Happy Birthday, Hans Christian Andersen

When I was a kid, I loved reading all kinds of stories, myths, and fables, but I especially loved the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. I preferred his stories to the sanitized Disney stories portrayed in the movies, as many kids (and grownups) do.

I’ve been thinking about Hans Christian Andersen lately as I’ve been listening to a story collection by Neil Gaiman, called Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances and they remind me of all the old stories I loved to read as a child.

It turns out today, April 3, is the date Hans Christian Andersen was born, in the year 1805. His career is inspirational. He published a collection of his “children’s stories” every couple of years for decades. His first collection of tales for children included “The Princess and the Pea,” and he also wrote “The Ugly Duckling,” (one of my favorites when I was a child), “The Little Mermaid,” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

I wonder when I stopped reading myths and fairy tales? I’m sure it was before I started medical school, but residency was the time when I really started to avoid fiction that didn’t have a happy ending. For a while there, I read only genre fiction as I needed to know, in my reading life if not in my real life, that there are happy endings. And fairy tales are great stories, but not everyone in them ends up happily ever after.

But now I’m back to reading anything and everything. I realize any story can be told as a fairy tale or a tragedy and the author’s art is partly in now they choose to tell the story. I recently wrote the story of my own life in my journal—two versions. In one version I was the victim, in the other version I’m the hero.

I’m really enjoying Trigger Warning, with it’s heroes, villains, and victims. Reading this book prompted me to rummage around in the basement and find my collection of Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. I think it’s time to start reading these to my son so he can see the full range of characters available to him—he gets to be the author of his own fairy tales, as we all do.

Happy Birthday, Hans Christian Anderson. Two hundred years after his birth, I’m so grateful he lived and wrote.

What’s your favorite fairy tale?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: is a writer, blogger, mother, life coach, and family physician. I’m celebrating Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday by sharing his stories with my son.

23 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Hans Christian Andersen

  1. I don’t want to spark unnecessary discussions or controversy but I disagree about Disney stories portrayed in movies being sanitized. They are everything but__ as most of the fairy tales stories I know. They are more scary than most horror movies which are mostly laughable.
    I don’t know if the concept of some stepmother hiring someone to kill her stepdaughter and bring her back the heart not to mention poisoning her is sweet or sanitized. How about the mother of Bambi getting shot while he’s watching? And the scene in Tarzan where the tiger is pursuing the mother gorilla while holding the baby and trying to escape is enough to cause even adults nightmares. The shark in Finding Nemo trying to get into the wreck ship… I think I better stop.

    • Hi impossiblebebong,
      You’re so right! When we watch Finding Nemo, we usually start at the scene after the beginning scene, at my son’s request. He doesn’t like the scary shark at the beginning of the movie–and neither do I! I guess I was thinking more of stories like “The Little Cinder Girl,” who dies of hypothermia, being “sanitized” into a beautiful girl with a Fairy Godmother.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments and happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

    • Hi Tressalee,
      Maybe Cinderella doesn’t clean toilets anymore, but she used to!

      Thanks for commenting!

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  2. My first introduction to fairy tales was a collection called The Book of Goodnight Stories, that my mom read to me when I was very young. It had Andersen, Grimm, and more. I still have it, and look forward to reading those stories to my child/children someday. I’ve never grown tired of either fairy tales or myths — I even took a fairy tales class in college. While I love many of the more well-known stories, one of my favorites is a Russian one called I-know-not-what, I-know-not-where. I discovered it when my uncle gifted a copy to me that he illustrated.

    • Hi jennasauber,
      I still have a Grimm’s Fairy Tale illustrated story book that I’m planning to read to my son, when he’s a little older. You just reminded me to look for it!

      Thanks for your comments and thanks for reading. I wonder if I can find that Russian fairy tale you mention?

      Warmly,
      Diane

  3. House-sitting one summer in Montreal, my daughter a pre-schooler, I found a video of the Danny Kaye film Hans Christian Anderson. For years a favourite, along with the more amusing and happier ending of The Court Jester.

    • Hi DMartens-CWA,
      I’ll have to check out that film–sounds like a good one!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Warmly,
      Diane

    • Hi Mallee,
      No, I haven’t seen it, but DMartins-CWA has! I’m going to try to find it and watch it. Thanks for the tip!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  4. Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales was great fare for a young boy. Add the Gorgon’s Head into the mix and you had high adventure for a kid in the late 60’s. Perfect building blocks of imagination …

    • Hi resoplayer,
      Yes, those are great stories! Thanks for listing them and thanks for reading!

      Warmly,
      Diane

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