Book #31

The Tinder Box by Hans Christian Andersen

Though criticised for their anarchic immorality when first published, Hans Christian Andersen's tales made him an international star, taken to the hearts of children and adults for their beauty, sorrow and strangeness. Included here are 'The Steadfast Tin Soldier' and 'Big Klaus and Little Klaus'.

This could quite possibly be my favourite of the Little Black Classics range so far. As a sucker for fairy tales, it was enthralling to read some of Han Christian Andersen's lesser-known originals, and witness both the beauty and the macabre he weaves into each of these.

As is usually the way with collections of stories, I found some of these far more delightful than others. Opening with The Tinder Box, I felt I wasn't going to enjoy the collection, as this segment bordered upon sheer nonsense, and I didn't feel much whilst reading it. Moving on to masterpieces such as The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Nightingale made the entire offering so much more worthwhile to me.

Tin Soldier didn't strike me immediately as one I knew, but as I read more of it, beautiful images started to swim into my mind. I soon realised this story had been part of a fairy tale anthology I'd owned as a child, which had the most intricate and gorgeous illustrations. The book will be long gone from my possession, but the memories this story has invoked are completely priceless.

Hans Christian Andersen is the master of fairy tales, and this small collection is a wonderful one to delve into. His tales here are entertaining, bleak, amusing, unfathomable, and for me, unexpectedly nostalgic.

Thank you, Penguin.