Tales from Hans Christian Andersen

Editors' review

December 29, 2016

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I read Hans Christian Andersen on my iPad, Macsimus Tango. That means that the book listed here isn't the exact book that I read since I read Gutenberg's version, which is a collection of only a few dozen of the fairy tales. I put this book on my virtual bookshelf because this is the book that I put on my actual bookshelf since I ordered a version of the complete fairy tales from Amazon. My opinion is that if you read an important author then you should own all of the important works and you should give them their physical dignity upon your book shelf. As a technophile, I think virtual bookshelves are a troubling future. ANYWAYS...

I will review Hans Christian Andersen based on the stories that I read. I give this book four stars because I think that the imagination of Hans Christian Andersen is profound and that the book is certainly a must read for any thinking person. The book shines light on 19th century Danish life that could not be otherwise entirely understood. In addition, the stories paint memorable pictures of what I and everybody else envisions when one conjures the term 'Fairy Tale'.

The Emperor's New Clothes: This tale is wonderful. The moral is memorable. The style is characteristic of the fairy tale genre. I think the story works especially well concerning Andersen's perception of public image when considered with 'The Leap Frog,' 'The Swineherd,' 'The Real Princess,' or just about any other Anderson tale. There is an undeniable dichotomy in Andersen between what one should be and what one wants to be. Of all the tales with this message, I believe this is the best.

The Fir Tree: If you want a depressing Christmas story, this is your wish. This story tells the sad tale of a tree's mistaken desires for his life and his ultimate coming to terms with his wrongly-made life's choices. My favorite part about this story wasn't the Fir Tree at all; it was the culturally informative background of the story. The Danish children decorating the tree, celebrating Christmas and enjoying the new Spring. This is a life I certainly didn't have and its peaceful quaintness charmed me although I could go without the band of household rats and mice.

The Snow Queen: I heard lots about this story before I actually read it. And all that I heard was generally positive. My opinion was to the contrary. I felt that the story lacked direction and that it tended to wander unnecessarily. I thought the idea of a broken mirror was neat and that the relationship between the two children was memorable but the pages and pages of conversations with vegetation was mind numbing. This story was probably my least favorite of the bunch.

The Little Match Girl: I had also heard about this story. I liked the imagery and I feel that the story could be well adapted into some form of visual art. The setting is so static yet the story is so diverse as we watch a freezing poor child attempt to stay warm in the light of a match's flame. Her thoughts are so vivid that they do seem to warm the reader.

Now for the stranger stories.

The Shadow: This story reminded me of Kafka. I would certainly like to know if good ole Franz ever read this story. The change of being and perspective in this story was quick, convincing and intelligent. I think there is a thesis in this story that investigates the pre-Marx master-servant relationship. I'd like to read this story again after I've been in the workforce for several years.

The Bell: I think I see where Andersen was going here, but I think he failed. It was a boring story with too ambitious a message. What I read what unbelievable and rambling.

The Story of a Mother: This story is historical proof that beer and ale were not originally mean to be frosty and cold. In this story, a man is nourished against the cold of winter by some ale put on the stove especially for him to warm. Naturally, the man enjoys it just like a modern beer commercial.

I want to speak briefly of my favorite story - The Shoes of Fortune. This story is the earliest literary example of believable science fiction that I have read except for maybe the unbreakable glass of Petronius' Satyricon. I marveled at how Andersen showed how the Danish landscape of Copenhagen had changed so unmistakably over the centuries. This story is for any history lover and for anybody who enjoys watching a member of a culture attempt to define and understand his own culture. This story took a cultured gentleman of the 19th century into a barbarian past and takes a less cultured workman of the same century into the dystopia of the, for lack of a better word, Bourgeois. If you read Andersen, read this story because it is an edifying experience that should not be missed.

In all, the book does not deserve five stars because some stories are just too boring and poorly articulated. Nevertheless, Hans is a must read.