"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Children's Book Week: Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
This week, thanks to Christopher Kellen and the Genre Underground, we are celebrating Children's Book Week with a series of blog posts by different authors.

Christopher began the festivities with A Tribute to Bruce Coville.  Yesterday, Jennifer Brozek chimed in by talking about Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising.  

Today, it's my turn. 

I'd originally told Chris I was going to write about Grimm's Fairy Tales, but after some thought, I've decided to devote my spot to Hans Christian Andersen instead. 

Not that I want to shun the Brothers Grimm -- quite the contrary; those of you who follow my blog know by now how much I love those classic tales, and how much they influence my writing even today.  (In fact, the opening chapters of Eolyn include a personal tribute to the Grimm legacy in a scene called 'The House of Sweet Bread', where Eolyn first meets her tutor Ghemena.) 

But many, many myths and stories influenced me as a child growing up, and with all the time I've devoted to the Brothers Grimm (and to a lesser extent, E.T.A. Hoffman), I've neglected this very important story teller, whose birthday on April 2nd is also celebrated as International Children's Book Day.

Hans Christian Andersen was a 19th century Danish author and poet.  Although he wrote plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, he is best remembered for his fairy tales.  Even if you have never heard of Andersen, you have almost certainly run into at least one of his stories along the way.  Some of the best known include:

The Emperor's New Clothes
The Little Match Girl
The Little Mermaid
The Princess and the Pea
The Red Shoes
The Snow Queen
The Ugly Duckling

When I was a young girl, the H.C. Andersen story that most haunted my imagination was The Snow QueenTo this day, the very title brings on a mood of mystery for me.  This is in part because the Snow Queen remains a mysterious character. 

Where did the Snow Queen come from?  What did she want?  Why did she kidnap the boy Kai?  Was she villainess or heroine?  Was her intention to forever imprison Kai? Or did she know that her act would inspire Gerda to set this boy free, not only from the spell of the Snow Queen, but more importantly from the malicious effects of the splinters of the troll mirror?

As a child, I was at once afraid of and intrigued by the Snow Queen, and I felt a little sorry for her too; because she began the story all alone, and she ended it that way, as well.

My favorite character, of course, was the brave Gerda, the young girl who undertook a long and dangerous journey to reach the Snow Queen's northern realm and free her beloved friend Kai.

Gerda was one of the many heroines who inspired my childhood; and one could argue that there are elements of Gerda -- in her humble origins, in her stubborn loyalty to her childhood friend, and in her courage -- that were eventually infused into the character of Eolyn, in my first novel. 

In recent years, the magic and mystery of The Snow Queen was brought to life once again in Patricia McKillip's Winter Rose.  Whether it was her intention or not, McKillip's novel comes across as a beautifully elaborated, grown-up version of Andersen's famous tale -- complete with the magical symbolism of the rose bush, which binds McKillip's spirited Rois and mysterious Corbet, just as it bound Andersens' courageous Gerda and beloved Kai.

How about you?  Any H.C. Andersen tales that were your favorite growing up?  And if Andersen didn't strike your fancy, what other tales do you remember from those early, magical days of story telling?

For more posts about Children's Book Week, visit the blogs of Ariele Sieling on Thursday and Frances Pauli on Friday.  The complete list of posts for Children's Book Week is available on the Events Page of the Genre Underground.