COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A Danish historian says he has discovered what he believes is a previously unknown fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen.
Retired historian Esben Brage said Thursday he found the six-page text in early October while searching in the National Archives through boxes that had belonged to wealthy families from Andersen's home-town of Odense in central Denmark.
"I was ecstatic. I immediately contacted the curator to tell him about my discovery. I had never imagined this," Brage said.
The handwritten tale, entitled "Tallow Candle," and dedicated to a vicar's widow named Bunkeflod who had lived across from Andersen's home, had been left seemingly untouched at the bottom of one of the boxes.
The short story tells the tale of how a tallow candle seeks help from a tinder box to be able to ignite itself.
A senior curator at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense said the work is likely one of the author's earliest, written seven years before his official debut in 1830.
"I often get calls about stuff thought to have been off Andersen's hand. Most of the time, it is not. This time I was thrilled," Ejnar Stig Askgaard told The Associated Press. "This is a very early attempt at prose by Andersen who was then 18."
Askgaard said Andersen knew the Bunkeflod widow well and regularly visited her, reading to her and borrowing books from her, even after he moved to Copenhagen to attend university.
"The text is not at the level of the more mature fairy tales that we know from Andersen's later writing," Askgaard said. "I have no doubts ... this has been written by Andersen."
Born to a charwoman and a shoemaker in 1805, Andersen wrote nearly 160 fairy tales in his life including classics like "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Little Mermaid." He has also written dozens of novels, poems and travel journals.