Hans Christian Andersen
1805 - 1875
The Danish author Hans Christian Andersen enjoyed fame in his
own lifetime as a novelist,dramatist, and poet, but his fairy
tales are his great contribution to world literature.
Hans Christian Andersen was born on April 2, 1805, in Odense,
Denmark. His father was a shoemaker and his mother a
washerwoman, and he was the first Danish author to emerge from
the lowest class. At the age of 14, Andersen convinced his
mother to let him try his luck in Copenhagen rather than be
apprenticed to a tailor. When she asked what he intended to do
there, he replied, "I'II become famous! First you suffer
cruelly, and then you become famous."
For 3 years he lived in one of Copenhagen's disreputable
districts. He tried to become a singer, dancer, and actor but
failed. When he was 17, a prominent government official arranged
a scholarship for Andersen in order to repair his spotty
education. But he was an indifferent student and was unable to
study systematically. He never learned to spell or to write the
elegant Danish of the period. Thus his literary style remained
close to the spoken language and is still fresh and living
today, unlike that of most of his contemporaries.
After spending 7 years at school, mostly under the supervision
of a neurotic rector who seems to have hated him, Andersen
celebrated the passing of his university examinations in 1828 by
writing his first prose narrative, an unrestrained satirical
fantasy. This, his first success, was quickly followed by a
vaudeville and a collection of poems. Andersen's career as an
author was begun, and his years of suffering were at an end.
A lifelong bachelor, he was frequently in love (with, among
others, the singer Jenny Lind). He lived most of his life as a
guest on the country estates of wealthy Danes. He made numerous
journeys abroad, where he met and in many cases became friends
with prominent Europeans, among them the English novelist
Charles Dickens. Andersen died on Aug. 4, 1875.
In 1835 Andersen completed his first novel, The Improvisatore,
and published his first small volume of fairy tales, an event
that went virtually unnoticed. The Improvisatore has a finely
done Italian setting and, like most of Andersen's novels, was
based on his own life. It was a success not only in Denmark but
also in England and Germany. He wrote five more novels, all of
them combining highly artificial plots with remarkably vivid
descriptions of landscape and local customs.
As a dramatist, Andersen failed almost absolutely. But many of
his poems are still a part of living Danish literature, and his
most enduring contributions, after the fairy tales, are his
travel books and his autobiography. In vividness, spontaneity,
and impressionistic insight into character and scene, the travel
books (of which A Poet's Bazaar is the masterpiece) rival the
tales, and the kernels of many of the tales are found there.
World fame came to Andersen early. In 1846 the publication of
his collected works in German gave him the opportunity to write
an autobiography (published in both German and English in 1847).
This book formed the basis of the Danish version, The Fairy Tale
of My Life (1855).
Andersen began his fairy-tale writing by retelling folk tales he
had heard as a child. Very soon, however, he began to create
original stories, and the vast majority of his tales are
original. The first volumes in 1835-1837 contained 19 tales and
were called Fairy Tales Told for Children. In 1845 the title
changed to New Fairy Tales. The four volumes appearing with this
title contained 22 original tales and mark the great flowering
of Andersen's genius. In 1852 the title was changed to Stories,
and from then on the volumes were called New Fairy Tales and
Stories. During the next years Andersen published a number of
volumes of fairy tales, and his last works of this type appeared
in 1872. Among his most popular tales are "The Ugly Duckling,"
"The Princess and the Pea," and "The Little Mermaid."
At first Andersen dismissed his fairy-tale writing as a
"bagatelle" and, encouraged by friends and prominent Danish
critics, considered abandoning the genre. But he later came to
believe that the fairy tale would be the "universal poetry" of
which so many romantic writers dreamed, the poetic form of the
future, which would synthesize folk art and literature and
encompass the tragic and the comic, the naive and the ironic.
While the majority of Andersen's tales can be enjoyed by
children, the best of them are written for adults as well and
lend themselves to varying interpretations according to the
sophistication of the reader. To the Danes this is the most
important aspect of the tales, but it is unfortunately not often
conveyed by Andersen's translators. Indeed, some of the finest
and richest tales, such as "She Was No Good," "The Old Oak
Tree's Last Dream," "The Shadow," "The Wind Tells of Valdemar
Daae and His Daughter," and "The Bell," do not often find their
way into English-language collections. More insidious, though,
are the existing translations that omit entirely Andersen's wit
and neglect those stylistic devices that carry his multiplicity
of meanings. Andersen's collected tales form a rich fictive
world, remarkably coherent and capable of many interpretations,
as only the work of a great poet can be.
