This photo of Andersen was taken in October 1867 by Thora Hallager

Hans Christian Andersen (DK. 1805-1875) is world famous for his fairy tales, which have been translated into more than 125 different languages. He is also known for his life and his other written works. Among his contemporaries Andersen first had a reputation of someone who mingles with the bourgeoisie, and later on for being an embodiment of romanticism’s Aladdin myth. The Aladdin myth comes from the fairy tale of Aladdin and the magical lamp, of the Arabian fairy tale and folklore collection; One Thousand and One Nights, introduced in Denmark by Adam Oehlenschläger.

Hans Christian Andersen dreamt of becoming an actor, he tried himself as a ballet dancer and singer, but his success came through his writings.

In the beginning, his contemporaries were sceptical of his talent, due to his background as a child of the poorer classes, but through time, he gained ground in their circles, and they were delighted by his visits, where he often read from his fairy tales and other stories.


In his posterity he is remembered and hailed for his achievements, among them specially his 156 registered fairy tales. Hans Christian Andersen was a child of the poorer classes, and he fought against all odds to become Denmark’s greatest poet, whose fairy tales are so popular, that his works are the most translated in the world, and many of them have been adapted for film.



Childhood in Odense

Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense on the 2nd Of April 1805 and passed away on the 4th of August 1875 on Rolighed in Copenhagen. Hans Christian Andersen was baptised the same day he was born. The baptising was confirmed on the 16th of April in St. Hans Church although he did not receive a birth certificate before 1823, during a dispute about heritage of his grandfather.


Hans Christian Andersen was the child of the washerwoman Anne Marie Andersdatter (1773-1833) and cobbler Hans Andersen (1782-1816). The parents married on the 2nd of February 1805, and they moved in together in 1806. In 1807 the parents moved to Munkemøllestræde in Odense, in the house today known as his child home. The house on the corner in Hans Jensens stræde is today known as his birthplace and today houses a museum dedicated to him.


Hans Christian Andersen entered elementary school in 1810, and in 1811 he was placed in the school for poor children. At home Andersen was schooled by his father, who taught him about Ludvig Holberg and stimulated his reading abilities, his interest in theatre and intellectual skills. In 1812 his mother worked for Odense Theatre, and he got the chance to go there and watch plays. At home he re-enacted the parts.


In 1812 Hans Andersen enrolled as a soldier instead of a farmer’s son who bought himself free by paying the Andersen’s. The payment would have secured the financial future of the family had it not been for the state bankruptcy in 1813, where the value of the sum were drastically reduced. In 1814 Andersen’s father ,came home ill and broken from the war.


In 1816, Hans Christian Andersen’s father died and the family faced severe financial problems, which meant that his mum had to work more, and that he himself had to work at Koch & Hirschfeldt textile factories as a weaver and later  in Laurids Ørntrups tobacco company. Though they struggled for better finances, it did not take long before Hans Christian was back in the school for the poor.



Youth in Copenhagen

In 1818 his mother remarried. Hans Christian Andersen was only fourteen; he attended school and avoided the custom of leaving home to attend service at e.g. a grocer. After his confirmation in 1819 in St. Canute’s Cathedral, the Cathedral of Odense, he decided to seek fortune in the capital of Denmark, Copenhagen.

Hans Christian Andersen left Odense by travelling as a stowaway on a mail wagon.


Hans Christian Andersen left Odense with a letter of recommendation from the newspaper editor Iversen and his savings of 13 Reichsdaler. Though he might seem on his own, Andersen had already back in Odense created a network, including Madame Sophie Charlotte Hermansen, a royal nurse. Sophie Charlotte Hermansen helped Andersen with food and housing, and found him an apprenticeship so he could support himself in Copenhagen.


From Hans Christian Andersen’s arrival in Copenhagen and up until 1823 he managed to be noticed by the establishment in Copenhagen. Among others, Hans Christian Andersen got in touch with the director of the Royal Theatre, Mr. Siboni, Jonas Collin, N.F.S Grundtvig, B.S. Ingemann, Adam Oehlenschläger, C.E.F. Weyse, Jens Baggesen, while attempting to learn acting, dancing and singing.


In 1819 Andersen got the permission to make a performance at director Sibonis singing school of The Royal Theatre. Among the guests were C.E.F. Weyse and Jens Baggesen, and Andersen collected a sum of money for his performance.

Mr. Siboni promised the young Andersen lessons in singing and free lodging in his house along with teaching him German.

Andersen was enrolled in The Royal Theatres boys’ choir on a three year contract with no regular pay and set to end in 1822. But already in 1820 Mr. Siboni cancelled the contract, when Andersen’s voice began to mature. This lead to Andersen approaching solo dancer C. Dahlén, who allowed Andersen to enrol in the Royal Court School of Dance in 1820.


