cover image The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen

The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen, . . Norton, $35 (449pp) ISBN 978-0-393-06081-2

Andersen, creator of “The Princess and the Pea” and “The Ugly Duckling,” receives treasury treatment in this latest entry in Norton's series of annotated classics, replete with margin notes attentive to historical contexts, critical interpretations and folkloric influences. Tatar, Harvard's dean for humanities (The Annotated Brothers Grimm ), relates that when she taught Andersen's tales, undergraduates often reported “their magical childhood experiences with the fairy tales” and protested her analyses of Andersen's frequently brutal scenarios. Tatar avers that her research did help her re-evaluate the affective qualities of Andersen's work. While it remains important to acknowledge the sadism of renowned tales like “The Snow Queen” and “The Little Match Girl,” and to investigate Andersen's bitter efforts to join fashionable Danish society (noted in a biographical appendix), this collection of 12 “Tales for Children” and a dozen more “Tales for Adults” focuses on the stories' fairy tale references and aesthetic appeal. Gorgeous turn-of-the-century illustrations by Kay Nielsen, William Heath Robinson and others and a section with comments from Dickens, van Gogh and Ursula Le Guin, among others testify to Andersen's wide influence. Translating with Julie K. Allen, Tatar conveys the indisputable magnetism and uncanny, threatening beauty of Andersen's visions. 146 color and b&w illus. (Nov.)