Andersen, Hans Christian (1805–75), Danish writer, often
regarded as the father of modern fairy tales. Son of a cobbler
and a washerwoman, he rose to the position of a national poet
and is the most well-known Scandinavian writer of all times.
Although Andersen considered himself a novelist and playwright,
his unquestionable fame is based on his fairy tales. He
published four collections: Eventyr, fortalte for børn (Fairy
Tales, Told for Children, 1835–42), Nye eventyr (New Fairy
Tales, 1844–8), Historier (Stories, 1852–5), and Nye eventyr og
historier (New Fairy Tales and Stories, 1858–72), which already
during his lifetime were translated into many languages.
The sources of his stories were mostly Danish folk tales,
collected and retold by his immediate predecessors J. M. Thiele,
Adam Oehlenschläger and Bernhard Ingemann. Unlike the
collectors, whose aim was to preserve and sometimes to classify
and study fairy tales, Andersen was in the first place a writer,
and his objective was to create new literary works based on
folklore. As exceptions, some fairy tales have their origins in
ancient poetry (‘The Naughty Boy’) or medieval European
literature (‘The Emperor's New Clothes’).
There are several ways in which Andersen may be said to have
created the genre of modern fairy tale. First, he gave the fairy
tale a personal touch. His very first fairy tale, ‘The Tinder
Box’, opens in a matter-of-fact way, instead of the traditional
‘Once upon a time’, and its characters, including the king,
speak a colloquial, everyday language. This feature became the
trademark of Andersen's style. Quite a number of his early fairy
tales are retellings of traditional folk tales, such as ‘Little
Claus and Big Claus’, ‘The Princess and the Pea’, ‘The
Travelling Companion’, ‘The Swineherd’, ‘The Wild Swans’;
however, in Andersen's rendering they acquire an unmistakable
individuality and brilliant irony. Kings go around in battered
slippers and personally open gates of their kingdoms; princesses
read newspapers and roast chicken; and many supernatural
creatures in later tales behave and talk like ordinary people.
An explicit narrative voice, commenting on the events and
addressing the listener, is another characteristic trait of
Andersen's tales. It is not accidental that many fairy tales
were told by Andersen to real children before he wrote them
down. However, there are no conventional morals in them,
possibly with the exception of ‘The Red Shoes’.
Secondly, Andersen brought the fairy tale into the everyday. His
first original fairy tale, ‘Little Ida's Flowers’, recalls the
tales of E. T. A. Hoffmann in its elaborate combination of the
ordinary and the fantastic, its nocturnal magical
transformations, and its use of the child as a narrative lens.
Still closer to Hoffmann is ‘The Steadfast Tin Soldier’ with its
animation of the realm of toys. However, in both tales
Andersen's melancholic view of life is revealed: both end
tragically, thus raising the question whether children's
literature must depend on happy endings. These may be
counterbalanced by more conventional stories of trials and
reward, such as ‘Thumbelina’ or ‘The Snow Queen’, the latter
based on the popular Norse legend of the Ice Maiden.
In a group of fairy tales, Andersen went still further in
animating the material world around him and introducing everyday
objects as protagonists: ‘The Sweethearts’ (also known as ‘The
Top and the Ball’), ‘The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep’,
‘The Shirt Collar’, ‘The Darning-Needle’; he is credited with
being a pioneer in this respect. Also, flowers and plants are
ascribed a rich spiritual life, as in ‘The Daisy’, or arrogance,
as in ‘The Fir Tree’, or otherwise are depicted as having a
limited petty bourgeois horizon, as in ‘Five Peas from One Pod’.
Andersen's animal tales are also radically different from
traditional fables. While in ‘The Storks’ he makes an original
interpretation of the popular saying that babies are brought by
storks, in several stories (‘The Happy Family’, ‘The Sprinters’,
‘The Dung-Beetle’) Andersen makes animals represent different
perspectives on life, and the stories themselves are more like
satirical sketches of human manners than fairy tales for
children. ‘The Ugly Duckling’, probably one of Andersen's
best-known stories, is a camouflaged autobiography, echoing the
writer's much-quoted statement: ‘First you must endure a lot,
then you get famous.’ The animals, including the protagonist,
possess human traits, views, and emotions, making the story
indeed a poignant account of the road from humiliation through
sufferings to well-deserved bliss. The message is, however,
ambivalent: you have to be born a swan in order to become one.
Another programmatic fairy tale is ‘The Little Mermaid’, based
on a medieval ballad, eagerly exploited by romantic poets.
