen, he set off for the capital, Copenhagen, determined to become a national success on the stage. He failed miserably, but made some influential friends in the capital, who got him into school to remedy his lack of proper education. He hated school: aged seventeen, he was in a class of twelve-year-olds and was constantly mocked by them and by the teachers.
In 1829 his first book – an account of a walking trip – was published. After that, books came out at regular intervals. At first, he considered his adult books more important than his fantasies. In later life, however, he began to see that these apparently trivial stories could vividly portray constant features of human life and character, in a charming manner. There were two consequences of this. First, he stopped regarding his stories as trifles written solely for children; second, he began to write more original stories, rather than retelling traditional tales.
He once said that ideas for stories 'lie in my mind like seeds and only need the kiss of a sunbeam or a drop of malice to flower'. He would often thinly disguise people he liked or disliked as characters in his stories: a woman who failed to return his love becomes the foolish prince in 'The Little Mermaid'; his own ugliness and humiliation, or his father's daydream of being descended from a rich and powerful family, are reflected in 'The Ugly Duckling'.
Hans Andersen's stories began to be translated into English as early as 1846. Since then, numerous editions, and more recently Hollywood songs and two Disney cartoons, Frozen and The Little Mermaid, have helped to ensure the continuing popularity of the stories in the English-speaking world.