Printer Friendly

The language of Andersen's early fairy tales.

The world fame of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales--or at least the best known of them--is even greater now, more than two centuries after his birth, than it was in his own lifetime. However, in an international context this fame is chiefly based on the content of the tales rather than on the form and language in which they are couched.

There are good reasons for that. The most obvious one is that the readers, apart from those who understand Danish, are dependent on translations of the tales. (2) It is a truism that all literature suffers in translation, and the more distinctive, individualistic and downright idiosyncratic the language is, the harder it is for any translator to be faithful to the original and get both the tone and all the nuances right. (3) This may also be said, of course, of other literary works from the past that constantly appear in new translations, such as Shakespeare's and Racine's plays, Goethe's poetry, etc. However, Andersen presents, if not a unique, then certainly a very demanding challenge to any translator, because his language in the fairy tales departs markedly from both that of his contemporaries and from the fairy-tale tradition in general. Concentrating on this aspect of the tales, the article confines itself to his earliest fairy tales, particularly to "Fyrtoiet" (The Tinderbox), which appeared in the first volume of fairy tales in 1835. (4)

In a sense it is not quite accurate to claim that the 1835 volume marks the beginning of Andersen's fascination with the fairy-tale genre. In 1830 his Digte (Poems) had at the end of the book a text, described there as "et fyensk Folke-Eventyr" (a folk tale from Funen [the island of Andersen's birth]), entitled " Dodningen" (The Dead Person). (5) It came with the following short explanation by the author:
   Som barn var det min storste Glaede at hore Eventyr, en stor Deel
   staae endnu ret levende i min Erindring, og nogle af disse ere kun
   lidet eller intet bekjendte; jeg har her gjenfortalt et, og dersom
   jeg seer det optaget med Bifald, vil jeg saaledes behandle flere,
   og engang levere en Cyclus af danske Folke-Eventyr. (Andersen 2003
   : I:52)

   (As a child it was my greatest joy to listen to fairy tales, many
   of them are still quite fresh in my memory, and some of these are
   little or not at all known; I have here retold one, and in case it
   is received with approbation, I will deal with others, and at some
   point deliver a cycle of Danish folk fairy tales.)

However, this attempt to "dip his toes in the water", as it were, and hope for a positive reaction fell on deaf ears. Andersen received nothing but harsh criticism for his efforts, and five years passed before he tried his hand at this genre again. But when he did, he seemed to have learnt his lesson, for the difference in language, style and idiom is remarkable.

"Dodningen" opens with a detailed description of the setting (on Funen) and a rather high-flown depiction of " en smuk August-Aften" (a beautiful August evening), complete with dancing elf girls and the elf king himself as well as other supernatural beings, such as an exorcised spirit that still haunts the locality. This is all depicted in a somewhat bombastic style and, at times, in a vocabulary that is far from elementary, e. g. "thi den Nedmanede floi hver Midnat, i store Kredse, som en kulsort Ravn og skraemmede Egnens beboere ved sit hasse Skrig" (for den exorcised spirit flew around every midnight, in wide circles, in the guise of a pitch-black raven and frightened the local inhabitants with its hoarse croaking).

No doubt this owes a lot to the interest in the night side of life and to aspects of the supernatural found in some of the German Romantic works, e. g. Novalis's Hymnen an die Nacht (Hymns to the Night) and some of E. T. A. Hoffmann's demonic night settings, and it looks as if by using a mature and formal style Andersen was trying to prove himself to the dominant aesthetic circles in Copenhagen, centred around the writer and critic Johan Ludvig Heiberg. However the "new" language in the fairy tales that he created from 1835 onwards is totally independent of that of the writers that he admired, such as Tieck and Hoffmann in Germany and Adam Oehlenschlager in Denmark.

