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||Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)|
Danish writer, famous for his fairy tales, which were not meant merely for children but for adults as well. Andersen used frequently colloquial style that disguises the sophisticated moral teachings of his tales. Before achieving success as a playwright and novelist, Andersen was trained as singer and actor. Many of Andersen's fairy tales depict characters who gain happiness in life after suffering and conflicts. 'The Ugly Duckling' and 'The Little Mermaid' are Andersen's most intimate works.
"He now felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans swam round the new-comer, and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a welcome." (from 'The Ugly Duckling')
Hans Christian Andersen was born in the slums of Odense, where the family lived in a one-room house. His father, Hans Andersen, was a poor shoemaker and literate, who believed he was of aristocratic origin. Andersen's mother, Anne Marie Andersdatter, worked as washerwoman. Although she was uneducated and superstitious, she opened for his son the world of folklore. Later Andersen depicted her in his novels and in the story 'Hun duede ikke'. Anne Marie declined into alcoholism and died in 1833 in a charitable old people's home. Andersen's half-sister Karen Marie may have worked as a prostitute for a time; she contacted her famous brother only a few times before dying in 1846.
Andersen received little education. As a child he was highly
emotional, suffering all kinds of fears and humiliations because of his
tallness and effeminate interests. Andersen's hysterical attacks of
cramps were falsely diagnosed as epileptic fits. Several biographers
have suggested that he may have been a victim of sexual abuse as a
Encouraged by his parents Andersen composed his own fairy tales and arrange puppet theatre shows. His father loved literatuire and took Andersen often to the playhouse. "My father gratified me in all my wishes," wrote Andersen in The True Story of My Life (1846). "I possessed his whole heart; he lived for me. On Sundays, he made me perspective glasses, theatres, and pictures which could be changed; he read to me from Holberg's plays and the Arabian Tales; it was only in such moments as these that I can remember to have seen him really cheerful, for he never felt himself happy in his life and as a handicrafts-man."
In 1816 his father died and Andersen was forced to go to work.
He helped his grandmother at a hospital for the insane, and for a short
time apprenticed to a weaver and tailor. He also worked at a tobacco
factory, where his trousers were pulled down when other workers
suspected that he was a girl.
At the age of 14 Andersen moved to Copenhagen to start a career as a singer, dancer or an actor – he had a beautiful soprano voice. The following three years were full of hardships although he found supporters who paved his way to the theatre. Andersen succeeded in becoming associated with the Royal Theater, but he had to leave it when his voice began to change. When he was casually referred as a poet it changed his plans: "It went through me, body and soul, and tears filled my eyes. I knew that, from this very moment, my mind was awake to writing and poetry." He then began to write plays, all of which were rejected.
In 1822 Jonas Collin, one of the directors of the Royal Theatre and an influential government official, gave Andersen a grant to enter the grammar school at Slagelse. He lived in the home of the school headmaster Meisling, who was annoyed at the oversensitive student and tried to harden his character. Other pupils were much younger, 11-year-olds, among whom six years older Andersen was definitely overgrown. Due to his appearance – he had a long nose and close-set eyes – he drew also unvanted attention. Even his walk was considered unmanly; one contemporary described it as "a hopping along almost like a monkey". The headmaster referred to him as an "overgrown lump". (The Book of the Dead by John Lloyd & John Mitchinson, 2009, p. 29)
Collin arranged in 1827 a private tuition for Andersen. He
gained admission to Copenhagen University, where he completed his
education. In 1828 Andersen wrote a travel sketch, Fodreise fra
Holmens Kanal Til Østpynten af Amager, a fantastic tale in the
style of the German Romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's Children's and
Household Tales had appeared between 1812 and 1815, but they were
based on original folktales.
