Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen
Photograph taken by Thora Hallager, 1869
Born (1805-04-02)2 April 1805
Odense, Funen, Kingdom of Denmark and Norway (modern Denmark)
Died 4 August 1875(1875-08-04) (aged 70)
Copenhagen, Kingdom of Denmark
Occupation Writer
Language Danish
Nationality Danish
Genre Children's literature, travelogue


Hans Christian Andersen (; Danish: ; often referred to in Scandinavia as H. C. Andersen; 2 April 1805 – 4 August 1875) was a Danish author. Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, Andersen is best remembered for his fairy tales. Andersen's popularity is not limited to children; his stories, called eventyr in Danish, or "fairy-tales" in English, express themes that transcend age and nationality.

Andersen's fairy tales, which have been translated into more than 125 languages,[1] have become culturally embedded in the West's collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well.[2] Some of his most famous fairy tales include "The Little Mermaid", "The Snow Queen", "The Ugly Duckling", "The Nightingale", "The Emperor's New Clothes" and many more. His stories have inspired plays, ballets, and both live-action and animated films.[3]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Early work 2.1
    • Fairy tales and poetry 2.2
    • Travelogues 2.3
  • Personal life 3
    • Meetings with Dickens 3.1
    • Love life 3.2
  • Death 4
  • Legacy 5
    • Film 5.1
    • Statues 5.2
  • Bibliography 6
  • Influence 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Bibliography 10
  • External links 11

Early life

"It doesn't matter about being born in a duckyard, as long as you are hatched from a swan's egg"

Hans Christian Andersen was born in the town of Odense, Denmark, on Tuesday, 2 April 1805. He was an only child. Andersen's father, also Hans, considered himself related to nobility. His paternal grandmother had told his father that their family had in the past belonged to a higher social class,[4] but investigations prove these stories unfounded.[4][5] Theories that Andersen may have been an illegitimate son of King Christian VIII persist.[4]

Andersen's father, who had received an elementary education, introduced Andersen to literature, reading him Arabian Nights.[6] Andersen's mother, Anne Marie Andersdatter, was uneducated and worked as a washerwoman following his father's death in 1816, remarrying in 1818.[6] Andersen was sent to a local school for poor children where he received a basic education and was forced to support himself, working as a weaver's apprentice and, later, for a tailor. At 14, he moved to Copenhagen to seek employment as an actor. Having an excellent soprano voice, he was accepted into the Royal Danish Theatre, but his voice soon changed. A colleague at the theatre told him that he considered Andersen a poet. Taking the suggestion seriously, Andersen began to focus on writing.

Andersen's childhood home in Odense

Jonas Collin, director of the Royal Danish Theatre, felt a great affection for him, and sent him to a grammar school in Slagelse, persuading King Frederick VI to pay part of his education.[7] Andersen had already published his first story, The Ghost at Palnatoke's Grave, in 1822. Though not a keen student, he also attended school at Elsinore until 1827.[8]

He later said his years in school were the darkest and most bitter of his life. At one school, he lived at his schoolmaster's home. There he was abused in order "to improve his character," he was told. He later said the faculty had discouraged him from writing in general, causing him to enter a state of depression.


Paper chimney sweep cut by Andersen

Early work

A very early fairy tale by Andersen called The Tallow Candle (Danish: Tællelyset) was discovered in a Danish archive in October 2012. The story, written in the 1820s, was about a candle who did not feel appreciated. It was written while he was still in school and dedicated to a benefactor, in whose family's possession it remained until it turned up among other family papers in a suitcase in a local archive.[9]

In 1829, Andersen enjoyed considerable success with a short story titled A Journey on Foot from Holmen's Canal to the East Point of Amager. In the book, the protagonist meets characters ranging from Saint Peter to a talking cat. He followed this success with a theatrical piece, Love on St. Nicholas Church Tower and a short volume of poems. Though he made little progress writing and publishing immediately thereafter, in 1833 he received a small traveling grant from the King, enabling him to set out on the first of many journeys through Europe. At Jura, near Le Locle, Switzerland, he wrote the story, Agnete and the Merman. He spent an evening in the Italian seaside village of Sestri Levante the same year, inspiring the name, The Bay of Fables.[10] In October 1834, he arrived in Rome. Andersen's travels in Italy would be reflected in his first novel; an autobiography titled The Improvisatore (Improvisatoren) which was published in 1835, receiving instant acclaim.

