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Last Updated: Thursday March 31 2005 13:42 GMT

Hans Christian Andersen

HRH Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark in front of a portrait of Hans Christian Andersen (Picture credit: AFP/Getty)
HRH Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark in front of a portrait of Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark on April 2, 1805.

He suffered from cramp attacks, which doctors wrongly diagnosed as epileptic fits.

His father, a shoemaker, used to read him a story every day at 2pm.

His mother was a washerwoman for rich people in large homes. Many of his stories are about the difference between the poor and the wealthy.

Hans' father died when he was 11 years old and he was forced to go to work.

He became a trainee weaver and tailor for a short time and he also worked at a tobacco factory.

Run-away

When was 14, he ran away to Denmark's capital Copenhagen, where he worked as an artist, dancer, actor and singer.

But he did not make much money at first, and almost died of hunger.

When he was 17, a director of the Royal Theatre gave him enough money to go back to school. He often felt out of place in a classroom with children who were six years younger than him.

His education earned him a place at Copenhagen University, where he began his writing.

A gosling
Ugly Duckling

Hans Christian Andersen always thought he was ugly. He was tall and skinny with a big nose. Many of his stories are about people or creatures, like the Ugly Duckling, who are made fun of but have an inner beauty.

Andersen is believed to have been in love with Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, who never returned his affection.

She was known as the Swedish Nightingale, and it is thought he wrote his tale The Nightingale with her in mind.

Andersen died at the age of 70, at his home, on August 4, 1875.

What did he write?

Andersen was first known as a poet before he became the famous fairy tale author.

His first book of fairy tales was published in 1835. From then on, he wrote almost one book a year for another 37 years.

In his lifetime, he wrote hundreds of fairy tales and his stories have been translated into over 100 languages.

Among some of his most famous tales are:

  • The Emperor's New Clothes
  • The Little Mermaid
  • The Ugly Duckling
  • The Little Match Girl
  • The Red Shoes
  • The Tinder-Box
  • Thumbelina
  • The Fir-Tree
  • The Snow Queen
Several of his fairy tales have been made into films.

The Philosopher's Stone

He also wrote a tale called The Philosopher's Stone, 138 years before JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was published.

It is about the wisest man in the world whose four sons set out to find the philosopher's stone. But it is his blind daughter who discovers that the key to life is to believe.

Andersen also wrote plays, novels and sketches about his travels. He travelled throughout Europe, and during one of his journeys he met author Charles Dickens.

He also wrote his memoirs, The Fairy Tale of My Life.

The Hans Christian Andersen Award

One of the highest prizes in children's literature is the Hans Christian Andersen Award. It is given to one author and one illustrator every two years.

Visitors to the Hans Christian Andersen museum in Odense, Denmark look at illustrations of stories by the author (Picture credit: AFP/Getty)
Visitors to the Hans Christian Andersen museum in Odense, Denmark look at illustrations of stories by the author
Danish celebrations

People in Denmark celebrate Hans Christian Andersen's birthday with a party called Odin Story Day.

His home in Odense is now a museum, and thousand of people visit it every year.



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