Andersen, however, reversed the roles and, toning down the
ballad's motif of the Christian versus the pagan, created a
beautiful and tragic story of impossible love, which certainly
also reflected his personal experience.
While most of Andersen's fairy tales are firmly anchored in his
home country and often mention concrete topographical details,
like the Round Tower in Copenhagen, some fairy tales have exotic
settings, like China in ‘The Nightingale’, or unspecified
‘Southern countries’ in ‘The Shadow’. This tale, based loosely
on a story by Adelbert von Chamisso, which it also mentions
indirectly, is probably the most enigmatic and disturbing of his
tales. Published in 1847, it marked a general change in Andersen
tales, from being addressed to children to a wider audience,
even primarily adults. In fact, his late tales, which he himself
characterized as ‘Stories’ rather than ‘Fairy Tales’, are much
less known and almost never published in contemporary
collections for children. Among them is Andersen's tribute to
modern technology, ‘The Great Sea-Serpent’, depicting the first
transatlantic telegraph cable.
The significance of Andersen may be illustrated by the fact that
the world's most prestigious prize in children's literature, the
Andersen Medal, is named after him, and that his birthday, 2
April, is celebrated as the International Children's Book Day.
Hans Christian Andersen in Danish, or simply H. C. Andersen
(April 2, 1805 – August 4, 1875) was a Danish author and poet,
most famous for his fairy tales. Among his best-known stories
are The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Snow Queen, The Little
Mermaid, Thumbelina, The Little Match Girl, The Ugly Duckling
and The Red Shoes. During Andersen's lifetime he was feted by
royalty and acclaimed for having brought joy to children across
Europe. His fairy tales have been translated into over 150
languages and continue to be published in millions of copies all
over the world and inspired many other works.
Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark, on Tuesday,
April 2, 1805. Most English (as well as German and French)
sources use the name "Hans Christian Andersen", but in Denmark
and the rest of Scandinavia he is usually referred to as merely
"H. C. Andersen". His name "Hans Christian" is a traditional
Danish name and is used as a single name, though originally a
combination of two individual names. It is incorrect to use only
one of the two parts without the other. It is an accepted custom
in Denmark to use only the initials in this and a few other
Andersen's father apparently believed that he might be related
to nobility, and according to scholars at the Hans Christian
Andersen Center, his paternal grandmother told him that the
family had once been in a higher social class. However,
investigation proves these stories were unfounded. The family
apparently did have some connections to Danish royalty, but
these were only work-related. Nevertheless, the theory that
Andersen was the illegitimate son of royalty continues to
persist in Denmark, bolstered by the fact that the Danish king
at the time took a personal interest in Andersen as a youth and
paid for his education. The writer Rolf Dorset insists that not
all options have been explored in determining Andersen's
Andersen displayed great intelligence and imagination as a young
boy, traits that were fostered by the indulgence of his parents
and by the superstition of his mother. He made himself a small
toy-theatre and sat at home making clothes for his puppets, and
reading all the plays that he could lay his hands upon; among
them were those of Ludvig Holberg and William Shakespeare.
Throughout his childhood, he had a passionate love for
literature. He was known to memorize entire plays by Shakespeare
and to recite them using his wooden dolls as actors.
In 1816, his father died in a fire and, in order to support
himself, Andersen worked as an apprentice for both a weaver and
a tailor. He later worked in a cigarette factory where his
fellow workers humiliated him by betting on whether he was in
fact a girl, pulling down his trousers to check. At the age of
fourteen, Andersen moved to Copenhagen seeking employment as an
actor in the theatre. He had a pleasant soprano voice and
succeeded in being admitted to the Royal Danish Theatre. This
career stopped short when his voice broke. A colleague at the
theatre had referred to him as a poet, and Andersen took this
very seriously and began to focus on writing. He had a
half-sister to whom only spoke to once or twice before she died.
Her name was Karen Marie.
Following an accidental meeting, Jonas Collin started taking an
interest in the odd boy and sent Andersen to the grammar school
in Slagelse, paying all his expenses. Before being admitted to
grammar-school, Andersen had succeeded in publishing his first
story, The Ghost at Palnatoke's Grave in 1822. Though an
unwilling pupil, Andersen studied both in Slagelse and at a
school in Elsinore until 1827. He later stated that these years
had been the darkest and most bitter parts of his life. He had
experienced living in his schoolmaster's own home, being abused
in order to "build his character", and he had been alienated
from his fellow students, being much older than most of them,
homely and unattractive. Furthermore, he was dyslexic, a very
likely reason for his learning difficulties and he later said
that the school faculty forbade or discouraged him to write.
