Danish Language Blog

H.C. Andersen Sensation Goes Global Posted by on Dec 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

CandleWhat! Suddenly a Danish word is mentioned by media all over the world! 🙂 The word in question is Tællelyset – The Tallow Candle – the name of the supposedly first eventyr (fairytale) from the quill of H.C. Andersen, Denmark’s most famous author of all times. Now, this would certainly have been ”let’s yawn” material if it hadn’t been for the fact that this rare text was discovered for the first time just two months ago!

According to the Danish avis [a-VEES] (newspaper) Politiken, a Fyn historian accidentally discovered the yellowed sheets of paper at the bottom of a huge archive box. Fyn – or Funen, as some English-speakers like to call it – is the Danish ”middle island” (between Copenhagen and Jutland). It was here, in the tranquil city of Odense, that Hans Christian was born in 1805, and would embark on a long career as a ”man of imagination”. Two centuries later he is beloved all over the world for fairytales such as Den grimme ælling (The Ugly Duckling) and Den lille havfrue (The Little Mermaid).

Now Tællelyset hits the world, after an H.C. expert has spent a couple of months verifying that the story is indeed Andersen’s. It seems to have been written in the 1820’s as a thank-you to a woman called Madam Bunkeflod. Many of Andersen’s greatest fairytales were written in the 1830’s, and Tællelyset reflects that. It’s young Andersen practicing his dance steps before he could really dance (if you get me!)

The main character in Tællelyset is – a tællelys. (If that’s strange, just think about the living candle character in Disney’s movie The Beauty and the Beast!) The poor candle is dirtied by uncomprehending fingers, until it finally finds true love when a fyrtøj (tinderbox) lights its fire. (Yeah, that sounds corny to me too!)

Today, only Danes with an interest in history or literature know the word tællelys, as the ones we buy in shops are always stearinlys (stearin candles).

Why should you take your time to read about a candle? Says H.C. Andersen expert Ejnar Stig Askgaard:

”It’s like a high to be able to work with his first attempt at a fairy tale. It was a great experience to read it for the first time.”


The (short!) fairytale can be read in English here: http://politiken.dk/newsinenglish/ECE1841044/hans-christian-andersens-the-tallow-candle/

If you dare to try, the Danish original can be found here: http://politiken.dk/kultur/kultur620px/ECE1840771/hc-andersens-foerste-eventyr-taellelyset/

You can even read it in Spanish: http://cultura.elpais.com/cultura/2012/12/13/actualidad/1355423371_188716.html

Have you found it in other languages? Please add them to the comments section! 🙂

Tags: , , , , ,
Keep learning Danish with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.