When you say 'ugly duckling' they know you are not necessarily talking poultry, 'happy family' might be a growing oxymoron but it remains a lovable one, and nearly everyone knows that an ‘ice maiden’ has little in common with the snowman.
many of these are from their original context, but nevertheless the phrases linger on. And so do the works of the man behind them, Hans Christian Andersen, the legendary storyteller from Denmark who is also widely referred to as the Bard of Copenhagen.
More than 200 years later (he was born on April 2, 1805), Andersen’s stories are still handed down from generation to generation, be it a
Little Match Girl
The Emperor’s New Clothes
The Princess and the Pea
And yes, even the Facebook-generation knows their Andersen. There are 38 groups on Facebook alone discussing favourites and nuances. Says Dorte Bech Vizard, First Secretary/Political And Press of the Royal Danish Embassy, Delhi, “Hans Christian Andersen’s name is closely linked to children‘s literature, but what is special about him is that even the fairy tales known and loved by children contain much which is primarily aimed at adult readers.”
Andersen’s books have been translated to more than 150 languages, including Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, and Urdu, Vizard says. Andersen’s birthday is also celebrated as International Children’s Book Day, an event sponsored by IBBY, The International Board on Books for Young People.
This non-profit organisation based in Switzerland, representing an international network committed to bringing books and children together, is active in India through the Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children (AWIC).
Andersen was born in Odense. Son of a poor shoemaker and washerwoman, he gave the world a wealth of stories like the
The Little Mermaid
The Emperor's New Clothes
Little Ugly Duckling
Princess and the Pea,
The Snow Queen
From the looks of it, this year, Andersen will have a very quiet birthday in India at least. Informed Nita Berry, member of the executive committee of AWIC, “In 2005, we celebrated International Children’s Book Day. We made a poster with a message for children across the world and it was sent to 60 countries. But this time we are not doing anything.”
Berry, however, said that later this month, there would be a book promotion wherein 5,000 books in Hindi and English would be given away to less privileged children in an attempt to encourage reading. Vizard also mentioned that while there had been “extensive celebrations for Andersen’s 200 year birthday in 2005” but the embassy is not planning to mark the event this year in India. But one can’t help thinking that all the celebration the grand storyteller would want or enjoy is the telling and re-telling of his age-old tales.