Hans Christian Andersen
Andersen became known as the father of the modern fairytale.
Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen was born in the slums of Odense. His father, Hans Andersen, was a poor shoemaker and literate, who believed he was of aristocratic origin. Andersen’s mother, Anne Marie Andersdatter, worked as washerwoman. Although she was uneducated and superstition, she opened for his son the world of folklore. Later, Andersen depicted her in his novels and in the story ‘Hun duede ikke’.
Andersen received little education. As a child, he was highly emotional, suffering all kind of fears and humiliations because of his tallness and effeminate interests. Andersen’s hysterical attacks of cramps were falsely diagnosed as epileptic fits. Encouraged by his parents, he composed his own fairytales and arranged puppet theater shows. His father loved literature and took Andersen often to the playhouse.
In 1816, his father died and Andersen was forced to go work. He was, for a short time, apprentice to a weaver and tailor and he also worked at a tobacco factory. Once, his trousers were pulled down when other workers suspected that he was a girl. At the age of 14 Andersen moved to Copenhagen to start a career as a singer, dancer or an actor- he had a beautiful soprano voice. Andersen succeeded in becoming associated with the Royal Theater, but he has to leave it when his voice began to change.
Andersen’s fame rest on his fairy tales and stories, written between 1835 and 1872. Tales, told for children, appeared in a small, cheap booklet in1835. In this and following early collections, which were published in every Christmas, Andersen returned to the stories which he had as a child, but gradually he started to create his own tales. The third volume, published in 1837, contained “The Little Mermaid” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Among Andersen’s other best known tales are “Little Ugly Duckling”, “The Tinderbox”, “Little Claus and Big Claus” “Princess and the Pea”, “The Snow Queen”, “The Nightingale”, and “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”. With these collections, inspired by the great tradition on the Arabian Nights on the other hand and Household Tales, collected by the brothers Grimm, Andersen became known as the father of the modern fairytale. Andersen’s works were original. Only 12 of his 156 known fairytale stories drew on folktales.
Between the years 1840 and 1857, Andersen made journeys throughout Europe, Asia and Africa, recording his impressions and adventures in a number of travel books. During his travels abroad, Andersen was able to more relaxed and take more liberties than in Copenhagen, where everybody knew him.
Andersen died is home in Rolighed on August 4, 1875.