Today is International Children’s book day, celebrated on the birthday of Hans Christian Anderson. One of my favourite books from my childhood that I still treasure today and read to my own children 40 years on is ‘The Best of Hans Christian Anderson’ which has gorgeous colour illustrations as well as the classic stories alongside some lesser well known ones from this amazing and timeless children’s author.
Did you know that 2 of Disney’s biggest film hits were based on Hans Christian Anderson stories?
Why do I love his stories and why do I still read them to my kids today……
Well, they are sad…..which seems a strange reason and actually I am such a massive advocate of creating fun and happiness for children this is a very odd thing to top my list, HOWEVER, as my 9 year old daughter so eloquently wrote recently “Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light” (yes really, she wrote that unprompted!!) and so this is why I think it is important to children to learn that life is not all happiness and play. There are times when they will feel unhappy, miserable, hurt and confused and also not get what they want. And I think especially in the very ‘comfortable’ world that we live in it is more important than ever before for them to learn mental strength and resilience. And to acknowledge their feelings; both happy and sad.
Hans Christian Anderson stories are actually quite bleak in a lot of ways but a lot of them have beautiful endings (not always happy) but with amazing messages and morals.
One of the most famous of his stories is of course ‘The Ugly Duckling’ and this really is a gem of a tale that has stood the test of time and continue to be relevant throughout humankind.
‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ is also one of his more well known ones and has become a proverb that most people understand if used to describe a situation where everyone is going with group behaviour without standing up for their own beliefs. This was one of my strongest story memories from my childhood. I used to have a cassette tape that my uncle had recorded him reading stories on and this was one of my favourites!
Another favourite that was also on this tape was ‘The Little Fir Tree’ and one that I found especially sad was ‘The Little Match Girl’ but I loved to read it as it gave me a very early insight into mortality. It still brings tears to my eyes today!
I think one of the reasons that Hans Christian Anderson stories stand the test of time is that they deal with issues of human kind than span decades. yes we have new and different issues nowadays but we still need to teach our children about beauty, kindness, heartache, death, dreams and belief.
The Disney films that I mentioned at the start? Well of course it’s the Little Mermaid and ‘The Snow Queen’ which was the inspiration for the smash hit ‘Frozen’. Although both have of course been very much ‘Disney-fied’ something I am not sure I agree with but understand why from a business point of view! And I do enjoy both films I won’t deny that! But I enjoy the original stories more.
What Hans Christian Anderson stories are your favourite and which will you read to your kids this week?
To read my thoughts on Disney and portrayal of women in Disney films see ‘delusions of Disney’ here