One particular construction in the opening sentence of "Dodningen" stands out as symptomatic of Andersen's language before he found his "true voice" in the later fairy tales. (I have translated the sentence as literally as possible--rather than elegantly--and have italicised the construction in question, while dispensing with the italics of the Danish place-names.)
   Omtrent en Miil fra Bogense finder man paa Marken i Naerheden af
   Elvedgaard, en ved sin storrelse moerkvoerdig Hvidtjorn, der kan
   sees fra selve den jydske Kyst. Andersen 2003 : I:52

   (About five miles from Bogense one will find in a field in the
   vicinity of Elvedgaard a due to its size peculiar hawthorn, which
   may be seen even from the coast of Jutland.) (6)

The noun phrase in question, incorporating a prepositional phrase between the indefinite article and the descriptive adjective, is typical of the Germanic academic style that Danish intellectuals eagerly adopted at the time, not least Andersen's contemporary, the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. But one would be hard pressed to find this kind of construction in Andersen's later writings, particularly in the fairy tales. In fact, Andersen rewrote "Dodningen" as "Reisekammeraten" (The Travelling Companion), published in the second instalment of fairy tales in 1835, together with "Tommelise" (Thumbelina) and "Den uartige Dreng" (The Naughty Boy). Just to give a flavour of the radical change in Andersen's language from five years previously, let me quote the opening paragraph of "Reisekammeraten":
   Den stakkels Johannes var saa bedrovet, for hans Fader var meget
   syg og kunne ikke leve. Der var slet ingen uden de to inde i den
   lille Stue; Lampen paa Bordet var ved at braende ud, og det var
   ganske sildigt paa Aftenen. (Andersen 2003; 123)

   (In Tiina Nunnally's translation: Poor Johannes was so sad because
   his father was very ill and about to die. There was no one else but
   the two of them in the little room. The lamp on the table was about
   to go out, and it was quite late in the evening.) (47)

Instead of the initial, extensive description of the locality in "Dodningen", the beginning of " Reisekammeraten" has been cut to the bone. Immediately we see the main character, Johannes, and share his sadness. The paragraph reproduced here is followed by direct speech, namely the last words that the father utters to his son, after which he dies. In other words, unlike "Dodningen" the tale begins in media? res without any introduction and thus catches the attention of the reader (or child listener) from the start.

A more dramatic change from the earlier version is difficult to imagine, and if we look closely at the language, a few things spring to mind. The vocabulary is very simple. There are no formal words here; even "sildigt" (late), which has been phased out in modern Danish, was quite a common word then. The formal, somewhat biblical conjunction "thi" (for), which appeared in "Dodningen", is nowhere to be seen, and it could be argued that "because" in the translation sounds heavier and more clumsy that the short Danish "for". We also note that although "og kunne ikke leve" (and could not live) may be semantically close to "and about to die", the tone of the latter is colder and more matter-of-fact than the Danish expression, especially to a young reader/listener. Further, "slet ingen" (no one at all) is given as "no one else", which covers it fairly accurately but lacks the more insistent emphasis of the childlike, colloquial effect of the Danish phrase. Finally, the English translation has a full stop after "room"--a less precise locality than the Danish Stue, a living-room--whereas Andersen's text has a semi-colon. This is a perennial headache for translators of the fairy tales (see below).

However, we have barely scratched the surface concerning Andersen's language in the fairy tales, and in truth it changed further in important respects as he gained confidence and mastery of his craft, especially in the 1850s when he substituted the title word "eventyr" (fairy tales) for "historier" (stories). But that is not our immediate concern.

In the run-up to the appearance of the 1835 volume, Andersen expressed his thoughts about this new departure in his writing career (or the revisiting of a previous endeavour) in letters to friends. Thus a few months before the publication in May 1835, he says in a letter to his older friend, the poet and novelist B. S. Ingemann, who himself dappled in this genre, that he has started writing some tales and that he has high hopes for them. As he puts it,
   Dernaest har jeg begyndt paa nogle: "Eventyr fortalte for Born", og
   jeg troer de lykkes for mig. Jeg har givet et Par af de Eventyr jeg
   selv som Lille var lykkelig ved, og som jeg ikke troer ere kjendte
   ... (7) (His emphasis)

   (Furthermore, I have begun some " Fairy Tales, Told for Children",
   and I think I will succeed with them. I have rendered a few of the
   fairy tales that made me happy to listen to as a child and which I
   think are not known ...)