In 1829, Andersen enjoyed a considerable success with a short
story entitled "A Journey on Foot from Holmen's Canal to the
East Point of Amager". During the same season, he published both
a farce and a collection of poems. He had little further
progress, however, until 1833 when he received a small traveling
grant from the King, making the first of his long European
journeys. At Le Locle, in the Jura, he wrote "Agnete and the
Merman"; in 1833 he visited the Italian seaside village of
Sestri Levante (and is credited with naming its two bays) (see
www.voyagefever.com/sestri-levante-part-1 -- annual festival
celebrates this); and in October 1834 he arrived in Rome.
Andersen's first novel, The Improvisatore, was published in the
beginning of 1835, and became an instant success. During these
years, H.C. Andersen resided in 20, Nyhavn, Copenhagen, where a
memorial plaque unveiled on the 8th of May in 1935 as a gift
from Peter Schannong was placed.
Andersen's Fairy Tales
It was during 1835 that Andersen published the first installment
of his immortal Fairy Tales (Danish: Eventyr). More stories,
completing the first volume, were published in 1836 and 1837.
The quality of these stories was not immediately recognised, and
they sold poorly. At the same time, Andersen enjoyed more
success with two novels: O.T. (1836) and Only a Fiddler. His
Specialty book that is still known today was the Ugly Duckling.
Jeg er en Skandinav
After a visit to Sweden in 1837, Andersen became inspired by
Scandinavism and committed himself to writing a poem to convey
his feeling of relatedness between the Swedes, the Danes and the
Norwegians. It was in July 1839 during a visit to the island of
Funen that Andersen first wrote the text of his poem Jeg er en
Skandinav (I am a Scandinavian). Andersen designed the poem
random to capture "the beauty of the Nordic spirit, the way the
three sister nations have gradually grown together" as part of a
Scandinavian national anthem. Composer Otto Lindblad set the
poem to music and the composition was published in January 1840.
Its popularity peaked in 1845, after which it was seldom sung.
In 1851, he published to wide acclaim In Sweden, a volume of
travel sketches. A keen traveller, Andersen published several
other long travelogues: Shadow Pictures of a Journey to the Harz,
Swiss Saxony, etc. etc. in the Summer of 1831 (A Poet's Bazaar
(560), In Spain , and A Visit to Portugal in 1866 (The latter
describes his visit with his Portuguese friends Jorge and Jose
O'Neill, who were his fellows in the mid 1820s while living in
Copenhagen.) In his travelogues, Andersen took heed of some of
the contemporary conventions about travel writing; but always
developed the genre to suit his own purposes. Each of his
travelogues combines documentary and descriptive accounts of the
sights he saw with more philosophical excurses on topics such as
being an author, immortality, and the nature of fiction in the
literary travel report. Some of the travelogues, such as In
Sweden, even contain fairy-tales.
In the 1840s Andersen's attention returned to the stage, however
with no great success at all. His true genius was however proved
in the miscellany the Picture-Book without Pictures (1840). The
fame of his Fairy Tales had grown steadily; a second series
began in 1838 and a third in 1845. Andersen was now celebrated
throughout Europe, although his native Denmark still showed some
resistance to his pretensions. Between 1845 and 1864, H. C.
Andersen lived in 67, Nyhavn, Copenhagen, where a memorial
plaque is placed.
Meetings with Dickens
In June 1847, Andersen paid his first visit to England and
enjoyed a triumphal social success during the summer. The
Countess of Blessington invited him to her parties where
intellectual and famous people could meet, and it was at one
party that he met Charles Dickens for the first time. They shook
hands and walked to the veranda which was of much joy to
Andersen. He wrote in his diary "We had come to the veranda, I
was so happy to see and speak to England's now living writer,
whom I love the most."
Ten years later, Andersen visited England, primarily to visit
Dickens. He stayed at Dickens' home for five weeks, oblivious to
Dickens' increasingly blatant hints for him to leave. Dickens'
daughter said of Andersen, "He was a bony bore, and stayed on
and on." Shortly after Andersen left, Dickens published David
Copperfield, featuring the obsequious Uriah Heep, who is said to
have been modeled on Andersen. Andersen himself greatly enjoyed
the visit, and never understood why Dickens stopped answering
Modern biographies often portray him as attracted to both women
and men, and there is very clear evidence for both.
