My family spent this past weekend in Solvang, a town begun in 1911 by Danish immigrants to California seeking to keep their culture alive in their new home. As the great-great-granddaughter of Danish immigrants myself, I delighted in learning a bit more about my ancestry…even gained the possible seed of a new story to simmer in my brain a while.
Throughout the weekend, songs from the old Danny Kaye musical Hans Christian Andersen ran a soundtrack through my mind as we strolled along Copenhagen Lane, passed the Ugly Duckling shop, and visited the Hans Christian Andersen room on the top floor of a delightful old bookstore. My sister and I dueted on “Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen” in our room, and one evening we watched our favorite clips from the movie on my dad’s laptop.
It made me ponder, as I watched the children gathered in rapt attention around the storyteller and saw displayed the antique copies of his books translated into languages from all over the world, the power of a spinner of story. Hans Christian Andersen had other talents—he was a cobbler and a gifted paper-cutting artist—but the reasons we know him today are The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina and The Princess and the Pea. It’s his stories that have lasted and impressed children and grown-ups across generations and the globe.
“Every man’s life is a fairy tale, written by God’s fingers,” Andersen said. That is part of why, I think, we love stories and fairy tales so much—because they somehow reflect reality in a way that goes beneath the surface of what we can see on the outside.
This weekend made me grateful for the storytellers—those willing to perhaps seem foolish in the eyes of the world, to become a purple duck or a mountainside or a quarter-after-three, to paraphrase from the musical. To look through the eyes of a child and see the loving finger of God tracing His story through ours.
That’s the kind of story-spinner I want to be.