I’ve read a few of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories before and they are not sweet, flowery books. The Little Match Girl its the saddest Christmas story ever, The Ice Queen is one dark lady (kids never want to hear that she is who Elsa from Frozen is based on), and The Little Mermaid dies at the end of her story.
I picked up The Tinderbox because of those freaky dogs on the cover. The children’s librarian I am assisting this summer had not read it either. I think I may have read a version of it by an amateur author, but it wasn’t kid friendly.
In the story,a soldier coming home from war meets a witch who offers him all the riches he can carry if he will go into an underground hall and bring her back a tinderbox that her grandmother left down there the last time she went below ground.
The Witch tells him that he will meet three dogs with giant eyes but gives him a means to get around them.
The soldier does as she asks and fills his pockets with all the gold he can carry. She demands the tinderbox, but the soldier isn’t stupid and realizes it must be special. He kills the Witch and takes the tinderbox along with the gold.
He isn’t overly intelligent though, and manages to spend all of his gold. Down to nothing, he decides to light the candle in the tinderbox. He is amazed to discover that when he strikes the flint, the first of the giant-eyed dogs magically appears. Two strikes brings the second dog , three the third, four strikes brings all three and best of all, they can grant wishes!
The story gets weird here. There is a beautiful princess secreted away in the city and he longs to see her. He had the dog abduct her while she sleeps so that he may kiss her. This continues and the king and queen try frantically to stop it. Finally, the soldier is discovered and arrested.
On the day he is to be hanged, the soldier’s last request is to smoke a pipe one last time. He strikes the tinderbox four times to summon all three dogs and sics them on the royalty in the crowd and kills them! He is then (Good knows why) declared the new king and marries the princess.
Don’t get me wrong, many old fairy tales seem unbelievable to modern people, but this one was out there. I think it’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure about the whole kidnapping/murder thing–I have reservations about a lot of old stories in their original form in fact.
Keep in mind it may be necessary to pre-read stories to make sure they don’t have details in them you aren’t willing to share with kids–like Rapunzel getting pregnant with twins, or Cinderella’s stepsisters curling off parts of their feet to make the glass slipper fit. Fairytales can be brutal.