Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Hans Christian Andersen, Danish Fairy Tale Author

1805: Considered the father of the modern fairy tale, Andersen was born to poor parents in the slums of Odense, Denmark. He received little formal education as a child but his father, who was literate, encouraged his interest in learning and in theater. An awkward child, Andersen often suffered humiliation at the hands of his peers, but he remained passionate about his love of forklore and the arts. When his father died in 1816, Andersen was forced to go to work. He apprenticed for short periods to a weaver and a tailor and also worked in a tobacco factory. At age 14, Andersen moved to Copenhagen to pursue a career as a singer, dancer, or actor, but soon realized that writing was his true passion. Through the help of a benefactor, Andersen gained admission to Copenhagen University, where he completed his education. By the late 1820s, Andersen had published poems, travel sketches, and even a musical drama produced by the Royal Theater. But his Fairy Tales and Stories were the source of his lasting success. Andersen's fairy tales were distinguished by their originality; most were not updates of existing folktales, a common practice of the time. His first small volume appeared in 1835 Fairy Tales Told to the Children and Andersen continued to turn out additional volumes of fairy tales over the next three decades. Among his most well-known tales are "The Little Mermaid" (1837), "The Emperor's New Clothes" (1837), "The Ugly Duckling" (1843), "The Princess and the Pea" (1835), and "The Snow Queen" (1845).

Andersen's fairy tales and other works have been translated into well over a hundred languages and many of the fairy tales have been popularized in film versions. A 1952 movie musical starring Danny Kaye was loosely based on Andersen's life.

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