If you've happened by the Google homepage today you have undoubtedly seen the beautiful illustration banners depicting the stories of Hans Christian Anderson. What a great way to recognize the 205th birthday of one of history's greatest storytellers. More importantly, that banner inspired me to look up some of my favorite childhood Anderson stories, and I found a treasure trove in the public domain, that I can now share with my kids. My very first encounter with one of Anderson's stories was when I was five years old. I was given a "recorded book" of The Ugly Duckling. A recorded story book was a paper back picture book with a sleeve in the back. Inside the sleeve was a 45 record with the story on it. I would play stories like this on my little kid turntable (in a case!) over and over again while I followed along with the pictures. A chime would ring when it was time to turn the page.
As a parent, to my delight, I have found a website listing all of Anderson's stories. It provides the text with the original illustrations by Vilhelm Pedersen and Lorenz Frolich. I found myself deluging into a plethora of fairytale and folklore goodness with The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, Thumbelina and countless others I had never heard of. Did you know The Little Mermaid is one of Hans Christian Anderson's most popular? I found myself surprised, and a little embarrassed that I thought this was a Disney creation! ( Yikes! And I'm supposed to be a little bit more up on children's literature!)
Now i want to learn a bit more about Mr. Anderson. What kind of person was he? Did he have children of his own to whom he read his stories? Perhaps they were his inspiration to write them? The truth is, I know nothing about this great literary artist of our past, but now I am anxious to learn more. Let the research begin. In the meantime, I will take great joy in meeting all of the unknown characters dancing among Anderson's literary index and sharing them with my kids.