I had a casette tape of Hans Christian Andersen stories I used to listen to to fall asleep, but they were all shortened and simplified for children. The ones it had were The Nightingale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Snow Queen, The Princess and the Pea…
Anyway, they were also completely secularized, which was nice. Because it turns out the real ones are very, well, Christian. Take The Loveliest Rose in the World, for example. The Queen is very ill, and only the sight of the loveliest rose in the world can stop her from dying. Everyone in the kingdom tries to think of the loveliest rose there is— is it the rose from the Garden of Love? The White Rose of Grief? The Magic Flower of Science? The rose from Romeo and Juliet’s tomb?
Nope! It’s the Bible. Surprise!
“Mother,” cried the little boy; “only hear what I have read.” And the child seated himself by the bedside, and read from the book of Him who suffered death on the cross to save all men, even who are yet unborn. He read, “Greater love hath no man than this,” and as he read a roseate hue spread over the cheeks of the queen, and her eyes became so enlightened and clear, that she saw from the leaves of the book a lovely rose spring forth, a type of Him who shed His blood on the cross.
“I see it,” she said. “He who beholds this, the loveliest rose on earth, shall never die.”
And that’s the ending. It’s actually quite interesting— I’m guessing that she actually does die there at the ending, and that it’s like a John 3:15 reference. “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” So she dies, but goes to heaven; that’s my interpretation.
But that’s not the sort of story I needed to hear as a kid. Also I’m not Christian.
He has another story called The Jewish Maiden about a Jewish girl who is just a really good person all her life, but can never touch the New Testament or convert to Christianity because her dead father promised her dying mother that she wouldn’t. But she’s just so good that in the end, they still bury her just outside the wall of the church graveyard, where— don’t worry! She’ll be going to heaven when the resurrection comes.
And God’s sun, which shines upon the graves of the churchyard of the Christians, also throws its beams on the grave of the Jewish maiden beyond the wall. And when the psalms of the Christians sound across the churchyard, their echo reaches her lonely resting-place; and she who sleeps there will be counted worthy at the resurrection, through the name of Christ the Lord, who said to His disciples, “John baptized you with water, but I will baptize you with the Holy Ghost.”
Well, it’s much nicer than what Grimms’ Fairy Tales had to say about Jewish people, at least.
Another interesting one is The Little Mermaid. She doesn’t give up her voice just because she falls in love with a Prince, she does it because mermaids can’t go to heaven, because they don’t have souls. But if a human marries them, then they can share in the human’s soul. Getting to heaven instead of dying permanently is what’s important to her.
But also— he has some secular ones. The Great Sea-Serpent is a fairy tale about the laying of the transatlantic telegraph cable! It’s not super exciting as a story, but it’s like historically interesting to me.