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This year (in November) will mark the 109th anniversary of the inception of the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, making it one of Europe’s oldest literary museums. In this period the museum has changed its physical appearance and permanent exhibitions four times, and each of the manifestations of these exhibitions has their own individual background and history. This article aims at giving an account of the basic views presented by the museum during those 100 years.
Getting to know Hans Christian Andersen
Many of us know Hans Christian Andersen’s adapted work through the modern-day films like The Ugly Duckling, Thumbelina, The Emperor’s New Clothes and The Little Mermaid. But this author, artist and musician was a genius in many ways.
Here’s a few more details about his life and craft:
The Storyteller Series: Many of our favorite authors not only bring to life stories which hold our attention, they were and are actual people who hold a variety of talent passions and interests. These have become part of the woven cloth of the storytellers themselves. This series sheds a light on the writers and their passions giving us a glimpse and experience into their daily lives.
Once, not so very long ago, a man of middle age could be seen walking down the streets of Copenhagen Denmark with a bag strewn over his shoulder. Where was he going? Well to visit the King of course. He had been invited like many times before, to entertain and delight the King and his guests with his wonderful stories of words and paper.
Who could this man be?
It could be none other than Hans Christian Andersen, creator of fairy tales extraordinaire.
Hans Christian Andersen’s Beginnings
Just like some of the characters from his fairy tales, the storyteller was born to very poor parents in Odense, Denmark. His father worked as a shoemaker and his mother a washerwoman. His father would entertain him with old Danish legends before his untimely death when Hans was 11.
The people of his small town didn’t know what to make of this tall, awkward boy. He would recite long passages from plays, do clumsy dances and sing ridiculous songs all to make the townsfolk laugh.
His mother wanted him to become a tailor but Hans would have none of it. “I’m going to be famous,” he would say.
Though he was famous to the people of his small town, to become really famous he would need to leave Odense and go to Copenhagen. And that’s precisely what he did.
At the age of 14 he moved to the capital city of Copenhagen hoping beyond all reason to be an actor in the Royal Theater. Many wealthy people tried to help him succeed but to no avail. His dancing master gave up, as well as his singing coach. Directors of the royal Theater did their best to support his script writing efforts but nothing worked. Finally it was decided that he should go to school.
He was much older than the other students and he was made fun of by his school teacher. He was so depressed that when the people paying for his education found out, they brought him back to Copenhagen to study with a private tutor.
After his schooling, Andersen spent many years traveling and writing poems, books, and plays. It was not until he was thirty that he wrote any fairy tales. His first small book of tales became an instant success and from then on his fame grew as well, all over Europe and eventually the world.
Hans Christen Anderson put many pieces of his own life into his fairy tales. His own mother was forced to go begging as a small girl. This led him to write “The Little Match Girl,” a story spinning compassion for the unfortunate ones of our world.
His very own personal experiences were shared in his tale of “The Ugly Duckling”, which points out that the qualities that make one feel different and lonely are also the very same qualities that make us shine when used properly.
Another Lesser Known Hans Christian Andersen Fact
Do you know what the man liked as much as his fairy tales?
Paper! He was an addict to paper. He wrote on it, he drew on it and he use to cut in it. Just like a sculptor carves the figure out of stone, Hans Christian Andersen use to cut his stories out of paper. In fact he was a very popular paper-cutter. (images courtesy of the Odense Museum)
In order to amuse his friends and their children, Hans made his very famous paper cuts. Wherever he would go he would carry his bag filled with paper and these very large monstrous scissors which he used to cut out the most elegant figures.
There isn’t a direct connection between his paper cuts and his fairy tales but he use to accompany his paper cutting with a fantastic tale, and end the tale by unfolding the paper to amazed listeners.
Not only were the paper cuts beautiful but they held the secret to the story meant to challenge the mind. Often there was a hidden meaning in the paper cuttings, just as there was a secret meaning held in his fairy tales. On the outside it was amusing and impressive and deep inside the meaning could amaze.
Hans Christian Andersen went on to become a most beloved and cherished national and world treasure. After traveling in Europe over several years, he returned back to Copenhagen to be heralded as a national hero. The people of Copenhagen crowded the square to get a glimpse of the famous storyteller from the balcony. To welcome him home every house in Copenhagen lit candles in the windows to celebrate the legacy of their beloved story-teller.
It is tradition to read Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales by candlelight, thereby giving them the name Candlelight Stories.
Some Fun Hans Christian Andersen Facts:
- Hans Christian Andersen was born in April 2, 1805 in Odense, Denmark.
- He is the author of The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, the snow Queen, The Fir Tree, the Little Match Girl, The Emperor’s New Clothes and Thumbelina. You can find a very special treasury of his books here.
- He wrote around 169 fairy tales in all.
- He died August 4th 1875 in Copenhagen, Denmark
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This money goes towards postage and supplies to keep books and ideas in the hands of young readers!
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