Tales for the Young was published in 1847, only one year after the first English translation of Hans Christian Andersen’s (1805-75) tales was produced. In this short period, Andersen’s reputation and popularity became well established – the ‘Advertisement’ at the front of the book describes the stories as ‘so well known and appreciated… that no apology is necessary’ for publishing them.
The illustration shown here is for ‘The Wild Swans’ and forms the book’s frontispiece. The engraving is by Edward Dalziel, a well-known wood engraver of this period. It shows Elfrida, a princess, attempting to hide from a king who is out hunting. Her eleven brothers have been transformed into wild swans by their wicked stepmother, and Elfrida can only break the spell if she is able to make chain mail for them from nettles, which she collects and weaves herself. Only a few years previously, fantasy and fairy tales had been generally considered to be harmful for children, but adult opinion was changing and these stories were now presented in a positive light as a way ‘to cultivate the imagination… of the young’. The stories were said to be suitable for ‘juvenile reading’, but Andersen himself always maintained that he wrote for all ages.
- Article by:
- M O Grenby
- Childhood and children's literature
Professor M O Grenby explores the relationship between fantasy and morality in 18th- and 19th-century children’s literature.
- Article by:
- Kimberley Reynolds
- The novel 1832–1880, Childhood and children's literature
Professor Kimberley Reynolds explores how Lewis Carroll transformed logic, literary traditions and ideas about childhood into the superbly inventive and irreverent Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
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