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Hans Christian Andersen's personal fairy tale

Photo: Johan Joensen

Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense on April 2, 1805, the son of shoemaker Hans Andersen and the washerwoman Anne Marie Andersdatter. As a child his favorite occupation was making up stories, and as a 14-year-old he decided to seek his fortune at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen.

As a 14 year old he published his first book - Ungdoms-Forsøg - under a pseudonym and submitted a tragedy to the Royal Theatre. The play was rejected, but the theatre board agreed to help the young writer and enabled him to get and education. He finished his schooling in 1829 as a cand.phil. and started working exclusively as a writer. What he really wanted to do was act, but despite trying hard he was never very successful in this field.

During the first years of his authorship (1828-1835) he tried his hand at many genres and his rich imagination, comic sense and daring shines through. His big break through came in 1835 with the novel "The Improvisatore" and his first fairy tales "Fairy tales told to children". At the same time he gained an audience abroad with his novels and became particularly popular in England and Germany.

“It doesn't matter if you're born in a duck yard, so long as you are hatched from a swan's egg!” Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen's birthplace

Photo:Steffen Palmø

The first writings

In the same year, he published his first book - Ungdoms-Forsøg - under a pseudonym and submitted a tragedy from the book to the Danish Royal Theatre. The play did not catch on, but the theatre management decided to help the young writer to an education, which he completed in 1829 with an M.Phil. and devoted himself to poetry.

In the early years of his writing (1828-1835), he tried his hand at many genres, displaying a rich imagination, playfulness and daring. His big breakthrough in 1835 was the novel The Improviser and his first fairy tale: Fairy Tales for Children. At the same time, his stories broke through abroad and were successful in both England and Germany.

An extraordinary life

Already during his lifetime, his fairy tales and stories were translated into several languages, ensuring him increasing popular fame. In sharp contrast to his great success as a poet was his private life; he was unsuccessful in love and lived a lonely life plagued by worries, though with a large circle of friends among his peers. Among his best-known adventures are stories such as:

  • The Little Mermaid
  • The Ugly Duckling
  • The Little Match Girl (a favourite in Asia)
  • Thumbelina
  • The Tinderbox (the one with the soldier, the witch and the three dogs)
  • The Princess and the Pea
  • The Emperor's New Clothes
  • The Snow Queen
  • and many, many more

Even today, most children have read or been read one of Andersen's fairy tales and most have seen a film adaptation or animated film based on one of his stories.

At leve er ikke nok. Solskin, frihed og en lille blomst må man ha' - H.C. Andersen

Photo:Odense Fotogalleri

Everything comes to an end

H.C. Andersen died of liver cancer in a hospice in 1875, and his funeral attracted international attention.

With his fertile imagination and, for his time, radical and modern approach to art, Hans Christian Andersen is one of the most fascinating figures in Danish cultural history. He contributed not only literary works but also drawings, papercuts and picture books.

Det er tungt, forbandet tungt, at dø mens hjertet stadig er ungt - H.C. Andersen

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