This article discusses Hans Christian Andersen, the master storyteller, and a brief summary of the first fourteen years of his life. The Danish and prolific paper-cutting artist, novelist, singer, playwright, fairy tale writer, and poet was born on April 2, 1805 in Denmark on the island Funen at Odense among a scenery of beech trees and clover fields. His father was a shoemaker and his mother a housewife, whose devout love for him went across the European isles.
He grew up in a humble house with only the bare essentials needed to survive. But among those essentials were books of songs and fables. To credit the trigger of his imaginary inventions, and rather the awe striking events that appear in his stories, his real life situation, circumstances, and surroundings must be brought to light, as he himself declared that they played an integral part in the development and creation of his fairy tales. For instance, the garden in The Snow Queen, published in 1845, was inspired by his mother’s garden.
Generally, he was always surrounded by the sad, historical accounts of his relatives, though he didn’t let it detriment his spirit. His mother was once a beggar. His father, a dissatisfied shoemaker, polisher, and carpenter. The grandmother on his father’s side was a gardener of simple trades, who resented running away from her family and home to the arms of a “comedy-player,” or so how she recalled him.
Hans Christian Andersen was a loner of sorts. He preferred playing indoors with the toys his father had carpentered, and making clothes for his dolls. His mother believed he would become a tailor, though Hans Christian Anderson would rather go to the theater and play roles like the actors.
People were often kind around him, and he was both brave and cautious about his actions. Not reckless. Not entirely brave. Curious, darer, surely, yes. Superstitious, too. A lad with a good sense of humor, most certainly.
After his father’s passing, Hans Christian Andersen became more interested in poetry and plays, and soon he found that he was reading Shakespeare and acting out Hamlet in his puppet theatre. To his great delight, he was enjoying something of his taste. He was so inspired by Shakespeare that his first play was a tragedy, of course. He entitled this piece “Abor and Elvira.” His voice in equal measure, from the sound to the page, brought about the attention of familial audiences in Odense. Such virtue, as one may label it, gave him the remarkable chance of meeting with Prince Christian through Colonel Høegh-Guldberg, the statesman who partook interest in the youngster. Shortly after the meeting, Hans was sent to a charity school where he was to study writing, religion, and arithmetic; however, so badly did he learn such subjects that he could scarcely spell a word properly or solve arithmetic calculations. Against the poor system of his education, he continued to write poetry, but whether it was grammatically sound is still questionable today.
Even though the beginning of his life was somewhat filled with encouraging messages, as he reached his teenage years, more and more perceived negative messages came in, warning him of the benefits of a so-called “rational” career. His mother believed he should be a tailor. People scolded him. Children ridiculed him in the streets, and it was not seldom that he would be behind closed doors, weeping in tears.
The parish he belonged to segregated him from the children he aspired to be close to, the fortunate ones who could afford going to grammar school, as he valued books and the power they could instill in anyone. As far as his relations went . . . as a young boy he was fond of girls, but especially fond of a young girl who gave him a rose. He was so cheerful of the gift that he was overjoyed! At the age of fourteen, he received permission from his mother to go to Copenhagen. He pestered her so much that no choice was she left with but to comply with his request. Such was the trip that demonstrated his initiative at learning the ways of a great man. As he once said, a great man comes from grave calamities, and he was surely right in that he arose from under them and won his well-deserved success, a product of hard-earned work.
Andersen, Hans Christian. The True Story of My Life: A Sketch. London: Spottiswoode and Shaw, New-street-Square, 1847. Print.