Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hans Christian Andersen (April 2, 1805 – August 4, 1875)

Hans Christian Andersen
Born April 2, 1805
Odense, Denmark
Died August 4, 1875 (aged 70)
Copenhagen, Denmark
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, fairy tales writer
Nationality Danish
Genres Children's literature, travelogue


Hans Christian Andersen (Danish pronunciation: [ˈhaˀns ˈkʁæsdjan ˈɑnɐsn̩], referred to using the initials H. C. Andersen in Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia; April 2, 1805 – August 4, 1875) was a Danish author and poet noted for his children's stories. These include "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", "The Snow Queen", "The Little Mermaid", "Thumbelina", "The Little Match Girl", and "The Ugly Duckling".

During his lifetime he was acclaimed for having delighted children worldwide, and was feted by royalty. His poetry and stories have been translated into more than 150 languages. They have inspired motion pictures, plays, ballets, and animated films.[1]



Hans Christian Andersen was born in the town of Odense, Denmark, on Tuesday, April 2, 1805. "Hans" and "Christian" are traditional Danish names.

Andersen's father considered himself related to nobility. According to scholars at the Hans Christian Andersen Center,[citation needed] his paternal grandmother had told his father that their family had in the past belonged to a higher social class, but investigations prove these stories unfounded. The family apparently was affiliated with Danish royalty, but through employment or trade. Today, speculation persists that Andersen may have been an illegitimate son of the royal family. Whatever the reason, King Frederick VI took a personal interest in him as a youth and paid for a part of his education.[2] According to writer Rolf Dorset, Andersen's ancestry remains indeterminate. Hans Christian was forced to support himself. He worked as a weaver's apprentice and, later, for a tailor. At 14, he moved to Copenhagen to seek employment as an actor. Having an excellent soprano voice, he was accepted into the Royal Danish Theatre, but his voice soon changed. A colleague at the theatre told him that he considered Andersen a poet. Taking the suggestion seriously, he began to focus on writing.

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Andersen's modest childhood home in Odense

Andersen had a half-sister, Karen Marie, with whom he managed to speak on only a few occasions before her death.[citation needed]

Jonas Collin, who, following a chance encounter with Andersen, immediately felt a great affection for him, sent him to a grammar school in Slagelse, covering all his expenses.[3] Andersen had already published his first story, The Ghost at Palnatoke's Grave, in 1822. Though not a keen student, he also attended school at Elsinore until 1827.[4]

He later said his years in school were the darkest and most bitter of his life. At one school, he lived at his schoolmaster's home. There he was abused in order "to improve his character", he was told. He felt alienated from his classmates, being older than most of them. Considered unattractive, he also may have suffered from dyslexia.[citation needed] He later said the faculty had discouraged him from writing in general, causing him to enter a state of depression.

Early works

In 1829, Andersen enjoyed considerable success with a short story titled "A Journey on Foot from Holmen's Canal to the East Point of Amager". He also published a comedy and a collection of poems that season. Though he made little progress writing and publishing immediately thereafter, in 1833 he received a small traveling grant from the King, enabling him to set out on the first of his many journeys through Europe. At Jura, near Le Locle, Switzerland, he wrote the story, "Agnete and the Merman". He spent an evening in the Italian seaside village of Sestri Levante the same year, inspiring the name, The Bay of Fables. (See — an annual festival celebrates it). In October, 1834, he arrived in Rome. Andersen's first novel, "The Improvisatore", was published at the beginning of 1835, becoming an instant success. During these traveling years, Hans Christian Andersen lived in an apartment at number 20, Nyhavn, Copenhagen. There, a memorial plaque was unveiled on May 8, 1835, a gift by Peter Schannong.[5]

Fairy tales

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Paper chimney sweep cut by Andersen

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 recognized, and they sold poorly. At the same time, Andersen enjoyed more success with two novels: O.T. (1836) and Only a Fiddler.

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.[6] 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).[6] Andersen designed the poem 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.[6] 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.[6]


In 1851, he published to wide acclaim In Sweden, a volume of travel sketches. A keen traveler, 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.

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Painting of Andersen, 1836, by Christian Albrecht Jensen

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.[5]

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."[7]

Ten years later, Andersen visited England again, primarily to visit Dickens. He stayed at Dickens' home for five weeks.[7] Shortly after Andersen left, Dickens published David Copperfield, featuring the obsequious Uriah Heep, who is said to have been modeled on Andersen.

