Amanda Craig

No Fairy-Tale Ending

Hans Christian Andersen: European Witness

By

Yale University Press 384pp £25 order from our bookshop

Children’s authors are the unacknowledged legislators of the world – the people who inform us at an early age how the world ought to be. Of these, the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen is among the most important and original.

Fewer now read his stories than see the Disney bowdlerisations of The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina and, most recently, The Snow Queen. But phrases such as ‘the emperor’s new clothes’ and ‘the ugly duckling’ have long passed into common currency as powerful concepts of self-delusion and self-transformation. To the British reader, Andersen’s intensity, originality, seriousness and intellectual prowess may come as a shock. He continues to inspire contemporary authors – most recently Sally Gardner, whose Tinder (based on ‘The Tinderbox’) was one of the fictional highlights of last year. Yet his trick of animating the inanimate was echoed by Dickens and Scott Fitzgerald and, as this biography shows, he has a claim on adults’ attention too.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Since Dylan’s commercial and ideological heyday, the intrusion of sociology, semiology and post-structuralist thou… ,
    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,