A Danish researcher has stumbled across the first fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen in Denmark's national archives.
Entitled "The Tallow Candle", the tale tells the story of a candle that has difficulty finding its place in the world until a tinder box discovers its worth and lights its wick.
National Archive director Mads Peter Christensen told the Politiken newspaper late Wednesday staff had been contacted by the researcher who disclosed the discovery.
Lacking the polished standards of Andersen's later fairy tales, it is believed to have been written when he was a schoolboy.
"This is a sensational discovery," Ejnar Stig Askgaard of the Odense City Museum and one of Denmark's leading Hans Christian Andersen experts told Politiken.
"Partly because it must be seen as Andersen'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," he said.
Askgaard's conclusions were confirmed by two other leading Andersen experts: research librarian Bruno Svindborg of the Royal Library and professor Johan de Mylius of the Andersen Centre and the University of Southern Denmark.
Askgaard said it was a thrill to be "able to work with his first attempt at a fairy tale. It was a great experience to read it for the first time."
The manuscript found was written in ink on yellowing pages. The copy was made by the family of a "Madam Bunkeflod", to whom the piece was dedicated. The original manuscript has not been found.
A vicar's widow, Madam Bunkeflod was a confidante of the budding author in his childhood.
The copied manuscript was sent by the Bunkeflod family to another family close to Andersen, the Plum family, in whose archives the story was found.
"To Madam Bunkeflod from her devoted H.C. Andersen," the primary dedication reads, with a secondary one reading: "To P Plum from his friend Bunkeflod."
Hans Christian Andersen lived from 1805 until 1875. His poetry, travel articles and fairy tales have been translated into 125 languages. Some of his most famous works include "The Ugly Duckling", "The Little Mermaid," "Thumbelina", and "The Steadfast Tin Soldier."
In Asia, Andersen's stories are particularly popular in China and Japan.