Hans Christian Andersen is a name almost synonymous to much adored and literary feted fairy tales. Read this profile to explore his childhood, literary career and timeline.

Hans Christian Andersen Biography

Born On: April 2, 1805
Born In: Odense, Denmark
Nationality: Danish
Career: Author

Hans Christian Andersen, probably the greatest storyteller of all times, had a very humble beginning, before creating epoch-making history, with his biggest literary feat - ‘Fairy Tales’. This Danish spinner of fairy tales had to work through all odds and battle many disappointments, before he grew up to become a household name. He charmed the young and old alike with his sophisticated preaching, beautifully guised under his fanciful oratory. Andersen’s works are reflections of his own life and self that echoes his own personal clamber with odds, before he achieved real happiness. Probably this is how one would explain the sweet endings of some of his most intimate works, “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Little Mermaid”. Believed to belong to a royal pedigree, Andersen was born in slums and received little education. His early life was full of struggle that was closely followed by his big feat as a writer in the later years. To know more about this much fabled writer of his age, read on.

Childhood & Early Life
Hans Christian Andersen, the man who gave us the oft fabled fairy tales, was born on April 2, 1805, in Odense, Denmark. Born to a shoemaker and a housemaid, Anderson’s childhood was much pampered by the loving encouragement of his parents, who took every care to nurture his creative fecund. Although his mother wanted her little son to become a tailor, Andersen convinced his mother of his big dreams at the little age of fourteen and left for Copenhagen, Denmark, to inscribe his legendary success. The initial years were far from easy for the fourteen year old Andersen, who lived in the most run-down streets in Copenhagen and dabbled unsuccessfully with almost every form of art, starting from music to dance to acting.
At the age of seventeen, Andersen received another chance to complete his education, but never managed to make his mark as a bright student. Although born Danish, Andersen never mastered Danish, something that furnished the outstanding colloquial charm of his writings. After spending seven years at school under the tutelage of a principal who seemed to abhor Andersen, he passed his university exams in 1828. It was in this year that Andersen came out with his first narrative that won him great applause and appreciation. It was this success stint which motivated Anderson to pen down a series of poems that marked the beginning of his most successful stretch as an author.
Literary Career
Andersen’s first writing success came with his debut book - an account of a walking trip, published in 1829. In 1835 Andersen completed his first novel, “The Improvisatore”, and he published his first small volume of fairy tales, an event that attracted little attention at that time. “The Improvisatore”, like most of Andersen's novels, was based on his own life. The book was a success not only in Denmark, but also in England and Germany. He went ahead and penned five more novels, but as a writer of serious drama, Andersen failed almost completely. Many of his poems, however, are still a part of popular Danish literature. With time, he figured out the trick of portraying human life and characters in fanciful undertones and that led the cornerstone for his legendary "Fairy Tales". Anderson had realized that the fanciful stories weren’t just meant for kids alone and that more believable stories were much appreciated as compared to the traditional tales. His most lasting contributions, after the "Fairy Tales", are his travel books and his autobiography (the story of his own life).
Fairy Tales
Andersen started penning fairly tales, primarily inspired by the old folk tales narrated to him by his grandmother and others. However, Andersen, a gifted writer, soon began to rewrite his own stories. The first volume of his fairy tales was titled “Fairy Tales Told For Children” and included nineteen stories. However, the title was change to ”New Fairy Tales” in 1845. The four volumes appearing with this title included twenty-two original tales and are believed to be Andersen's best works till date. The title was revised to Stories in 1852 and from then on the volumes were called “New Fairy Tales and Stories”.
In the next few years, Andersen published volumes of other fairy tales, his most feted works being "The Ugly Duckling," "The Princess and the Pea," and "The Little Mermaid." Surprisingly, it is said that Andersen was not very pleased about his fairy tales in the beginning and considered giving it up once. However, he was soon to realize the prominence of something as universal and futuristic as fairy tales and he went on to intertwine folk art and literature to create a rich tapestry of legendary stories. This patchwork of sweet and sour stories not only gained iconic status with children, it was equally adored by the grown-ups too.
In the spring of 1872, Anderson met with an accident. He fell out of his bed and was severely hurt. Though Anderson was cured, he never fully recovered and breathed his last on August 4, 1875. His body was interred in the Assistens Kirkegard in the Norrebro area of Copenhagen. Ahead of his death, construction for erecting a large statue of this prolific storyteller was underway, which was completed after his death. The statue still stands tall at the town hall square in Copenhagen.


Fairy Tales

  • The Angel (1843)
  • The Bell (1845)
  • The Emperor's New Clothes (1837)
  • The Galoshes of Fortune (1838)
  • The Fir Tree (1844)
  • The Happy Family (1847)
  • The Ice Maiden (1861)
  • It's Quite True! (1852))
  • The Little Match Girl (1848)
  • The Little Mermaid (1836)
  • Little Tuck (1847)
  • The Nightingale (1844)
  • The Old House (1847)
  • Sandman (1841)
  • The Princess and the Pea (1835)
  • Several Things (1837)
  • The Red Shoes (1845)
  • The Shadow (1847)
  • The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep (1845)
  • The Snow Queen (1844)
  • The Steadfast Tin Soldier (1838)
  • The Story of a Mother (1847)
  • The Swineherd (1841)
  • Thumbelina (1835)
  • The Tinderbox (1835)
  • The Ugly Duckling (1844)
  • The Wild Swans (1838)

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