Disney has immortalized Hans Christian Andersen forever with their version of The Little Mermaid. Most people do not realize that Hans did not write such "cute" stories. His stories were often dark and not the stuff of Disney. Perhaps his past plays some part in that though.
When he was a child Hans lived away from home, having part of his education paid for by King Frederick VI. No one knows why, although rumors of Han's parentage was up for some debate. Hans' father seemed to believe that they were related to royalty, although historians believe that the only link to the royal family was through service not blood. Hans was left to his own devices before he became a teenager though when his father died, forcing him to work as an apprentice for a weaver and later a tailor. At fourteen Hans moved to Copenhagen where he sought employment as an actor. He had an beautiful soprano voice, but the minute his voice changed he was told that perhaps he could consider being a poet or a writer instead. Hans felt ostracized as a child, with his unusual height and effeminate interests. He also had hysterical fits of cramps that the doctors misdiagnosed as epileptic fits. His mother was an alcoholic and his half-sister, who he had little contact with, was believed to be a prostitute.
A man named Jonas Collin, a director at the Royal Theatre where Hans worked, took great interest in Hans and sent him to grammar school, paying for all expenses. At this point Hans had published his first story, The Ghost at Palnatoke's Grave. Hans looked back on this period of his life bitterly. Not because he didn't appreciate the gift but because he lived with the headmaster who took to beating Hans in order to "improve his character". Hans felt like he had no friends since he was older than a lot of them and he felt he was unattractive, causing him to enter into depression.
Hans continued to write though, taking his new job seriously. He continued to write poetry and stories, getting a few published here and there, but his progress was slow. He receive
d a traveling grant from the King and took off around Europe. He traveled to Switzerland and Rome where he wrote two stories that were both being published. In 1935, at the age of thirty, Hans published the first installment of his immortal Fairy Tales, followed by two more volumes in the next two years. They did not sell well. His two novels that came out at the same time O.T. and Only a Fiddler fared much better.
After traveling around Europe, Hans became a huge nationalist, purposefully writing stories and poems about his native Denmark. His most well known was called Jeg er en Skandinav (I am a Scandinavian) A composer set the poem to music. It was popular for a few years but soon lost its appeal.
After traveling for over fifteen years, Hans published travelogues, twisting the travel narrative to fit his writing style. Some of his travelogues even contained fairy tales. Hans did try to return to the stage at 35, but it was a failure. However, the fame of his Fairy Tales had begun to grow. By 1845 Hans was being celebrated throughout Europe. although Denmark was still failing to see his genius.
Perhaps my favorite story is that of the not-so-awesome meeting with Charles Dickens. In June 1847, Hans visited England, where he was invited to parties to meet intellectuals. It was at one of these parties that he met Charles Dickens for the first time. A few years later Hans came to stay with Dickens, however he overextended his welcome, staying for almost six weeks rather than a few (polite) days.Dicken's daughter said of Hans, "He was a bony bore and stayed on and on. Dickens published David Copperfield, with Uriah Heep, who he said was modeled after Hans.
Hans dealt with more heartbreak in his later years for he had a bad habit of falling in love with unobtainable women. He fell for Jenny Lind, a Swedish Opera singer. Sadly, she did not return his affections. He had a number of love interests, but none shared his affections. Hans was also attracted to men, often speaking of the mystery of their friendships that were like those of a woman. He had a fascination with duke and a Danish dancer, but none of his romantic entreaties were ever fruitful.
IN 1872, Hans fell out of his bed and was severely hurt. He never fully recovered, but did live for three more years. At the time of his death, Hans was an internationally renowned and treasured writer. The Danish government referred to him as a "national treasure". His most famous works were Thumbelina, The Snow Queen, The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea, and The Tin Soldier. In Copenhagen there is a statue of The Little Mermaid in the harbor.