Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Born on April 2, 1805, in the little town of Odense, Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen lived a life that followed the pattern of some of his fairy story characters. His father was a poor cobbler; his mother took in laundry to help support the family. His grandmother cherished her grandson, telling him stories and myths and handing down tales of horror, superstition, and romance—the very fabric of Danish folk culture as it had come to her.
Andersen’s cobbler father implanted in his son the desire to lift himself above his humble cottage life. The father had read beyond his station in life; he questioned religion and abhorred superstition. He made toys as well as a small theater. He also gave the child companionship and passionately enjoined him to follow his imaginative interests so that he should not be bound to a menial trade.
When Andersen was eleven his father died, and the sheltered life he had led as a well-loved child came to an end. He attended the city school for poor children. There he learned rapidly what he wanted to learn, but he was jeered at by his schoolmates because of his gentle and artistic nature. He made friends with an assortment of adults who were more perceptive of his eagerness to make a mark in the world.
In 1819 he went to Copenhagen. Fiercely determined to find recognition, he tried ballet,...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
The son of a shoemaker, who died when he was eleven, and an illiterate servant mother, Hans Christian Andersen from his early childhood loved to invent tales, poems, and plays and to make intricate paper cuttings; he loved to recite his creations to any possible listener. Later he yearned to be a creative writer of divine inspiration and an actor. In 1819 he journeyed to Copenhagen where he lived through hard times but developed a talent for attracting benefactors. Among them was Jonas Collin, whose home became Andersen’s “Home of Homes,” as he called it, who acted as a foster father, and whose son Edvard became a close friend. Through Jonas’s influence and a grant from the king, Andersen attended grammar school (1822-1827) and struggled with a difficult headmaster as well as with Latin and Greek. Andersen never married, although he was attracted to several women, among them the singer Jenny Lind. Although he was very tall and ungainly in appearance, with large feet, a large nose, and small eyes, and although he was sentimental and exceptionally concerned with himself, his fears and doubts, Andersen enjoyed the company of Europe’s leading professionals and nobility, including kings and queens; in later life many honors were bestowed on him. His last nine years he lived at the home of the Moritz Melchiors, just outside Copenhagen, and he died there on August 4, 1875.
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Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Hans Christian Andersen was the first notable Danish writer of proletarian origins. He grew up with little education and in extreme poverty, and his great personal charm and exceptional talent earned him the affection and regard of both the common people and the artistic and social aristocracies of his time. Andersen’s father was a shoemaker but was well read; he took his son to the theater, introduced him to books, and even built a little puppet theater for him. Andersen’s mother, who eventually became a washerwoman, came from a world of hardship and penury. Illiterate and superstitious, she was one of three illegitimate daughters raised in an atmosphere of poverty and promiscuity; she turned to drink in her old age. While he received little formal education, Andersen developed performing skills that brought him to the attention of Prince Christian at Odense Castle. In spite of this distinction, he received little encouragement and was pressured to enter a conventional trade. Reluctant to give up his dream of becoming an actor and living a life of adventure, Andersen left for Copenhagen in 1819 with the blessings of his mother, who had been told by a fortune-teller that the entire town would one day be illuminated to celebrate her son’s great achievements.
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Hans Christian Andersen was the only child of Hans Andersen, a poor cobbler, and his wife, Anne Marie, who was fifteen years her husband’s senior. Hans was born only two months after the marriage of his parents. The couple was ill-matched in many ways. His father was somewhat educated and a free thinker, his mother almost illiterate and a superstitious believer. Both were loving parents, however, determined that their son should do better in life than they.
After his father’s death, when Andersen was eleven, his mother became a washerwoman and sent the boy to work in a local cloth mill and then a tobacco plant. It seems that his work in both places consisted of entertaining the other workers by telling stories and improvising songs. His mother remarried after two years of widowhood, this time to a more successful shoemaker, and life improved materially for the boy.
From his earliest years the lonely child had played with his homemade puppet theater, devised little plays and poems, and dreamed of a career in the theater. With little money and no prospects, the gangling fourteen-year-old left Odense, Denmark, and set out for Copenhagen. In response to his mother’s fears, he confidently replied, “I shall become famous; first you go through a cruel time, and then you become famous.” As Andersen was fond of pointing out in later...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
A prolific artist, Hans Christian Andersen wrote diaries, letters, travel books, novels, plays, poems, and the tales on which his fame rests. His range was broad, not only in terms of the genres in which he worked but also in the variety of styles he employed. Hypersensitive, sometimes lonely and sad, he always sought approval and basked in the glow of any positive response, whether it came from friends, prominent literary figures, royalty, or the children to whom he read his tales aloud. He summarized his method of creating thus: “I seize an idea for older people—and then tell it to the young ones, while remembering that father and mother are listening and must have something to think about.”
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