Andersen's poem 'The Dying Child,' was published in a Copenhagen journal and the Royal Theatre produced in 1829 his musical drama. Phantasier og Skizzer (1831, Fantasies and Sketches), a collection of poems, was born when Andersen fell in love with Riborg Voigt. For her, Andersen wrote the love poems 'Melodies of the Heart'. Riborg rejected him; she was secretly engaged to Poul Bøving, a chemist's son. They married in 1831. A leather pouch containing a letter from Riborg was found round Andersen's neck when he died. Also Edvard, Jonas Collin's son, and Henrik Stempe in the 1840s were for Andersen other objects of unfulfilled dreams.
"I do wish that I were dead," Andersen said to one of his
friends in 1831, expressing not his feelings about his failed love for
Riborg but also echoing the melancholy of Goethe's Werther from The
Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). Andersen never met Goethe, who was
still alive when Andersen made his first journey to Germany. The visit
inspired the first of his many travel sketches.
From 1831 onwards Andersen travelled widely in Europe, and
remained a passionate traveller all his life.He wrote sketches about
Sweden, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and the Middle East. During his
journeys Andersen met in Paris among others Victor Hugo, Heinrich
Heine, Balzac, and Alexandre Dumas. A Poet's Day Dreams (1853)
Andersen dedicated to Charles Dickens, whom he met in the summer of
1857. And in Rome he met the young Norwegian writer Björnson. Andersen
lacked sufficient command of English and after staying with Dickens at
Gad's Hill, his host stuck a brief note in the guest room saying: "Hans
Andersen slept in this room for five weeks – which seemed to the family
AGES!" (How guest Hans Christian Andersen destroyed his friendship with Dickens' by Vanessa Thorpe, The Guardian, 10 September 2017)
As a novelist Andersen made his breakthrough with The Improvisatore (1835), using Italy as the setting. The story was autobiographical and depicted a poor boy's integration into society, an Ugly Duckling theme of self-discovery in which Andersen returned in several of his works. The book gained international success and during his life it remained the most widely read of all his works. E.B. Browning wrote warmly to her future husband of the novel and her last poem was written for Andersen in 1861, shortly before her death. Only a Fiddler (1837), Andersen's novel, was attacked by the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in Af En endnu Levendes Papirer (From the Papers of One Sill Living). Kierkegaard had only a few books of Andersen in his personal library, among them two volumes of New Fairy Tales (1845-48), which Andersen sent to the philosopher with the dedication: "Dear Mr. Kirkegaard! Whether you like my little [fairy tales] or you do not, yet they come without Fear and Trembling and that is at least something. Affectionately. The Author." (Kierkegaard and His Danish Contemporaries: Tome III: Literature, Drama and Aesthetics, edited by Jon Stewart, p. 11) In general, Kierkegaard felt antipathy towards Andersen as an author and a person – "The same joyless battle Andersen himself fights in real life now repeats itself in his poetry," he wrote in his review of Only a Fiddler. (Ibid., p. 13) Andersen took his revenge with the play En Comedie i det Grønne (1840), which included an unpractical philosopher.
Andersen's fame rests on his Fairy Tales and Stories, written between 1835 and 1872. Tales, Told for Children, appeared in a small, cheap booklet in 1835. In this and following early collections, which were published in every Christmas, Andersen returned to the stories which he had heard as a child, but gradually he started to create his own tales. The third volume, published in 1837, contained 'The Little Mermaid' and 'The Emperor's New Clothes.' Among Andersen's other best known tales are 'Little Ugly Duckling,' 'The Tinderbox,' 'Little Claus and Big Claus,' 'Princess and the Pea,' 'The Snow Queen,' The Nightingale,' and 'The Steadfast Tin Soldier.' With these collections, inspired by the great tradition of the Arabian Nights on the other hand, and Household Tales, collected by the brothers Grimm, Andersen became known as the father of the modern fairytale. Moreover, Andersen's works were original. Only 12 of his 156 know fairy stories drew on folktales.
