Despite this we return day after day to our lovely old book with its green cover and beautiful colour plates to immerse ourselves in a book of miserable tales that were written more than 150 years ago. Why is this so? We return because Hans Christian Andersen's stories are amongst the greatest fairy tales ever written. They are as fresh and exciting today as they were to the children of Andersen's own generation. They have an inherent goodness about them - they talk of kindness, goodness, love and hope, but above all they speak about trust in an all faithful, all loving God. The stories are deeply Christian, and yet they never preach. They talk about what is bad in our fallen world, but they also show what is good, and they do it in a way that children understand and that children love. We might feel sad at the end of a story, but we never feel hopeless, and we never feel alone.
Imagine a childhood devoid of such wonderful tales as The Emperor's New Clothes, The Ugly Duckling, Thumbelina, The Snow Queen or The Little Mermaid. On second thoughts, don't. It doesn't bear thinking about.
If you don't think that your children - or in fact, you - can cope with the entire anthology of Andersen's works then at least read them some individual stories. Marcia Brown's version of The Steadfast Tin Soldier is terrific, and I am particularly fond of Virginia Lee Burton's The Emperor's New Clothes.
Reading Hans Christian Andersen aloud is an interesting experience. His works are full of comedy and comment aimed at adult readers rather than their children.
I seize on an idea for grown-ups,and then tell the story to the little ones while always remembering that Father and Mother often listen, and you must also give them something for their minds.Like me you may not find reading Hans Christian Andersen pleasant. You will be glad however, that you've done so. So will your children.
We read it in AO2.
The Real Princess
There was once a Prince who wished to marry a Princess; but then she must be a real Princess. He travelled all over the world in hopes of finding such a lady; but there was always something wrong. Princesses he found in plenty; but whether they were real Princesses it was impossible for him to decide, for now one thing, now another, seemed to him not quite right about the ladies. At last he returned to his palace quite cast down, because he wished so much to have a real Princess for his wife.
One evening a fearful tempest arose, it thundered and lightened, and the rain poured down from the sky in torrents: besides, it was as dark as pitch.
All at once there was heard a violent knocking at the door, and the old King, the Prince's father, went out himself to open it.
It was a Princess who was standing outside the door. What with the rain and the wind, she was in a sad condition; the water trickled down from her hair, and her clothes clung to her body. She said she was a real Princess.
"Ah! we shall soon see that!" thought the old Queen-mother; however, she said not a word of what she was going to do; but went quietly into the bedroom, took all the bed-clothes off the bed, and put three little peas on the bedstead. She then laid twenty mattresses one upon another over the three peas, and put twenty feather beds over the mattresses.
Upon this bed the Princess was to pass the night.
The next morning she was asked how she had slept. "Oh, very badly indeed!" she replied. "I have scarcely closed my eyes the whole night through. I do not know what was in my bed, but I had something hard under me, and am all over black and blue.It has hurt me so much!"
Now it was plain that the lady must be a real Princess, since she had been able to feel the three little peas through the twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. None but a real Princess could have had such a delicate sense of feeling.
The Prince accordingly made her his wife; being now convinced that he had found a real Princess. The three peas were however put into the cabinet of curiosities, where they are still to be seen, provided they are not lost.
Was not this a lady of real delicacy?