Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales in Dutch - Children's and/or Adults' Literature?

Edith Koenders

(summary for pages 217-27)

The starting-point of this study is the view of Andersen himself, that his fairy tales are intended for children as well as for adults. I will point out that Andersen's fairy tales in Dutch-language editions can be considered mainly as children's literature. As regards the distinction between children's and adults' literature, I start from the assumption that the two types of text in themselves do not differ essentially, but that children's literature has a tendency towards greater simplicity of language, action and structure than literature for adults. Whenever one writes for children, one adapts the text to what is interesting for children, what they need or know, in short, to their world of experience. Göte Klingberg referred to this process as adaptation. Outwardly the two are usually clearly different from each other, since the size of the book, the number of illustrations and its character immediately show for whom the book is intended.

On the basis of bibliographical and textual facts, the adaptation of Andersen's fairy tales in Dutch-language editions for children can be observed on various levels. In the first place the growing tendency to publish single fairy tales - moreover mostly as illustrated books - points in this direction. For the last ten years almost all the Andersen editions in Dutch were of this 'single' kind. Secondly there seems to be a connection between the choice of the fairy tales published in Dutch on the one hand and Andersen's style on the other. With only a very few exceptions, those of his fairy tales most frequently published in Dutch were all written before 1850, that is, before the shift in Andersen's style from relatively simple, 'childlike' as it were, to more and more literary.

One can differentiate Andersen's fairy tales in Dutch between translations and reworkings. As a closer look confirms, the adaptations of the last group are made for children, as they show a tendency to greater simplicity. In the translations this kind of adaptation - albeit more subtle - is also to be found. The fact that more than one third of all editions is a reworking underlines the general observation that children can be regarded as the prime target group for Dutch-language editions of Andersen's fairy tales.