Andersen often fell in love with unattainable women and many of
his stories are interpreted as references to his sexual grief.
The most famous of these was the opera soprano Jenny Lind. One
of his stories is "The Nightingale", was a written expression of
his passion for Lind, and became the inspiration for her
nickname, the "Swedish Nightingale". Andersen was often shy
around women and had extreme difficulty in proposing to Lind.
When Lind was boarding a train to take her to an opera concert,
Anderson gave Lind a letter of proposal. Her feelings towards
him were not mutual; she saw him as a brother, writing to him in
1844 "farewell... God bless and protect my brother is the
sincere wish of his affectionate sister, Jenny." A girl named
Riborg Voigt was the unrequited love of Andersen's youth. A
small pouch containing a long letter from Riborg was found on
Andersen's chest when he died. At one point he wrote in his
diary: "Almighty God, thee only have I; thou steerest my fate, I
must give myself up to thee! Give me a livelihood! Give me a
bride! My blood wants love, as my heart does!" Other
disappointments in love included Sophie Ørsted, the daughter of
the physicist Hans Christian Ørsted, and Louise Collin, the
youngest daughter of his benefactor Jonas Collin.
Just like his interest in women, Andersen would become attracted
to nonreciprocating men. For example Andersen wrote to Edvard
Collin,: "I languish for you as for a pretty Calabrian wench...
my sentiments for you are those of a woman. The femininity of my
nature and our friendship must remain a mystery." Collin, who
did not prefer men, wrote in his own memoir: "I found myself
unable to respond to this love, and this caused the author much
suffering." Likewise, the infatuations of the author for the
Danish dancer Harald Scharff and Carl Alexander, the young
hereditary duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, did not result in any
relationships. Four of his letters to Carl are edited in an
anthology by Rictor Norton.
In Andersen's early life, his private journal records his
refusal to have sexual relations.
In the spring of 1872, Andersen fell out of bed and was severely
hurt. He never quite recovered, but he lived until August 4
1875, dying painfully in a house called Rolighed (literally:
calmness), near Copenhagen, the home of his close friends Moritz
Melchior, a banker and his wife. Shortly before his death, he
had consulted a composer about the music for his funeral,
saying: "Most of the people who will walk after me will be
children, so make the beat keep time with little steps." His
body was interred in the Assistens Kirkegård in the Nørrebro
area of Copenhagen. At the time of his death, he was an
internationally renowned and treasured artist. He received a
stipend from the Danish Government as a "national treasure".
Before his death, steps were already underway to erect the large
statue in his honour, which was completed and is prominently
placed at the town hall square in Copenhagen.
In the English-speaking world, stories such as "Thumbelina",
"The Snow Queen", "The Ugly Duckling", "The Little Mermaid",
"The Emperor's New Clothes", and "The Princess and the Pea"
remain popular and are widely read. "The emperor's new clothes"
and "ugly duckling" have both passed into the English language
as well-known expressions.
Puppet Theatre of Hans Christian Andersen in Lublin (Poland) -
old entrance gate
In the Copenhagen harbor there is a statue of The Little
Mermaid, placed in honour of Hans Christian Andersen. 2 April,
Andersen's birthday, is celebrated as International Children's
The year 2005 was the bicentenary of Andersen's birth and his
life and work was celebrated around the world. In Denmark,
particularly, the nation's most famous son has been feted like
no other literary figure.
In the city of Lublin, Poland is the Puppet Theatre of Hans
A $12.5 million theme park based on Andersen's tales and life
opened in Shanghai at the end of 2006. Multi-media games as well
as all kinds of cultural contests related to the fairytales are
available to visitors. He was chosen as the star of the park
because he is a "nice, hardworking person who was not afraid of
poverty", Shanghai Gujin Investment general manager Zhai
Shiqiang was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.
JACANA HOME PAGE
CLASSIC VIDEO CLIPS
JACANA ASTRONOMY SITE
JACANA PHOTO LIBRARY |
OLD MAUN PHOTO GALLERY |
MAUN PHONE DIRECTORY
FREE FONTS |
PIC OF THE DAY
GENERAL LIBRARY |
MAP LIBRARY |
HOUSE PLANS LIBRARY
MAUN E-MAIL, WEBSITE & SKYPE LIST
BOTSWANA GPS CO-ORDINATES
MAUN SAFARI WEB LINKS |
FREE SOFTWARE |
JACANA WEATHER PAGE
JACANA CROSSWORD LIBRARY |
JACANA CARTOON PAGE |
This web page was last updated on:
08 December, 2008