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.
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.
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
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.
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:
Little Claus and Big Claus
The Princess and the Pea
The Little Mermaid
The Brave Tin Soldier
The Ugly Duckling
The Snow Queen
The Little Match Girl
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!
Hans Christian Andersen was very fond of being photographed.
Hans Christian Andersen died on August fourth 1875. He was 70 years
He lies buried at Assistens Kirkegaard in Copenhagen.