Significantly, he then adds the following information, "jeg har ganske skrevet dem saaledes som jeg selv vilde fortaelle et Barn dem" (I have written them exactly as I myself would tell them to a child). This is precisely what was missing in his comments about "Dodningen", where he only said that he had retold one, but not in what way. As we saw, it was not in this way.

Even closer to the publication, Andersen had this to say to the German writer Adelbert von Chamisso: "Jeg troer i disse ret eiendommeligt at have udtalt det Barnlige" (in these [i. e. the first four tales] I think I have expressed the childish in a rather singular way). (8)

What Andersen brings to the fairy tales this time round is therefore first and foremost two new things: the child's perspective and a new kind of language.

As far as the perspective is concerned, he gradually realised that his tales were being misinterpreted and thought of as only stories for children--something which is still a widespread view in many countries, including in the Anglo-Saxon world. At different stages in his life, Andersen commented on this failure to grasp the meaning of his tales fully, e. g. in the introduction to his third volume in 1837--this is the one that contains "Den lille Havfrue" (The Little Mermaid) and " Keiserens nye Klasder" (The Emperor's New Clothes)--where he admits that in contrast to "The Little Mermaid", the deeper meaning of which only the older reader will understand, the previous tales are perhaps more suited to the child. Andersen himself was partly to blame for this " misconception" by issuing each volume up to 1842 with the subtitle "Eventyr, fortalte for Born" (Fairy Tales, Told for Children). Only then did he quietly drop that epithet, but it is clear that he always had a "double audience" of children and adults in mind; in other words, that his tales could be understood at different levels.

This is apparent not only from the tales themselves but also from the guidance that he issues much later on how to read them, albeit with a good dose of hindsight. In the volume of "Eventyr og Historier" (Fairy Tales and Stories) from 1863 he elaborates as follows: "Man skulle i Stilen hore Fortaelleren, Sproget maatte derfor naerme sig det mundtlige Foredrag; der fortaltes for Born, men ogsaa den AEldre skulle hore derpaa" (One should in the style hear the narrator, the language therefore had to approach an oral account; the narration was for children, but the older person should also listen to it). (9) Here Andersen also admits that it was his ambition in "Dodningen" to imitate the tone found in the folk fairy tales published by Musaus in Germany in 1782-86 (the first Danish translation appeared in 1841, after Andersen's first five volumes and certainly long after "Dodningen").

Lastly, exactly two months before his death in 1875, Andersen goes even further and confides this to his diary (4 June 1875):
   ... mine Eventyr vare ligesaa meget for de AEldre som for Bornene,
   disse forstode kun Stafagen og som modne Folk saae og fornam forst
   det Hele. At det Naive var kun een Deel af mine Eventyr, at Humoren
   egentlig var Saltet i dem. (10) (... my fairy tales were just as
   much for the older people as for the children, the latter only
   understood the trappings and did not see or grasp the whole of it
   until they were mature, or understand that the naive elements were
   merely one aspect of my fairy tales and that the humour was
   actually the salt in them.)

The early shift in perspective towards a more "child-friendly" style, compared with previous folk fairy tales and the Kunstmarchen of the Romantic era, had a profound impact on Andersen's language. Gone were the elaborate constructions and contorted sentences of "Dodningen" as well as the formal vocabulary. The sudden change in tone and technique as well as language may be illustrated in the very first tale of Andersen's first volume of fairy tales from 1835, viz. "Fyrtoiet" (The Tinderbox), and since many of the basic features in it soon established themselves as a kind of "ground rules" for the following tales, we will take a closer look at some of them, including the frequent use of direct speech and the simplicity of language.

Much of the first part of the "The Tinderbox"--the sequence concerning the soldier and the witch--is rendered by means of direct speech, including the latter's long instruction to the soldier of how he can get copper, silver and gold coins down in the hollow tree. This in itself is a departure from the classic folk fairy tale, which tends to use reported speech for such exchanges. Direct speech serves several functions; for example, it helps to characterise the speaker; it brings a greater liveliness to the story; and not least, it catches the attention of children better than long descriptive passages.

