Hans Christian Andersen (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Andersen is the most well-known Danish writer. His greatest achievement was as the author of universally beloved fairy tales.
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....
(The entire section is 2013 words.)
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