It’s a reasonable question. A week ago I could probably have told you that he wrote The Little Mermaid and that’s about it. But I picked up a copy of the Oxford Classics compilation a while back in Blackwell’s because I’m the kind of nerd who says things like ‘let’s go back to the source material’.
What I discovered is, unsurprisingly, a lot of what Hans Christian Andersen wrote is a little bit weird. Not all of it was new to me, I was aware of the darker sides to The Little Mermaid where she ends up feeling like she’s walking on knives every time she takes a step. But there a whole host of stories that, shock horror, never got turned into disney films. Where is the adorable cartoon called ‘The Naughty Boy’? On second thoughts I’m sure there is one but I’m really not going to search for it…
But yes, I can see how Hans Christian Andersen inspired a lot of other stories and how the themes flowed through to our modern day stories. But it is also completely clear why people tend to read retellings as opposed to the originals. Writing has changed a lot since the 1800s and not totally for the worse.
But I think that’s pretty cool. How from the beginning we were reading fairytale retellings and now we’ve come all the way to retellings that are set in space, or in other worlds. In all of that we’re pulling out the same themes and the same key ingredients years on!
So, time for a chat, have you read any of Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tales and what did you think? What’s your favourite retelling? Let me know in the comments below!