Saturday, November 14, 2015

Hans Christian Andersen

Most of us have memories of stories told to us when we were children that were written by Hans Christian Andersen. Some of these include The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, Thumbelina, The Emperor's New Clothes to name a few of the fairy tales written by this Danish writer in the nineteenth century.

The Hans Christian Andersen Centre is running a six week online course on Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales via FutureLearn. The stories being analysed during the course include The Tinderbox, The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, The Travelling Companion, The Red Shoes and The Story of a Mother.

As well as investigating the multi-layers of the stories, the course looks at sources used as the basis for some of the stories as well as examining the life of Hans Christian Andersen plus events occurring in Europe which influenced the author's thinking. Hans Christian Andersen did not only write fairy stories. He wrote for adults as well as children and also wrote books and plays and poetry and was an artist. Examples of his paper cuts adorn many of his works. Hans Christian Andersen belongs to the period in literary history called Romanticism and late Romanticism, important in European art, literature and culture. However he is known for changing the mould and trying new ways to express his ideas via his literature.

Two biographies about Hans Christian Andersen I have borrowed from the library are:

Hans Christian Andersen: a new life by Jens Andersen (2005), a biography emphasising how events in the author's life plus events in Europe at this time affected the stories that he wrote.

Hans Christian Andersen: European witness by Paul Binding (2014), a study of the works of Hans Christian Andersen especially in regard to the political and economic changes occurring in Europe at the time plus the author's connections to other prominent European writers.

The Hans Christian Andersen Centre provides translations of the fairy tales which can be downloaded however other translations into English exist and selections of tales have been published in a number of works. One such work is Tales of  Hans Christian Andersen translated by Naomi Lewis (2004) - thirteen tales including three of the stories being studied in the course. It is interesting to note the variations in the translations. Some of the stories, of course, have been completely retold to make them more acceptable for children in the twenty-first century.

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