Hans Christian Andersen
Born to a shoemaker and a clothing washer in Odense, Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen did not lead a charmed or wealthy childhood. Regardless of this, his parents spoiled him and urged him to develop his imagination. (Hooray for encouraging parents!!!) After begging to let him leave for Copenhagen at 17, instead of becoming a tailor, his mother asked Andersen what he was going to do there.
“I’ll become famous! First you suffer cruelly, and then you become famous.” – Andersen
While in Copenhagen, he tried his hand at singing, dancing, and acting. Unfortunately, none of those things panned out for our beloved Andersen. A government official took pity on Andersen and provided him with the funds to go to school. However, this was a meager attempt. Andersen was not a good student, but this actually resulted in his renowned writing style which resembled spoken language.
His style and content were extremely unique for his time. He used idioms and constructions of spoken language which was very non traditional. One of Andersen’s greatest appeals was that he wrote for both adults and children with a diversity of themes that were unexpected.
You’ll find themes of hope, beauty, and goodness in stories like “The Snow Queen” and many others. On the other hand, if you’ve ever read The Little Mermaid, you’ll see a much darker and often cynical perspective. He wasn’t afraid to write about things that were not immediately within a child’s comprehension, but could easily slide into a messages about life and love as you come of age.
I remember getting my feet wet with The Little Mermaid. Not the Disney version that makes us start singing “kiss the girl” (Which is uber fun to play the ukulele by the way). No, the original story begs that we address major life decisions at a very early age. If you’ve never read the original Little Mermaid, you’re missing out!
Andersen wrote several poems, fairy tales, and autobiographies throughout his life which depicted a much sadder tale than what we think of when we think of this beloved fairy tale author. Like many artists, he wrote about his life and how he saw the world.
Best known for The Little Mermaid, the Princess and the Pea, and The Ugly Duckling among other amazing fairy tales, Andersen was not very proud of his fairy tale works and nearly gave up writing them. Thankfully, he kept at it, and evolved a new perspective that these fairy tales would be seen as “universal poetry”. A poetic form of the future, rather.
Fairy Tales (1835-37) including:
- “The Tinderbox”
- “The Princess and the Pea”
- “The Little Mermaid”
- “The Emperor’s New Clothes”
- O.T. (1836)
- Only a Fiddler (1837)
For more amazing stories by Hans Christian Andersen, check out all of his works on his Wikipedia page.