April 2, 2005

Today is the 200th anniversary of Denmark’s greatest storyteller, Hans Christian Andersen. What’s your favorite Andersen tale?

I like The Ugly Duckling, partly because Z-baby does such a plaintive rendition of the ugly duckling song from Timeless Tales from Hallmark: The Ugly Duckling. The words go like this:

I’m all alone, on my own,
With no one beside me,
No one to guide me,
On my own and all alone.

Unfortunately, you can’t get the full effect without Z-baby’s sweet little ducky voice. You can watch the video, which I recommend. I also recommend the 1952 movie, Hans Christian Andersen, with Danny Kaye. It’s got lots of good songs, too: Inchworm, I’m Hans Christian Andersen, Thumbelina, Wonderful Copenhagen. You and your urchins will enjoy the movie although it has only a tenuous connection to Andersen’s real life.

As for books, there are all sorts of editions, collections, illustrations, and other versions of Andersen’s fairy tales. I like this version of The Snow Queen by Amy Ehrlich, illustrated by one of my favorite artists, Susan Jeffers. To read the stories in English, you can go to this Andersen website.

HCA2005 is the official Hans Christian Andersen bicentenary website. This site includes a calendar of HCA bicentenary events, an HCA quiz, three webpages of photographs (HCA loved to have his picture taken) and other materials of interest.

Hans Christian Andersen had an interesting, if somewhat sad, life. He travelled extensively, and he met many famous authors including Victor Hugo, Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, and Charles Dickens. He fell in love with Jenny Lind, the famous soprano nicknamed “The Swedish Nightingale,” and he wrote his story “The Nightingale” as a tribute to her. Soren Kierkegaard, the philosopher, made fun of Andersen in a book, and Andersen retaliated by writing a play with a foolish philosopher as one of the characters.
The Hans Christian Andersen Center has Victor Borge playing Andersen’s ode to Denmark, Denmark, My Native Land.
Andersen Fairy Tales has animated versions of some of HCA’s tales on the web.
The Hans Christian Andersen Storytelling Center is in Central Park, NYC, and storytelling takes place there, rain or shine, from June until September. The storytelling center is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year along with HCA’s 200th birthday.
Hans Christian Andersen also enjoyed making paper cut-outs and silhouettes. He id said to have always carried a pair of scissors with him, and he often cut out characters and objects of paper to accompany his storytelling. Here’s a science lesson on how to create a silhouette. And here’s some information on doing “wycinanki,” Polish papercutting.

So have you had time to figure out your favorite HCA fairy tale? I think my favorite is “The Emperor’s New Clothes” because it seems to be so applicable to so many situations in modern life. The innocent, but wise, person sees the truth while everyone else is pretending to believe a lie. The emperor truly does have no clothes. Don’t leave until you’ve told me what your favorite is and why you like it. (By the way, I think “The Little Fir Tree” is a terribly depressing Christmas story.)

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