The story of Hans Christian Andersen's life begins in Odense, capital of Fyn, an island of central Denmark, where he was born on April 2, 1805. Hans lives with his mother, Anne Marie, and his father, a young but disgruntled shoemaker also named Hans, in a one room home in the poorest part of town. Although they are poor, Anne Marie fills her humble home with love, and young Hans knows a joy there never paralleled later in life. After his father dies prematurely and his mother remarries, Hans, age fourteen, sets off alone to seek fame in the theater in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. Copenhagen remains Hans's home until his death, yet he travels to Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Turkey, England, and America.
Denmark is portrayed in this book as a somewhat magical land, pastoral and practical: a country where castles and cobbled streets coexist with good schools and factories that "make beautiful things china, silverware, glass." The Danish people are courteous, cooperative, peace-loving, and playful; they are also fiercely proud to be of Viking descent.
Perhaps no other aspect of the Danish landscape, though, has influenced more imaginative expression from Norse mythology to Andersen's tales and beyond than the haunting, eerie quality of Denmark's never-dark summer nights. This twilight habitat fairies, trolls, and spirits seems a likely place to meet a muse, or spawn a story. It is, as Godden says, "fitting that the most...
(The entire section is 249 words.)