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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen was born in the town of Odense, Denmark, on April 2, 1805. He was the only child of a poor young shoemaker of twenty-two, who believed he might be of aristocratic origin, and his several years older wife who worked as a washerwoman. The family moved to Munkemøllestræde in 1807, where they lived and slept together in one little room, whilst Hans' father had his shoe workshop in the living room.

Andersen's birth place in Odense

As a child, his favorite toy was a little homemade toy-theatre and young Hans sat at home making clothes for his wooden puppets, and reading all the plays that he could borrow. He had a retentive memory and was known to memorize entire Shakespeare plays and recite them using his puppets as the characters.

Andersen published his first book at the age of 17 and by the early 1830s he had gained a reputation for his plays and novels, which are now largely forgotten.

Though best known today for his fairy tales, Andersen wrote in a smorgasbord of different styles. He penned six novels including a romance The Improvisatore, plays, poetry and travelogues.

He wrote 168 fairy tales all of them written with simplicity and wisdom. Many of their moral meanings were intended for adults. The great Dane himself did not rate his fairy tales very highly.

The Little Mermaid, Anderson's delightful account of the mermaid who wanted to be a whole human, was first published on April 7, 1837.  Critics hated Hans Christian Andersen's early fairy tales, so he delayed publishing The Little Mermaid for a year.

Original Little Mermaid manuscript, last page

Andersen was word-blind. He never learned to spell correctly, and his manuscripts always had errors.

Andersen was very tall and odd looking.with excessively long loose-jointed arms, giant hands and an unattractive face.


He never married, but it appears that Anderson did fall in love with several unattainable women, including the Swedish opera soprano Jenny Lind. However, none of these women returned his love.

During a visit to England, Andersen met Charles Dickens at a party and struck up a friendship. Ten years later, Andersen returned to England, and stayed with Dickens and his family. He remained in Dickens' home for longer than expected and infuriated the English novelist's family in a number of ways. One of Dickens' daughters, Kate, described him as a "bony bore and he stayed on and on". When he finally left, Dickens saw him off from Ramsgate pier and on returning home stuck up over a mirror in the guest room "Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks which seemed to the family AGES." It is said he later based the toadying , misery character Uriah Heep in David Copperfield on the Danish author—a left-handed compliment, to say the least.

Andersen was a psychiatrist's nightmare and he was particularly neurotic about dying. The Dane suffered from the conviction that he would be buried alive and he used to carry a piece of paper with him that he would prop by his bedside each night, in case he should pass away during the hours of darkness. It read "I only appear to be dead."


When planning the music for his funeral, Andersen requested that, "most of the people who will walk after me will be children so make the beat keep time with short steps." He also wanted a spyhole drilled into his coffin so he could watch his own funeral service.

Hans Christian died of liver cancer.on August 4, 1875, in a house called Rolighed, near Copenhagen, the home of his close friends, the banker Moritz Melchior and his wife.

A $12.5 million theme park based on Andersen's tales and life opened in Shanghai at the end of 2006.

Andersen's birthday, April 2nd, is celebrated as International Children's Book Day.

If you say the names of four of the main characters in the Disney animated movie Frozen (Hans, Kristoff, Anna, Sven), you may hear a familiar name. They were all named after Hans Christian Andersen, the creator of The Snow Queen.

Here is a list of songs inspired by the stories of Hans Christian Andersen

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