Andersen broke new ground in both style and content, and
employed the idioms and constructions of spoken language in a way that
was new in Danish writing. When fairy tales at his time were didactic,
he brought into them ambiguity. Children and misfits often speak truth;
they serve as Andersen's mouthpiece in moral questions: ""But he has
nothing on at all," said a little child at last. "Good heavens! listen
to the voice of an innocent child," said the father, and one whispered
to the other what the child had said. "But he has nothing on at all,"
cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the
emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to
himself, "Now I must bear up to the end." And the chamberlains walked
with still greater dignity, as if they carried train which did not
Emperor's New Clothes,' 1837, in Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tale Collection by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Josef Paleček, 2019, p. 27) Ugliness
of the hero or heroine
often conceals great beauty, which is revealed after misfortunes. In
psychoanalysis this kind of figure is sometimes interpreted as a symbol
of the inner self of soul, which has to be released from its prison.
Georg Brandes argued that 'The Ugly Duckling' was the expression "of
the very essence of its author's personal character." ('A
Tale of Two Geniuses – with Opposing Views of Tales – and an Ingenious
Critic of Both: H.C. Andersen, Soren Kierkegaard, and Georg Brandes' by
Poul House, The Bridge, Vol. 29: No. 2, 2006) This
can also be said of Andersen's merciless opponent Kierkegaard, the
"Ugly Duckling" of Danish philosophy, who was mocked and scorned by
many and who lived the life of a scholarly recluse. .
Andersen's identification with the unfortunate and outcast made his tales very compelling. Some of Andersen's tales revealed an optimistic belief in the triumph of the good, among them 'The Snow Queen' and 'Little Ugly Duckling', and some ended unhappily, like 'The Little Match Girl.' In 'The Little Mermaid' the author expressed a longing for ordinary life – he never had such. In the story the youngest of six mermaid precesses longs after the land above the sea, but the fulfillment of the dream causes her much pain. "She knew this was the last evening she would ever see him for whom she had forsaken her kindred and her home, given up her lovely voice, and daily suffered unending torment – and he had no idea of it. This was the last night she would breathe the same air as he, or look upon the deep sea and the starry blue sky; an everlasting night without thoughts or dreams waited her, for she had no soul and could not gain one." (Fairy Tales from Hans Andersen, by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by L.W. Kingsland, 1999, pp. 66-67)
Andersen's tales were translated throughout Europe, with four
editions appearing in the UK in 1846 alone. While in Berlin, he met
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm; Jacob knew nothing of the work of the famous
Dane before 1844, when Andersen contacted him. Andersen's works
others, Charles Dickens ('A
Christmas Carol in Prose,' 'The Chimes,' 'The Cricket on the Hearth,'
'The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain'), William Thackeray and Oscar Wilde ('The Happy Prince,' 'The
Nightingale and the Rose,' 'The Fisherman and His Soul'), C.S. Lewis,
Isak Dinesen, P.O. Enquist, whose play, Rainsnakes, was about
Andersen, Cees Noteboom, and a number of other writers. Elias
Bredsdorff complained in the preface of his biography Hans Christian Andersen: The
Story of His Life and Work (1975),
that 'The British and Americans have done to Andersen what the world
has done to Swift and Defoe: They've pushed him into the nursery and
locked the door on him.'' ('Elias Bredsdorff, 90, Expert On Hans Christian Andersen' by By Ari L. Goldman, The New York Times, August 19, 2002)
The Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind was Andersen's last unfilled love. They met first time in 1840. Jenny was the illegitimate daughter of a schoolmistress. According to her own words, she was at the age of nine "a small, ugly, broad-nosed, shy, gauche, altogether undergrown girl". (Memoir of Madame Jenny Lind-Goldschmidt: Her Early Art-Life and Dramatic Career. 1820-1851 by Henry Scott Holland, William Smith Rockstro, 1891, p. 446)At eighteen, she had made her breakthrough as a singer with her powerful soprano. 'The Ugly Duckling' become Jenny's favorite among Andersen's stories. However, 'The Nightingale' is considered a tribute to Jenny, or "the Swedish Nightingale" as she was called, and perhaps also 'Snedronningen' (1844, The Snow Queen), "cold and distant to her lover's protestation," can be connected to her. Both Andersen and Jenny were in September 1843 dinner guest at August Bournonville's. "In the evening with her at Bourninville's, they drank to her health and mine. In love," Andersen wrote in his almanac. And ten days later: ". . . said good-bye to Jenny, gave her a letter, which she must understand. I am in love!"At a farewell party in October, Jenny toasted Andersen as a brother, and when they celebrated New Years Eve together, Jenny patted him, and called him a child. (Hans Christian Andersen: Danish Writer and Citizen of the World, edited by Sven Hakon Rossel, 1996, pp. 35-36) Andersen remained a bachelor. Jenny married the German-English composer and pianist Otto Goldschmidt. Later Andedrsen said in Mit Livs Eventyr (1855, The Fairy Tale of My Life): "Through Jenny Lind I first became aware of the holiness there is in art. Through her I learned that one must forget one's self in the service of the Supreme!" (Passion vs. Duty by Helen Martens, 2012, p. 95)
Between the years 1840 and 1857 Andersen made journeys
throughout Europa, Asia Minor, and Africa, recording his impressions
and adventures in a number of travel books. He wrote and rewrote his
memoirs, The Fairy Tale of My Life, but the standard edition is
generally considered the 1855 edition.
During his travels abroad, Andersen was able to be more relaxed and take more liberties than in Copenhagen, where everybody knew him. At the age of sixty-two Andersen went to Paris, where he visited a brothel – it was not his first visit or last. "Then went suddenly up into a meat market – one of them was covered with powder; a second, common; a third, quite the lady. I talked with her, paid twelve francs and left, without having sinned in deed, though I dare say I did in my thoughts. She asked me to come back, said I was indeed very innocent for a man." (Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller by Jackie Wullschlager, 2001, p. 409) Andersen died in his home in Rolighed on August 4, 1875. Edvard Collin and his wife were later buried with Andersen. However, their family members moved the Collins' bodies after some years to the family plot in another cemetery.
Referring to Andersen's tales, the Nobel laureate Hermann Hesse said that "the books from which one derives the greatest delight in early childhood and youth are the ones that we must not read later on, otherwise they will lose their brilliance and glamour and appear changed, sad and ridiculous." (My Belief: Essays on Life and Art by Hermann Hesse, 1979, pp. 330-331)
For further reading: Hans Christian Andersen by Rumer Godden (1955); Hans Christian Andersen: The Story of His Life and Work 1805-75 by Elias Brendsdorff (1975); H.C. Andersen by Erling Nielsen (1983); The Kiss of the Snow Queen: Hans Christian Andersen and Man's Redemption by Woman by Wolfgang Lederer (1986); The Amazing Paper Cuttings of Hans Christian Andersen by Beth Wagner Brust (1994); Hans Christian Andersen: Danish Writer And Citizen Of The World by Sven Hakon Rossel (1996); Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller by Jackie Wullschlager (2001); Hans Christian Andersen: A Biography by R. Nisbet Bain (2002); H.C. Andersen og det uhyggelige, redigeret af Jacob Bøggild, Ane Grum-Schwensen og Torsten Bøgh Thomsen (2015); Hans Christian Andersen: the Man and his Works by Niels Kofoed (2017); Skyggepunkter: menneske, natur og materialitet i H.C. Andersens forfatterskab by Torsten Bøgh Thomsen (2017); Et kongeligt eventyr: en biografisk fortælling om H.C. Andersens oprindelse by Jens Jørgensen (2019); Hans Christian Andersen in American Literary Criticism of the Nineteenth-century by Herbert Rowland (2020) - Suom.: Kaikki Andersenin tunnetuimmat sadut ovat ilmestyneet suomeksi. Suomentajista mainittakoon mm. kirjailija Maila Talvio. See also: Robert Louis Stevenson