Hans Christian Andersen, most famously known for his fairy tales like “The Little Mermaid”, “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” has left his mark on both the adult literature world as well as young children.
Hans Christian Andersen was born on April 2 1805 in Odense Denmark. He is most known as Hans Christian Andersen with English sources, but in his native land he is known as H.C. Andersen. Using the initials of somebody’s name in Denmark is part of an accepted custom. His grandmother told him that their family once had been in a higher social class; however this was never proven to be true. The only connection to royalty that the family had was work related. The idea that he was somehow the illegitimate son of the Danish King began long ago as the King took a remarkable interest in Hans Christian Andersen when he was a youth. He paid for his education. No one has ever proven though as rumors about his “royal” decent. The Danish King’s interest in Hans Christian may have had something to do with the boy’s vast imagination. He was a very intelligent boy who as a child made himself a toy theatre, along with puppets and clothes to play with. He read many Shakespearean and Holberg plays throughout his childhood and developed a deep passion for literature. He could memorize entire plays and would recite them while he played with is paper dolls as actors.
Hans Christian Anderson lost his father at the age of eleven and found himself working as an apprentice for a weaver and a tailor. He was often made fun of for his interest in acting and playing with “dolls” by co-workers and at the age of fourteen he moved from his home town to Copenhagen to seek employment as an actor in a theatre. At a young age he proved to have a nice soprano voice and succeeded in working in the Royal Danish Theatre until his voice changed in which he changed his focus to writing. It seems that fortune shone upon Hans Christian in his youth because he then ended up meeting Jonas Collin who took a particular interest in the boy. He sent him to grammar school in Slagelse and paid all of his expenses and tuition. Like many other genius men he did not enjoy his school studies but continued to educate himself. He was abused by his schoolmaster in order to “build character” and described his school years as one of the darkest times in his life. His was alienated from the other students and had very few, if any friends. His teachers strongly encouraged him not to write as he was dyslexic. He later became fluent in many different languages such as German, Dutch and English. His first story that was published was called “The Ghost at Palnatoke’s Grave” which was published before he even began grammar school.
As an early writer Hans Christian Andersen had much success with a short story called “A Journey on Foot from Holmen’s Canal to the East Point of Amager.” But it wasn’t until 1833 that he hit success again thanks to the Danish King. The King gave him a considerable grant for making a journey across Europe in which he was inspired to write “Agnete and the Merman” and “The Improvisatore.” The latter became an immediate success. In 1835 he began to write his well known Fairy Tales and competed volume on in 1837. Ironically the well known fairy tales that we love were not successful at the time, but he continued to write two more novels which continued to have success. .
In 1847 he was invited to a party thrown by the Countess of Blessington where he met Charles Dickens to which he wrote in his diary, “… I was so happy to see and speak to England’s now living writer, whom I love the most.” He visited Charles Dickens ten years later and over stayed his welcome somewhat. He never quite understood why Dickens stopped answering the letters he wrote to him.
In the spring of 1872, Hans Christian Andersen fell out of his bed and injured himself badly. He then went to live with a friend named Moritz Melchior where he died a painful death on August 4 1875. He received a stipend from the Danish Government as a “national treasure” and a stature now stands in his honor in Copenhagen.
Hans Christian Andersen leaves behind a legacy of literature. Some most popular are:
• The Ugly Duckling
• The Little Mermaid
• The Princess and the Pea
• The Tinder Box
His literature continues to be sold all over the world and is loved by many.