Sunday, April 03, 2005

It was 200 years ago today...

Hans Christian Andersen was born April 2, 1805. Denmark is celebrating his bicentennial, but he belongs to the world.

He wrote novels and plays, but is remembered for his fairy tales. He created 168, most with original plots. While they teach moral lessons to children, they are told with such imagination that they stand as literature for all ages. Some are funny, some are eerily beautiful, some are surprisingly sad.

Among his better-known works are "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Princess And The Pea," "The Red Shoes," "The Ugly Duckling," "The Brave Tin Soldier" and "The Little Matchstick Girl." Many of his tales, however, come down to us in simplified versions. It would be a nice tribute to return to the originals.

For instance, "The Little Mermaid." The Disney version, though entertaining, is quite different from Andersen's. In the original, the Little Mermaid is in love with a prince who lives above the water. She finds out if he can love her, she will gain a human soul.

The Mermaid goes to the sea witch to make her look human. As a price, the Mermaid, who has the sweetest voice in the sea, must give up her tongue--if she can win the prince, it must be done without speaking to him. Moreover, she has to drink a potion that will feel as if she is being sliced in two, to create her legs. And each step she takes will feel as if she's walking on sharp knives.

She meets the Prince, and he is taken with her. However, events work out that he will marry a princess. The Mermaid has lost everything, and will die. But her mermaid sisters give her a knife they purchased from the witch. If the Little Mermaid will plunge it into the Prince's heart, she will become a mermaid again and return to her sea life.

What happens? If you don't know the story, not what you expect. Read it and find out.


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