Hans Christian Andersen's 156 have been translated into 145 languages. They are accessible to children and adults almost everywhere in the world.

It might be in the shape of translated selections of his fairytales, picture books and transformations of the fairytales into animated films, movies, television pieces, dramas, musicals etc.

But it is not always the same fairytales that we meet in the various countries, even though there seems to be a certain stock. During the translation processes, the texts have often been altered, perhaps in order to adapt them to the local culture, perhaps to make them easier for children to understand.

Children all over the world know Hans Christian Andersen, and schools all over the world use his fairytales for teaching, especially in the youngest classes. They are being read, interpreted, discussed, illustrated and dramatized. If you image one class at a certain day at a certain time in South Africa, working with Andersen's fairytales, you might be sure that hundreds of other pupils in other parts of the world are probably in that very moment working with the same writer, perhaps even with the same fairytale. Imagine one pupil in South Africa and one in Iceland simultaneously colouring their drawings of the shepherdess from the fairytale "The Shepherdess and the Chimneysweep".

Even when Hans Christian Andersen was still alive, he was known and loved in international circles and translated into many languages. He was an international writer. But he was also international in another sense. He travelled whenever he had the opportunity. He spent more than nine years of his adult life travelling in Europe to, among other countries, England, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Turkey. The writer, who has often been portrayed as anxious, afraid almost, moved around in a Europe that was characterized by revolutions, social unrest and deadly diseases. Hans Christian Andersen was actually a very brave man.

He showed this courage also when he wrote. Because he wrote for children in a manner that no one had done before. He managed to write a beautiful, literary language while simultaneously using the child's own way of talking and thinking, and he likewise managed to maintain the oral narrative style of the adult in his written language. Just look at the opening lines of "What the Old Man Does is Always Right". It took courage to write like that, at least in Denmark, because here he was criticized for using a vulgar language that might prevent children from learning the right and "distinguished" language. He was also criticised on the grounds that his fairytales were immoral and far too grim for children.

But the brave, yet vulnerable Andersen kept going, and he continued to develop the fairytale genre. Later in his life he preferred to refer to them merely as "stories". The first fairytales came in 1835, the last in 1872, and among the first and the last we find some of the very best.