It is notable that the soldier and the witch are immediately on very informal terms with each other. She addresses him as "soldat" (soldier) and with the informal pronoun du rather than with the formal De (you; compare German du vs. Sie, and French tu vs. vous), which at the time was not something you did to strangers, but fairy tales often dispense with formalities. Indeed, for her his sword and rucksack alone define him as "en rigtig soldat" (a real soldier), while he in turn calls her "din gamle heks" (you old witch), but not before she has been described as such by the narrator, purely because of her repulsive looks "hun var saa askel, hendes Underlaebe hang hende lige ned paa Brystet" (she was so hideous, her lower lip hung all way down to her breast) (79; Nunnally, 5). As such, these two characters are treated as types: a soldier is brave and dashing, a witch is old and ugly. No attempt at nuances or political correctness here! This is more in line with folk fairy tales, as is the fact that no character in this tale is known by name, only by profession (the soldier, the King, the Queen, the princess, the shoemaker's apprentice, etc.) or by appearance (the witch).
   Further linguistic features come into play if we consider the very
   first sentence; Der kom en Soldat marcherende henad Landeveien:
   een, to! een, to! han havde sit Tornister paa Ryggen og en Sabei
   ved Siden, for han havde vaeret i Krigen, og nu skulle han hjem.

   (In Nnnally's translation (5) : A soldier came marching along the
   road: left, right! left, right! He had his knapsack on his back and
   a sword at his side, because he had been to war, and now he was on
   his way home.)

From a purely semantic point of view, there is no need to add anything to the opening clause. We all know what marching sounds like; that is, we adults do. To children, however, the rhythm and sound of marching are brought home to them by the onomatopoeic "een! to!" (literally: one, two! one, two!). This is how the military command is said (or shouted) in Danish, but in English it is traditionally "left, right! left, right!". It is therefore perfectly "correct" and in accordance with idiomatic English usage that Nunnally translates it in this way. And yet, we do not get quite the same connotations we do as from Andersen's text. For a young child "one, two!" is a more basic and immediately understandable concept, and it helps to define the soldier, since even though he is alone, he still behaves as if under orders. In short, the child (like the witch) finds it easier to see him as a soldier.

There are several other onomatopoeic expressions in the text, all with a view to make the story lively and to appeal to children. For instance, when the soldier opens the first door down in the tree, he utters an involuntary " Uh!" (Ooh) (80/Nunnally 6) when he spots the dog in the room. Or does he? There are no inverted commas around this exclamation, and it is more logical to see it as an example of free indirect speech in that we hear the soldier's reaction via the narrator's voice. This is a device that Andersen perfected in his fairy-tale language. When the soldier opens the second door, an "Eia!" (Eeek!) is expressed, but by whom? And the sight of the third dog (the one with eyes as big as "runde Taarn") (11) generates a whole sentence (at least in the Danish text), "Nei det var aekelt?" (literally: No, that was hideous!; Nunnally: Oh, how hideous! 6), but again without being part of direct speech.

Similar exclamations (introduced by interjections) to impart the thoughts or feelings of the soldier are: "Jo der var rigtignok Penge!" (Yes, there was certainly plenty of money!) (80/Nunnally 7), "Uh, hvor der var morkt og kedeligt" (Oh, how dark and dreary it was) (12) (84/Nunnally 10) and "og--ja nu skal vi faae at hore?" (and ... well, let's hear what happened) (ibid.). The last of these, in different linguistic variations, became a favourite "trick" of the narrator in the tales, and the emphasis is always on the verb "hore" (hear), which draws attention to the listening rather than the reading process. (13)

How simple the vocabulary is in Andersen's new-found voice may be exemplified by the frequent repetitions of very common words. A few examples will suffice. There are several Danish verbs that can express the sense of sight, but it is notable that in "The Tinderbox" only the most common one "se" (see; in Andersen's time spelt "see") is used, except towards the end when the soldier is imprisoned and "kigede ud mellem Jernstaengerne" (84) (peered out through the iron bars; my emphasis) and perhaps the very last words where the dogs (with a pun that even children may catch) "gjorde store ojne" (85) (made big eyes). Some of these numerous examples of "se" cannot be translated into English by a form of "see", as "see" and "look" are used differently, and in other cases the translator will often want to vary the vocabulary by using other expressions (as Nunnally does on a few occasions). Nevertheless, it is part and parcel of Andersen's appeal to children that he insists on these repetitions.

