Never-before-seen Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale surfaces(Read article summary)
The story, 'The Tallow Candle,' was discovered by a historian in the private archives of a Danish family.
It was a chance discovery seemingly out of a fairy tale.
Experts in Denmark unearthed â€śThe Tallow Candle,â€ť what they believe is the first fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen, found at the bottom of a box near the Danish writerâ€™s home city of Odense.Â
Local historian Esben Brage was searching the private archives of a Danish family in the National Archive for Funen in Odense when he came across a small, yellowing piece of paper at the bottom of a box. Â Experts scrutinized the six-page, 700-word handwritten copy of the fairy tale and determined it was written by Andersen, reports the Associated Press.
â€śThis is a sensational discovery,â€™ Ejnar Stig Askgaard of the Odense City Museum told the Danish paper Politiken. â€śPartly because it must be seen as Andersenâ€™s first fairy tale, and partly because it shows that he was interested in the fairy tale as a young man, before his authorship began.â€ť He added, â€śAnd I am in no doubt that it was written by Andersen.â€ť
The tale tells the story of a grimy little candle, soiled by life and neglected until a tinder box sees its inner beauty and lights it. â€śThe Tallow Candle had found its right place in life â€“ and shown that it was a real candle, and went on to shine for many a year, pleasing itself and the other creatures around it,â€ť Andersen wrote in the story.
Perhaps most incredibly, Andersen wrote the story when he was a schoolboy in the mid-1820s, some three to seven years before his literary debut in 1829. As such, â€śThe Tallow Candleâ€ť is not â€śat the level of the more mature and polished fairy tales that we know from Andersenâ€™s later authorship,â€ť experts have said, according to the UKâ€™s Guardian.
Nonetheless, the tale is â€śvery, very Andersen,â€ť author and fairy tale expert Sara Maitland told the Guardian. â€śItâ€™s highly moralistic, rather sentimental, and itâ€™s animating an inanimate object. Thatâ€™s very Andersen.â€ť
The manuscript is dedicated â€śTo Mme Bunkeflod, from her devoted HC Andersen.â€ť Bunkeflod is thought to be a widow and neighbor whom Andersen regularly visited as a child.
Danish paper Politiken translated and published a version of the story in English, which is available for reading here.
Andersen, who was born in Odense in 1805 the son of a shoemaker and washerwoman, went on to write nearly 160 popular fairy tales, including â€śThe Emperorâ€™s New Clothes,â€ť â€śThe Little Mermaid,â€ť and â€śThe Ugly Duckling,â€ť along with dozens of novels, poems, and travel journals. He died in 1875, but his fairy tales are among the most popular childrenâ€™s tales the world over, having been translated into more than 100 languages and read around the world.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.