Hans Christian Andersen,
1805 - 1875|
Danish Writer, Poet and Playwright
Danish writer H.C. Andersen has inspired generations of young and adults with
his popular fairy tales. A classic children's author in world literature, Andersen
wrote more than one hundred and fifty fairy tales and his stories have been translated
into over 100 languages
A troubled chilhood in Odense
Hans Christian Andersen's childhood
was not a happy one and his troubled life in the the slums of the city of Odense
would influence forever his personality and his writing. Born in a very poor family,
his father was a shoemaker, her mother a washerwoman and her half-sister had to
work as a prostitute. Andersen himself was often teased and humiliated by other
boys because of his effeminate manners and his physical look: he had a big nose
and was disproportionately tall.
Despite their poor situation, his parents
encouraged him to cultivate his artistic interests. His father would take Andersen
to the playhouse and her mother would tell him colourful old Danish folktales
and superstitions. His humble social background, his troubled chilhood and both
the literary support of his father and the Danish popular folklore received from
the mother would shape the writing of Andersen.
and the raise to fame
After his father death in 1816 Andersen had
to go to work to help his family. He soon left home to go to Copenhaguen, at the
age of 14, where he intended to make his fortune as a singer or an actor.
His first three years in the capital of Denmark were desperate and full of
hardships. He was not successful at all and often did not have anything to eat.
His luck was soon going to change: he befriended an influential family in Copenhaguen,
the Collins, and in 1822 Andersen received a grant from Jonas Collin, director
of the Royal Theatre, to attend the grammar school of Slagelse.
further assistance from Mr. Collin, Andersen eventually completed his education
at the University of Copenhagen and began to earn a name as a poet, playwright
and novelist. In 1829 the Royal Theatre produced his musical drama "Phantasier
og Skisser". As his reputation grew, so did his social circles. But Hans
Cristian Andersen was still unlicky in love: the passion he felt for men and for
women was rarely reciprocal.
The most widely travelled Danish
writer of his time
Andersen's feelings for Denmark showed a relation
of love and hate: he could not live without his native country, nor could he stand
her pettiness and parochialism. A passionate traveller all his life, he felt well
at home elsewhere in Europe and most particularly in Germany, his second home.
His travels throughout Europe gave him a broader artistic inspiration
and accelerated his journey into international literary fame. By the mid-1830's
he already was an exceptionally acclaimed writer in Germany, and a decade later
he would become popular in England and America as well.
Less known than
his fairy tales, Andersen wrote travel accounts about Germany, Sweden, Italy,
Spain, Portugal and the Middle East. In Paris he met Heinrich Heine and Victor
Hugo; in London he befriended Charles Dickens. He also met Felix Mendelssohn,
Franz Liszt, Brahms, Henrik Ibsen and Richard Wagner. During one of his travels
in Italy he met Bjørnstjerne Björnson. Italy always caused a great
influence on Andersen's perception of art and life.
A respected writer
and progressive intellectual, Andersen became a regular guest at European palaces
and royal courts, befriending the kings of Sweden, Prussia and Bavaria. But he
never forgot his humble origins and was the first Danish writer to read for the
Workers' Association, an enthusiastic audience who would gather regularly in their
hundreds to listen to his tales.
Hans Christian Andersen, the
king of fairy tales
Besides his works as a poet and playwright, Hans
Christian Andersen made his international breakthrough as a novelist in 1835 with
the autobiographical "The Improvisatore", the story of a poor boy's
integration into the Italian society. For many years, The Improvisatore remained
the most widely read of all his works.
However, everybody associate Andersen's
fame with his Tales and Stories for Children, written between 1835 and 1872. He
is called "the king of fairy tales", since most of his stories
are part of the world's popular culture: tales such as "The Little Mermaid",
"The Nightingale", "Little Ugly Duckling", "The Emperor's
New Clothes", "The Tinderbox", "Princess and the Pea"
or "The Snow Queen" have been translated into more than 100 different
languages and have influenced other famous authors like Charles Dickens, Oscar
Wilde or C.S. Lewis.
Andersen lived two different social realities, misery
and celebrity, and two literary periods, Romanticism and Realism. His literary
style was innovative as he was the first to use colloquial Danish in writing.
He wrote about the unfortunate and the poor. As in life, some if his tales ended
Hans Christian Andersen died in his home in Rolighed, on August
4, 1875. His funeral at the cathedral of Copenhagen gathered the whole Danish
society of the time: The Workers' Association and The Students' Association formed
a guard of honour at the funeral ceremony. Andersen is buried at the Assistens
Kirkegård in Copenhagen.
The Hans Christian Andersen Awards
Often called the "Little Nobel Prize", the biennual Hans Christian
Andersen Award is the highest prize in childrens literature given to an
author and a illustrator whose works have made a lasting contribution to children's
Awarded since 1956, it is presented by Her Majesty Queen
Margrethe II of Denmark, under nomination by the BBY, the "International
Board on Books for Young People".
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Andersen is called "the king of fairy tales". Tales such as "The
Little Mermaid", "The Nightingale", "Little Ugly Duckling"
or "The Tinderbox" are part of the world's popular culture and have
influenced other famous authors like Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde or C.S. Lewis.
Picture by courtesy of HCA2005
«Andersen became a
regular guest at European royal courts, befriending the kings of Sweden, Prussia
and Bavaria. But he never forgot his origins and was the first Danish writer to
read for the Workers' Association»
Andersen's travels in Europe gave him a great artistic inspiration and accelerated
his journey into international literary fame. Soon after his success in Germany
he became popular in England and America as well.
Odense City Museums/ The Hans Christian Andersen Museum
Hans Christian Andersen:
The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories: The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid,
The Tinderbox, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea... They are
all at The Scandinavian Shop!
Hans Christian Andersen
in Video and DVD: Andersen is a cobbler who can't stop telling stories for
the little kiddies. He moves to Copenhagen, falls in love with a beautiful French
ballerina, and gets himself famous for his stories..
for Hans Christian Andersen books, videos and DVDs: |