The Story of Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen was Danish. He was born in Odense, Denmark, almost 2 centuries ago on April 2, 1805. In fact, the year 2005 will mark his 200th birthday!
His father was a shoemaker, and his mother was a washerwoman for rich people in large homes. In his stories you will find many themes of the differences between the poor and wealthy classes. You will also find the occasional shoemaker.
Even as a child he always loved the arts, and he left home at age 14 to make his fortune. He was an artist, and a singer, and an actor, but he was not a success at first. He grew even poorer and almost died of hunger. He received some money and could afford to continue his education thanks to the help of a patron of the arts, the director of the Royal Theatre. He went to university in the capital city of Copenhagen and began his writing.
Andersen was first known as a poet, and his poetry won him many patrons and paid his way to travel throughout Europe.
His first book of fairy tales was published in 1835. The book was a success, and he followed it with many other volumes of children's stories, almost one a year, right up until 1872! Because of his wonderful fairy tales, Andersen became known as the greatest writer in Denmark, and one of the most beloved children's authors in the world. In his lifetime, he wrote more than one hundred and fifty fairy tales, and his stories have been translated into over 100 languages!
One of the highest prizes in children's literature is the Hans Christian Andersen Award, presented to only one author and one illustrator every two years. It is presided over by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.
Hans Christian Andersen was tall and skinny with a big nose - he always thought that he was very ugly. His stories show compassion for those who are outcast and suffering. They also make fun of the spoiled and conceited.
His stories teach us that appearances can be deceiving, and that there is a magical beauty even within the most unlikely characters.
Hans Christian Andersen
April 2, 1805 - August 4, 1875