The novel O.T. was published in 1836 and played out realistically in a Danish environment, in line with HC Andersen’s many travels around Denmark. The letters stand for Odense Tugthus (Odense Prison) where the main character, Otto Thostrup, was born.
"The novel depicts a friendship between Otto, who is brought up by his grandfather in western Jutland, and Vilhelm, who is of noble Funen ancestry. The Boys’ friendship will appear to be a depiction of two sides of the same person: an inner dialogue and a central theme: the gained opposite the given. The themes can be seen in the contents of the novels girls and Otto’s traumatic past, linked to his burn mark. At the same time, the novel is a broad description of the atmosphere and conditions of Denmark in the 1830s, a time when literature manifests itself in poetry and drama. Otto grows up with his strict grandfather on a farm in Jutland and ends up being completely on his own when his grandfather dies. Otto goes to Copenhagen to become a student and meetings here baron Vilhelm, who is from Funen and is of the bourgeoisie. The boys build a sincere and beautiful friendship despite the fact that they are opposites. While Otto is introverted and seemingly lonely, Vilhelm is an outgoing, free and easily accessible man who loves music and social contexts. Otto spends his holiday with Vilhelm on Funen and the boys quickly settle here. Particularly Otto feels at home at the manor house where the family circle is educated, spiritual and warm. Vilhelm’s mother and sisters cordially takes Otto in, and he secretly falls in love with the beautiful and vital sister, Sophie. His love remains unresolved, as Sophie gets engaged to someone else. Otto is terrorized throughout the novel by the unpleasant Heinrich, who he has known all his life. Heinrich knows the truth about Otto’s burn mark on his shoulder, O.T. Otto believes that the letters stand for his name’s initials, but must soon realize that he has a sister in his vicinity, and that they were born in Odense Prison. Otto is traumatized by the secret and finds it terrible that the terrifying pig girl, Sidsel, could be his sister. Eventually it will turn out that his sister is the lovely Eva, who crushed Vilhelms’s heart. Otto is a noble soul and succeeds among the bourgeoisie and he experiences true love, but despite that and the fact that he rubs his burn mark with a brick, he cannot set himself free from his social history."
O. T. was published for the first time April 21., 1836. (Pictured above is a paper clip by Hans Christian Andersen – Copyright Odense City Museums – Reproduced with permission.)