And if that was not enough, there are plenty of instances of the adverb/conjunction "sa" (then/so, with various meanings), forming a whole web of variations; "sa" being a homograph of the past tense of "se".

This, almost imperceptibly, leads us on to Andersen's extensive use of "discourse particles" (also known as "modal adverbs"), such as "da, dog, jo, nok, nu, vel", which are all represented in this tale but are notoriously difficult, and often impossible, to translate into English, certainly without making the style clumsy and cumbersome. (14) And to complicate matters, some of them like "da" and "nu" also have other uses, viz. as conjunction and/or adverb (when/then and now, respectively). Space does not allow more than a flavour of the complexities of these discourse particles, so here are four examples (with the discourse particle italicised). Note that only in the last example has the particle been translated (as "I imagine");

"det er dog noget loierligt noget, at man ikke maa faae den Prindsesse at see!" (82)

(Literally: it is really a strange thing that one is not allowed to get to see that princess)

(Nunnally: How odd that no one is allowed to see that princess; 8)

"det var jo den sidste Pibe han fik i denne Verden" (84)

(Literally; it was after all the last pipe he got in this world)

(Nunnally; it would be the last pipe he had in this world; 11)

"Men Dronningen var nu en meget klog Kone" (83)

(Literally; But the Queen was after all a very clever woman)

(Nunnally; But the queen was a very clever woman; 10)

"For noget vil Du vel have med, kan jeg tasnke?" (80)

(Literally; For something you want to have me bring along, I suppose.)

(Nunnally; Because I imagine there must be something you want; 6)

Finally, let me mention a very characteristic aspect of the style that Andersen gradually adopted in the fairy tales, namely the heavily paratactic style with long sentences--the term "sentence" here refers to what is written between two full stops--but with few subordinate clauses in them. Instead of a linking subordinate conjunction, we often find main clause heaped upon main clause, separated from the previous one merely by a comma or a semicolon, or by a coordinating conjunction such as "og" (and), "men" (but) or "for" (for, because). A famous example of this is the end of the fairy tale "Klokken" (The Bell) from 1845, depicting the high-Romantic, pantheistic view of nature where everything melts together in one great harmony. It feels almost prosaic to point out that there are only four subordinators in this long sequence/sentence, namely "der" (which); "hvor" (where); "hvori" (in which); and "idet" (just as), and none in the second half of it:
   Havet, det store herlige Hav der vaeltede sine lange Bolger mod
   Kysten, strakte sig ud foran ham, og Solen stod som et stort
   skinnende Alter derude, hvor Hav og Himmel modtes, alt smeltede
   sammen i glodende Farver, Skoven sang og Havet sang og hans Hjerte
   sang med; den hele Natur var en stor hellig Kirke, hvori Traeer og
   svaevende Skyer vare Pillerne, Blomster og Graes det vaevede
   Floiels Klaede og Himlen selv den store Kuppel; deroppe slukkedes
   de rode Farver, idet Solen forsvandt, men Millioner Stjerner
   tasndtes, Millioner Diamant-Lamper skinnede da og Kongesonnen
   bredte sine Arme ud mod Himlen, mod Havet og Skoven, og i det
   samme, fra den hoire Sidegang, kom med de korte AErmer og med
   Traeskoe den fattige Confirmand; han var kommen der ligesaa
   tidligt, kommen der ad sin Vei, og de lobe hinanden imode og holdt
   hinanden i Haenderne i Naturens og Poesiens store Kirke og over dem
   klang den usynlige hellige Klokke, salige Aander svaevede i Dans om
   den til et jublende Halleluja? (Andersen 2003 : I:372-73)

