Thanks to his
fairy tales and stories, Hans Christian Andersen, 1805-75, is probably
the most widely read author in the world today, but even in his own time he was
read and known from Russia in the east to America in the west. His career from the
lowest stratum of society in his native town of Odense in Funen via his problematic
adaptation to the official and bourgeois circles in Copenhagen and further still
until he became a familiar guest in the country mansions of Denmark, the palaces
of kings and princes and the entire cultural stage of Europe provided him with material
for many of his works and for no fewer than three autobiographies, the final version
being Mit Livs Eventyr (1855, The Fairy Tale of My Life (with later supplements)).
Modern editions of his correspondence and diaries have produced an unusually comprehensive
insight into his life and his complex personality.
Andersen's fairy tales and stories (about 190 in all, written 1835-72) are addressed
to both adults and children and are stylistically and thematically deeply original.
In addition he wrote novels, travel accounts (he spent a large part of his life
travelling abroad), poems and works for the theatre (including libretti for operas
and ballad operas).
Although Andersen's work has its roots in Romanticism he is a modern spirit thanks
to his social experience, his psychological insight, his belief in progress and
industrial development. The special quality in his fairy tales is also precisely
the combination of poetry, fantasy tale and everyday reality.
Johan de Mylius