Children's stories aren't all that pretty. Some are cruel. Some break hearts. And some come with intricate layers of meaning.
Though the authors try to end them with a tinge of hope and peace, for some tales, shreds of sorrow remain.
The father of such stories is Hans Christian Andersen. I have enjoyed many of his works tremendously, but I couldn’t grasp the meanings clearly when I’d read them as a primary-school student. Too deep. Too brutal. Oh, why didn't the little mermaid end up with the prince?
Andersen’s stories were often a little sad; his characters physically meager, or bore emotional or moral cracks. There were the pitiful ones, the beautiful ones, the hateful ones, the dishonourable ones, and the occasional laughable ones.
The Little Mermaid
The heartbreaking one. There seems to be more than one version to the ending, but the one I read has her turning into sea foam then into air rising to the pink clouds.
The Ugly Duckling
The one on self-esteem. Sad when even its mother cast it out. (*Despite Andersen's pitiful characters, I never had a problem enjoying his stories. I'm the kind who licks up melancholia.)
The Little Match Girl
The sad one, though my sisters and I always comforted ourselves with the thought that the girl was with her grandmother in the end, safe and warm.
The Wild Swans
A fortunate & beautiful one. Brave Elisa!
Ah, another beautiful one. I love the Purple Bear Books edition, illustrated by Igor Oleynikov. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1025266.The_Nightingale
The watercolour paintings are amazing ... despite the cringing first line.
Yikes, a dog with eyes as big as tea cups! Honestly, I didn’t like how the soldier had cut off the witch’s head to snatch the tinderbox for himself. I like to think a soldier has more honour than that ...
The Princess on the Pea
A fun one that got me wishing I could feel a pea under those mattresses and eiderdowns because I’d hoped I was secretly a princess. (This was when I was really small. Really.)
The Emperor’s New Clothes
Yeah, the emperor was a laughable one. I like stories that are honest and talk about honesty.
I like this all right. Just all right.
The Red Shoes
This one creeps me out. If you haven't read it, I don't want to spoil it for you. It's a thriller.
The Snow Queen
My all-time favourite. Gerda and Kai. And that beautiful, evil and lonely queen.
Hans Christian Andersen did not have a healthy childhood. His cobbler father passed away when he was only eleven, and his mother was an alcoholic washerwoman. Hans grew up awkward, solitary and sorrowful. Though his stories often ended with a tinge of hope, I’ve always felt that hope to be rather melancholy.
Do you have a favourite Andersen tale? (There are others not mentioned here. I wonder if you have read them, too?)