Andersen, Hans Christian

Andersen, Hans Christian
Det Kongelige Bibliotek – The Danish Royal Library

Hans Christian Andersen was born into poverty in Odense on Funen in 1805. As a child, he would listen to his father reading 1001 Arabian Nights, Holberg's comedies and other tales that sowed the seeds of Andersen's own enthusiasm for the theatre and the fairy tale. Aged just 14, Andersen set out for Copenhagen, where he hoped to make his fortune. He passed his university entrance exam in 1828, and his first exam in philologicum et philosophicum a year later. He began publishing stories, plays, poems and travelogues. In 1835, his first collection of fairy tales and his first novel, "The Improviser", were published. Andersen embarked upon his first trip abroad in 1831. The influence of his subsequent travels, as well as of his childhood memories and life are redolent throughout his work. From 1838, a state stipend endowed him with financial security and allowed him to devote himself to his art. Around this time, his fairy tales were attracting more and more interest, both at home and abroad. At first, Andersen's writing style, particularly in the early fairy tales (including "The Little Mermaid"), was epitomised by a certain naivety and a "child-like" quality. From the 1850s onwards, his work was increasingly epitomised by psychological realism. Andersen died in Copenhagen in 1875 following a bout of illness.