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Book Title: Bajke i priče|
The author of the book: Hans Christian Andersen
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Edition: Školska knjiga
Date of issue: 2008
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 533 KB
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Reader ratings: 5.6
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Hans Christian Andersen once said, "Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale." And his life certainly was an extraordinary rags to riches story.
In all Hans Christian Andersen wrote 156 fairy tales, of which forty are in this luxury, large format edition, to represent the cream of the crop. It is a beautiful, sumptuous book, the semi-matt purple cover slightly textured and embossed, giving almost a "padded" feel. It has a feature reminiscent of medallions in old books; in this case an inset glossy illustration of a mermaid. The paper throughout is glossy, and most pages are bordered with patterns and old gold surrounds. Three gold colours are used; the spine is a slightly brighter gold, and the page edges are shiny and gilt-edged, plus there is a gold ribbon bookmark attached. There is an interesting introduction by the translator, Neil Philip, plus copious, carefully drawn illustrations by Isabelle Brent. These are mostly in gouache, and the illustrator makes much use of jewel colours, patterning and many magnificent gold highlights. It is a book which simply begs to be picked up.
The choice of purple and gold is perhaps significant, since it is clear that Hans Christian Andersen believed himself to be a member of the royal family. Not only that, but he tortured himself with the belief that he was unacknowledged royalty, who had been cast out, and this conviction plagued him all his life. Interestingly, although there will probably never be any proof of Hans Christian Andersen's true birth, it is not simply an idle dream, but a genuine possibility.
Hans Christian Andersen may have been the illegitimate son of Crown Prince Christian Frederik, later Christian VIII, and the teenage countess Elise Ahlefeldt-Laurvig. He was born in 1805 at Broholm Castle near Odense. Both Hans Christian Andersen's official parents worked at the castle, his "mother" as a nursemaid, and his "father", a cobbler for the family. There had also been a precedent for an illegitimate daughter (Fanny) to have been adopted by another servant of the Royal family a year earlier.
Hans Christian Andersen seems to have had a privileged position with this family. Rather than play with the other poor children, he was allowed to play with Prince Christian Frederik's son, Prince Fritz, who was three years younger than him. When this prince later died, Hans Christian Andersen was the only person, not in the family, who was allowed to view the body privately.
When he was seven years of age, Hans Christian Andersen's official father was paid to serve in the Napoleonic wars, in place of a local landowner. He returned four years later, a broken man, and died in the Spring. Hans's mother was now destitute, with few choices as she was illiterate, so she took in washing, standing waist deep for hours in the icy river, trying to stay warm by taking nips of schnapps. Two years later she married another shoemaker, who took no interest in the young Hans.
Hence Hans Christian Andersen grew up in heartbreaking poverty, and all his life remained self-conscious about his lower class background, despite his success. Perhaps it is because he was born poor that he was obsessed with social class, and always trying to claw his way to the top. He seemed to both worship the nobility but also resent them for holding him at arm's length. He was of course dependent on the patronage of the wealthy to create his art. Whatever the cause, Hans Christian Andersen's stories portray everyone from invented royalty, to the truly destitute. He believed, "Every man's life is a fairy tale written by God's fingers."
Hans Christian Andersen was awkward and earnest; gawky, ill-at-ease, and always feeling he was picked on by all and sundry. Many of his protagonists are obvious depictions of himself; caring a lot what other people thought of them and worried about fitting in. "The Emperor's New Clothes" and "The Ugly Duckling" are clear examples. Yet even battling all his worries, Hans Christian Andersen managed to find his voice and write his stories. In many of his stories he seems to explore ideas about wealth, self-worth, and the meaning of life.
Many other aspects of the author's life feed into his stories, which were quite an eye-opener to read. If you think that he wrote "nice" stories for children, then perhaps think again. Some of them are very dark in tone, and most are quite depressing. He has been called a "poet of human suffering". Story after story ends in rejection, humiliation or disappointment. Many of the stories feature a downtrodden protagonist. Sometimes the main character will work hard, and then have a wonderful "fairytale" ending. Perhaps they are lucky, becoming rich, or famous, or falling in love, or a combination of these. Sometimes our downtrodden protagonist works hard, and is just about to achieve fulfilment in one of these ways ... but then suddenly dies for no particular reason. Sometimes there is no change at all, and the downtrodden protagonist remains downtrodden. (And then probably dies.)
