Hans Christian Andersen

 
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Hans Christian Andersen
August Bournonville
The Crown Prince and the Crown Princess
 

Hans Christian Andersen is truly famous. He is one of the most widely read authors in the world. His stories and fairy tales have been translated into 146 different languages. He is one of the few great artists who has managed to create stories, images, and characters that have become absorbed by many diverse cultures.

Just think of ”The Emperor’s New Clothes”, the story where the little boy is the only one who dares to tell people the naked truth that the Emperor hasn’t got any clothes on. Or ”Jack the Dullard” who, in spite of being the happy go lucky country bumpkin he is, does win the princess and half the kingdom.

Picture of Hans Christian Andersen
A lot of photographs were taken of Hans Christian Andersen, and his portrait has been painted many times as well.

 

A poor boy

Hans Christian Andersen was born 200 years ago. He came into this world on April second 1805 in the Danish provincial town of Odense.

Picture of Hans Christian Andersen’s Childhood Home in OdenseHis mother’s name was Anne Marie and she worked as a cleaning lady.

His dad’s name was Hans and he was a cobbler. It certainly wasn’t a wealthy family.
H. C. Andersen grew up in a small house in the centre of town. The house has been preserved and is now part of the renowned H. C. Andersen museum in Odense.

Hans Christian was only ten years old when his dad died.

Even though the Andersen family was poor there were always books in the house, the Bible, A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, and the comedies of the Danish playwright Ludvig Holberg. Hans Christian’s dad would read aloud from these books. The town also had a theatre where little Hans Christian would sneak in to watch the plays. He was mesmerised by the performances.


I want to become an artist!

After Hans Christian was confirmed he decided to leave home.
He went to Copenhagen. He had made up his mind that he wanted to become famous, he wanted to be a successful artist. First, he knocked on the door at the Royal Theatre. For three years he struggled to become accepted into the theatre. He tried out as a ballet dancer, as a singer, and as an actor. He failed at all of them. They didn’t want him.

But he refused to give up. Becoming an artist was his dream. When he was 17 years old he wrote two plays and submitted them to the Royal Theatre. His plays were rejected, but one of the directors of the theatre, Jonas Colin, noticed the young lad and thought he had some talent. However, one of the things that counted against Hans Christian was the inadequate schooling he had received back in Odense. He was, for example, very poor at spelling.
So, Mr. Collin decided to send Hans Christian Andersen back to school.

Picture of a paper cutting made by Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen spent a lot of time making fanciful paper cuttings

The rise to fame

After he had passed his exams and done a stint in the military Hans Christian Andersen wrote his first novel, ”A Journey on Foot..”, and it became his first success. Now his determination and talent became apparent. At that time he was 24 years old. His success made him famous in Denmark and he started to get noticed outside of Denmark as well, in Germany for instance.

”A Journey on Foot..” and everything else the young Andersen wrote was meant for adults. He wrote a lot, novels, poems, plays, and when he didn’t write he was busy making drawings. That is, when he wasn’t travelling abroad. Andersen loved to travel. He went all over Europe: Sweden, Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, and above all his beloved Italy. In his lifetime he made 29 travels abroad. If you tally all his journeys you will find that he spent almost 9 years of his entire life travelling abroad.

The fairy tales

Hans Christian Andersen was 30 years old when his first fairy tales for children were published.

And suddenly his career took off.

He wrote over a hundred fairy tales. And now he became as world famous as you could possibly get to be in his day.

A wise man told Hans Christian Andersen that even though his books written for adults had initially made him famous it would be his fairytales for children that would make his name immortal. As it turned out the man was right.

Here is a short list of some of Hans Christian Andersen’s best known fairy tales:

    The Tinder-Box
    Little Claus and Big Claus
    The Princess and the Pea
    The Swineherd
    Thumbelina
    The Little Mermaid
    The Brave Tin Soldier
    The Nightingale
    The Ugly Duckling
    The Snow Queen
    The Little Match Girl
    The Shadow
    The Shepherdess and the Chimneysweep

Hans Christian Andersen wrote an additional 180 fairytales and stories, and the lesser known ones are often just as good as the most popular ones. But don’t take our word for it; go read them yourself!

Picture of Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen was very fond of being photographed.

Hans Christian Andersen died on August fourth 1875. He was 70 years old.
He lies buried at Assistens Kirkegaard in Copenhagen.


 


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