Flashback Friday: Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale . . .

Once upon a time . . . there was a mermaid who wanted a soul, and a boy with a shard of mirror in his heart, and a one-legged soldier who loved a cardboard dancer . . . magical fairy tales from a master of storytelling that have been with us for over a century.


Do you remember:

Andersen’s Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Frederick Richardson (John C. Winston Company, 1926)

I’ve loved fairy tales since I was small, and so far I’ve covered two of my beloved fairy tale collections with Flashback Friday posts.  The first here:  Once upon a time . . . and the second here: Those Dusty old shelves . . . .  This time I’m featuring a collection er . . . borrowed from my parents’ shelves that later later my mom agreed I should simply keep.  Andersen’s short stories are termed fairy tales . . . but they’re not really in the same class of fairy tales as those of the Brothers Grimm or other collected folklore.  The Brothers Grimm collected their tales and compiled them from the countryside.  They drew from many sources and put in writing stories that had been merely oral tradition before that.

This mermaid image is among my favorites . . . so different from Ariel.

This mermaid image is among my favorites . . . so different from Ariel.

While many of Andersen’s tales have something of the feel of those stories–they’re much richer, fuller tales.  Full of more metaphorical stories, deeper darker tales with ambiguous endings.   Andersen is wordy and detailed, but some of his works have become part of our lives and culture.  The Ugly Duckling is likely the one most people know, and has been recounted in some version or another again and again.  The Little Mermaid is one where people are much more likely to  remember the Disney version (and happy ending).  The Snow Queen has images that have permeated many stories throughout the decades, but most recently we’ve seen a rendition of this in the movie Frozen (2013).

From the end papers of the 1926 edition.

I was fortunate enough to have these stories to pore over  before I was exposed to more modern interpretations.  This book, rich with Andersen’s words, bound in dark red with the stunning book plate illustrations of Frederick Richardson was like a real treasure box to open and read.  The gorgeous images included formed my ideas of these characters and stories, and  left me studying the pictures for hours.  More than once I tried to sketch my own image from one of the book plates.  Richardson contributed to many books of folklore and fairytale in his tenure as an illustrator, but this one remains my favorite.

One of the lesser known Andersen tales "The Traveling Companion" I reread this one about  a hundred times.

One of the lesser known Andersen tales “The Traveling Companion” I reread this one about a hundred times.

I’m firmly of the opinion every home should have an armful of fairy tale and folklore collections–especially ones as beautiful as this.

Comments welcome!


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on October 25, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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