Hans Christian Andersen And International Children’s Book Day
Scene from the ballet The Snow Queen. Source: (gettyimages.com)
Not only does April 2nd of this year mark the 214th birthday of Hans Christian Andersen but it is also International Children’s Book Day. Andersen was an author and poet, who still impacts children and adults today with his children’s fairy tales and poetry. This ballet of "The Snow Queen” is from one of his fairy tales. Many of his stories were influenced by his life and his fantasies.
This statue of Andersen is located in Central Park in New York City. Children, as well as adults, were fascinated by him as they sat and listened to him tell his stories. He has been recognized around the world. Other monuments of him are located in Rosenborg Castle Gardens in Copenhagen; a statue of him in Odense that sits halfway in the water; statue in Solvang, California; statue in Bratislava, Slovakia; and a bust of him in Sydney that was unveiled by the Crown Prince and Princess of Denmark (2005).
Hans Christian Andersen was not always famous or popular. He came from a very humble beginning. Born in Odense, Denmark in 1805, he was an only child whose father was a shoemaker and his mother was an illiterate “washerwoman.” Andersen first attended grammar school for his basic education while working for, first a weaver and then a tailor, to support himself. His father, who passed away in 1816 at age 33 when Hans was only 11, was told that his family was from the upper class, but that turned out not to be true. His mother died in 1833. When he was 14, he left for Copenhagen in high hopes of becoming an actor. Although he was accepted into the Royal Danish Theatre, it was short-lived. It was suggested to him by others that he would do better as a writer.
The director of the Royal Danish Theatre took a liking to Andersen and took him under his wing. Providing him with the necessary funds, Jonas Collins, along with the assistance of King Frederick VI, sent him to schools in Slagelse and Elsinore. During his time there, he was not treated well. His schoolmaster was quite harsh and not only abused him but he and other faculty members discouraged him from writing.
At first, his early writings were not appreciated. He had such a vivid imagination that it took a while for others to recognize that he had talent. His first fairy tales included “The Tinderbox,” “The Princess and the Pea,” “Thumbelina,” “The Little Mermaid,” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
Influenced by Love
Several of his fairy tales were influenced by those he fell in love with. Sadly, in those cases, his love was not returned. He seemed to fall in love with those who were either unattainable or simply just did not love him in that way. One, in particular, was an opera singer named Jenny Lind. He was so in love with her that he followed after her as she toured Europe. In an attempt to propose to her, he wrote her a letter and gave it to her rather than ask her face to face because he was so shy. She, unfortunately, did not feel the same way about him. To her, he was more like a brother. She became the inspiration for his book, “The Nightingale,” and “The Snow Queen.” While traveling in Europe, he met and became friends with Charles Dickens, but on one of his visits there, he overstayed his welcome.
He had some strange oddities about him, but for the most part, was well admired during his adult life at least. Because he had a fear of being buried alive, he would sleep with a note on his chest that read “I’m only sleeping.” Another fear of his was being caught in a hotel fire so he would keep a rope in his suitcase when traveling.
One of his first works, “The Ugly Duckling,” was influenced by how he was treated as a child by others in his hometown. Part of it was because of his stature and appearance and part of it was because of his social status. He lived in the poorest part of town in a house with five other families. His belief was that “first you have to suffer before you become famous.”
His childhood home was renovated and turned into a museum (opened in 1908). During his lifetime, he had written 156 fairy tales that were published which have been translated into more than 125 languages. The only book exceeding that is the Bible.
From his works, many movies, ballets, performances, and artwork have come from them including the Disney’s all-popular favorite of children and adults alike, “The Little Mermaid” that came out in 1989. Movies have also been made about his life including “Hans Christian Andersen My Life As A Fairytale” that came out in 2003.
He lived to be 70 years old when he died in 1875 of liver cancer having never been married and with no children.
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