December 14, 2012

Hans Christian Andersen’s first fairy tale found


The manuscript of The Tallow Candle

This is a seasonably heartwarming story: a local historian in Denmark has found a hitherto unknown fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen at the bottom of a 15 kilo archive box. Even better, it’s thought to be the first he wrote.

Danish newspaper Politiken reports that the tale was written for a vicar’s widow, Mme Bunkeflod, who ‘lived in a home for respectable ladies and widows opposite Andersen’s childhood home.’ He would often read for her and borrow books from her as a child, and wrote ‘The Tallow Candle’ as a gift. In the story, ‘A poor and dirty tallow candle longs to be lit and is lost within itself until it is lit and recognised by a tinderbox.’

That description is probably a giveaway that the story isn’t quite up to the standard of Andersen’s later works, which are second only to the Bible in the amount of translations they’ve generated. Nevertheless there are similarities: like many of his later works it involves an inanimate object coming to life.

You can read ‘The Tallow Candle’ in English here.




Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.