Danish Ambassador Jan Top Christensen Talks About The Historical Collaboration of Hans Christian Andersen and Jose Rizal
These translations he sent to his nephews and nieces in the Philippines. Andersen’s tales hold value in the lessons they impart; for Rizal to choose these five—Thumbelina, The Ugly Duckling, The Fir Tree, The Angel, and The Little Match Girl—added more weight to their essence. These translations are now published in Hans Christian Andersen and Jose Rizal: From Denmark to the Philippines, along with essays contributed by experts on the authors.
How did you get involved with this project?
The idea of the book originated from the wellknown Rizal historian, Ambeth Ocampo. He had tried to arouse interest in publishing a book with Rizal’s translations of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. Ocampo visited the newly re-established Danish embassy in 2015, and he immediately convinced me of the idea that the book would serve as a unique bond between our two countries. I contacted the HC Andersen Museum in Denmark to get a version of the stories in modern English so that all would be able to read the stories, which originally were written in Danish.
What is its personal importance to you?
It is something I can leave with the Philippines at the end of my post, since this is a country that is very close to my heart. I worked here for the first time from 1987 to 1990 and came back in 2014 to re-open the Danish embassy after 12 years of closure. I have had the joy of witnessing the change this vibrant country underwent on its trajectory towards becoming an upper-middle income country.
What is this book’s significance to the relationship between the Philippines and Denmark?
The two countries are bonded in a very emotional way through these two historical giants. This book is a combined work of your national hero and our dearest national writer. Through this book, readers will get to reflect upon the relations between the two countries. This is especially important today, since we engage more with each other politically, economically, and culturally. The book also contains interesting contributions that add to it a deeper dimension. The museum suggested four contributions, two from the Philippines and two from Denmark, to set the tales and the translations into its historical and literary context. Adding these scholarly essays have made the book a very enriching read.
What would you like to impart to Filipinos who are interested to read this book?
People say that fairy tales are meant for children; that maybe something we can all agree on. The themes in these stories though, would not be understood by children but by adults, since they generally speak about the human condition. One recurring message in these chosen tales is that though life can be stressful, one could still succeed. I feel certain that readers will start asking questions about how we relate to it at present. Only by asking these questions will they be led to the answers they are seeking.
- Words JEANNA LANTING