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Hans Christian Andersen - Author

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The year 2005 saw the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of Europe's finest authors, Hans Christian Andersen. His stories are well-known throughout the world and young and old alike admire his works, many of which continue to stand the test of time. Several of his stories have provided the basis for Walt Disney films or for the world of dance.


Born in Odense, Denmark on 2 April, 1805, Hans Christian Andersen is believed to have lived a very miserable life, which is reflected in many of his stories. He entered into life when his shoemaker father was 22 years old; his mother, who worked as a washerwoman for the rich, was several years older. As a poor family they only had enough money to be able to support themselves in a single little room. Every day Andersen's father would read to him from one of Shakespeare's plays or one of the stories written by Ludvig Holberg - occasionally, he'd even take his son to the theatre to see them being performed live. Andersen soon memorised the plays and went home to perform them in a small toy theatre with wooden dolls which he had made.


Sadly in 1816, when Andersen was just 11 years old, his father died, leaving young Hans to earn a living as an apprentice boy for both a weaver and a tailor. Three years later, at the age of 14, Andersen moved to Copenhagen with a desire to work in the theatre. Sponsors (including the composer CEF Weyse) supported him; while he attended the Royal Danish Theatre he was accepted as a boy soprano until his voice broke and Andersen was left without a job once more. It was at this time that he started working on his poetry.


There is some confusion over who actually did fund Andersen's education at the Grammar School in Slagelse from 1822 to 1827, these being the options:

  1. King Frederick VI
  2. An unnamed patron of the arts
  3. The director of the Royal Theatre
  4. Philanthropist Jonas Collin

It is believed that Andersen was unhappiest during his time at Slagelse for he had to endure living with the headmaster Meisling and growing up with students of a much younger age. Andersen later undertook private tuition, and in 1827 gained admission to Copenhagen University where he furthered his education. That same year Copenhagen Post published Andersen's first ever poem 'The Dying Child'.


Andersen's work enabled him to gain many sponsors who helped pay for him to travel around Europe, Asia Minor, and Africa, during the 1830s. While Andersen was away he learnt of his mother's death (in 1833) due to alcohol and later of his half-sister's death which is suspected to have had something to do with prostitution. His first book of fairy tales was published in 1835 and he produced one each year up until 1872, becoming known as Denmark's most famous writer. During 1831 he travelled to Germany then returned to Denmark and stopped off in some more European destinations such as Paris, Switzerland and Italy on a tour of cultural formation during 1833-34. Then in 1840-41 he travelled to Italy, Greece and Constantinople, a journey described in A Poet's Bazaar (1842), returning again to Germany and Italy during 1846. During his travels Andersen came across Carl Alexander, the principality's Hereditary Grand Duke and formed a close relationship with Charles Dickens in England, visiting him twice and overstaying his welcome on the second trip to see him. Then in 1838 the King of Denmark awarded Andersen an annual grant of 400 Rigsdaler (the equivalent of around £4,000 today).


From looks to love, many people - even Andersen himself - saw him as different from everyone else in society. Andersen saw himself as his own proverbial 'Ugly Duckling'. For while many people settled down in the company of others, Andersen was never to feel loved by anyone in return. During 1832 Andersen courted Jonas Collin's daughter, but he yearned more for her brother, Edvard. In fact, The Little Mermaid was written with Edvard Collin in mind and is proof of Andersen's love for him. Then in 1843 Andersen met and fell in love with Jenny Lind, a Swedish opera singer, but she couldn't feel love for Andersen, leaving him distraught and alone once more. He wrote The Nightingale, also known as The Swedish Nightingale, in memory of her. He then followed with a brief affair with a Danish aristocrat known as Henrik Stampe. Andersen is also rumoured to have had an infatuation in 1862-63 with Harald Scharff (ballet dancer at the Royal Theatre, Copenhagen) and with the young Duke of Weimar, although neither of these went beyond a platonic level. Thus it may be believed that Andersen was confused about which gender he loved; it is unclear whatever Andersen's stance on love was. One thing is for sure - Andersen was never married.


In later life Andersen was awarded the Freedom of the City of Odense in 1867 and became Privy Councillor for Copenhagen in 1874. Then on 4 August, 1875 Andersen passed away, after suffering from liver cancer and severely hurting himself from falling out of bed, in a house called Rolighed (literally: quietness), near Copenhagen. In memory of Andersen, the people of Copenhagen celebrate his life every year in a festival called 'Odin Story Day' on 2 April and people continue to read his works today.


The house located in the heart of Odense in which Andersen spent his childhood is now the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. You can find original manuscripts and papercuts by the famous author. Furthermore, you can find the first prints of his works in different languages. Children can spend time reading the stories and listening to the stories through the special sound system. Also there you can buy souvenirs, postcards, beautiful gifts and small books. The gate of the museum rises every weekday morning at the opening hour and there is a special smiling sun-shaped papercut printed on the gate to make it go with 'the sun rises'.

A List of His Works

Most Commonly Known

Today the most popular stories of all Andersen's work are argued to be:

  • The Princess and the Pea (1835)
  • Thumbelina (1835)
  • The Tinder-Box (1835)
  • The Little Mermaid (1836)
  • The Emperor's New Clothes (1837)
  • The Steadfast Tin Soldier (1838)
  • The Ugly Duckling (1844)
  • The Red Shoes (1845)1
  • The Snow Queen (1845)
  • The Fir-Tree (1845)
  • The Little Match Girl (1846)

Travel Books

Andersen also wrote five travel books, which although celebrated for their journalistic quality are also poetical, picturesque and lyrical reflections of reality.

  • Skyggebilleder af en Reise til Harzen og det sachsiske Schweiz etc. (Rambles in the Romantic Regions of the Hartz Mountains and Saxony Jura, etc) (1831)
  • En Digters Bazar (A Poet's Bazaar) (1842)
  • I Sverrig (In Sweden) (1851)
  • I Spanien (In Spain) (1863)
  • Et Besøg i Portugal 1866 (A Visit to Portugal) (1868)

Sketches and Articles

  • Silkeborg (1853)
  • Skagen (1859)
  • Et besøg hos Charles Dickens i Sommeren 1857 (A visit to Charles Dickens in the summer of 1857) (1860)


  • From The Philosopher's Stone (1859)
  • The Pixy and the Grocer

Other Works (including stage plays and autobiographies)

  • The Travelling Companion (1835)
  • The Saucy Boy (1835)
  • Little Claus And Big Claus (1835)
  • Little Ida's Flowers (1835)
  • This Fable Is Intended for You (1836)
  • The Talisman (1836)
  • God Can Never Die (1836)
  • The Daisy (1838)
  • The Flying Trunk (1838)
  • The Wild Swans (1838)
  • The Storks (1838)
  • The Garden Of Paradise (1838)
  • The Goloshes Of Fortune (1838)
  • The Elf Of The Rose (1839)
  • The Wicked Prince (1840)
  • What the Moon Saw (1840)
  • The Swineherd (1842)
  • The Metal Pig (1842)
  • Ole-luk-oie, The Dream-god (1842)
  • A Rose From Homer's Grave (1842)
  • The Shepherd's Story Of The Bond Of Friendship (1842)
  • The Buckwheat (1842)
  • The Angel (1844)
  • The Top And Ball (1844)
  • The Nightingale (1844)
  • The Shepherdess And The Sheep (1845)
  • The Jumper (1845)
  • The Little Elder-Tree Mother (1845)
  • The Bell (1845)
  • Holger Danske (1845)
  • Grandmother (1845)
  • The Elfin Hill (1845)
  • The Darning-needle (1846)
  • By The Almshouse Window (1847)
  • The Sunbeam And The Captive (1847)
  • The Neighbouring Families (1847)
  • The Old Street Lamp (1847)
  • Little Tuk (1847)
  • The Shadow (1847)
  • The Drop Of Water (1848)
  • The Old House (1848)
  • The Story Of A Mother (1848)
  • The Shirt-collar (1848)
  • The Happy Family (1848)
  • The Flax (1849)
  • The Phoenix Bird (1850)
  • A Story (1851)
  • The Puppet-show Man (1851)
  • The Pigs (1851)
  • The Dumb Book (1851)
  • The Loveliest Rose In The World (1852)
  • The Old Grave-stone (1852)
  • In A Thousand Years (1852)
  • The Conceited Apple-branch (1852)
  • The Story Of The Year (1852)
  • There Is No Doubt About It (1852)
  • The Swan's Nest (1852)
  • On Judgment Day (1852)
  • A Cheerful Temper (1852)
  • Under The Willow-tree (1853)
  • The Pea Blossom (1853)
  • She Was Good For Nothing (1853)
  • Everything In The Right Place (1853)
  • The Goblin And The Huckster (1853)
  • A Great Grief (1853)
  • Two Maidens (1854)
  • The Last Pearl (1854)
  • Ib And Little Christina (1855)
  • In The Uttermost Parts Of The Sea (1855)
  • Jack The Dullard (1855)
  • A Leaf From Heaven (1855)
  • The Money-box (1855)
  • The Jewish Maiden (1856)
  • The Thorny Road Of Honor (1856)
  • The Bell-deep (1857)
  • A String of Pearls (1857)
  • The A-B-C Book (1858)
  • The Races (1858)
  • Soup From A Sausage Skewer (1858)
  • Something (1858)
  • The Bottle Neck (1858)
  • The Last Dream Of The Old Oak (1858)
  • The Old Bachelor's Nightcap (1858)
  • The Marsh King's Daughter (1858)
  • Anne Lisbeth (1859)
  • Two Brothers (1859)
  • The Girl Who Trod On The Loaf (1859)
  • The Child In The Grave (1859)
  • Two Brothers (1859)
  • Ole The Tower-keeper (1859)
  • The Story Of The Wind (1859)
  • Children's Prattle (1859)
  • A Story From The Sand-hills (1860)
  • The Pen And The Inkstand (1860)
  • The Farm-yard Cock And The Weather-cock (1860)
  • Moving Day (1860)
  • Beauty Of Form And Beauty Of Mind (1860)
  • The Portuguese Duck (1861)
  • The Snow Man (1861)
  • The Psyche (1861)
  • The Snail And The Rose-tree (1861)
  • What The Old Man Does Is Always Right (1861)
  • The New Century's Goddess (1861)
  • The Old Church Bell (1861)
  • The Ice Maiden (1861)
  • The Butterfly (1861)
  • The Bishop Of Borglum And His Warriors (1861)
  • The Beetle Who Went On His Travels (1861)
  • The Mail-coach Passengers (1861)
  • The Silver Shilling (1862)
  • The Snowdrop (1863)
  • The Teapot (1864)
  • The Bird Of Popular Song (1865)
  • In The Nursery (1865)
  • The Golden Treasure (1865)
  • The Windmill (1865)
  • The Will-o-the Wisp Is In The Town (1865)
  • The Storm Shakes The Shield (1865)
  • Delaying Is Not Forgetting (1866)
  • The Toad (1866)
  • Our Aunt (1866)
  • The Porter's Son (1866)
  • Vænø and Glænø (1867)
  • The Dryad (1868)
  • The Little Green Ones (1868)
  • The Goblin and the Woman (1868)
  • Peiter, Peter and Peer (1868)
  • Godfather's Picture Book (1868)
  • Which is the Happiest? (1868)
  • The Days of the Week (1869)
  • The Court Cards (1869)
  • Luck May Lie in a Pin (1869)
  • Poultry Meg's Family (1869)
  • Sunshine Stories (1869)
  • The Comet (1869)
  • The Rags (1869)
  • The Thistle's Experiences (1869)
  • What One Can Invent (1869)
  • The Candles (1870)
  • Great-Grandfather (1870)
  • The Most Incredible Thing (1870)
  • Danish Popular Legends (1870)
  • What the Whole Family Said (1870)
  • Lucky Peer (1870)
  • Dance, Dance, Doll of Mine! (1871)
  • The Great Sea-Serpent (1871)
  • The Gardener and the Manor (1871)
  • The Gate Key (1872)
  • The Cripple (1872)
  • What Old Johanne Told (1872)
  • Aunty Toothache (1872)
  • The Flea and the Professor (1873)
  • Croak (1926)
  • The Penman (1926)
  • Folks Say (1949)
  • The Poor Woman and the Little Canary Bird (1949)
  • Urbanus (1949)
  • The Inchworm
1The Red Shoes was made into a famous ballet on film.

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