Thursday, 21 February 2013

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
painted by Constantin Hansen
This week the nature of reality engaged me a lot and served me as inspiration for the blog posts that I wrote. Today I’m going to leave the firm grounds of reality and concentrate more on imagination, the source and motive power of all creative work. But I don’t want to numb your minds philosophising again. Much rather I’ll give you an example of what can be achieved with imagination. Who would be a better example for a person spinning new worlds in his mind than someone who spent much of his life writing fairy tales? So I decided to dedicate this post to the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen who keeps being popular not only with millions of children worldwide, but also with adults.

Hans Christian Andersen was born in April 1805 in Odense, Denmark. His father being a shoemaker and his mother a washerwoman, he could only attend the local school for poor children. When his father died in 1816, he was forced to work as an apprentice to a weaver and later to a tailor to support himself, but his plans for his future were a lot higher-flying: he was determined to become famous. At the age of 14 Hans Christian Andersen went to Copenhagen to try his luck as a singer, dancer and actor at the theatre. For three years he sang in a boys’ choir. Then his voice changed, but Jonas Collin, the director of the Royal Theatre, noticed the young man’s poetic talent and procured a scholarship for grammar school and a private tutor to allow him to complete his education. In 1828 Hans Christian Andersen passed the entrance exam to the University of Copenhagen.

In the 1820s Hans Christian Andersen began writing stories. His first published short story appeared in 1829 and was received with some acclaim. During the following years he wrote poems, plays, travelogues, novels and an autobiography titled The Improvisatore that was published in 1839 and quite successful internationally. Hans Christian Andersen’s first collection of Fairy Tales Told for Children (later: New Fairy Tales and Stories) came out in the years 1835, 1836 and 1837 and contained nineteen stories, among them The Princess and the Pea, The Little Mermaid, and The Emperor's New Clothes. Their success was poor. In 1838 another volume of fairy tales was published, but Hans Christian Andersen’s breakthrough didn’t come before 1845 when his stories for children were finally translated into English. He continued writing until 1872 and thus produced the incredible number of 168 fairy tales along with several books for adults that are little known today. Hans Christian Andersen died from liver cancer in August 1875.

Most of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are much loved by children, but they were written for adults as well. Their world is full of magic and at the same time it uses to be tragic and gruesome. The author incorporated much of his own history, traumatic experiences and disappointments in his stories although his life proper is often referred to as a fairy tale. As a matter of fact, Hans Christian Anderson (together with Charles Dickens whom he knew) was one of the grand figures of social criticism of his time. Among his most famous stories apart from those already mentioned above count The Little Match Girl, The Ugly Duckling, The Snow Queen and Thumbelina.

For more information please visit The Hans Christian Andersen Center at the University of Southern Denmark:


  1. Hi Edith

    Thank you for all the information about this wonderful writer.

    I just loved Thumbelina when I was young, his stories just keep living on.

    1. Hello Michelle! Yes, Andersen's fairy tales are everygreen... and still as modern as they used to be in his time.


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