Fairy tales and poetry

His initial attempts at writing fairy tales were revisions of stories that he heard as a child. Andersen brought this genre to a new level by writing a vast number of fairy tales that were both bold and original. Initially they were not met with recognition, due partly to the difficulty in translating them and capturing his genius for humor and dark pathos.

It was during 1835 that Andersen published the first two installments of his immortal Fairy Tales (Danish: Eventyr; lit. "fantastic tales"). More stories, completing the first volume, were published in 1837. The collection consists of nine tales that includes The Tinderbox, The Princess and the Pea, Thumbelina, The Little Mermaid and The Emperor's New Clothes. The quality of these stories was not immediately recognized, and they sold poorly. At the same time, Andersen enjoyed more success with two novels, O.T. (1836) and Only a Fiddler (1837); the latter was reviewed by the young Søren Kierkegaard.

Painting of Andersen, 1836, by Christian Albrecht Jensen

After a visit to Sweden in 1837, Andersen became inspired by

  • Works by Hans Christian Andersen at Open Library
  • The Story of My Life (1871) by Hans Christian Andersen - English
  • Hans Christian Andersen Information Odense
  • Hans Christian Andersen biography
  • Works by Hans Christian Andersen at Internet Archive. Scanned, color illustrated first editions.
  • Works by or about Hans Christian Andersen in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • And the cobbler's son became a princely author Details of Andersen's life and the celebrations.
  • The Hans Christian Andersen Center - contains many Andersen's stories in Danish and English
  • The Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense has a large digital collection of Hans Christian Andersen papercuts, drawings and portraits - You can follow his travels across Europe and explore his Nyhavn study.
  • The Orders and Medals Society of Denmark has descriptions of Hans Christian Andersen's Medals and Decorations.
  • Jean Hersholt Collections of Hans Christian Andersen From the Rare Book and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress

External links

  • Andersen, Hans Christian (2005) [2004]. Jackie Wullschläger, ed. Fairy Tales. Tiina Nunnally. New York: Viking.  
  • Andersen, Jens (2005) [2003]. Hans Christian Andersen: A New Life. Tiina Nunnally. New York, Woodstock, and London: Overlook Duckworth.  
  • Bredsdorff, Elias (1975). Hans Christian Andersen: the story of his life and work 1805-75. Phaidon.  
  • Stig Dalager, Journey in Blue, historical, biographical novel about H.C.Andersen, Peter Owen, London 2006, McArthur & Co., Toronto 2006.
  • Ruth Manning-Sanders, Swan of Denmark: The Story of Hans Christian Andersen, Heinemann, 1949
  • Norton, Rictor (ed.) My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters through the Centuries. Leyland Publications, San Francisco. 1998 ISBN 0-943595-71-1
  • Rossel, Sven Hakon (1996). Hans Christian Andersen: Danish Writer and Citizen of the World. Rodopi.  
  • Terry, Walter (1979). The King's Ballet Master. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company.  
  • Wullschläger, Jackie (2002) [2000]. Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  
  • Zipes, Jack (2005). Hans Christian Andersen: The Misunderstood Storyteller. New York and London: Routledge.  


