Big Find: Hans Christian Andersen's 'First Work'

'The Tallow Candle' likely written when writer was 18

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 13, 2012 9:43 AM CST

(Newser) – A Danish historian has found what he believes is an early Hans Christian Anderson manuscript buried at the bottom of a box in the National Archives of Funen. "I was ecstatic," the historian says. "I had never imagined this." The handwritten story, titled "Tallow Candle," tells the story of a neglected candle that can't light itself until its inner beauty is recognized, the BBC reports. The dedication reads, "To Mme Bunkeflod, from her devoted HC Andersen." Andersen had a close relationship with a widow named Mme Bunkeflod.

"I often get calls about stuff thought to have been off Andersen's hand. Most of the time, it is not," the senior curator at Odense's Hans Christian Andersen museum tells the AP. " This time I was thrilled." Experts say the piece lacks the grace of Andersen's later work, and was likely written around 1823, while he was still in grammar school. "This is a very early attempt at prose by Andersen, who was then 18," the curator says. You can read an English translation here.

A newly found manuscript of a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen is seen in the State Archives in Copenhagen, Dec. 12, 2012. The story of ‘The Tallow Candle’ might have been written around 1823.
A newly found manuscript of a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen is seen in the State Archives in Copenhagen, Dec. 12, 2012. The story of ‘The Tallow Candle’ might have been written around 1823.   (AP Photo/POLFOTO, Martin Bubandt)
A newly found manuscript of a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen is seen in the State Archives in Copenhagen, Dec. 12, 2012. The story of ‘The Tallow Candle’ might have been written around 1823.
A newly found manuscript of a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen is seen in the State Archives in Copenhagen, Dec. 12, 2012. The story of ‘The Tallow Candle’ might have been written around 1823.   (AP Photo/POLFOTO, Martin Bubandt)
A newly found manuscript of a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen is seen in the State Archives in Copenhagen, Dec. 12, 2012. The story of ‘The Tallow Candle’ might have been written around 1823.
A newly found manuscript of a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen is seen in the State Archives in Copenhagen, Dec. 12, 2012. The story of ‘The Tallow Candle’ might have been written around 1823.   (AP Photo/POLFOTO, Martin Bubandt)
A newly found manuscript of a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen is seen in the State Archives in Copenhagen, Dec. 12, 2012. The story of ‘The Tallow Candle’ might have been written around 1823.
A newly found manuscript of a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen is seen in the State Archives in Copenhagen, Dec. 12, 2012. The story of ‘The Tallow Candle’ might have been written around 1823.   (AP Photo/POLFOTO, Martin Bubandt)
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