The Professional Translation of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales

Published on September 26, 2018

By Kali Faulwetter

Hans Christian Andersen

2 April 1805 – 4 August 1875

“Most of the people who will walk after me will be children, so make the beat keep time with short steps.”

  • H.C. Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen is a Danish writer, most famous for his fairy tales for children. With tales that transcend age and nationality, Andersen was also a writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems. Andersen offers adult themes adapted in an innocent manner, creating stories that can be enjoyed at any stage in life. He wasn’t a collector of cultural tales retold, the Brothers Grimm, rather, he was a creator. “The Princess and the Pea”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, and “The Ugly Duckling” were all cultural phenomenons within themselves, straight from Andersen’s brain. When is comes to the professional translation of fairy tales such as Andersen’s, his universal themes of childlike adulthood in his tales allow for an exciting, fluid literary transition into the cultural exchange. Ms. Tran Thi Minh Tam is the first and only Vietnamese professional translator to not only translate Andersen’s fairy tales into Vietnamese, but she is also the first Vietnamese to receive the Annual Hans Christian Andersen Award, giving recognition to “outstanding achievements in working with Hans Christian Andersen and contributions to promoting and spreading further knowledge of the Danish national to the world.” Tam received the highest international recognition given to people working on children's books for translating and spreading Andersen’s joyful tales to numerous children throughout Vietnam.

  • Andersen’s fairy tales were first translated into English in 1846. Notable professional translators from Danish to English of Andersen include Jeffrey Frank and Diana Crone Frank, and Tina Nunnally.

  • Tam has been working with Andersen’s tales for 20 years, translating over 100 fairy tales, compiled in an edition she released in 2003. New editions of her Vietnamese translations are set to come out this year.

  • Tam is the sole professional translator of Andersen into Vietnamese, and Andersen’s trolls, tricksters, and monsters can be enjoyed by children and adults alike in Vietnam because of her influence.

Even when Hans Christian Andersen was writing for children, he was talking to adults. His stories are much more complex than their Disney adaptations we know today, and we honor Ms. Tran Thi Minh Tam for expanding Andersen’s influence to the Vietnamese language community.

Hans Christian Andersen in numbers:

3381

H.C. Andersen wrote no fewer than 3381 works throughout his lifetime.

125

Andersen’s fairy tales have been translated into more than 125 languages.

For a complete database of H.C. Andersen’s stories in translation, click here.

For more on translating children’s fiction, click here.

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About This Article

"Famous Translators"is a MotaWord segment showcasing notable professional translated works and famous linguists from history to the present. We will be researching, compiling and sharing stories that matter to every translator on our blog.

You, too can be published right here on the MotaWord blog site. To help us make this segment more tailored to our community, contribute any comments, ideas for articles, or share your story please contact kali@motaword.com.