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A king wears a dressing gown and embroidered slippers; the Trolls have family problems and seem to be almost human, despite their being able to perform magic. His animals homely, familiar ones—no jungle beasts behave as we would expect animals to behave, according to their nature and habitat. They also have problems and human characteristics.


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The rats, for example, are bored by Humpty Dumpty and find it "a fearfully dull story," and they ask the Fir Tree if it did not know one about "pork and tallow candles. The mother duck in "The Ugly Duckling" has no personal knowledge of what lies beyond her own pond. Flowers and inanimate objects, too, have their own characteristic qualities. In "The Snow Queen" the flowers tell their stories: the flamboyant Tiger Lily is ferocious; the modest Daisy is sentimental; while the gentle Rose, Andersen's favorite flower, is content with her lot.

The Market Basket in "The Flying Trunk" believes, because of its knowledge of the outside world, that it should be master of the kitchen rather than the stay-at-home pots and pans. An over-anthropomorphic approach in literature can become somewhat tedious, but this is not the case with Andersen. He does not sentimentalize his creatures. For example, the stork of "The Ugly Duckling" is "on his long red legs chattering away in Egyptian, for he had learnt the language from his mother," who wintered there.

While humans, animals, and inanimate objects are subject to failings such as vanity and pride the needle of "The Darning Needle" [] was so refined that she fancied herself a superior sewing needle, and looked down on the inferior pin , Andersen does not burden his tales with moralistic strictures.

In his world there is not always a happy-ever-after ending, and wickedness is not always punished. The little mermaid, for instance, does not marry the prince whose life she has saved, and the hero of "Under the Willow Tree" dies a miserable failure. The Victorian reader must have found this overturning of moral expectations somewhat shocking but would have approved of the implied moral of "The Nightingale" Set in exotic China, a highly decorative mechanical nightingale is brought to court and enchants all from the emperor to the lackeys, "the most difficult to satisfy.

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The artificial bird breaks down, and when the dying emperor longs to hear its beautiful music, it cannot oblige. But on its return the real nightingale wrestles with death in an effort to save the emperor's life with her song. Of direct appeal to children is Andersen's delightful humor. Adults can appreciate the sly humor of the flea who "had of course gentle blood in his veins and was accustomed to mix only with mankind, and that does make such a difference. Andersen never lost his ability to penetrate a child's mind. Andersen did write other fiction, and his ambition was to excel as a novelist, but it is as a writer of enchanting tales that his fame is ensured, largely because both child and adult can identify with the characters.

The crows prefer security to freedom; the snails are much engaged in finding a suitable wife for their adopted son. What neurotic schoolgirl does not sympathize with the Ugly Duckling and hope that she, too, will grow into a beautiful swan? See the essay on " The Steadfast Tin Soldier.

The Danish author Hans Christian Andersen enjoyed fame in his own lifetime as a novelist, dramatist, and poet, but his fairy tales are his great contribution to world literature. His father was a shoemaker and his mother a washerwoman, and he was the first Danish author to emerge from the lowest class. At the age of 14, Andersen convinced his mother to let him try his luck in Copenhagen rather than be apprenticed to a tailor.

When she asked what he intended to do there, he replied, "I'II become famous!

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First you suffer cruelly, and then you become famous. For 3 years he lived in one of Copenhagen's disreputable districts. He tried to become a singer, dancer, and actor but failed. When he was 17, a prominent government official arranged a scholarship for Andersen in order to repair his spotty education.

But he was an indifferent student and was unable to study systematically. He never learned to spell or to write the elegant Danish of the period. Thus his literary style remained close to the spoken language and is still fresh and living today, unlike that of most of his contemporaries. After spending 7 years at school, mostly under the supervision of a neurotic rector who seems to have hated him, Andersen celebrated the passing of his university examinations in by writing his first prose narrative, an unrestrained satirical fantasy.

This, his first success, was quickly followed by a vaudeville and a collection of poems. Andersen's career as an author was begun, and his years of suffering were at an end. A lifelong bachelor, he was frequently in love with, among others, the singer Jenny Lind. He lived most of his life as a guest on the country estates of wealthy Danes. He made numerous journeys abroad, where he met and in many cases became friends with prominent Europeans, among them the English novelist Charles Dickens.

Andersen died on Aug. In Andersen completed his first novel, The Improvisatore, and published his first small volume of fairy tales, an event that went virtually unnoticed. The Improvisatore has a finely done Italian setting and, like most of Andersen's novels, was based on his own life. It was a success not only in Denmark but also in England and Germany.

