(The Fir Tree illustration by Edna Hart)
Hans Christian Andersen was a remarkable writer. He had both a painful childhood, and a painful adulthood. When you have a moment, I told a bit of his story here, and Jackie Wullshlager's lovely biography can be found here.
His works reflected the world he knew and the world he dreamed of. He found a repository for his loneliness and awkwardness in his stories. His imagination was boundless. He was among the first to ascribe human characteristics to inanimate objects, with his tin soldiers and irons and bootjacks, a whimsical device Oscar Wilde would later utilize in his tales of rockets and fireworks. (Soon to be a PNT podcast!)
Some warn us away from Hans Andersen. They think many of his stories too sad, his endings too disturbing. The same criticism was made of the original Grimm tales and the sentimental "child death" poetry of the 19th Century.
But I think to read Andersen's tales such as "The Fir Tree" and hear only the sadness is to miss the point. Andersen is describing something beneath the story that is very real, and he hopes his warnings will be heeded. The life and death of the little tree is a lesson for us all, to appreciate the precious moments we are given, to relish the present, "to be..." for we will "not to be" all too soon and it will be too late.
The self-absorbed little tree lives continually in anticipation of the next thing, the next prize, and completely misses the enjoyment of the moment, despite the warnings of those around her, just as we will suffer the same fate if we do not heed the warnings of the author.
We invite you to listen to our Parson's Nose Radio Theater telling of "The Fir Tree", adapted by Lance Davis, starring Taylor Hawthorne, Lance Davis and Mary Chalon. We wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. We invite you to join us for our live Radio Theater readings of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" later this month.
And if you enjoy our work, please consider subscribing to our "Parson's Nose Radio Theater" series on iTunes, Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts. All 45 PNT podcasts can also be found at parsonsnose.org where your donations in these tough times are much appreciated. - Lance Davis