Fairy Tales: yes or no? What do you gain by meeting them as a child? Better to start by saying how much is lost if you fail to meet them then, or do so only through cartoon films of the Disney type, or videos. The words are part of the whole. In the landscape of the mind, whatever is planted early lasts and grows through time. Reality may be a featureless-suburban street; but the mind of the fairy-tale reader holds mountains, oceans, distances, a forest that is haven, shelter, and mystery, some day to be explored, with a pathway that leads to the very edge of the world.
Written by Hans Christian Andersen, Translated by Naomi Lewis, Illustrated by Christian Birmingham
Gerda and Kay have been best friends for as long as they can remember. The inseparable duo went outdoors during the summer, and often huddled up in the winter to listen to Grandma’s fantastic tales.
One day, Kay started acting strange. He found no pleasure in the games they used to play, preferring to read large tomes of advanced calculus problems instead. He also started questioning Grandma’s stories, dissecting the fantasy with his cold hard logic. Gerda and Grandma were concerned with the changes that befall him.
So many noted writers have been influenced by Andersen that we probably do not realize how greatly original he was. In his own day this was very much easier to see, and is one of the many reasons why even kings and princes made him an honoured guest, and would listen again and again to his tales; why in countries all over the world he was so much valued by adults and children alike. Many today know his tales without even knowing the name of their author - and that’s fame too! Sometimes on the tiny scale of the toy theatre, sometimes ranging the ocean, sky and earth, he brings into his stories as much of human life as the reader cares to find. Once you step wholly into the tales he can give you, if you take it, just what the Snow Queen offered Kay - the whole world, let alone a new pair of skates.
Introduction to Puffin Classics Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales, translated by Naomi Lewis
Never underestimate the importance of a good translator. Or, for that matter, a good introduction.