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article imageFirst fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen found

By Anne Sewell     Dec 15, 2012 in Entertainment
Odense - In something of a fairy tale situation, the handwritten book lost for decades in a dusty box in the Danish National Archives, which experts claim is the writer's "first fairy tale", has been found.
A local historian discovered the handwritten copy of the book titled “The Tallow Candle” at the bottom of a 15 kilo archive box in Odense in October this year.
Experts who have since studied the find claim it is the writer’s “first fairy tale.” Ejnar Stig Askgaard of the Odense City Museum, who has been studying the old book is one of Denmark’s leading Hans Christian Andersen experts.
Askgaard has dubbed the find “sensational,” because it shows the writer’s interest in fairy tales as a young man, before writing became his career. He said, “I am in no doubt that it has been written by Andersen.”
Author and fairy tale expert Sara Maitland, said the newly discovered story was "very, very Andersen".
"It's highly moralistic, rather sentimental, and it's animating an inanimate object. That's very Andersen - I don't know anyone else who does it that way, like The Tin Soldier, The Red Shoes, and now The Tallow Candle," she said. "And I'm fascinated that nobody found it before. Why has it just been sitting in a box undiscovered? The world is full of Hans Christian Andersen experts - it's very odd."
While Maitland thought it was a great find, she was not impressed with the quality of the work:
"I'm sure it would have meant more at the time. For every child who woke in the night, someone would have lit a candle or they would have stayed in the dark," she said. "We don't look at the candle as a source of light any more ... It would have been a more meaningful story then - but I don't think it's very good."
Further confirmation of authorship was also offered by two other 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.
Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen
Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen
Thora Hallager (1821-1884)
Experts say that the language used and style of writing show it was written during Andersen's youth, possibly between 1822 and 1826. They say discoveries like this are very rare and that the last time an important Andersen work was discovered in the archives was almost a century ago.
The book, entitled "The Tallow Candle" is a short story about a revered candle that becomes grimy and neglected until its inner beauty is recognized and ignited. Andersen wrote and dedicated the fairy tale as a gift to Madam Bunkeflod, a woman he knew in his childhood that he read to, and borrowed books from.
“It’s a wonderful little document as part of the history of Hans Christian Andersen. The fairy tale was a gift. A gift of thanks to a woman whose home had been very important to him,” Askgaard says.
Andersen was born in Odense in 1805, and was the son of a shoemaker and a washerwoman. He concentrated on poetry up until his first book of fairy tales was published in 1835. His books have since been translated into more than 150 languages.
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