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once upon a dane, our favourite hans christian andersen fairytales

Once upon a time there was a young boy called Hans who grew up telling tales for a living. Rooted in the myths and lore of his hometown Odense, whispered to him by the women of the workhouse, stories about princes, princesses, and a girl no bigger than your thumb, forged in the rabbit hole of his mind. After a voyage overseas and an adventure around Europe, young Hans finally put pen to parchment and, in 1829, published his first great literary work. Weird, wondrous and full of wizardry, his words have been bewitching bedtime happily ever since. To celebrate our favourite i-Dane we pick our top five fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen.

Text Tish Weinstock

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[The Ice Cream Issue, No. 278, July 2007]


  • the snow queen

    One day Gerda and Kai were playing in the garden when a tiny splinter of mirror, no bigger than a grain of sand, fell into the little boy’s eye, turning his heart cold. Everything that was once beautiful to Kai became ugly, even wondrous landscapes looked like boiled spinach. That afternoon, Kai met a beautiful woman in a white fur coat, which beckoned him into her sleigh. Unbeknownst to Kai, the woman was the Snow Queen, ruler of all snowflakes. She took him to her castle where he forgot about the little girl. Heartbroken, Gerda set off to get the little boy back. After being captured by robbers, trapped in a garden of eternal summer, and, eventually, being rescued by a reindeer, Gerda finally found the Snow Queen’s castle, where she kissed Kai and his heart melted, and they lived happily ever after.

  • the steadfast tin soldier

    Once upon a time there was little boy who had been given a set of 25 toy soldiers. However, one of the soldiers stood on only one leg, having been the last to be cast from an old tin spoon. Nearby, there was a paper ballerina who also stood on one leg. Immediately they fell in love, but the goblin that lived amongst them grew jealous and pushed the toy soldier out of the window where he fell into a canal and was swallowed by a fish. After being set free and returning home, the little boy threw the toy soldier into the fire where he melted into the shape of a heart.

  • the little mermaid

    Far, far from land, where the waters are as blue as cornflowers, and where selkies and sea slugs are free to roam, live the mer-people. Having fallen head-over-fins in love with a dashing prince, the mer-king’s youngest daughter swam to the foul bog of an evil sea witch to seek out her wicked help. There, the witch cut out her tongue in return for legs, and warned the little mermaid that if she couldn’t make the prince fall in love with her and want to marry her, her heart would break and she’d turn into sea foam and die. But alas! The prince had mistakenly fallen in love with another! On the eve before their wedding day, the little mermaid’s sisters swam to surface and called to their youngest sister, telling her to plunge the sea witch’s knife into the prince’s heart and to once again return to the ocean. But the little mermaid could not bear to kill the prince and threw herself into the ocean, upon which she turned to sea foam and rose up to join the daughters of the air.

  • the emperor’s new clothes

    In a land far away there lived two weavers who promised to make a vain and selfish emperor a magical suit that would be invisible to all those who were stupid and unworthy. This delighted the emperor who cared about nothing other than expensive jewels and exquisite clothes. When the suit was ready the weavers pretended to dress the emperor in the invisible suit. In fear of seeming stupid or unworthy, the emperor’s ministers clucked and cooed around him, praising how wonderful he looked in his new suit, the most beautiful piece of clothing in all the land. Desperate to show off his suit to the whole kingdom, the emperor organised a grand procession and walked through the town in nothing but his underwear. Seeing that he was naked, a small child stood up and shouted to all who could here. Fearing the little boy was right, but too proud to admit he’d been duped, the emperor continued his procession, but learnt a valuable lesson.

  • the ugly duckling

    There once was an ugly duckling who ran away from home. But everywhere he went he was laughed at and teased. It soon became winter and the ugly duckling had nowhere to go, until one day he came across a school of swans. Thinking it would be better to be killed by such beautiful creatures than continue to live a life of misery, he approached the swans and awaited his doom. But to his surprise, the swans welcomed and accepted him. Suddenly, he caught sight of his reflection in a puddle and realised he had transformed into a beautiful swan! Then the not so ugly duckling flew away with his new swan friends and lived happily ever after! The end.