As the son of a cobbler and a washerwoman, little Hans knows what it's like to be poor. His father is a practical man, but his mother tells him tales of grand things, including an Ice Maiden who grants wishes. Wanting to improve his family's living conditions, he calls upon the Ice Maiden one night and asks her for three wishes. One of his wishes is for the ability to write beautiful poems and stories. The Ice Maiden grants Hans' wishes, but magic always come with a price, and it's not until the end of his life that Hans realizes what that price was.
Andersen's Witch is a delightful little story in which author Jane Yolen reimagines how Hans Christian Andersen got his extraordinary storytelling skills. As a little boy, Hans' mother told him tales of the Ice Maiden, and so he called upon this mystical lady to give him three wishes, one of which was the ability to write beautifully. The Ice Maiden is portrayed as a witch-like character who eventually becomes the Snow Queen of Hans' story of the same name. As anyone who watches the TV show Once Upon a Time knows though, magic always comes with a price. In the end, we discover what that price was for Hans, but he also cleverly turns the tables on the Snow Queen.
I really enjoyed this short story. It's written in the style of a fairy tale, which as a big fan of those, I found quite appealing. Also for the author to draw upon the real life of a master storyteller of fairy tales for her inspiration was a fun and unique element. In checking out Jane Yolen's website, it appears that this isn't the only story she's written about Hans Christian Andersen. Considering that she's a big fan of his work, that's not surprising. Having read some of Ms. Yolen's picture books to my kids when they were young, I was already somewhat familiar with her work, but reading Andersen's Witch added a new dimension to her storytelling skills for me. Because of this, I very much look forward to exploring some of her other works. Andersen's Witch can be found in the anthology Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron.
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