“I’m not Hans Christian Andersen” (“Or am I?”)


Dwight Garner reviews Maurice Sendak’s My Brother’s Book, and quotes the author on his misanthropic tendencies:


Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) cultivated an image as a curmudgeon. “I’m not Hans Christian Andersen,” he told Bill Moyers. “No one’s going to make a statue in the park with a lot of scrambling kids climbing up me. I won’t have it.”


Sendak actually had more in common with Andersen than he knew.  When a sculptor proposed to create a statue of the author, surrounded by children to whom he would be reading, Andersen protested: 

I pointed out that I could not bear anyone behind me, nor had I children on my back, on my lap, or between my legs when I read; that my fairy tales were as much for older people as for children.  The naïve was only a part of my fairy tales; humor was the real salt in them.

Sendak had more in common with Andersen than he realized. And the character of Jack in the new book must be modeled on Kay in Andersen’s Snow Queen:

Jack is catapulted “to continents of ice.” He is “a snow image stuck fast in water like stone./His poor nose froze.”

Poor Andersen: children today are now on his back, on his lap, and between his legs when they visit  statues of him in Copenhagen and in New York City’s Central Park.