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"AT" with a number behind it tells the Andersen tale is a folktale at bottom. "AT" refers to a previous edition of the International Classification System for folktales. The AT numbers were replaced by ATU numbers in 2004. (Uther, 2004). Further, there are hundreds on hundreds of types of tales without any assigned AT or ATU number to this day. Such numbers are used for comparing tales, looking into the history of many of them, and study the literature of many languages in which different tales are found.

The Ugly Duckling

This tale - first published in 1844 - is made by Andersen, and is therefore a Kunstmärchen, an "art tale", which is a tale by a known author. Some added thought:

If you want to study ducks and to learn all that is possible to know about ducks, then you had better love ducks. - Abraham Maslow, (1964, Appendix F)

Detail from a Vatican fresco by Raphael Tending a duck pond well, one that is good for children and adults alike, could be one of the most significant things to do in a life. A duck pond could encourage easy, lax encounters, and maybe easy sharing with others. It is most often good for children to be around ducks, but it is too close when a child and a duck become afraid.

Obviously it is in the youthful period of life that we have most to gain from a thorough recognition of the instinctual side." - Carl G. Jung

[The tale]

It's Quite True!

This Andersen-made tale, which is given the title "There Is no Doubt about It" by H. P. Paull, one of the Andersen translators, was first published in 1852. The Danish title literally translates to "It's quite certain". At any rate, the tale is about spreading and swelling rumours - on how rumours grow by being told. Some rumours spread because people cannot resist telling tales and are unable to keep entertaining stories to themselves. The proverbial phrase that "one feather may grow into five hens", refers to how even trifles may grow through being told and retold. In such a way one's reputation may suffer too. A proverb: "Words and feathers the wind carries away." [Dp 196]

[The tale]

What the Old Man Does Is Always Right

ATU 1415, "Lucky Hans" (see Uther, vol. 2, pp. 204-05). The tale was first published in 1861. Andersen has elaborated a bit on a type of tale that is spread all over Europe and further. The same form of barter tales are also found in the Buddhist Tripitaka, "the book of a hundred tales", from antiquity. What is ridiculed is bartering and exchanging to one's loss, and betting. Strangely, there is a happy ending anyhow, and that is where the main source of entertainment is in this case.

[The tale]

The Fir Tree

The tale was first published in 1845. The fir tree understood too late that being admired as a centre of attention should not come first in a life, but being rooted, growing, and thriving as plainly oneself.

[The tale]

The Child in the Grave

"The Child in the Grave [Barnet i Graven]," was first published in 1859. It is about getting reconciled with the death of a child. During the first year or two after the death of a loved one, one's mental and physical health may be at risk. Even so, most people recover their former levels of well-being. Still some fail to recover even after several years. Social support can help the bereaved to cope.

A bereaved person may pass through several stages: Outright denial of hard facts and maddening anger may give way to maturing acceptance, after all. (See James and Friedman, 2009)

[The tale]

The Emperor's New Clothes

AT 1620 - "The Emperor's New Clothes [Keiserens nye Klæder]" - first published in 1837 - is based on a tale in a Castillan-Spanich collection of warning tales. The collection is named Libro de los ejemplos (or El Conde Lucanor) from 1335, by Juan Manuel, Prince of Villena (In English by James York, 1899). Andersen read the tale in German translation, and made some adaptations and changes for his version. (WP, "The Emperor's New Clothes")

Vanity takes on many forms, in the mean courts of Europe, among the gaudy and newly rich, and others too. Vain persons seem foolish for their lack of control. Being a slave of fashion is not so very much different; it is more or less a matter of degree.

[The tale]

The Nightingale

This artist tale was first published in 1844. There are many sorts of birds that can be taught to parrot and talk. The question is how much they understand. It may be still more rewarding discovering how birds communicate among themselves by sounds and movements, how they are organised, and otherwise. Some of the outcomes of bird-watching are astounding.

[The tale]

Little Claus and Big Claus

AT 1535 - The tale was first published in 1835. Tales of this type typically contain simple farmers and many episodes of trickery. It is good to alerted to that some seemingly fair ones have underhand motives, and folk tales bring home such understanding without severe costs. Life experience, on the other hand, may be an expensive master.

Perhaps half of the European folk tales deal in various trickeries, deceit, and tomfooleries. It could be good to know of the inerited "arsenal" so as not to be deceived in life and victimised. The Andersen tale continues as AT-type 1737.

[The tale]

The Tinder-Box

AT 567 - The tale was first published in 1835. It seems that those who get helped by magic have a hard time in finding security. Magic may or may not help such ones. Becoming a member of the royalty may not be quite good enough.

[The tale]

Clumsy Hans

AT 853 - The best translation of the title is given above. The Danish title is "Klodshans, and a Klods in Danish means 'a clumsy fellow', with the added meanings "one who performs poor work, untidy, careless work." Another, less proper translation we see "Blockhead Hans," and yet another is "Jack the Dullard". The tale was first published in 1855. The art of outwitting a princess by words or deeds for getting her and her wealth is a favorite theme. How people converse in real life may be a bit different.

A little warning: Marrying upwards could be less pleasant than it looks like. Status and standing that result from merit is fine, though.

[The tale]

How to Tell a True Princess

This Andersen tale from 1835 is translated as "The Princess on the Pea" as well.

The idea that royalty is more delicate and noble than others may in part stem from their wealth, most likely. As the Latin proverb has it: "Nobility without wealth is more worthless than the seaweed which the tide has left." Hopefully, that Latin view may be exaggerated. A Sicilian proverb has "Nobility is less esteemed when it lacks wealth." A fine observation: "Nobility is what is earned by those who have no other earnings (Chinese Proverb)." A Dutch proverb: "Nobility of soul is more honorable than nobility of birth." And so on. It appears that many have had a need to come to grips with facts without getting dazzled by shows of riches, power, and facades.

Also consider how nobility with wealth is more or less victims of formalist etiquette and ceremonies and media - Some may not be utterly free from haughtiness and lots of servility surrounding them either.

Being "delicate" takes on many forms. The hereditary bleeding disorder hemophilia in some royal families makes it difficult to control bleeding even after minor injuries. It is better to be sound than getting blue marks for very little and perhaps bleed for hours and days from minor wounds.

[The tale]

The Swineherd

AT 900 - The tale was published by Andersen in 1842. A haughty woman is ridiculed and humbled by the man she makes out with. Andersen writes a mean ending into the traditional tale.

[The tale]

The Potatoes

"The Potatoes" were published as late as 1953. The tale is No. 207 in the H. C. Andersen-centre's index of Andersen tales.

Andersen tells of the slow and budding acceptance of the potato in Europe. His tales from European cultural history is classified as Andersen tale No. 164: Kartoflerne (The Potatoes).

Before people learnt to earth up potatos - cover them with earth to avoid that parts got green with the poison solanine -, many got sick from eating them. (WP, "History of the Potato"; "Potato")

[The tale]


Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, Andersen tales and notes, literature

James, John W., and Russell Friedman. 2009. The Grief Recovery Handbook. 20th Anniversary Expanded ed. New York: HarperCollins.

Maslow, Abraham. Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences. Columbus: Ohio State University, 1964.

Uther, Hans-Jörg. The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography Based on the System of Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson. Vols 1–3. FF Communications No. 284–86, Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2004.

Manuel, Don Juan, Prince of Castille. 1899. Count Lucanor: or, The Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio. Tr. James York. London: Gibbings and Co.

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