   (In Nunnally's translation (with American spelling), 271 : The sea,
   the great glorious sea, tumbled its long waves against the shore
   and stretched out before him, with the sun floating like a great
   gleaming altar out where the sea and sky met. Everything merged
   into blazing colors. The forest sang and the sea sang and his heart
   sang too. All of nature was one great holy cathedral in which the
   trees and drifting clouds were the pillars, the flowers and grass
   the woven velvet cloth, and the sky itself the enormous dome. Up
   there the red colors were extinguished as the sun vanished, but
   millions of stars were lit, millions of diamond lamps glittered.
   And the king's son spread out his arms toward the sky, toward the
   sea and the forest. At that moment, from the aisle on the right,
   appeared the poor boy with the short sleeves and the wooden clogs.
   He had arrived at the same time, taking his own path. The two boys
   ran to each other and held hands in the great cathedral of nature
   and poetry. Above them rang the invisible sacred bell, and blessed
   spirits hovered and danced around them to a jubilant "

There is among translators a clear reluctance to emulate Andersen's paratactic style. It is (often rightly, no doubt) felt that this would sound unidiomatic in English, and translators therefore normally break up these long sentences into several shorter ones by inserting full stops, and even (as above) a new paragraph. However, this interrupts the natural flow of Andersen's language, with its expressive rhythmic cadences that are part and parcel of the colloquial effect. In fact, there are no fewer than ten sentences in Nunnally's translation compared with Andersen's one, as well as the extra paragraph. It is up to each translator how far s/he is prepared to sacrifice the almost breathless delivery of the original on the altar of "normality" of language, but it is beyond dispute that the effect on the reader/listener is very different from the one produced by Andersen's own text.

Although there has only been space to deal with certain aspects of Andersen's language in the fairy tales, we have seen some instances of how problematic it is to translate them, in this case into English, and how many pitfalls they present. As Andersen might have said, "Now we shall hear", but my contention is that in translations in general we tend to hear different things from what he wrote. Some of this is unavoidable because of the differences in vocabularies, structures, semantic fields, idioms, etc., between languages, but many of the problems can be resolved in ways that either enhance or detract from Andersen's extraordinary awareness of, and sensitivity to, the use of language. Translators do have a choice in some of these matters; the interesting (and important) thing is how they exercise it.

Works Cited

Andersen, Hans Christian. Breve fra Hans Christian Andersen eds. C. S. A. Bille and Nikolai Bogh, Vol. I. Copenhagen; CA. Reitzel, 1878.

--. Ham Christian Andersen--Fairy Tales. Ed. Jackie Wullschlager. Trans. Tiina Nunnally. London; Penguin, 2004.

--. Andersen, Ham Christian H. C. Andersens Dagboger 1825-1875, vols I-XII, eds. K. Olsen and H. Topsoe-Jensen, Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab. Copenhagen; Gad, 1971-76.

--. Andersen, Ham Christian. H. C. Andersens samlede voerker. Eventyr og Historier I-III. Ed. Klaus P. Mortensen, Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab. Copenhagen; Gyldendal, 2003.

Brostrom, Torben and Jorn Lund. Flugten i sproget. Copenhagen; Gyldendal, 1991.

Jensen, Anker. Studier over H. C. Andersens Sprog. Haderslev; C. Nielsen, 1929.

Lundskaer-Nielsen, Tom. "Language for Children? An Examination of the Language and Intended Readership of the Fairy Tales". In: H. C. Andersen--Between Children's Literature and Adult Literature. Papers from the Fourth International Hans Christian Andersen Conference, 1 to 5 August 2005, eds. Johan de Mylius, Aage Jorgensen and Viggo Hjornager Pedersen. Odense; University Press of Southern Denmark, 2007, 466-77.

--. and Philip Holmes. Danish. A Comprehemive Grammar (2nd ed). Abingdon/New York; Routledge, 2010.

Mollehave, Johannes. H. C. Andersens salt. Om humoren i H. C. Andersens eventyr. Copenhagen Lindhardt & Ringhof, 1985.

Pedersen, Viggo Hjornager. Ugly Ducklings? Studies in the English Translations of Ham Christian Andersen's Tales and Stories. Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark, 2004.

Tom Lundskaer-Nielsen

Department of Scandinavian Studies, University College London

Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, England.



