The Fairytale Life of Hans Christian Andersen

ENTERTAINMENT | April 16, 2019

Hans Christian Andersen. Source: (networthroll.com)

Two of Disney’s most popular movies, The Little Mermaid (1989) and Frozen (2013), were based on fairy tales written by Hans Christian Andersen. Andersen was the author of various other genres of work including novels, poems, travel books, and plays. However, it is for his fairy tales that he has achieved worldwide renown.

Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark, on April 2, 1805, an only child to Hans Andersen Sr. and his wife Anne Marie. Despite the fact that his parents were poor, Andersen attended elite boarding schools and was rumored to be an illegitimate member of the Danish royal family. He had brief hopes of becoming an actor and in 1819, he moved to Copenhagen to pursue that dream. He was unsuccessful; however, he gained the support of one of the directors at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Jonas Collin, who paid for Andersen to return to school. Collin also encouraged Andersen to begin writing.

University of Copenhagen. Source: (commons.wikimedia.org)

In 1828, Andersen was admitted to the University of Copenhagen. The following year he wrote his first notable work, a short story entitled “A Journey on Foot from Holmen’s Canal to the East Point of Amager.” He later wrote a book of poetry and a travelogue before being awarded a grant from the king which allowed him to travel across Europe. His travels inspired several autobiographical novels including The Improvisatore (1835), OT: A Danish Romance (1836) and Only A Fiddler (1837). In 1840, he wrote a play about the evils of slavery entitled “The Mulatto.”

The Princess and the Pea. Source: (youtube.com)

While not initially his most popular writing, it was fairy tales for which Andersen would achieve his fame. He wrote his first book of fairy tales in 1835 entitled Eventyr, Fortalte For Børn (Tales, Told For Children). It included the tales “The Tinderbox,” “Little Claus and Big Claus,” and “The Princess and the Pea.” By 1837, he had added two more installments to complete volume one of Eventyr (1837). In 1842, he completed a second volume to which he added Billdbog UDen Billeder (1840; A Picture-book Without Pictures).  

The Emperor’s New Clothes. Source: (youtube.com)

In 1845, he began to achieve international success as his stories were translated into English. He soon became friends with Charles Dickins and visited him in England in 1847 and 1857. Stories like “The Little Mermaid,” “The Snow Queen,” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” which were largely ignored in Denmark, became classics in their English versions. Andersen also influenced later British authors, including A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter.

Statue of Hans Christian Andersen in Central Park. Source: (centralpark.com)

From 1858-72, he expanded his repertoire with Nye Eventyr Og Historier (“New Fairy Tales and Stories”), in which he deviated from the literary tradition of the time by incorporating the idiosyncrasies of spoken language into his tales. In 1872, after being injured from falling out of bed, he began to show signs of liver cancer. He died in Copenhagen on August 4, 1875. The Danish government commemorated him by building a statue in his honor and a theme park based on his works was recently opened in Shanghai.

Tags: author | authors, 1800s | hans christian andersen

Like it? Share with your friends!

Share On Facebook

Penny Chavers


Penny, besides writing, loves to spend her time with family and friends. In her spare time, she also enjoys playing the piano, board games, and taking online classes on topics that interest her.