Happy Birthday to one of the most creative, brilliant minds the world has seen! We celebrate International Children’s Book Day today because of him.
If I’m forced to choose between Grimm, Perrault, or Andersen, I choose Andersen. While Grimm and Perrault have given us the most iconic, traditional fairy tales that we think of, I think Andersen’s feel different. I feel like they’re more whimsical and unexpected. They stand out from other classic fairy tales, and I think that’s why they’ve stuck with me in the way that they have.
There are some beautiful adaptations of his works, many of which have come from Disney.
The Little Mermaid and Frozen are the most obvious ones. They’re the best films Disney has ever made, with the catchiest songs since, well, the first time in forever! and I think at least a bit of that is because of their source material. While neither is very close to the original, they are beautiful adaptations that still capture the charm of the original.
Disney has made two short film adaptations of his tales. Both have no speaking, and they’re completely stunning. They are much more closely adapted, and entrance viewers with their spellbinding music and visuals. The Little Matchgirl relocated the wintry tale to Russia, which is a perfect setting for this sweet tale. The Steadfast Tin Soldier, featured in Fantasia 2000 is a beautiful and heartfelt interpretation.
You’re probably wondering what I’m thinking with these two. They are very, very loosely based on two tales of Andersen’s. They don’t follow the plots of the originals, but they capture the themes and reference the original tales. The Emperor’s New Groove shows the pride and subsequent disgrace that are seen in The Emperor’s New Clothes, only instead of a wardrobe malfunction, it’s more of an entire body malfunction. Lilo and Stitch has such strong themes of family and finding where you belong, just like The Ugly Duckling, a character that Stitch empathizes with over the course of the story.
Now, these aren’t Disney adaptations, but they’re still wonderful. Thumbelina is such a fun movie, which follows the original plot, and features some great songs and voice talents. Once Upon a Mattress is an amazing musical of The Princess and the Pea, and this made-for-TV adaptation (which is technically Disney) is hilarious with Tracy Ullman and the original Winnifred, Carol Burnett, as the Queen! Danny Kaye’s classic Hans Christian Andersen is also a musical, but this one spins its own tale based on the life of the author. It’s funny (when is Danny Kaye not funny?) lighthearted, and enchanting.
You didn’t think you’d get away without hearing about books, did you?
Bewitching includes multiple fairy tales, one of which is The Little Mermaid. On the Titanic. Is that not genius? The book is filled with many other elements, but this mermaid tale was my favorite part of it.
A True Princess is a super fun, cute story based on The Princess and the Pea. It doesn’t do anything particularly new, but from the outside perspective of a young girl, it’s certainly unique.
The Sweetest Spell is very much its own fairy tale, but takes subtle elements from The Ugly Duckling. A girl who is rejected by society for being physically different, only to find out how valuable she really is. She isn’t a swan, but she is a magical chocolate maker!
The Swan Kingdom is a gorgeous, heartbreaking, complex story based on The Wild Swans (his most prominent work not yet to be adapted to an English language film—you hear that, Disney?) that gives you ALL THE FEELS. Yes, I went there. It’s that good!
Breadcrumbs is a cute interpretation of The Snow Queen, featuring two middle-school aged children and the life-changing adventure they go on to save their friendship. I absolute recommend it to any young lovers of Frozen. It has a similar charm, and shows readers a new angle on The Snow Queen.
Any Andersen retellings I’ve missed?
What are your favorite Andersen tales?