Love life

Andersen often fell in love with unattainable women and many of his stories are interpreted as references to his sexual grief.[8] The most famous of these was the opera soprano Jenny Lind. One of his stories, "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, Andersen gave Lind a letter of proposal. Her feelings towards him were not the same; 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."[9] 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!"[10] 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 as with his interest in women, Andersen would become attracted to nonreciprocating men. For example, Andersen wrote to Edvard Collin:[11] "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[12] and Carl Alexander, the young hereditary duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach,[13] did not result in any relationships.

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The Hanfstaengl portrait of Andersen dated July 1860

In recent times some literary studies have speculated about the homoerotic camouflage in Andersen's works.[14]

In Andersen's early life, his private journal records his refusal to have sexual relations.[15][16]


In the spring of 1872, Andersen fell out of bed and was severely hurt. He never fully recovered, but he lived until August 4, 1875, dying of insidious causes in a house called Rolighed (literally: calmness), near Copenhagen, the home of his close friends Moritz Melchior, a banker, and his wife.[17] 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."[17] 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 honor, which was completed and is prominently placed at the town hall square in Copenhagen.[1]


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Postage stamp, Denmark, 1935

In the English-speaking world, stories such as "Thumbelina", "The Snow Queen", "The Little Match Girl", "The Ugly Duckling", "The Little Mermaid", "The Emperor's New Clothes", "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", and "The Princess and the Pea" remain popular and are widely read. "The Emperor's New Clothes" and "The Ugly Duckling" have both passed into the English language as well-known expressions.

In the Copenhagen harbor there is a statue of The Little Mermaid, placed in honor of Hans Christian Andersen. April 2, Andersen's birthday, is celebrated as International Children's Book Day. The year 2005 was the bicentenary of Andersen's birth and his life and work was celebrated around the world.

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Hans Christian Andersen and "The Ugly Duckling" in Central Park, New York

In the United States, statues of Hans Christian Andersen may be found in Central Park, New York, and in Solvang, California. The Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division holds a unique collection of Andersen materials bequeathed by the Danish-American actor Jean Hersholt.[18] Of particular note is an original scrapbook Andersen prepared for the young Jonas Drewsen.[19]

The city of Bratislava, Slovakia features a statue of Hans Christian Andersen in memory of his visit in 1841.[20]

In the city of Lublin, Poland is the Puppet & Actor Theatre of Hans Christian Andersen.[21]

A $13-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 fairy tales 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.[22]

Famous fairy tales

Some of his most famous fairy tales include:

  • The Angel (1843) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Bell (1845) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Emperor's New Clothes (1837) University of Southern Denmark
  • The Galoshes of Fortune (1838) "Lykkens Kalosker"
  • The Fir Tree (1844) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Happy Family (1847)
  • The Ice Maiden (1861) "Iisjomfruen"
  • It's Quite True! (1852) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Little Match Girl (1848) University of Southern Denmark
  • The Little Mermaid (1836) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • Little Tuck (1847) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Nightingale (1844) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Old House (1847) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • Sandman (1841) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Princess and the Pea (1835; also known as The Real Princess) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • Several Things (1837) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Red Shoes (1845) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Shadow (1847) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep (1845)
  • The Snow Queen (1844) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Steadfast Tin Soldier (1838) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Story of a Mother (1847) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Swineherd (1841) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • Thumbelina (1835) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Tinderbox (1835) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Ugly Duckling (1844) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)
  • The Wild Swans (1838) University of Southern Denmark (Danish)


    Contemporary literary and artistic works inspired by Andersen's stories include:

