Monday, August 17, 2015

One Penguin Down - 'The Tinder Box' and Other Stories by Hans Christian Andersen

This 55 page book is a collection of five short children's stories by the master fairytale teller himself. Of these stories I have read the story of the 'Princess and the Pea'. The other stories are 'The Tinderbox', 'Little Claus and Big Claus', 'The Steadfast Tin Soldier', 'The Nightingale' and 'The Red Shoes'.

'The Tinderbox' is the story of a soldier who chops off a witch's neck (cruel chap!) because she does not tell him why she wants him to bring her a tinderbox hidden in a tree and guarded by three fierce dogs. After using her magic to get himself lots of money and the tinderbox he kills her off. Of course the tinder box produces three dogs of varying sizes and more importantly varying powers and they bring to the soldier the inevitable wealth, princess and the kingdom. A lovely children's story as you can see.

'Little Claus and Big Claus' are two village bumpkins. Big Claus seems to specialise in bumping off horses. Little Claus seems to be a guy who thinks lightly on his feet to make a good deal for himself. (There's also a farmer's wife who is seeing a deacon by the side which is underplayed.)  How Little Claus gets the better of the farmer, the deacon, Big Claus and makes a whole load of money in the process is what this story is about. Another good story for children.

'The Princess and the Pea' is about a real Princess who passes the test of a pea under twenty mattresses and wakes up black and blue. Why anyone would want to marry anyone so sensitive is what one would like to know.

'The Steadfast Tin Soldier' is a sad tale of love between a one-legged tin soldier and a trapped princess and how they end up dead together.

'The Nightingale' is about a real nightingale and a machine - and how the real one can heal while the machine cannot. Its all about feelings my friend.

'The Red Shoes' are about a pair of red shoes - it gets a bit gory with the young girl's feet being cut off because she has the red shoes on them and finally how the church comes to her. Seems to be a story about temptation and punishment and perhaps deliverance.

It always amazes me to read the amount of killing, deceit and violence in children's stories - the popular ones. It appears that children do love these angles of life somehow. And about horror and ghost stories. I remember Ruskin Bond once told me - they like to get scared a bit. It does appear that Hans knew the trick too and well. I vote for the Princess story as the best of the lot.

No comments: