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Fairy Tales
Tiina Nunnally - Author

Book: Hardback | 153 x 234mm | 496 pages | ISBN 9780713996418 | 28 Oct 2004 | Penguin Classics
Fairy Tales

A beautifully designed edition containing Andersen's best known stories as well his lesser-known and adult works.

A new selection of 30 tales to mark the 200 year anniversary of Andersen's birth in 2005. Tiina Nunnally’s sparkling translation captures the rawness and immediacy of Andersen’s style, for the first time enabling English readers to be as startled and amazed as his original readers were, and revealing the unique inventiveness of Andersen’s genius. At a time when children’s stories were formal, moral and didactic, Hans Christian Andersen revolutionized the genre, giving an anarchic twist to traditional folklore and creating a huge number of utterly original stories that sprang directly from his imagination. From the exuberant early stories such as ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, though poignant masterpieces such as ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘The Ugly Duckling’, to the darker, more subversive later tales written for adults, the stories included here are endlessly experimental, both humorous and irreverent, sorrowful and strange. This book – beautifully illustrated with a selection of Andersen’s amazing paper cut-outs - will bring these magical tales to life for readers of any age. 

Far out at sea the water is as blue as the petals of the loveliest cornflower and as clear as the purest glass, but it's very deep, deeper than any anchor line can reach. Scores of church towers would have to be set on top of each other to reach from the bottom up to the surface of the water. Down there live the sea folk.

Now, you mustn't think that there's nothing but a bare white, sandy bottom. No, the most wondrous trees and plants grow there, with such supple stems and leaves that at the slightest ripple in the water they move as if they were alive. All the fish, big and small, flit through the branches like the birds up here in the sky. At the very deepest spot stands the sea king's castle. The walls are made of coral, and the tall, arched windows are of the clearest amber. But the roof is made of seashells that open and close with the flow of the water. How lovely it looks, because in each of them lie dazzling pearls, any one of which would be a great jewel in the crown of a queen.

For many years the sea king had been a widower, though his old mother kept house for him. She was a wise woman, but proud of her noble birth, and that's why she had twelve oysters on her tail. The other nobles were only allowed to wear six. Otherwise she deserved high praise, especially because she was so fond of the little sea princesses, her granddaughters. All six were lovely children, but the youngest was the most beautiful of all. Her skin was as clear and soft as a rose petal, her eyes as blue as the deepest sea. Yet like the others she had no feet. Her body ended in a fish tail.

All day long they would play in the castle, in the great halls where living flowers grew out of the walls. When the big amber windows were opened, the fish swam in, just like the swallows fly in to us when we open our windows. The fish swam right up to the little princesses, ate out of their hands, and let themselves be petted.

Outside the castle there was a great garden with fiery red and dark blue trees. The fruit gleamed like gold, and the blossoms like a blazing fire as they constantly fluttered their stalks and leaves. The ground itself was of the finest sand, but blue like flaming sulfur. A wondrous blue glow hovered over everything down there. You might almost think you were high up in the air and could see nothing but sky both above and below, rather than being at the bottom of the ocean. In calm seas you could catch sight of the sun. It looked like a crimson flower from whose chalice all light streamed.

Each of the little princesses had her own small plot in the garden where she could dig and plant as she liked. One of them gave her flower bed the shape of a whale, another thought it better if hers looked like a little mermaid. But the youngest made hers perfectly round, like the sun, and planted only flowers that shone just as red. She was an odd child, quiet and pensive. While the other sisters adorned their gardens with the most wondrous things they had gathered from sunken ships, the only thing she wanted, other than the scarlet flowers that looked like the sun above, was a beautiful marble statue. It was a lovely boy carved from clear, white stone, which had come to the sea floor with a shipwreck. Next to the statue she planted a crimson weeping willow that grew so gloriously, draping its fresh boughs over the statue and down to the blue sandy bottom, casting a violet shadow that was in constant movement, like the boughs. It looked as if the treetop and the roots were pretending to kiss.

She had no greater joy than to hear about the human world up above. Her old grandmother had to tell her everything she knew about ships and cities, humans and animals. She thought it especially strange and lovely that up on earth the flowers had a fragrance, while those on the sea floor did not. And the forests were green, and the fish that could be seen among the branches could sing so loudly and beautifully that it was sheer delight. It was the little birds that their grandmother called fish, because otherwise they wouldn't understand her, since they had never seen a bird.
‘When each of you turns fifteen,’ said their grandmother, ‘you'll be allowed to go up to the surface of the sea, sit in the moonlight on the rocks, and look at the great ships sailing past. You'll see forests and cities!’ In the coming year one of the sisters would turn fifteen, but the others. . . Well, each was a year younger than the other, and the youngest of them still had a full five years before she could venture up from the bottom of the sea to find out what it looked like in our world. But each promised to tell the next what she had seen and -what she found to be most lovely on her first day. Their grandmother hadn't told them enough, and there was so much they wanted to know.

None of them was as full of yearning as the youngest sister, the one who had the longest to wait and was so quiet and pensive. Many a night she would stand at the open window and gaze up through the dark blue water where the fish were flapping their fins and tails. She could see the moon and stars. Even though their glow was quite pale, through the water they looked much bigger than they do to our eyes. If a black cloud seemed to pass beneath them, she knew that it was either a whale swimming above her or a ship full of people. It probably never occurred to them that a lovely little mermaid was standing below, stretching her white hands up toward the keel.



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