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Fairy Tales based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales are world renowned. Endlessly inventive and quirky, they've sparked countless adaptations and retellings, from Disney animated films to stage plays to choral works to short stories. Some of the tales are better known than others, like "The Little Mermaid," "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Little Match Girl," and "The Steadfast Tin Soldier." Others are less well known (and some understandably so!), like "The Marsh King's Daughter," "The Wood Nymph," "The Red Shoes," and "The Shadow," to name a few.I was struck by the harshness of some of the stories. I knew going in that Andersen's imagination was informed by a culture very different from our sanitized, politically correct world, back when children knew all about life's grimmer realities. But it's still a bit of a shock. Most of the stories don't end on an entirely happy note. Beyond "Thumbelina" I'm hard pressed to remember any that do, actually.Many of the stories deal with the theme of not being content with your position in life, like the pine tree that wasn't happy in the forest and then had one night of splendor as a Christmas tree before being tossed away to die, or the nymph who traded her natural lifespan for a day as a human. Mortality lurks everywhere in these stories, bittersweet around the edges. The china shepherdess and her china chimney-sweep lover are faithful to one another "until they break." In one story, a man's shadow eventually breaks free of him and arranges his execution... chilling. Always death is peering around the corner; always the good things are tinged with a sense of impermanence.But despite the dark themes, there is a pervasive humor throughout the stories that I found entirely engaging. Much of it comes from personifying household items, like a kitchen pot or gentleman's necktie and poking fun at the absurdity of human vanity. Relationships come in for their fair share of gentle mockery, too ¿ Stork Father and Stork Mother have some amusing insights on one another, and Andersen isn't above wry observations in the narrative.As a Christian, I found the theological aspect of the stories fascinating. Sometimes Andersen gets it right and it's biblical and beautiful ¿ and other times (well, most of the time) his conception of a works-based salvation ruins everything. "The Little Mermaid" was particularly bad in this regard; she's told she can gain an immortal soul if she does good deeds for three hundred years. The three hundred years' span just seemed so arbitrary, I laughed out loud. Maybe this conception of earned salvation is another reason why most of the stories end so sadly...I listened to this on audiobook from Listening Library and was familiar with the readers, Kate Reading and Robert Whitfield, from other audio productions. Both performed these stories admirably (even the tedious ones), alternating back and forth between tales. Though some of the stories dragged out, others were delightful, and I found the unpredictability an enjoyable listening experience. I've read that Tina Nunnally's translation from the Danish is the most accurate to date, and though I can't speak to that, the stories certainly do possess a distinctive tone that one hopes is Andersen's. I'm glad I picked this up, even if just to know these iconic stories as they were originally imagined.