Andersen, Annotated

When I was growing up, I had one book by Hans Christian Andersen. I believe it was called Andersen's Fairy Tales. I also believe it was green. It may stil be around here somewhere. But it was as an adult that I become a true Andersen aficionado. I think the tale that turned the tide was "The Old Man is Always Right." And then not long ago I came across a beautiful 1912 film of the Andersen story "The Match Seller."

A few years ago my interest tipped briefly over into obsession after I read a fabulous biography of Andersen by Jens Andersen, alongside a fabulous new translation of the Fairy Tales by Tiina Nunnally.

And now I have a copy of The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen, edited by Maria Tatar (Norton). It's Andersen! It's annotated! I love both those things. (I spent one whole wonderful summer dallying with Ulysses Annotated).

One of the wonderful things about this annotated edition is the variety of illustrations. I always knew that I loved Arthur Rackham.

~ Arthur Rackham, The Emperor's New Clothes

But Harry Clarke is pretty wonderful too:

~ Harry Clarke, "The Tinderbox"

And look how lovely this is:

~ Edmund Dulac, "The Princess and the Pea"

This Norton Annotated Andersen is full of treasures. One of the lesser known stories here is "The Goblin and the Grocer" which begins:

There was once a student who was living in a garret. He owned absolutely nothing. There was once a grocer who was living on the ground floor of that very house, and he owned the whole place. The household goblin was devoted to the grocer, for every Christmas Eve he was given a bowl of porridge with a big pat of butter right in the middle of it.

In this story a book of poetry is brought home by the student after he finds it being used to wrap cheese by the grocer. Given the choice between buying the cheese or buying the book being used as wrapping paper, the student chooses poetry. Takes me back to my own student days.

Thanks to Alina at Penguin for this one. I'm curious to see what other Annotated treasures are in store.


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