A Letter to Hans Christian Andersen

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Jean Kuo Lee

Staff Writer

Jean Kuo Lee is a writer from California with a B.A. in English from UCLA, a former career in interior design, and a current calling to homeschool her children. She writes for parents and kids on several blogs with publications forthcoming. To contact her or to see more of her work, visit Twitter: @JeanKuoLee

My Dear Hans,

I can’t stop thinking about you, how when we were young you showed me a long list of plays you meant to write when you grew up. I remember laughing at you when you told me you’d be a famous poet one day. Do you remember the ridiculous way you’d close your eyes when you were thinking? We all thought you’d gone blind!

Now I am the one to be ashamed. It’s my turn to apologize. When they all told you to stop dreaming and do something practical with your life—“Apprentice yourself to a turner!”, “Go into carpentry!”, “Learn a trade!”—I shouldn’t have joined in. When you went away to find a different path—when you walked the streets of Copenhagen, homeless—I didn’t know. Nobody knew you’d actually become its most famous citizen.

It’s true nobody ever thought you were beautiful. They made fun of your big nose, your lanky limbs, your poor frayed jacket so outgrown you couldn’t even stand up straight without revealing that embarrassing waist. But you were our Ugly Duckling, our wishful Little Mermaid, our sensitive Princess and the Pea who could feel every intonation of human experience.

You have come so far, suffered so much. You never stopped striving, even if it meant going back to grammar school to be humiliated amongst children who were hardly half your height! How did you do it, Hans? How could you stand it when your own teacher told you that “your verse will end as waste paper…and you in a lunatic asylum”?

All that is now forgotten, dear Hans. For now your tales have mesmerized the world. Your works are loved by children and adults in every culture in the world. Thank you for believing in yourself when nobody else did.  It has turned into a great gift to humanity for which we shall always be indebted.


Your Loving Friend and Most Adoring Fan

The Works of Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen Complete Fairy Tales

Hans Christian Andersen’s Complete Fairy Tales

A collector’s leather-bound edition containing over 150 tales by Hans Christian Andersen. Beware this is not an illustrated version. In getting the complete tales, however, you will get to read lesser known tales such as his first tale written, “The Tallow Candle,” and other excellent stories like “The Fir Tree.”

Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales Illustrated

An Illustrated Treasury of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales

For those who must have beautiful illustrations to accompany the tales, here is a dazzling edition to enrich the fairytale experience. Young children especially will love the illustrations of the stories contained within, including “The Little Mermaid,” “The Snow Queen,” “Thumbelina,” “The Princess and the Pea,” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

Hans Christian Andersen’s Life (in Picture Books)

Heinz Janisch Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen: The Journey of His Life, by Heinz Janisch and Maja Kastelic

For those who want a short tour through Andersen’s life, they can have it with this illustrated picture book detailing the struggles, dreams and triumphs of the inimitable storyteller. Inspiring for children and adults alike.

Jane Yolen The Perfect Wizard

The Perfect Wizard: Hans Christian Andersen, by Jane Yolen and Dennis Nolan

Here is a lavishly illustrated picture book biography of the famous Danish writer unique for revealing how Andersen’s life experiences inspired his stories. The book is filled with quotes from the Wizard’s own stories, showing how many of his characters and storylines were in fact, born from his own hardships and sense of self.

Go on a Literary Tour of Copenhagen, Denmark, discover 11 Things To Do on Hans Christian Andersen’s Birthday, and learn about Queerness, Hans Christian Andersen, and the Little Mermaid.