Monday, 2 December 2013

Living with Hans Christian Andersen

Everyone loves a Christmas tree, but (let’s face it) Christmas does a fir tree no favours.

Now, both as a child and adult, I have loved the fairy tales of Hans Christian any time of year. As Christmas draws near, I cannot help but recall The Fir Tree.  

The fir tree is in such a hurry to grow that it fails to enjoy the beauty around it. All it thinks about is how much it wants to become a tall fir tree and see the wide world and experience new things. It finds no joy in the moment, but is always longing for the future. Finally, the fir tree realizes it has wasted its life by living for the future instead of for the present.  As a story about failing to appreciate what we have going for us until it is too late, I dare say many if not most of us can relate to it in one way or another?

Hans Christian Andersen, 1805-1875

As well as loving Andersen’s fairy tales, I carried much of their sense of morality and spirituality with me into adult life, which is possibly why I still enjoy reading them from time to time. It can do no harm (can it?) to recall that naïve, free, faery, spirit upon whose back I would frequently ride off into magical other-worlds and find respite from childhood’s darker side. (However much we may like to think of childhood as all innocence and light, it is no more immune to the harsher realities of human nature and everyday existence than adulthood; the latter, even at its worst, at least offers experience and choices rarely if ever available to us as children.)

This poem is a villanelle.


A certain Danish weaver
became a tailor, turned to acting, 
found fame as a storyteller

His tales told world over,
(inspiring many an ugly duckling)
a certain Danish weaver

Denmark’s heart breaker,
(the little mermaid lost everything)
found fame as a storyteller

Shrewd political observer,
(even of an emperor’s new clothing)
a certain Danish weaver

Steadfast, like a tin soldier,
(firm favourite at bed-time reading)
found fame as a storyteller

Where childhood rides forever
on the back of its wishful thinking,
a certain Danish weaver
found fame as a storyteller

Copyright R. N. Taber 2013

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