Before Mr. Siboni cancelled the contract, Hans Christian Andersen approached Weyse and he collected money for Andersen through his network. At the same time Andersen also approached author Mr. Høegh-Guldberg. Guldberg promised him reading and writing classes, so his Danish would improve. Andersen would additionally be provided with lessons in German and Latin. However, in 1821, Guldberg cancelled the education due to lack of diligence.
Hans Christian Andersen tried himself as an artist and choir student without regular pay and studied in private with actor F. Lindgreen, who advised him to give up the dream of becoming an actor.


Hans Christian Andersen had in collaboration with Guldberg, sent pledges on verses to Mr. Collin, when Collin became a theatre director, but he was ignored. Only after handing in a tragedy (play) – that was rejected – after publishing a book that contained a scene from the play, under a pseudonym, Hans Christian Andersen was invited to meet the board of directors at The Royal Theatre in 1822. Jonas Collin became responsible for Andersen’s education and funds. The public fund Ad Usus Publicos funded 350 rigsdaler to Andersen, on a three year agreement. This agreement was later extended until 1829.
Hans Christian Andersen was enrolled in the reputable Latin School in Slagelse.


Hans Christian Andersen began in latin school in October 1822. The school had Simon Meisling as its director. Occasionally, Andersen was accommodated with the Meislings and in 1826 Andersen moved with the family for a new job in Elsinore.


In 1827 Andersen wrote to Collin, that he feared Meisling would not let him pass his exams. Because of this, Andersen was taken out of school and moved to Copenhagen where he was tutored to Baccalaureate by theologist and historian Ludvig Christiansen. In 1828 and 1829 Hans Christian Andersen took his exams so he could eventually attend university.



In 1828, Hans Christian Andersen had chapters from  “A Journey on Foot from Holmen’s Canal to the East Point of Amager published, but it was not  before 1829 that he had his real debut and his debut as a playwright. After this point, newspapers and magazines started to publish some of his works. In 1831 his first collection of poetry was published and his first plays were performed.


After a Grand Tour sponsored by Ad Usus Publicos in 1834, Hans Christian Andersen published his first novel. The Improvisatore was published in 1835 along with the first fairy tale collections Fairy Tales for Children 1 & 2, containing the fairy tales The Tinder Box, Little Claus and Big Claus and Thumbelina. In 1836, he wrote singing plays and vaudevilles along with publishing the novel O.T.

Andersen rose to fame in these years as the number of publications, jobs and the international attention grew. Hans Christian Andersen became famous in Germany in 1838. His novel The Improvisatore was published in its second edition for a considerable sum and he was awarded public poets funding. His novel Only A Fiddler was published in 1837 and was translated to Dutch in 1841.


In 1840-41, Hans Christian Andersen went on a Europe- and Orient trip, where he visited Athens, Nepal, Constantinople and Prague. For this trip he got extra funds from Ad Usus Publicos. Again in 1843, he was travelling throughout Europe and he went on vacation with the royal family in 1844.


In 1845 The Improvisatore was published in English and in Russian. Hans Christian Andersen went on summer trips to visit Oehlenschläger and Ingemann. Later that year he went on yet another trip around Europe.

At earlier times, some of his works were published in English with his name, but, however, had also been published in a collection containing Just A Fiddler and O.T. without Andersen’s name on it.
In 1847, Hans Christian Andersen’s works were published in German and his first fairy tales published in French.


A few people among his contemporaries liked to portray him and publish biographies. P.L. Møller published in 1846 a biography on Andersen and Andersen himself published an autobiography also in 1846.


In 1851, Andersen participated in the festive celebrations welcoming home soldiers while his poem “Landsoldatens Hjemkomst” along with “Fædrelandske Vers og Sange under Krigen” was published.

The publications of these works, marks a change in his authorship. The first part is described as being full of fantasy, liveliness and dare, where he tries out many genres.

His publication of songs and stories about authentic things marks a change from fairy tales and novels to stories. He is still highly regarded for his novels but in the eyes of his contemporaries, he is now considered more versatile.


Leading up to 1862, Hans Christian Andersen travelled to Germany, Italy and Switzerland. He published his works in collections, had visits from the Norwegian poet Andreas Munch, his British publisher Richard Bentley and went himself to visit Charles Dickens.


In 1862 and 63, Hans Christian Andersen favoured spending his time in different societies, especially ladies’ societies including Dansk Samfund (The Danish Society). In 1863, Andersen met with Georg Brandes and Henrik Ibsen.


In 1871, Hans Christian Andersen moved into the house Rolighed with the family Melchior. Around 1872 Hans Christian Andersen fell ill and the Crown Prince Frederik paid him a visit. Though being severely ill, Andersen still travelled to Germany, Austria and Italy and again in 1873, to Germany and Switzerland.


On the 4th of August 1875 Andersen died after a long period of illness. He was buried from Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen on the 11th where one of his own songs was performed. He is now buried on Assistens Graveyard in a special grave ordered by Edvard Collin.