Themes and Characters
Even as a child, Hans Andersen plans to be famous. This appears improbable for a big, awkward, impudent boy with no patience for school or the usual pastimes of children. In his youth, a fortune-teller predicts that Hans will be "a wild bird who shall fly high, great and noble in the world." Remarkably, just as his ugly duckling grows to be a beautiful swan, so Hans lives to fulfill this prophecy. Eventually, he makes many loyal friends, and the support and constructive criticism he receives from them leads to Hans's great success as a writer.
Before the elder Hans dies, he exhorts Anne Marie to let the boy do as he pleases, and she does. What Hans wants most is to be set free: free to pursue a career in the theater. Hans hopes to one day be revered as an actor or playwright, but he never attains these lifelong goals. As a poor, unschooled teenager in Copenhagen, Hans literally sings for his supper. Refused admission to the Royal Theatre School, he persistently submits scripts for the directors' consideration. Jonas Collin, a Royal Theatre director, recognizes young Hans's potential and petitions the king to grant him a small stipend to attend grammar school. Chastised but resigned, Hans attends.
When he returns to Copenhagen, Hans begins writing seriously. He lives frugally on a succession of small state grants and the generosity of his friends. Always of a mercurial temperament, Hans begins to experience more pronounced emotional highs and lows. His loves remain unrequited; his...
(The entire section is 615 words.)
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