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Bajke I Priče (1971)

Bajke i priče (1971)

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4.19 of 5 Votes: 5
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Biblioteka Vjeverica

About book Bajke I Priče (1971)

This book was a gift from a relative who had travelled to Denmark, to my ill sister when she was 8 years old in 1960. I was unpleasantly surprised when I finally dusted it off and sat down to read the tales written by this master story-teller. Even the "good" stories that I knew and liked from other sources (notably, the wonderful Danny Kay film) were told badly. Most were scary, violent and never redeemed themselves with any kind of moral. Take "The Tinder-Box" which glorifies greed, theft, and deception, or "Little Claus and Big Claus" which covers the child-friendly topics of fraud and premeditated murder. What fun! I notice that there are checks by some of the titles in the table of contents, and the worst of the stories aren't checked off. I can only hope that my parents were wise enough to shield their sick little girl from some of these "classics" which would have surely given her nightmares. In a nutshell:This is a collection of thirty fairy tales written by the famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen and translated into English by Tiina Nunnally. The collection includes famous tales such as “The Little Mermaid”, “The Ugly Duckling”, “The Little Match Girl” and “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” as well as lesser known tales. The tales are ordered chronologically from when they were published.Review:I loved this book. I was familiar with Andersen’s stories, but they were usually the simplified versions put in children’s picture books. I can’t believe I have been missing out on his writing and his voice all of these years. Andersen adds to his stories funny observations, lovely setting detail, haunting dream and vision sequences, and little asides to the reader. His writing is apparently notoriously difficult to translate, which makes me appreciate Nunnally’s fresh and vivid translation even more.The introduction to this book, written by Jackie Wullschlager, does a splendid job in portraying who Andersen was, as a writer and person. Wullschlager explains how his tales reflected his regard for art and story, and also his deep sense of being a lonely outsider. I recommend reading the introduction after reading the rest of the book, not because of spoilers, but because reading about Andersen’s life was more moving to me after reading his stories.Andersen’s early stories were largely inspired or adapted by folk tales and myths. “The Tinderbox” features a witch whose magic treasures are guarded by dogs with very large eyes. According to the back-of-the-book notes, the violent “Little Claus and Big Claus” is based on traditional Danish landlord-and-tenant stories. “The Little Mermaid” was an exquisite tragedy. I knew that Andersen’s story did not end happily for the mermaid, but the end made my heart twinge anyway. (Well, not the very end, which was a slapped-on lame moralistic ‘lesson’.) “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” and “The Wild Swans” were also very lovely tales. “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” was notable for being Andersen’s first published tale that was not based on a prior folktale or story.Andersen has a number of stories that feature anthropomorphized objects. Of course “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” is the most famous, but there is one where a top falls in love with a leather ball; a fir tree wishes always to be where it’s not; a porcelain shepherdess is engaged against her will to a cupboard carved with the figure of a man.Jackie Wullschlager points out in her introduction that Andersen often uses animals, plants and even the wind to act as a sort of Greek chorus in the stories. “The Marsh King’s Daughter” is an odd and dark tale about a girl who is a beautiful hellion by day and a froggish sad creature by night. She is raised by Vikings but decides to free a captured Christian priest. Throughout the story, a family of storks observe and comment. In “The Ice Maiden”, two cats swap gossip about the main characters: “Is there any news from the mill?” said the parlor cat. “Here in the house a secret engagement has taken place. The father doesn’t yet know about it. Rudy and Babbette have been stepping on each other’s paws all evening under the table. They stepped on me twice, but I didn’t meow because that would have attracted attention.” “Well I would have meowed,” said the kitchen cat. “What’s proper in the kitchen is not proper in the parlor,” said the parlor cat. p. 357Two of my favorite stories in this collection were also two of the longest stories: “The Snow Queen” and “The Ice Maiden.” In “The Snow Queen”, young Gerda goes on a quest to save her best friend Kai from the Snow Queen who has abducted him. Along the way, she meets, among others: a garden full of flowers that talk to Gerda but don’t say anything useful; a couple of friendly crows; and a little robber girl (one of my favorite minor characters who gets an awesome line near the end.) “The Ice Maiden” is set in Switzerland and Andersen both intentionally and unintentionally evokes a bygone world, as he describes Swiss men who hunt on the glaciers as well as the modern locomotive.I found the specificity of Andersen’s fairy tales delightful. I have enough geographical knowledge to recognize Danish place names thrown out in “The Wind Tells of Valdemar Daae and His Daughters.” An aging Andersen talked to girls at a brothel to research his story “The Wood Nymph” which is set in Paris during that city’s 1867 Exposition.An amazing tidbit about Andersen’s tale “The Most Incredible Thing”: published in 1872, it became a symbolic story for the Danish Resistance in the 1940′s.There is so much in these stories that would be wonderful to discuss. There is the way that Christianity operates like another kind of magic, and alongside the fantasy elements. There is the high-stakes element of Andersen’s tales; happy endings are definitely not a guarantee. Apparently “The Story of a Mother” had a different ending and then Andersen capriciously decided to change it.There are also a number of stories that I haven’t mentioned at all that would be great to discuss in detail, but I don’t think this review should be much longer. My recommendation then is to read this collection for yourselves!

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