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Hans Christian Andersen
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hans Christian Andersen, (April 2, 1805 - August 4, 1875) was a Danish author and poet most famous for his fairy tales.
Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark, on Tuesday, April 2, 1805. He was the son of a impoverished sickly 22-year-old shoemaker  and an alcoholic laundress, several years older than her husband. The entire family lived and slept in a single tiny room.
Andersen's father apparently believed that he might be related to nobility, and according to scholars at the Father Hans Christian Andersen Center, his paternal grandmother told him that the family had once been in a higher social class. However, investigation has provided proof that these stories to be unfounded. The family apparently did have some connections to Danish royalty, but these were work-related. Nevertheless, the theory that Andersen was the illegitimate son of royalty persists in Denmark. The writer Rolf Dorset insists that not all options have been explored in determining Andersen's heritage.
Andersen displayed imagination even as a young boy, a trait fostered by the indulgence of his parents and by the superstition of his mother. He made himself a small toy-theatre and sat at home making clothes for his puppets, and reading all the plays that he could lay his hands upon; among them were those of Ludvig Holberg and William Shakespeare. Andersen, throughout his childhood, had a passionate love for literature. He was known to memorize entire plays by Shakespeare and to recite them using his wooden dolls as actors.
In 1816, his father died and the young boy had to start earning a living. He worked as an apprentice boy for both a weaver and a tailor, and later worked in a cigarette factory where his fellow workers humiliated him by betting on whether he was in fact a girl, pulling down his trousers to check. At the age of 14, Andersen moved to Copenhagen seeking employment as an actor on the stage. He had a pleasant soprano voice and succeeded in being admitted to the Royal Danish Theatre. This career stopped short when his voice broke. A colleague at the theatre had referred to him as a poet, and Andersen took this very seriously and began to focus on writing.
Following an accidental meeting, King Frederick VI of Denmark started taking an interest in the odd boy and sent Andersen to the grammar school  in Slagelse. The education was paid for by the King. Before even being admitted to grammar-school, Andersen had already succeeded in publishing his first story, The Ghost at Palnatoke's Grave in (1822). Andersen, though a backward and unwilling pupil, studied both in Slagelse and at a school  in Elsinore until 1827. He later stated that these years had been the darkest and most bitter parts of his life. He had experienced living in his schoolmaster's own home, being abused in order to "build his character", and he had been the odd man out among his fellow students, being much older than most of them.
The feeling of "being different", usually resulting in pain, is a recurrent motif in his work. One of the most telling stories in that respect is the tale of The Little Mermaid, who takes her own life since she cannot be loved by a beautiful prince. It is thought to exemplify his love for the young Edvard Collin, to whom he wrote: I languish for you as for a pretty Calabrian wench ... my sentiments for you are those of a woman. The femininity of my nature and our friendship must remain a mystery. Collin, who was not erotically attracted to men, wrote in his own memoir: I found myself unable to respond to this love, and this caused the author much suffering. Likewise, the infatuations of the author for the Danish dancer Harald Scharff and the young duke of Weimar did not result in notable partnerships. In academic circles, it is being controversially discussed whether Andersen was homosexual. This discussion begain in 1901 with the article "Hans Christian Andersen: Evidence of his Homosexuality" by Carl Albert Hansen Fahlberg (using the pseudonym Albert Hansenin) in Magnus Hirschfeld's publication "Jahrbuch fï¿½r sexuelle Zwischenstufen."
In Andersen's early life, his private journal records his refusal to have sexual relations and his unabashed release through masturbation.
In the spring of 1872, Andersen fell out of bed and severely hurt himself. He never quite recovered, but he lived until the August 4, 1875, dying  very peacefully in a house called Rolighed (literally: calmness), near Copenhagen. His body was interred in the Assistens Kirkegï¿½rd in the Nï¿½rrebro area of Copenhagen. At the time of his death, he was an internationally reknown and treasured artist.
2005 is the bicentenary of Andersen's birth and his life and work has been celebrated around the world. The interest in Andersen's person, legacy and writing has never been greater. In Denmark, particularly, the nation's most famous son has been feted like no other literary figure. The Hans Christian Andersen Bicentenary Website is an excellent resource.
