Danish experts believe they have found the first fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875). Titled "Tællelyset" (The Tallow Candle), the ink-written manuscript was found by local historian Esben Brage. Brage made the discovery in October, 2012, in an archive on the island of Funen where the Danish author was born. Historians have confirmed that the six-page manuscript was indeed written by Andersen. They dated the document to the mid-1820s, when the writer was about eighteen.
The Tallow Candle
Hans Christian Andersen
Note: Before there was electricity and electric lights, people used candles. Candles could be made from tallow. Tallow is a rendered form of mutton fat, processed from suet. It is solid at room temperature. Unlike suet, tallow can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration to prevent decomposition, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.
It sizzled and fizzled as the flames fired the cauldron. It was the Tallow Candle’s cradle - and out of the warm cradle came a flawless candle: solid, shining white and slim it was formed in a way that made everyone who saw it believe that it was a promise of a bright and radiant future – a promise that everyone believed the candle would really want to keep and fulfil.
The sheep – a fine little sheep – was the candle’s mother, and the melting pot its father. Its mother had given it a shiny white body and an inkling about life, but from its father it had been given a craving for the flaming fire that would eventually go to its marrow and bone and shine for it in life.
That’s how it was born.
And with the best and brightest anticipation, it was cast into existence. There it met so many, many strange creations that it became involved with, wanting to learn about life – and perhaps find the place where it would best fit in. But it had too much faith in a world where people only cared about themselves, and not at all about the Tallow Candle. A world that failed to understand the value of the candle, and thus tried to use it for its own benefit, holding the candle wrongly; uncaring fingers leaving bigger and bigger blemishes on its pristine innocence which eventually faded away, completely covered by the dirt of a surrounding world that had come much too close; much closer than the candle could endure, as it had been unable to tell grime from purity – although it remained pristine and unspoiled inside. False people found they could not reach its inner core and angrily cast the candle away as useless.
The filthy outer shell kept all the good people away – scared as they were to be tainted with grime and blemishes – and they stayed away.
So there was the poor Tallow Candle, solitary and left alone, at a loss at what to do. Rejected by the good, it now realised it had only been a tool to further the wicked. It felt so unbelievably unhappy, because it had spent its life to no good end – in fact it had perhaps sullied the better parts of its surroundings. It just could not determine why it had been created or where it belonged; why it had been put on this earth – perhaps to end up ruining itself and others.
More and more, and deeper and deeper, it contemplated – but the more it considered itself, the more despondent it became, finding nothing good, no real substance for itself, no real goal for the existence it had been given at its birth. As if the grime had also covered its eyes.
But then it met a little flame from a tinder box. It knew the candle better than the Tallow Candle knew itself. The tinder box had such a clear view – straight through the outer shell – and inside it found so much good. It came closer and there was bright expectation in the candle – it lit and its heart melted.
Out burst the flame, like the triumphant torch of a blissful wedding. Light burst out bright and clear all around, bathing the way forward with light for its surroundings – its true friends – who were now able to seek truth in the glow of the candle.
The body too was strong enough to give sustenance to the fiery flame. One drop upon another, like the seeds of a new life, trickled round and chubby down the candle, covering the old grime with their bodies. They were not just the bodily, but also the spiritual issue of the marriage.
And the Tallow Candle had found its right place in life – and shown that it was a real candle, and went on to shine for many a year, pleasing itself and the other creations around it.
November 22, 2012. Eight Chinese officials have been fired or suspended after five boys died in a rubbish bin after suffocating on fumes from charcoal they burned to stay warm, according to state-run media. The bodies of the boys, aged between 9 and 13, were found by a trash collector in Bijie in China's southwestern Guizhou province. They are believed to have died the night before, as rain fell and temperatures plunged to as low as 33 degrees Fahrenheit.
Users on China's social media platforms expressed shock and disgust, with some questioning how society could have allowed such young children to fall through the cracks. There are estimated to be more than 150,000 street children in China, according to official figures quoted by Xinhua. State media reported that four of the five boys found dead in the dumpster were being cared for by their aging, blind grandmother who had difficulty caring for herself. A local resident told reporters neighbors had noticed the boys wandering the streets. "They were living in a shabby shed in a construction site near the dumpster and ate some discarded vegetables in the market," he said.
