August 19, 2021

#08-124: Three Tales by Hans Christian Andersen

profile of a pleasant-looking man with an extremely long nose, in 19th-century formal wear
Hans Christian Andersen

Note: An ugly duckling, a naked emperor, and a sensitive princess--meet three of the creations of Danish fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen.

Get Ready: Why do you think some people are so easily fooled by appearances, and unable to see the true nature of things?

Danish author Hans Christian Andersen wrote nearly two hundred stories, but only a handful of them have entered the everyday knowledge of English speakers. Let's look at a few of his best-known tales.


First up is "The Ugly Duckling." A mother duck hatches out her brood; one of the babies looks so different that he becomes the laughingstock of the barnyard. He wanders away to live with wild ducks and geese until they're killed by hunters, but he escapes. Every home he finds brings more ridicule or danger.

In autumn he sees a flock of wild swans, but he is too young to migrate south with them. After a cold winter in a cave near a frozen lake, he sees the swans return in the spring, and he joins them--even if it means they will attack and kill him. To his surprise, they embrace him as one of their own! Seeing his reflection in the water, he realizes why: he was not an ugly duckling at all, but a baby who grew into a beautiful swan! He spreads his wings and flies away with the others.


Next is "The Emperor's New Clothes." In this very simple story, two swindlers convince an emperor to spend an extravagant amount of money on a new wardrobe. They tell him that the clothes they are making are invisible to anyone who is stupid or incompetent. The emperor, of course, cannot see them--but won't admit it lest they think these things of him! The first time he goes out to show off his new "clothes"--bare naked--an innocent little boy in the crowd blurts out the truth! The people realize they have been hoodwinked, but the emperor marches on, chin up, apparently prouder than ever.


Finally, in "The Princess and the Pea," a prince is seeking a wife, but each candidate is unsuitable for one reason or another. A young woman shows up on a rainy night and claims to be a princess; offering her shelter from the storm, the prince's mother decides to test her by placing a pea beneath a mattress and 20 feather beds, since only a royal person would be troubled by such a small thing.

The next morning the girl complains that she couldn't sleep a wink, as something was poking her from below. When she reveals the bruise on her back, all are convinced, and the prince and the girl become happily married.


I hope we'll get a chance to read a few more of Mr. Andersen's stories!


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. a wink
  2. barnyard
  3. brood
  4. bruise
  5. extravagant
  6. feather beds
  7. hoodwinked
  8. laughingstock
  9. migrate
  10. wardrobe

  1. someone easily made fun of
  2. travel to a new living place
  3. an area where farm animals can roam free
  4. all the clothes belonging to one person
  5. a group of babies born or hatched at the same time
  6. wasteful; very high
  7. at all
  8. tricked; fooled
  9. quilts
  10. a black-and-blue mark on the skin

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for August 19, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. c; 3. e; 4. j; 5. f; 6. i; 7. h; 8. a; 9. b; 10. d