“Hans Christian Andersen (/ˈændərsən/, Danish: [hæns kʰʁæstjæn ˈanɐsn̩] April 1805 – 4 August 1875), in Denmark usually called H.C. Andersen, was a Danish author. Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, he is best remembered for his fairy tales. Andersen’s popularity is not limited to children; his stories express themes that transcend age and nationality.
Andersen’s fairy tales, of which no fewer than 3381 works have been translated into more than 125 languages, have become culturally embedded in the West’s collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well. His most famous fairy tales include The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, The Nightingale…The Ugly Duckling, The Little Match Girl, and Thumbelina. His stories have inspired ballets, plays, and animated and live-action films. One of Copenhagen‘s widest and busiest boulevards, skirting Copenhagen City Hall Square at the corner of which Andersen’s larger-than-life bronze statue sits, is named H.C. Andersens Boulevard.
Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark on 2 April 1805. He was an only child. His father, also named Hans, considered himself related to nobility (his paternal grandmother had told his father that their family had belonged to a higher social class. but investigations have disproved these stories). A persistent speculation suggests that Andersen was an illegitimate son of King Christian VIII, but this notion has been challenged.
Andersen’s father, who had received an elementary school education, introduced his son to literature, reading to him the Arabian Nights. Andersen’s mother, Anne Marie Andersdatter, was an illiterate washerwoman. Following her husband’s death in 1816, she remarried in 1818. Andersen was sent to a local school for poor children where he received a basic education and had to support himself, working as an apprentice to a weaver and, later, to a tailor. At fourteen, he moved to Copenhagen to seek employment as an actor. Having an excellent soprano voice, he was accepted into the Royal Danish Theatre, but his voice soon changed.
A colleague at the theatre told him that he considered Andersen a poet. Taking the suggestion seriously, Andersen began to focus on writing.
He later said his years in school were the darkest and most bitter of his life. At one school, he lived at his schoolmaster’s home, where he was abused, being told that it was “to improve his character”. He later said the faculty had discouraged him from writing, driving him into a depression.
Meetings with Dickens
In June 1847, Andersen paid his first visit to England and enjoyed a triumphal social success during the summer. The Countess of Blessington invited him to her parties where intellectual people could meet, and it was at one such party that he met Charles Dickens for the first time…The two authors respected each other’s work and shared something important in common as writers: depictions of the poor and the underclass, who often had difficult lives affected both by the Industrial Revolution and by abject poverty. In the Victorian era there was a growing sympathy for children and an idealization of the innocence of childhood.