  • "The Naked King" ("Голый Король (Goliy Korol)" 1937), "The Shadow" ("Тень (Ten)" 1940), and "The Snow Queen" ("Снежная Королева (Sniezhenaya Koroleva)" 1948) by Eugene Schwartz: reworked and adapted to the contemporary reality plays by one of Russia's most famous playwrights. Schwartz's versions of "The Shadow" and "The Snow Queen" were later made into movies (1971 and 1966, respectively).
  • Sam the Lovesick Snowman at the Center for Puppetry Arts: a contemporary puppet show by Jon Ludwig inspired by The Snow Man.[23]
  • The Ugly Duckling ("Гадкий утенок") (Children's opera) - Opera-Parable By Hans Christian Andersen. For Mezzo-Soprano (Soprano), Three-part Children's Choir And the Piano. 1 Act: 2 Epigraphs, 38 Theatrical Pictures. Length: Approximately 28 minutes. The opera version (Free transcription) Written by Lev Konov (Лев Конов) (1996). On music of Sergei Prokofiev: The Ugly Duckling, op. 18 (1914) And Visions Fugitives, op. 22 (1915–1917). (Vocal score language: Russian, English, German, French). The first representation in Moscow in 1997.
  • The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf by Kathryn Davis: a contemporary novel about fairy tales and opera
  • The Snow Queen by Joan Vinge: an award-winning novel that reworks the Snow Queen's themes into epic science fiction
  • The Nightingale by Kara Dalkey: a lyrical adult fantasy novel set in the courts of old Japan
  • The Wild Swans by Peg Kerr: a novel that brings Andersen's fairy tale to colonial and modern America
  • Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier: a romantic fantasy novel, set in early Ireland, thematically linked to "The Wild Swans"
  • Birdwing by Rafe Martin, a young adult novel that continues the tale of "The Wild Swans" with the story of Ardwin, the brother whose arm remained a wing
  • The Snow Queen by Eileen Kernaghan: a gentle Young Adult fantasy novel that brings out the tale's subtle pagan and shamanic elements
  • "The Snow Queen", a short story by Patricia A. McKillip (published in Snow White, Blood Red)
  • "You, Little Match Girl", a short story by Joyce Carol Oates (published in Black Heart, Ivory Bones)
  • "Sparks", a short story by Gregory Frost (based on The Tinder Box, published in Black Swan, White Raven)
  • "Steadfast", a short story by Nancy Kress (based on The Steadfast Tin Soldier, published in Black Swan, White Raven)
  • "The Sea Hag", a short story by Melissa Lee Shaw (based on The Little Mermaid, published in Silver Birch, Blood Moon)
  • "The Real Princess", a short story by Susan Palwick (based on The Princess and the Pea, published in Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears)
  • "Match Girl", a short story by Anne Bishop (published in Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears)
  • Le Petit Claus et le Grand Claus, (film, 1964), ((Lille Claus og store Claus) by Jacques Prévert, and his brother Pierre Prévert, French TV 1964.
  • "The Pangs of Love", a short story by Jane Gardam (based on The Little Mermaid, published in Close Company: Stories of Mothers and Daughters)
  • "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep", (film, 1980), French, by Paul Grimault and Jacques Prévert, French title : Le Roi et l'Oiseau (the king and the bird).
  • "The Chrysanthemum Robe", a short story by Kara Dalkey (based on The Emperor's New Clothes, published in The Armless Maiden)
  • "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", a short story by Joan Vinge (published in Women of Wonder)
  • "In the Witch's Garden", a short story by Naomi Kritzer (based on The Snow Queen, published in Realms of Fantasy magazine, October 2002 issue)
  • "I Hear the Mermaids Singing", a short story by Nancy Holder (based on The Little Mermaid)
  • "The Last Poems About the Snow Queen", a poem cycle by Sandra Gilbert (published in Blood Pressure)
  • The Little Mermaid (2005) for children's chorus, narrator, orchestra by Richard Mills
  • "La petite marchande d'allumettes", film by Jean Renoir (1928)[24]
  • "The Andersen Project" by Robert Lepage: Freely inspired from two stories by Andersen (The Dryad and The Shadow).
  • "The Little Mermaid (1989 movie) (Walt Disney Pictures) Based on the original story.
  • The Little Match Girl (2006 short) With the DVD Release of The Little Mermaid (Walt Disney Pictures)Based on the original story.
  • The Little Mermaid for actress, two pianos and chamber ensemble/orchestra.[25]
  • Ponyo got its inspiration from the Little Mermaid.
  • The Little Match Girl Passion - a choral work composed in 2007 by David Lang. It won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Music.
  • The Ghost, an episode in the third series of the British TV show Hustle is based on the theft of an Andersen manuscript from an old English manor house.
  • A Designer's Paradise, an episode in the fourth series of the British TV show Hustle bases a confidence trick around the story of The Emperor's New Clothes
  • Broken Angels (Merciless in the U.S.), a novel by Richard Montanari focuses on a serial killer who murders people in accordance with Hans Christian Andersen stories. Stories included are The Nightingale, Thumbelina, The Red Shoes, The Little Match Girl, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Tinderbox, What The Moon Saw, Anne Lisbeth, Little Claus and Big Claus, The Snow Man, and Little Ida's Flowers.
  • "Striking Twelve", a Staged Concert/Musical by the New York band, Groove Lily, about a grumpy guy reading "The Little Match Girl" on New Year's Eve.
  • "Until My Dancing Days are Done", a short story by Angela D. Mitchell that gave a modern gothic twist to "The Red Shoes." The story was published in Fables Magazine in October 2003, and in April 2004 was voted the 2003 Reader's Choice Award by the magazine's readers.
  • "The Song Is A Fairy-tale", 20 songs composed by Frederik Magle based on fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen (1994).
  • "Prisoners" by Regina Spektor references Hans Christian Anderson.
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