Life as an author
In 1829, Andersen enjoyed a considerable success with a fantastic story entitled A Journey on Foot from Holmen's Canal to the East Point of Amager, and during the same season, he published both a farce and a collection of poems. His first success happened at a time when his friends had ultimately given up hope for him, deciding that his early eccentricity and vivacity would never lead to anything good. He had little further progress, however, until 1833, when he received a small travelling grant from the King, making the first of his long European journeys. At Le Locle, in the Jura, he wrote Agnete and the Merman; and in October 1834 he arrived in Rome.
Andersen's first novel, The Improvisatore, was published in the beginning of 1835, and became an instant success. His humble beginnings as a poet had finally come to an end. During the same year, Andersen published the first installment of his immortal Fairy Tales (Danish: Eventyr). More stories, completing the first volume, were published in 1836 and 1837. The quality of these stories was not immediately recognised and they sold poorly. At the same time, Andersen enjoyed more success with two novels: O.T. (1836) and Only a Fiddler (1837).
In 1851, he published to wide acclaim In Sweden, a volume of travel sketches. A keen traveller, Andersen published several other long travelogues: Shadow Pictures of a Journey to the Harz, Swiss Saxony, etc. etc. in the Summer of 1831 (1831), A Poet's Bazaar (1842), In Spain (1863), and A Visit to Portugal in 1866 (1868). In his travelogues Andersen took heed of some of the contemporary conventions about travel writing, but always developing the genre to suit his own purposes. Each of his travelogues combines documentary and descriptive accounts of the sights he saw with more philosophical excurses on topics such as being an author, immortality, and the nature of fiction in the literary travel report. Some of the travelogues, such as In Sweden, even contain fairy-tales.
In the 1840s Andersen's attention returned to the stage, however with no great success. His true genius was however proven in the charming miscellany the Picture-Book without Pictures (1840). The fame of his Fairy Tales had grown steadily; a second series began in 1838 and a third in 1845.
Andersen was now celebrated throughout Europe, although his native Denmark still showed some resistance to his pretensions. In June 1847, he paid his first visit to England and enjoyed a triumphal social success. Charles Dickens invited him to stay at his place for a fortnight, but Andersen stayed for 6 weeks, not understanding Dickens' increasingly blatant hints that Anderson should leave. When he left, Dickens saw him off from Ramsgate pier. Shortly thereafter Dickens published David Copperfield, in which the character Uriah Heep is said to have been modelled on Andersenï¿½a backhanded compliment, to put it mildly.
Andersen continued to publish many works, although still hoping to excel as both novelist and dramatist, but was unsuccessful in the attempt. He disdained the enchanting Fairy Tales, the composition of which had proved his unique genius. He did, however, continue to write them, and two more collections appeared in 1847 and 1848. After a long silence, Andersen published a new novel To be or not to be in 1857. He continued publishing his Fairy Tales in instalments, until 1872. He published his last stories at Christmas this year.
In the English-speaking world, the stories of The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor's New Clothes, and The Princess and the Pea are cultural universals; everyone knows them, though few can name the author. They have become part of our common heritage, and, like the tales of Charles Perrault, are no longer distinguished from actual folk-tales such as those of the Brothers Grimm. Andersen himself was highly inspired by the Arabian Nights. A few of his stories such as "The Wild Swans" and The Rose-Elf are adaptations of older folktales (for example, "The Wild Swans" might be a retelling of The Six Swans as recorded by the Brothers Grimm.)
Andersen is often categorised as an author writing for children. However, he did not like to be stereotyped. The overall character of Andersen's stories is dark, sometimes even cruel, and redemption often comes at a high price. One of his famous stories, The Ugly Duckling, is a story that Anderson explained in his personal correspondence as a story that could be generalized broadly. In particular, he was writing the story as a tribute to those who like himself had (what were regarded at the time as) 'deviant' sexual feelings. There is, therefore, nothing 'innocent' or 'pure' about his stories. In that vein, Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland claim to have been inspired by H.C. Anderson's story of the Ugly Duckling in their controversial work "King and King".
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