  1. ^ Wenande, Christian (13 December 2012). "Unknown Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale discovered". The Copenhagen Post. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Wullschläger 2002
  3. ^ a b Bredsdorff 1975
  4. ^ a b c Rossel 1996, p. 6
  5. ^ Askgaard, Ejnar Stig. "The Lineage of Hans Christian Andersen". Odense City Museums. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Rossel 1996, p. 7
  7. ^ Hans Christian Andersen - Childhood and Education. Danishnet.
  8. ^ "H.C. Andersens skolegang i Helsingør Latinskole". Hcandersen-homepage.dk. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  9. ^ "Local historian finds Hans Christian Andersen’s first fairy tale". Politiken.dk. Retrieved 2 June 2013. 
  10. ^ "Andersen Festival, Sestri Levante". Andersen Festival. Retrieved 2 June 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c d "I am a Scandinavian". Hans Christian Andersen and Music. Retrieved 2007-01-12. 
  12. ^ Bredsdorff 1975, p. 169
  13. ^ "Official Tourism Site of Copenhagen". Visitcopenhagen.com. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  14. ^ a b "H.C. Andersen og Charles Dickens 1857". Hcandersen-homepage.dk. 30 December 2001. Retrieved ~{0} ~{1}. 
  15. ^ Lepage, Robert (18 January 2006). "Bedtime stories". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 July 2006. 
  16. ^ Recorded using "special Greek symbols".Garfield, Patricia (21 June 2004). "The Dreams of Hans Christian Andersen" (PDF). p. 29. Retrieved 20 July 2006. 
  17. ^ Hastings, Waller (4 April 2003). "Hans Christian Andersen". Northern State University. Archived from the original on 23 November 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  18. ^ "The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen". Scandinavian.wisc.edu. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  19. ^ "H.C. Andersen homepage (Danish)". Hcandersen-homepage.dk. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  20. ^ Hans Christian Andersen's correspondence, ed Frederick Crawford6, London. 1891.
  21. ^ de Mylius, Johan. "The Life of Hans Christian Andersen. Day By Day". Hans Christian Andersen Center. Retrieved 22 July 2006. 
  22. ^ Pritchard, Claudia (27 March 2005). "His dark materials". The Independent. Retrieved 23 July 2006. 
  23. ^ a b Bryant, Mark: Private Lives, 2001, p. 12.
  24. ^ "Hans Christian Andersen Awards", International Board on Books for Young People.
  25. ^ "International Children's Book Day". International Board on Books for Young People. Retrieved 17 December 2012. Since 1967, on or around Hans Christian Andersen's birthday, 2 April, International Children's Book Day (ICBD) is celebrated to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children's books. 
  26. ^ a b Brabant, Malcolm (1 April 2005). "Enduring legacy of author Andersen". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  27. ^ a b China to open Andersen theme park, BBC News, 11 August 2006. Retrieved 2 July 2008.
  28. ^ "Chiba Sightseeing Spots". Chiba Prefectional Government. Retrieved 16 June 2011. 
  29. ^ "Jean Hersholt Collections.". Loc.gov. 15 April 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  30. ^ "Billedbog til Jonas Drewsen." (15 April 2009) Retrieved 2 November 2009.
  31. ^ "Jon Ludwig's ''Sam the Lovesick Snowman''". Puppet.org. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  32. ^ (1928)La petite marchande d'allumettes at the Internet Movie Database


