Bookmarks: The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen

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TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales book with a teddy bear and lit candle

This edition of The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen edited by Noel Daniel is a sumptuous collection of the author’s work.

TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales book cover

The book opens with a detailed biography which is truly fascinating.

The Heart and Soul of the Modern Fairy Tale

In describes how Hans rose from humble origins to become one of the most famous authors of the time – much celebrated by society – even fêted by royalty of the day.

The Little Mermaid illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

His father was a shoemaker but had taught himself to read and unusually for the time actually owned a cupboardful of books. He could actually provide his son with “story time” – probably a rare treat for children of the time.

The Swineherd illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

His mother was illiterate, but strongly influenced by the verbal story telling tradition of the region. She was actually deeply superstitious and firmly entrenched in the world of Scandinavian folklore where creatures such as goblins, trolls, witches & spirits roamed.

Thumbelina illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

You can see how the combination of these two important role models would lead Hans on his path to literary fame.

The Princess and the Pea illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

Hans himself became a voracious reader and spent much time alone immersed in books. He also had a puppet theatre – no doubt a magical world where he developed story lines & characters, made costumes, adapted language & voices.

The Nightingale illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

Another important influence was actually his local asylum! His grandmother tended the garden there and Hans often accompanied her. He would sneak off to the spinning room – the social heart of the place, where old women of the town would tell tales to amuse themselves whilst spinning. It was full of gossip & exciting chatter for a small boy – a place where he could get wrapped up in the oral tradition of peasant folktales. In this world even inanimate objects had their own minds & special powers. An ability to anthropomorphize objects became a hallmark of his work.

The Ugly Duckling illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

He was actually very ambitious and craved recognition. We like this quote of his: “Being born in a duck yard does not matter, if only you are hatched from a swan’s egg”. A true statement of intent.

The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

His stories have become classics, much loved by successive generations – The Ugly Duckling, The Princess & The Pea, The Tinderbox, The Snow Queen, The Darning Needle, The Little Match Girl – to name but a few.

The Darning Needle illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

Each tale has its own dedicated chapter. The title page has a few introductory words encompassing a short overview, origins, influences and other little snippets related to that particular story. Then follows the tale itself with accompanying illustrations.

The Little Match Girl illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

This collection of tales is again illustrated by a wonderful array of artists. The artwork is stunning throughout and everyone will have their own favourites. It might even change with each reading!

The Little Match Girl illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

Josef Palecek (The little mermaid), Einar Nerman ( The Swineherd), Katharine Beverley & Elizabeth Ellender (The Snow Queen) are some that particularly caught our eye.

The Snow Queen illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

The Snow Queen illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

The Snow Queen illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

In fact we loved the Snow Queen so much we’ve included 3 illustrations. They were done in the 1920s. The stark black & white with flashes of red is just stunning.

The Tinderbox illustration from TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

 The book closes with artists’ biographies; again well researched & very interesting.

Artist biographies in TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

We reviewed companion publication, The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm last year – it complements this Andersen collection perfectly!

TASCHEN's Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales and Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales books

A wonderful book for adults & children alike – you never know where “story time” might lead!!

The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen is available from its publisher TASCHEN, Amazon and Hive.

[Many thanks to TASCHEN for this review copy]

Bookmarks: The Fir Tree

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"The Fir Tree" book illustrated by Sanna Annuka with Christmas baubles and sprig of holly with red berries

We’ve been huge fans of Sanna Annukka ever since she designed biscuit tins for M&S.

Christmas tree illustration in "The Fir Tree" a book illustrated by Sanna Annuka

illustration of a group of mice in "The Fir Tree" a book illustrated by Sanna Annuka

The Fir Tree is a cautionary tale by Hans Christian Andersen about living for the moment.

illustration of a campfire in "The Fir Tree" a book illustrated by Sanna Annuka

illustrations of birds in "The Fir Tree" a book illustrated by Sanna Annuka

Despite having what in reality is an ideal existence, the little tree feels that it’s missing out when other trees are taken from the forest to decorate local homes at Christmas. Eventually it is chosen… but we’ll leave it there, we don’t want to give too much away!

illustration of a man dragging the fir tree down some stairs

illustration of a group of children playing near the Christmas tree

Annukka’s illustrations are exquisite – collages of multicoloured triangles. There’s something indecipherable about the style of her illustrations that reveals her Finnish heritage…

illustration of a group of colourful Christmas baubles

illustration of a big golden sun shining down on a wood

…the influence of landscape, nature and the folk art tradition.

illustration of a wood burning stove

This book would make a perfect Christmas present for child or adult!

illustration of a tree being felled

illustration of a sailing ship

It’s available from the publishers Hutchinson as well as on Amazon and Hive.

illustration of a pair of horses pulling a cart full of logs

illustration of birds in fir trees

[Many thanks to Hutchinson for the review copy]