The downtrodden protagonist is not always "he". Sometimes it is a "she". Or equally often it may be a household object, or a flower, a tree, or an animal. Hans Christian Andersen's stories are fantasies, like dreams or visions. The object or creature will have a personality of its own, often showing a boastful or arrogant side; it will talk to other creatures or objects ... and then die. Sometimes the story does not even seem to be a moral fable; perhaps the object does not seem to have a bad side (but it will probably die nonetheless).
His stories often feature children—usually a perfect vision of children who are like miniature adults doing various good things. Sometimes they die too. Sometimes the protagonists do not themselves die, but lose a loved one, and must accept that God is in charge of everything—even when they do not understand the reason. And in this way, through every single story, there seems to be a common thread.
Hans Christian Andersen's tales are full of ideas about God, angels, faith, the Bible, the afterlife, and sin. He constantly reflects on what it takes to get into heaven, the various wicked things people do, and the nature of God, love, and forgiveness. Considering that the author himself said the stories were for children, it seems remarkable that they are so preoccupied with the darker side of being human. People sin, he says, and darkness often lives in our hearts and souls. He clearly thinks that all humans are sinners and should live in fear of God, but he also keeps reinforcing the redemptive power of love and faith. Many of Hans Christian Andersen's stories end up with the characters in heaven. Although not exactly a Catholic, his views and expressed beliefs certainly inclined that way.
Hans Christian Andersen did not start out by writing fairy tales, although that is what we remember him for. Even as a child he had artistic leanings, becoming swept up by the "Tales from the Arabian Nights" which his father told him, and the toy theatre his father had made. The young Hans played with this, and made clothes for his dolls, dreaming of becoming an actor, a singer or a dancer. After his father died he left home to seek his fortune in Copenhagen, committed to an artistic life. He attached himself to various well-to-do families, successfully courted the attention of wealthy and influential people, one after another, and even had his fees at the Ballet School of the Royal Theatre paid.
However this attendance was a short-lived experience. His teachers there crushed him by saying that he "lacked both the appearance and the talent necessary for the stage." Hans Christian Andersen was incredibly sensitive to slights all his life. Every cruel remark, or casual, careless comment would be taken to heart and never forgotten. So his wealthy patrons transferred their money to educating him at a private school for gentlemen. But he found this experience a torment too, saying, "it will destroy my soul". It led to him writing a sentimental, maudlin poem called "The Dying Child". But with a stroke of luck, the poem was published in the newspaper "The Copenhagen Post" in 1827, and the young man's future was assured.
Hans Christian Andersen's first writing projects included a play, a book of poetry and a travelogue. The promising young author then won a grant from the king, and this enabled him to travel across Europe and work on being an author. He wrote a novel about his time in Italy, which was published in 1835, the same year as he began writing his stories—called "eventyr", or "fairy tales"—and often based on ideas from folk tales that he had heard or read as a child.
Another of his preoccupations was to try out new places. He had a wanderlust, and an urge to flee from what he considered to be provincial life. There are echoes of this in his works. In "Five Peas in the Same Pod" all the peas are happy until one needs to explore the world outside. In "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep", the couple brave all kinds of adventures, in search of something better. There are many instances of someone "trying out their wings". Hans Christian Andersen himself travelled relentlessly, but had a morbid fear of death. Wherever he laid his head, there next to him was a coil of rope which he took everywhere with him, and a handwritten notice, saying, "I only seem dead". He was obsessed with the thought that he might lapse into a coma, and be buried before he could come round. In fact he kept this strange morbid dread of being buried alive through to the very day he died.
