Painting of the Little Mermaid and her prince, from the classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen.

The Little Mermaid (Classic Fairy Tale)

The Little Mermaid is a classic fairy tale written by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen in 1837. Some of these old fairy tales are fever dreams with illogical plots and incomprehensible character motivations. Andersen’s stories aren’t like that. They aged incredibly well.

This is the story of a young mermaid willing to give up her identity to gain a human soul and the love of a human prince. It does not end how the Disney version ends. It is a darker tale from a harsher time.

It was inspired by Danish folklore, mythology, and Andersen’s own personal experiences. In the 200 years since it was published, it has become widely recognized for its exploration of sacrifice, transformation, and unrequited love.

The original story was written in Danish. This is my own translation in my own words. It is a retelling of sorts, as any good translation is, but it stays true to the spirit of the original fairy tale.

The Original Story
Painting of the Emperor in his new clothes.

The Emperor’s New Clothes (Classic Fairy Tale)

The Emperor’s New Clothes is a story by Hans Christian Andersen published in 1837. It is a fairy tale with no magic or perhaps a fable with no animals. Either way, it is remarkable how many moral lessons Andersen was able to embed in such a short story. I added another.

Slashes made by an enraged barbarian fabulist.

A long time ago, in a faraway kingdom, there lived an Emperor who was extremely fond of new clothes. He spent his time changing from one fabulous garment to another, parading around for his subjects to admire.

News of the Emperor’s vanity spread far and wide until it reached the ears of two cunning weavers. Seeing an opportunity, they journeyed to the kingdom, promising they could weave the most magnificent fabric imaginable. The unique quality of this material, they said, was that only the wise could see it.

The Emperor thought this was an excellent opportunity to discover which of his ministers and courtiers were unfit for their positions. He paid the weavers a hefty sum so they could begin their work at once.

After a while, the Emperor sent his most trusted advisors to see how the work was progressing. The weavers invited them to inspect the loom. They all praised the material, expressing admiration for its colours and patterns.

Word of the garment’s beauty quickly spread through the court, and soon the Emperor himself came to see the marvellous garment. He was shocked when he could not see the cloth himself, but he was afraid of appearing foolish, so he lavished praise upon the weavers and their work, expressing his eagerness to wear the finished garments.

On the day of the grand procession, the weavers carefully dressed the Emperor in his new clothes, complimenting his appearance and explaining the intricacies of the designs. The Emperor nodded along, unwilling to admit he couldn’t see any of these supposed wonders.

As the Emperor paraded down the streets, his subjects, who had heard of the cloth’s strange properties, praised the invisible finery, not wanting to appear unwise themselves.

Finally, a small child, too young to understand the pretense everyone was upholding, cried out, “But he hasn’t got anything on!” The child’s innocent words broke the spell, and whispers started spreading among the crowd.

The Emperor heard the murmuring and felt a chill of doubt, but he held his head high. He decided to continue the procession even more majestically. After all, the only thing more magnificent than an emperor’s garments is the Emperor himself.

The moral lessons:

  • Things get worse with every lie.
  • Pride blinds us to reality.
  • Fear of judgment can silence the truth.
  • Popularity doesn’t equal correctness.
  • Wisdom can come from unexpected places.
  • Face adversity with dignity.

Which reminds me of another tale. If you liked this fable by Hans Christian Andersen, you might like Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault.

Painting of sleeping beauty waking up to find a prince.

Sleeping Beauty (Classic Fairy Tale)

Sleeping Beauty, or Sleeping Beauty in the Wood (La Belle au Bois Dormant), is a dark fairy tale from long ago, originally written by Charles Perrault in 1697 in France. Since then, it’s been adapted many times, softened with every retelling. That is the fate of any good story. It changes as it ages.

This retelling is closer to the original. It’s not a direct translation. The language is a bit too archaic for that. I tried to modernize the language while keeping the twists and turns the same. I hope you like it.

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