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Once upon a time: First Andersen fairy-tale discovered in Denmark

Published time: December 13, 2012 13:18
Edited time: December 13, 2012 17:18
Hans Christian Andersen (Image from

Hans Christian Andersen (Image from

A local historian has discovered the first fairy-tale by famed writer Hans Christian Andersen. It has been lost for decades in the dusty boxes of the Danish National Archives.

The handwritten copy of the book titled “The Tallow Candle” was found at the bottom of a 15 kilo archive box in Odense in October. Expert who studied the discovery claim it is the writer’s “first fairy-tale,” Politiken newspaper reports.

Ejnar Stig Askgaard of the Odense City Museum who has been studying the old book is one of Denmark’s leading Hans Christian Andersen experts. He dubbed the find “sensational,” because it shows the writer’s interest in fairy tales as a young man, before writing became his career.

“I am in no doubt that it has been written by Andersen,” he said.

The authorship was also confirmed by two other Andersen experts, Research Librarian Bruno Svindborg of the Royal Library and Professor Johan de Mylius of the Andersen Centre and the University of Southern Denmark.

The language and the style of writing show that it was written during Andersen’s youth, possibly between 1822 and 1826. Experts say that similar discoveries are very rare. The last time a big and important Andersen work was discovered in the archives was almost a century ago.

The fairy tale was the future celebrity writer’s gift to Madam Bunkeflod, a woman he knew in his childhood and to whom he read and borrowed books.

“It’s a wonderful little document as art of the history of Hans Christian Andersen. The fairy tale was a gift. A gift of thanks to a woman whose home had been very important to him,”
Askgaard says.

Andersen turned to writing fairy tales in the 1830s. His books have been translated into 125 languages.