See also

  • "The Naked King" ("Голый Король (Goliy Korol)" 1937), "The Shadow" ("Тень (Ten)" 1940), and "The Snow Queen" ("Снежная Королева (Sniezhenaya Koroleva)" 1948) by Eugene Schwartz: reworked and adapted to the contemporary reality plays by one of Russia's playwrights. Schwartz's versions of "The Shadow" and "The Snow Queen" were later made into movies (1971 and 1966, respectively).
  • Sam the Lovesick Snowman at the Center for Puppetry Arts: a contemporary puppet show by Jon Ludwig inspired by The Snow Man.[31]
  • The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf by Kathryn Davis: A contemporary novel about fairy tales and opera.
  • The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge: An award-winning novel that reworks the Snow Queen's themes into epic science fiction.
  • The Nightingale by Kara Dalkey: A lyrical adult fantasy novel set in the courts of old Japan.
  • The Wild Swans by Peg Kerr: A novel that brings Andersen's fairy tale to colonial and modern America.
  • Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier: A romantic fantasy novel, set in early Ireland, thematically linked to "The Wild Swans."
  • The Snow Queen by Eileen Kernaghan: A gentle Young Adult fantasy novel that brings out the tale's subtle pagan and shamanic elements.
  • "The Snow Queen," a short story by Patricia A. McKillip (published in Snow White, Blood Red).
  • "La petite marchande d'allumettes", film by Jean Renoir (1928)[32]
  • "You, Little Match Girl," a short story by Joyce Carol Oates (published in Black Heart, Ivory Bones).
  • "Sparks," a short story by Gregory Frost (based on The Tinder Box, published in Black Swan, White Raven).
  • "Steadfast," a short story by Nancy Kress (based on The Steadfast Tin Soldier, published in Black Swan, White Raven).
  • "The Sea Hag," a short story by Melissa Lee Shaw (based on The Little Mermaid, published in Silver Birch, Blood Moon).
  • "The Real Princess," a short story by Susan Palwick (based on The Princess and the Pea, published in Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears).
  • "Match Girl," a short story by Anne Bishop (published in Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears)
  • "The Pangs of Love," a short story by Jane Gardam (based on The Little Mermaid, published in Close Company: Stories of Mothers and Daughters).
  • "The Chrysanthemum Robe," a short story by Kara Dalkey (based on The Emperor's New Clothes, published in The Armless Maiden).
  • "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," a short story by Joan D. Vinge (published in Women of Wonder).
  • "In the Witch's Garden," a short story by Naomi Kritzer (based on The Snow Queen, published in Realms of Fantasy magazine, October 2002 issue).
  • "The Last Poems About the Snow Queen," a poem cycle by Sandra Gilbert (published in Blood Pressure).
  • Striking Twelve, a modern musical take on The Little Match Girl created and performed by GrooveLily.
  • The Song is a Fairytale (Sangen er et Eventyr), a song cycle based on fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen, composed by Frederik Magle.
  • Frozen, a movie produced by Disney loosely based on "The Snow Queen," (released November 2013).

Contemporary literary and artistic works inspired by Andersen's stories include:


Some of his fairy tales include:


Statue in Central Park, New York commemorating Andersen and The Ugly Duckling 
Andersen statue at the Rosenborg Castle Gardens, Copenhagen 
Statue in Odense being led out to the harbour during a public exhibition 
Odense statue half submerged in the water 
Statue in Solvang, California, a city built by Danish immigrants. 


In 1966, Rankin/Bass Productions produced a fantasy film called The Daydreamer, which depicts the young Hans Christian Andersen imaginatively conceiving the stories he would later write.

Andersen is a vital character in the Disney TV series The Little Mermaid's episode "Metal Fish". Here, his inspiration for writing his tale is shown to have been granted by an encounter with the show's protagonists.

The 1952 American film Hans Christian Andersen, though inspired by Andersen's life and literary legacy, was meant to be neither historically nor biographically accurate; it begins by saying, "This is not the story of his life, but a fairy tale about this great spinner of fairy tales." A more accurate biographical treatment was attempted in Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairytale in 2003.

He was played by Joachim Gottschalk in the 1941 German film The Swedish Nightingale which portrays his relationship with the singer Jenny Lind.


In the United States, statues of Andersen may be found in New York City's Central Park, Chicago's Lincoln Park, and in Solvang, California, a city founded by Danes. The Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division was bequeathed an extensive collection of Andersen materials by the Danish-American actor, Jean Hersholt.[29] Of particular note is an original scrapbook Andersen prepared for the young Jonas Drewsen.[30]

A $13-million theme park based on Andersen's tales and life opened in Shanghai at the end of 2006.[27] Multi-media games and cultural contests related to the fairy tales are available to visitors. Andersen is said to have been celebrated because he was "a nice, hardworking person who was not afraid of poverty".[27] The Japanese city of Funabashi also has a children's theme park named after Andersen.[28]

Andersen's birthday, 2 April, is celebrated as International Children's Book Day.[25] The year 2005, designated "Andersen Year" in Denmark,[26] was the bicentenary of Andersen's birth, and his life and work was celebrated around the world. In Denmark, a well-attended "once in a lifetime" show was staged in Copenhagen's Parken Stadium to celebrate the writer and his stories.[26]

Andersen's stories laid the groundwork for other children's classics, such as Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne. The technique of making inanimate objects, such as toys, come to life (Little Ida's Flowers) would later be used by Lewis Carroll and Beatrix Potter.