(1.) Surprisingly little has been written about Andersen's language in the fairy tales, using the original Danish texts of course. The most comprehensive study, i. e. Jensen (1929), is now more than 80 years old. Naturally, there have been other examinations of it since then, e. g. Brostrom and Lund (1991), aspects of Mollehave (1985) and a number of shorter ones, but in view of the radical departure from the tradition that Andersen's language in the early fairy tales represents, this lack of interest is difficult to explain. Very little exists in English on this topic, but some of the characteristic linguistic features are addressed in my own article (Lundskeer-Nielsen 2007).

(2.) An extensive study of English translations of Andersen's fairy tales and stories is found in Pedersen (2004).

(3.) There is a general debate within translation studies about the interrelationship between "original" and translation, even to the extent that the notion of an " original text" is disputed, but for the sake of argument I shall here assume that translators of Andersen strive towards rendering his fairy tales as closely as possible to the texts that he wrote.

(4.) All Danish references to the fairy tales are to the recent edition of the Collected Works, H. C. Andersem Samlede Voerker, Eventyr og Historier I-III, Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab, Gyldendal, 2003, and all are to the first volume. Numerous English translations since the middle of the 19th century are available (see Pedersen 2004), but for most people (myself included) none of them is wholly satisfactory in all respects. As a good modern translation I shall in general refer to Tiina Nunnally's translation of 30 of the 156 fairy tales and stories, published in Hans Christian Andersen--Fairy Tales, ed. J. Wullschlager (2004), though I shall query some of her solutions and at times provide my own translations.

(5.) Note the spelling with an "o"; in modern Danish this letter symbol would be "0".

(6.) Note that a Danish "mii" is 7.5 kilometres, while an English mile is approximately 1.6 kilometres.

(7.) Breve fra Ham Christian Andersen, ed. C. S. A. Bille and Nikolai Bogh, Vol. I., Copenhagen; C.A. Reitzel, 1878, (dated 10 February 1835) 292.

(8.) Poul Hojbye, "Chamisso, H. C. Andersen og andre danskere", Anderseniana, 1969: 400. Chamisso is best known for his story Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte (The Wondrous Story of Peter Schlemihl) (1814), which inspired, and is even referred to in, Andersen's "The Shadow", though Andersen makes clear there that the similarity is only superficial.

(9.) Andersen (2003: III:368).

(10.) H.C. Andersens Dagboger 1825-1875, XII: 4. juni (June) 1875.

(11.) This is a good illustration of the problems that face a translator, and this is not even a specifically linguistic conundrum. The term "runde Taarn" (in modern Danish, "Rundetarn") refers to a concrete tower in Copenhagen, completed in 1642 during the reign of King Christian IV (1588-1648). The reference thus makes good sense to readers familiar with this Copenhagen landmark (though, arguably, having eyes the size of c. 35 metres stretches at least adult readers' credulity), but not to others. Nunnally (6) makes the eyes "as big as round towers", which is much vaguer. However, at the end Nunnally does in fact use the phrase "the one with eyes as big as the Round Tower" (11), so why not the first time, and do the readers really understand it?

(12.) Note that the English "Oh" does not unambiguously convey the purely negative connotations of the Danish "Uh".

(13.) Andersen himself was famous for reading performances of his fairy tales, especially during his countless stays at stately homes in Denmark and princely courts in Germany. For an analysis of Andersen's use of " hore" see e. g. Mollehave (1985; 16-31).

(14.) Translations of these words vary greatly, and they are often simply left out in English translations. However, they express very important nuances in the Danish text and are thus significant for the interpretation of the tales. For a textbook presentation of these and other Danish 'discourse particles' see Lundskaer-Nielsen and Holmes (2010;413-16).
COPYRIGHT 2011 Wuhan Guoyang Union Culture & Education Company
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Hans Christian Andersen
Author:Lundskaer-Nielsen, Tom
Publication:Forum for World Literature Studies
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2011
Previous Article:Nation building and folklore in Norway 1840-1905.
Next Article:Dual or single address? Some reflections on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales in polish translations.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |