Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75)
Hans Christian Andersen
is remembered as one of the great writers, especially for children.
The fairy tales he wrote are like none written before or since.
The Steadfast Tin Soldier and The Snow Queen are just two stories
that have been translated into almost every language. Even today,
if you call someone an ugly duckling, you are using a phrase from
one of Hans Christian Andersenís best-known stories.
Andersen was born in Odense (Denmark) on 2 April 1805. When he
was 11 years old, his father died and as a result he went to school
only when he felt like it, and spent most of his time imagining
stories rather than doing lessons. He had a very good memory,
and learnt some of his lessons by listening to a neighbourhood
boy who studied aloud! He memorised and performed plays to anyone
who would listen and imitated ballet dancers, acrobats or pantomimists
- much to his mothers shock! In desperation, she apprenticed him
first to a weaver, then to a tobacconist and finally to a tailor.
But he knew these occupations were not what he wanted. The only
things that held his interest were the theatre, books and stories.
At just 14, he decided to go to Copenhagen to seek his fortune.
He had a letter of introduction to a famous dancer. Andersen sang
and danced for her, but though she and her guests laughed uproariously
at him, they did not help him make his fortune.
For the next
three years he was absolutely poor. He earnt a little money singing
in a boy's choir-until his voice broke. He tried to act and to
join the ballet, but his awkwardness made this impossible. He
attempted to work with his hands but could not do this either.
It never occurred to him to give up and go home.
he was 17, a director of the Royal Theatre, Jonas Collin, discovered
him. Collin saw that Andersen had talent-but needed an education.
He obtained some money from the king for Andersens education and
sent him to a school near Copenhagen. Andersens teacher, however,
treated him harshly and loved to taunt him about his ambition
of being a writer. Finally, Collin took Andersen from the school
and arranged for him to study under a private tutor in Copenhagen.
In 1828, Andersen finally passed his entrance examinations to
the university in Copenhagen.
began to be published in Danish in 1829. In 1833 the king gave
him a grant of money for travel and he spent 16 months wandering
through Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy. He wrote poems,
plays, novels and impressions of his travels. He hadnít yet discovered
that he had a special ability to write for children.
In 1835 Andersen
published Fairy Tales for Children - four short stories he wrote
for a little girl. Adults as well as children wanted more! Andersen
published 168 fairy tales in all. He wrote the stories just as
he would have told them. Although he never married and had no
children of his own, he was at his best as an interpreter of the
nature of children.
on 4 August 1875.