Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen (April 2, 1805 - August 4, 1875) Was a Danish poet and author, famously known for his fairy tales. His fairy tales have been translated to over 150 different languages and has sold millions of copies.
In the English-speaking world, the stories "The Ugly Duckling", "The Little Mermaid, "The Emperor's New Clothes", and "The Princess and the Pea" are cultural universals; everyone knows them, though not everyone can name the author. They have become part of our common heritage, and, like the tales of Charles Perrault, are no longer distinguished from actual folk-tales such as those of the Brothers Grimm.
Born in Denmark, Andersen displayed great intelligence and imagination, making a toy-theatre and clothes for his puppets, acting out plays he read where ever he could, including plays from William Shakespeare and Ludvig Holdberg. He had been known to have memorized entire plays, his passion for literature fostered by his parents (and his mother's superstitions).
After Andersen's father perished in a fire in 1816, he took up a job as a weaver and tailor. Later working in a cigarette factory, co-workers humiliated him by pulling his trousers down after taking bets on whether he were a female or not. After turning fourteen, Anderson moved to Copenhagen to search for employment as an actor.
By chance, Andersen runs into Jonas Collins, impressed by his abilities, pays all expenses and sends him to a grammar school in Slagelse. Though unwilling, Andersen studied in two schools, in Slagelse, and in Elsinore. He stated that these were the darkest years of his life; being abused by his schoolmaster to "build character", and being alienated by fellow students, due to his older age and unattractive appeal. He may have had dyslexia, which would explain his difficulty in learning, and he was discouraged to write. Even so, he came to have learned Dutch, Scandinavian, German, and English languages to a fair extent.
In the 1850s, Andersen visited Charles Dickens. Dickens did not like him, and the very unpleasant character of Uriah Heep in David Copperfield is thought to be based on Andersen.
Some people think that Andersen's story "The Nightingale", first published in 1843, is a reference to the famous singer Jenny Lind, who was called "the Swedish Nightingale." Andersen loved Jenny Lind, but she did not love him back.
Andersen had an attraction for both men and women, as modern biographies and clear evidence would indicate. Some of his stories reflected his attraction to certain women and men that did not share the mutual feelings. He was shy and timid by nature, resorting to sending letters that were most often revoked. It is possible he even died a virgin.
After a short fall from his bed, Andersen never fully recovered. Liver cancer began taking its toll and he later died on August 4, 1875. He was buried in the Assistens Cemetery, Copenhagen.
The 1952 movie musical Hans Christian Andersen paints a completely fictional picture of Andersen. Danish critics hated the picture, and one of them said "It will cost America's reputation so much that it will take the United States Information Service in Denmark fifty years to make up the loss." They also complained that the scenery and costumes looked German rather than Danish. It was nevertheless a huge success and is still a beloved film. U. S. critics praised Danny Kaye's performance, the songs by Frank Loesser, and "such lovely ballet dancing as been seldom seen in films."