The plight of the dead children in Guizhou is being compared on China’s social media to the tale of The Little Match Girl, a Hans Christian Andersen story of a poor girl ignored by the rich who froze to death after trying to warm herself with matches. The Little Match Girl is familiar to Chinese because it is taught in reading classes in elementary schools.
The Little Match Girl
Hans Christian Andersen
It was so terribly cold. Snow was falling, and it was almost dark. Evening came on, the last evening of the year. In the cold and gloom a poor little girl, bareheaded and barefoot, was walking through the streets. Of course when she had left her house she'd had slippers on, but what good had they been? They were very big slippers, way too big for her, for they
belonged to her mother. The little girl had lost them running across the road, where two carriages had rattled by terribly fast. One slipper she'd not been able to find again, and a boy had run off with the other, saying he could use it very well as a cradle some day when he had children of his own. And so the little girl walked on her naked feet, which were quite red and blue with the cold. In an old apron she carried several packages of matches, and she held a box of them in her hand. No one had bought any from her all day long, and no one had given her a cent.
Shivering with cold and hunger, she crept along, a picture of misery, poor little girl! The snowflakes fell on her long fair hair, which hung in pretty curls over her neck. In all the windows lights were shining, and there was a wonderful smell of roast goose, for it was New Year's eve. Yes, she thought of that!
In a corner formed by two houses, one of which projected farther out into the street than the other, she sat down and drew up her little feet under her. She was getting colder and colder, but did not dare to go home, for she had sold no matches, nor earned a single cent, and her father would surely beat her. Besides, it was cold at home, for they had nothing over them but a roof through which the wind whistled even though the biggest cracks had been stuffed with straw and rags.
Her hands were almost dead with cold. Oh, how much one little match might warm her! If she could only take one from the box and rub it against the wall and warm her hands. She drew one out. R-r-ratch! How it sputtered and burned! It made a warm, bright flame, like a little candle, as she held her hands over it; but it gave a strange light! It really seemed to the little girl as if she were sitting before a great iron stove with shining brass knobs and a brass cover. How wonderfully the fire burned! How comfortable it was! The youngster stretched out her feet to warm them too; then the little flame went out, the stove vanished, and she had only the remains of the burnt match in her hand.
She struck another match against the wall. It burned brightly, and when the light fell upon the wall it became transparent like a thin veil, and she could see through it into a room. On the table a snow-white cloth was spread, and on it stood a shining dinner service. The roast goose steamed gloriously, stuffed with apples and prunes. And what was still better, the goose jumped down from the dish and waddled along the floor with a knife and fork in its breast, right over to the little girl. Then the match went out, and she could see only the thick, cold wall. She lighted another match. Then she was sitting under the most beautiful Christmas tree. It was much larger and much more beautiful than the one she had seen last Christmas through the glass door at the rich merchant's home. Thousands of candles burned on the green branches, and colored pictures like those in the printshops looked down at her. The little girl reached both her hands toward them. Then the match went out. But the Christmas lights mounted higher. She saw them now as bright stars in the sky. One of them fell down, forming a long line of fire.
"Now someone is dying," thought the little girl, for her old grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now dead, had told her that when a star fell down a soul went up to God.
She rubbed another match against the wall. It became bright again, and in the glow the old grandmother stood clear and shining, kind and lovely.
"Grandmother!" cried the child. "Oh, take me with you! I know you will disappear when the match is burned out. You will vanish like the warm stove, the wonderful roast goose and the beautiful big Christmas tree!"
And she quickly struck the whole bundle of matches, for she wished to keep her grandmother with her. And the matches burned with such a glow that it became brighter than daylight. Grandmother had never been so grand and beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and both of them flew in brightness and joy above the earth, very, very high, and up there was neither cold, nor hunger, nor fear - they were with God.
But in the corner, leaning against the wall, sat the little girl with red cheeks and smiling mouth, frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. The New Year's sun rose upon a little pathetic figure. The child sat there, stiff and cold, holding the matches, of which one bundle was almost burned.
"She wanted to warm herself," the people said. No one imagined what beautiful things she had seen, and how happily she had gone with her old grandmother into the bright New Year.
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