The "Hans Christian Andersen Awards" are given biennially by the International Board on Books for Young People to an author and illustrator whose complete works have made lasting contributions to children's literature.[24]

Postage stamp, Denmark, 1935


[3] In the spring of 1872, Andersen fell out of his bed and was severely hurt, never recovering. Soon after he started to show signs of liver cancer, and died on 4 August 1875, in a house called

Andersen's gravestone at Assistens Cemetery in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen.
Andersen at Rolighed: Israel Melchior (c. 1867)


Andersen certainly experienced same-sex love as well: He wrote to Edvard Collin:[20] "I languish for you as for a pretty Calabrian wench... my sentiments for you are those of a woman. The femininity of my nature and our friendship must remain a mystery." Collin, who preferred women, wrote in his own memoir: "I found myself unable to respond to this love, and this caused the author much suffering." Likewise, the infatuations of the author for the Danish dancer Harald Scharff[21] and Carl Alexander, the young hereditary duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach,[22] did not result in any relationships.

Andersen often fell in love with unattainable women and many of his stories are interpreted as references.[17] At one point, he wrote in his diary: "Almighty God, thee only have I; thou steerest my fate, I must give myself up to thee! Give me a livelihood! Give me a bride! My blood wants love, as my heart does!"[18] A girl named Riborg Voigt was the Hans Christian Ørsted, and Louise Collin, the youngest daughter of his benefactor Jonas Collin. One of his stories, The Nightingale, was a written expression of his passion for Jenny Lind, and became the inspiration for her nickname, the "Swedish Nightingale". Andersen was often shy around women and had extreme difficulty in proposing to Lind. When Lind was boarding a train to take her to an opera concert, Andersen gave Lind a letter of proposal. Her feelings towards him were not the same; she saw him as a brother, writing to him in 1844 "farewell... God bless and protect my brother is the sincere wish of his affectionate sister, Jenny."[19]

In Andersen's early life, his private journal records his refusal to have sexual relations.[15][16]

The Hanfstaengl portrait of Andersen dated July 1860

Love life

Ten years later, Andersen visited England again, primarily to visit Dickens. He extended a brief visit to Dickens' home at Gads Hill Place into a five-week stay, to the distress of Dickens' family. After Andersen was told to leave, Dickens stopped all correspondence between them, to the great disappointment and confusion of Andersen, who had quite enjoyed the visit and never understood why his letters went unanswered.[14]

The two authors respected each other's work and had something important in common as writers: Depictions of the poor and the underclass, who often had difficult lives affected both by the Industrial Revolution and by abject poverty. In the Victorian era there was a growing sympathy for children and an idealization of the innocence of childhood.

In June 1847, Andersen paid his first visit to England and enjoyed a triumphal social success during the summer. The Countess of Blessington invited him to her parties where intellectual people could meet, and it was at one party that he met Charles Dickens for the first time. They shook hands and walked to the veranda which was of much joy to Andersen. He wrote in his diary, "We had come to the veranda, I was so happy to see and speak to England's now living writer, whom I love the most."[14]

Meetings with Dickens

Personal life

Between 1845 and 1864, H. C. Andersen lived at 67 Nyhavn, Copenhagen, where a memorial plaque now stands.[13]

In 1851, he published to wide acclaim In Sweden, a volume of travel sketches. A keen traveler, Andersen published several other long Denmark still showed some resistance to his pretensions.


Andersen would continue to write fairy tales, and he published them in installments until 1872.

The year 1845 heralded a breakthrough for Andersen with the publication of four different translations of his fairy tales. The Little Mermaid appeared in the periodical Bentley's Miscellany. It was followed by a second volume, Wonderful Stories for Children. Two other volumes enthusiastically received were A Danish Story Book and Danish Fairy Tales and Legends. A review that appeared in the London journal The Athenæum (February 1846) said of Wonderful Stories, "This is a book full of life and fancy; a book for grandfathers no less than grandchildren, not a word of which will be skipped by those who have it once in hand."[2]

Andersen returned to the fairy tale genre in 1838 with another collection, Fairy Tales Told for Children. New Collection. First Booklet (Eventyr, fortalte for Børn. Ny Samling), which consists of The Daisy, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Wild Swans.