The Man Everyone Loved

He wrote five more novels, all of them combining highly artificial plots with remarkably vivid descriptions of landscape and local customs. As a dramatist, Andersen failed almost absolutely. But many of his poems are still a part of living Danish literature, and his most enduring contributions, after the fairy tales, are his travel books and his autobiography. In vividness, spontaneity, and impressionistic insight into character and scene, the travel books of which A Poet's Bazaar is the masterpiece rival the tales, and the kernels of many of the tales are found there.

World fame came to Andersen early. In the publication of his collected works in German gave him the opportunity to write an autobiography published in both German and English in Andersen began his fairy-tale writing by retelling folk tales he had heard as a child.

Very soon, however, he began to create original stories, and the vast majority of his tales are original. The first volumes in contained 19 tales and were called Fairy Tales Told for Children. In the title changed to New Fairy Tales.

The four volumes appearing with this title contained 22 original tales and mark the great flowering of Andersen's genius. In the title was changed to Stories, and from then on the volumes were called New Fairy Tales and Stories. During the next years Andersen published a number of volumes of fairy tales, and his last works of this type appeared in At first Andersen dismissed his fairy-tale writing as a "bagatelle" and, encouraged by friends and prominent Danish critics, considered abandoning the genre.

But he later came to believe that the fairy tale would be the "universal poetry" of which so many romantic writers dreamed, the poetic form of the future, which would synthesize folk art and literature and encompass the tragic and the comic, the naive and the ironic. While the majority of Andersen's tales can be enjoyed by children, the best of them are written for adults as well and lend themselves to varying interpretations according to the sophistication of the reader.

To the Danes this is the most important aspect of the tales, but it is unfortunately not often conveyed by Andersen's translators. More insidious, though, are the existing translations that omit entirely Andersen's wit and neglect those stylistic devices that carry his multiplicity of meanings.

Andersen's collected tales form a rich fictive world, remarkably coherent and capable of many interpretations, as only the work of a great poet can be.


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His novels and travel books have all been translated but not in this century. Still one of the best sources of information about Andersen's life is his autobiography, The Fairy Tale of My Life, in a translation by W. Glyn Jones A good introduction to Andersen's method is Paul V.

Hans Christian Andersen is considered the father of the modern fairy tale. While a few authors before him such as Charles Perrault in France and the Grimm brothers in Germany collected folk tales deriving from oral lore, Andersen was the first to treat this peasant form as a literary genre.

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Many of his original tales, such as "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Snow Queen" entered the collective consciousness with the same mythic power as the ancient, anonymous ones. Andersen was born in in provincial Odense, Denmark , the son of an illiterate washerwoman and a poor shoemaker, who died when Andersen was eleven. An important influence during his childhood was his grandmother, who told him folk tales. At fourteen, Andersen went alone to Copenhagen to seek his fortune in the theater.

Patrons funded his study, between the ages of seventeen and twenty-two, at a grammar school, where his life was very much like that of the unhappy, over-large duckling of his story.

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At a time when children's books were mostly formal, instructive texts, intended to educate rather than entertain, the appearance of his Eventyr Fairy tales in marked a revolution in children's literature. The colloquial manner, the humor, the exuberant detail, and the fantastical imaginings in his stories all distinguished them from traditional folk tales, which are generally characterized by an anonymous tone and formulaic structure.

These tales were translated throughout Europe and in America they were translated into English in , making him one of the most famous writers of the nineteenth century. With his use of comedy and fantasy, Andersen determined the course of children's literature right through to the twenty-first century, and his influence as the world's first great fantasy storyteller is inestimable. He created speaking toys and animals, and he gave them colloquial, funny voices that children could instantly identify with.

Yet he suffused his domestic settings with the fatalism of legend and his own modern sense of the absurd, so that in stories such as "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," "The Fir Tree," and "The Top and the Ball" he became the artist of the idealized world of middle-class childhood. His appeal to a joint audience of parents and children set the standard for the double articulation that has marked all great children's books — as the British Daily News said of him in , "it is only a writer who can write for men that is fit to write for children.

Despite his fame, Andersen always remained an outsider: lonely, gauche, sexually uncertain, and socially uneasy. He travelled widely across Europe and had several unhappy, unfulfilled love affairs — with both men and women. His tales are, in fact, often veiled autobiographies: the gawky duckling, the restless fir tree, the poor match girl, the mermaid unable to speak her love; these are self-portraits whose honesty to experience reveals universal truths.

New York : Knopf. Hans Christian Andersen was the first Danish author to emerge from the lowest class. He enjoyed fame as a novelist, dramatist, and poet, but his fairy tales are his greatest contribution to world literature. His father was a shoemaker, and his mother earned money washing other people's clothes. His parents spoiled him and encouraged him to develop his imagination.

At the age of fourteen, Andersen convinced his mother to let him try his luck in Copenhagen, Denmark, rather than studying to become a tailor. When she asked what he planned to do in Copenhagen, he replied, "I'll become famous!