Over the next few decades, until his death in 1875, he continued to write for both children and adults. He wrote several autobiographies, and also travel narratives and poetry about the Scandinavian people. In 1845, English translations of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales and stories began to gain the attention of foreign audiences. He became a friend of Charles Dickens, who was already enormously popular, although this friendship ended in failure after Hans Christian Andersen had overstayed his welcome at the great author's home. Charles Dickens rather spitefully put up a notice on the wall of his bedroom, after Hans Christian Andersen had left. It read, "Hans Christian Andersen slept in this room for five weeks—which seemed to the family AGES!" It was in England that Hans Christian Andersen's stories first became classics, despite originally being written in Danish. They had a strong influence on subsequent British children's authors, including George MacDonald, Oscar Wilde, A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter. Over time, Scandinavian audiences then discovered his stories, and now of course they are known world-wide.
Hans Christian Andersen's tales seem to have universal appeal, no matter what language they are read in. His stories express themes that transcend age and nationality—often presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity. They are written in a very chatty intimate style, which won him no favours from his original literary critics, who considered this tone inappropriate. But once he found his voice, he found he could not stop writing them, saying, "They forced themselves from me". A friend once expostulated, "You're capable of writing about anything - even a darning needle!" And sure enough, the author rose to the challenge, in his story entitled "The Darning Needle". The stories are clearly cathartic, but also full of beauty, tragedy, nature, religion, artfulness, deception, betrayal, love, death, judgement and penance. And—very occasionally—one has a happy ending.
The author called his autobiography "The Fairy Tale of my Life", and indeed his life reads like a traditional fairy tale. Think what the blurb might be:
"The son of an illiterate washerwoman and a poor cobbler, who may secretly be a royal prince, who, through sheer persistence and influential help from an unlikely source, becomes a world-famous author, in a privileged position, hobnobbing with royalty"
perhaps? Ironically, at the age of fourteen, when he left home, he had predicted this outcome, "First you go through terrible suffering and then you become famous."
Charles Perrault had collected fairy tales from many cultural traditions in 1697, and a couple of centuries later in 1808 Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected German folk and fairy tales. Later still, Hans Christian Andersen's first fairy tales followed this template of rewriting a traditional story, but in fact only eight out of a total of 156 are direct retllings of Danish folk tales. He quickly moved on to writing his own—and you can certainly tell. Every single one seems to be about an aspect of himself, and he freely admitted, "I was always the chief person", the gawky ugly duckling who didn't quite fit in. His friend H.C. Orsted had said to him, "[Your novel] will make you famous, but the fairy tales will make you immortal".
I have rarely felt such ambivalence towards an author. These fairy stories are probably by the only author for whom my personal rating of works varies between one and five stars. He is an extraordinary writer, but I cannot say that I have enjoyed very many of his tales; many of them I have had to steal myself to read. It will certainly be a while before I read another big book of fairy stories, after ploughing through two collections of "Tales from the Arabian Nights" and now this one. The stories vary in standard and taste so much, that I have given this volume my default rating of three stars. And because of this, I have felt it necessary to review nearly all—(in fact thirty-five)—of the stories in this collection separately, whenever they have been published as individual books. Please see my shelves for links, if you wish to read my review of a particular story.
The 40 stories in this volume are:
The Princess and the Pea
The Wild Swans
The Darning Needle
The Ugly Duckling
The Snow Queen
The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep
The Last Dream of the Old Oak Tree
It's Perfectly True
Father's Always Right
The Snail and the Rose Tree
The Fir Tree
Little Ida's Flowers
The Little Mermaid
The Emperor's New Clothes
The Steadfast Tin Soldier
The Flying Trunk
"She Was No Good'
The Little Match Girl
The Goblin at the Grocer's
In a Thousand Years' Time
Five Peas from the Same Pod
Dance, Dance, Dolly Mine!
The Gardener and his Master
The Book of Fairy Tales
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Read information about the authorHans Christian Andersen (often referred to in Scandinavia as H. C. Andersen; April 2, 1805 – August 4, 1875) was a Danish author and poet. Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, Andersen is best remembered for his fairy tales. Andersen's popularity is not limited to children; his stories—called eventyr, or "fairy-tales"—express themes that transcend age and nationality.
Andersen's fairy tales, which have been translated into more than 125 languages, have become culturally embedded in the West's collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well. Some of his most famous fairy tales include "The Little Mermaid", "The Ugly Duckling", "The Nightingale", "The Emperor's New Clothes" and many more. His stories have inspired plays, ballets, and both live-action and animated films.
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