Reading Roulette – January

So, the first lucky dip of the year was ‘Andersen’s Fairy Tales’ by Hans Christian Andersen, from my classic fiction section.


This ended up in the ‘reading roulette’ because I bought it many years ago, after a conversation with a work colleague about Fairy Tales. We talked about how fairy tales and folk tales are an intrinsic part of our childhood, and how many of these fairy tales we have actually read, and how many we have just heard about or seen adaptations of on TV. So, I saw this book and bought it, hoping that if indeed there were any popular fairy tales that I was only assuming I knew I could now re-educate myself. Well that debate fell by the wayside and the book was left forgotten on my bookshelf, until now.

First of all, I’m quite pleased to say that of the popular tales contained within this book that I already knew, it was because I had actually read them as a child.


Highlighted titles of stories I read as a child

Not only that but my parents must have been keen for me to have the full experience as all the Andersen fairy tale endings (including the grisly ones) I knew. I mention this because there has been a lot of debate over the years about how some children’s publications, especially Disney tend to ‘soften’ the endings that haven’t particularly been nice ones. So, as a child, I was obviously given the bare bones endings, although some things were cleaned up a bit. For example, in my childhood version of ‘the tinder box’ the Witch did NOT have her head chopped off, but instead got so angry that she burst into a thousand pieces (I think there’s a lesson for us all there). Another differing aspect was the biblical themes and religious motifs within the stories, again that is something that was omitted from my childhood tales and whilst Andersen’s original tales would often attribute wondrous events to the workings of God, in my childhood tales they were usually the responsibility of fairies or elves.

So, back to my current publication ‘Complete and Unabridged’ which, eventually, I did enjoy. Unfortunately, it took a bit of getting into as Andersen’s style of writing is so dramatic and poetic, and the narrative so fantastical, that with even a little distraction (like a hyperactive dog wanting attention, or an interesting plot twist in the show my husband’s watching on telly) by the time my attention returned to what I was reading I had lost the essence of the story and had to re-read from the point I got lost. I found it best to read at times where I could just shut out the rest of the world and become absorbed in the story. Another delightful aspect of these stories are the memories they conjured up, as I read each familiar fairy tale I could visualise the illustrations that were in my story books as a child. Quite a few of which I still have.

Would I recommend this to others?

I’d have to say yes, whilst I do miss the simplicity and colour of my childhood tales, this book does have a lot more packed into it and with such descriptive detail that you can conjure up your own mental illustrations.

Challenge so far. .

3 Contemporary fiction:

  • The Ghost by Arnold Bennet
  • The watchmaker of filigree street by Natasha Pulley
  • Illumination by Matthew Plampin

 3 Classic fiction:

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Andersen’s fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson
  • Emma by Jane Austen

 3 Non-fiction:

  •  The Fry Chronicles by Stephen Fry
  • The Running sky by Tim Dee
  • The field guide to Natural Wonders by Ian Whitelaw

 3 Hardbacks:

  • The long earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Under the ivy: the life and music of Kate bush




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