Monday, July 27, 2009

Magnificent, Marvellous, Mighty Monday and HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN

I have many memories from my idyllic early childhood in the exotic tropical splendour of Papua New Guinea. One of the more pleasant is of a beautiful blonde lady (who looked like a fairytale princess) reading to me in bed at night from my large volume of treasured Hans Christian Andersen fairytales. Even now, so many years later, I can still recall her melodic, soft voice as she began one of my favourite openings of them all, from The Little Mermaid.

'Far out in the wide sea – where the water is blue as the loveliest cornflower, and clear as the purest crystal, where it is so deep that very many church towers must be heaped upon one another, in order to reach from the lowest depth to the surface above – dwell the mer-people.'

Who was this woman? Mystery surrounds her as my parents cannot recall her although think she may be the European girlfriend of the scientist next door who collected pythons and bird-eating spiders. I prefer to think she was some Danish fairy who nourished my young tale-peddler imagination with her lovely voice and face.

Hans’ story is every bit as poignant and beautiful as his own writings. Son of a poor cobbler, he was born in Odense, Denmark. His entire family lived in one room. Hans rose to the heights of success in his own lifetime. An intelligent, tortured, serious writer who never felt truly part of the society he moved in and who from an early age was regarded as being physically unattractive, he's a powerful reminder that as artists we're not bound by poverty, fashion, self-image or society. He turned his pain and isolation into lasting works of genius with tales such as The Ugly Duckling, The Snow Queen and The Fir Tree amongst many others.

And so for Magnificent, Marvellous, Mighty Monday let us bow our heads to the glory of Hans Christian Andersen who has delighted generations of adults and children with his tales. May his determination, courage, intelligence and beauty inspire our week in our creative pursuits!

'I seize on an idea for grown-ups and then tell the story to the little ones, always remembering that Father and Mother often listen, and you must give them something for their minds.'

Hans Christian Andersen


  1. What an ethereal memory of the lovely woman reading to you. Great pic of HCA. I don't recall ever seeing one. I have several HCA stories illustrated by the wonderful Lisbeth Zwerger.

  2. I should collect those Willow! My very battered and much loved New Guinea copy is illustrated by Jiri Trnka. They are macabre and beautiful illustrations and used to give us delightful nightmares! xx

  3. Oh I love Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales. They are so lovely. I remember receiving a book as a child with the most wonderful illustrations to go with the stories... Unfortunately as an adult I blame fairy tales for why I am sometimes disappointed with life ;) But then again I also attribute my high standards and sense of wonderment to them as well...

  4. HCA was indeed pretty amazing. I visited his birthplace when I was living in Denmark and picked up a gorgeous paper cutting like he used to do.

  5. Again, great information: Another biography to add to my list. Is there a pattern appearing - that of great works being produced by tormented souls. I wonder? :)

  6. Beautiful Josephine, it makes me want to re-read all the stories. xv


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