Biographical Sketch of Hans Christian Andersen


Every man's life is a Fairy Tale written by God's finger.

Life is a leaf of paper white,
Whereon each one of us may write
His word or two, and then comes night.
Though thou have time
But for a line, be that sublime;
Not failure, but low aim, is crime.


    It has long passed into a proverb that the world knows but little of its worthiest men. Men who have done little more than make a loud noise in their time, have had thier names borne upon the wings of fame to every nation under heaven, while others, who have done the world's best work quietly and without osentation, have lived unknown to fame, and have been forgotten before the grass has had time to grow upon their graves.
    Few men of this century have done more worthy work in the realm of literature than Hans Christian Andersen, and yet the busy world has hardly a moment to spare to think of the great legacy he has left, especially for the children of all coming years. The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen has contributed Fairy Tales enough to satisfy the world for a thousand years. What Æsop was and is to the literature of fables, Grimm and Andersen are and will be to the literature of bright fairy dreams. One of Andersen's favorite sayings -- a saying that was the key note of his whole life -- was this:
    "Every man's life is a fairy tale written by God's fingers."
Under the inspiration of this thought he has created a mystic population, almost as real as the creatures of flesh and blood who walk side by side with us along the pilgrim path of life. And because Hans Christian Andersen devoted the best energies of his life to those toils that will enrich the childhood, of all coming time, we count him worthy of a place among the world's noblest benefactors. He who provides honey to make sweet and glad the lives of the millions of the children who are yet to be, is a worker whose name should be held in long and grateful remembrance.
    This distinguished poet and writer of fairy tales was born in Odense in Furren, Denmark, on the 2nd of April, 1805. He was the son of a poor shoemaker, who died too soon to rejoice in the fame of his gifted son. Young Hans was adopted by a widow named Bunkeflod, whose husband had been regarded as one of the best of the few poets of Denmark. The shoemaker's son was soon known as the "Comedy Writer," a distinction of which he was always proud. He was very early fascinated by the stage, as we can well understand. The atmosphere of the stage was as the very breath of life to his mystic, dreamy genius. With the hope of obtaining an engagement in connection with the drama he went to Copenhagen; but what was his sorrow and disappointment to find that his terrible leanness led the managers of the theatre to reject his proffered services. He was too lean to play the ghost in "Hamlet." He next thought of turning his attention to singing, but, just when there seemed to be reasonable hope that he might succeed in this chosen path, his voice utterly failed him, and he was compelled to give up this hope. Through the intercession of his many friends with the King of Denmark, young Andersen was placed at one of the most advanced Academic institutions of his native country free of cost. This was in the year 1828, when he was about twenty-three years of age. In two years after he published his first book of poems. The next year, 1831, he published another volume entitled "Fantasies and Sketches." From this time onward he wielded a most fertile pen. His books became almost "legion." "Traveling Sketches," "Agnes and the Merman," "The Improvisatore," "Only a Fiddler," "The Mulatto," "Raphaella," "Picture-Book Without Pictures," "A Poet's Bazaar," "Tales from the Jutland," "The Sandhills of Jutland," "Tales for Children," "The Wild Swans," "The Ice Maiden," "New Tales and Adventures," are the names of his works that almost make a library in themselves. But Hans Christian Andersen will be most known and remembered by his tales and stories for the young.
Hans Christian Andersen
    On his Seventieth birthday he was presented with a handsomely bound volume containing one of his tales in fifteen languages. On the same day the King of Denmark presented the venerable author with the grand cross of the Dannebrog Order. One of the last works of his life was the writing of his own biography, under the title, "The Story of My Life," the 500 pages of which are full to the brim with interesting records of is remarkable life. In the very first paragraph of his autobiography, we have suggested the ruling spirit of his busy life. He says: "My life is a lovely story, happy and full of incident. If, when I was a boyo, and went forth into the world poor and friendless, a good fairy had met me and said, 'Choose now thine own course through life, and the object for which thou wilt strive, and then, according to the development of thy mind, and as reason requires, I will guide and defend thee to its attainment, my fate could not have been directed more happily, more prudently, or better. The history of my life will say to the world what it says to me: THERE IS A LOVING GOD WHO DIRECTS ALL THINGS FOR THE BEST."
    Midway in this volume we are introduced to the renowned Jenny Lind, whose influence on Andersen was very remarkable. Speaking of the way in which she elevated his conceptions of art, he says: "Through Jenny Lind I first became sensible of the holiness there is in art; through her I learned that one must forget one's self in the service of the Supreme. No books, no men have had a better or more enobling influence on me as poet than Jenny Lind, and I therefore have spoken of her so long and so warmly here."
    Andersen's love of flowers was remarkable. It was the poet's passionate love of the beautiful. It was his delight to surround himself constantly with flowers. And when he drew near to the end of life, he would have fresh flowers every day beside his bed. No man was ever more thoroughly appreciative of God's manifold gifts of beauty to men.
    In 1872 began the sickness which finally led this gentle spirit through the gates of death to the larger life beyond. During his sickness he was visited often by the King of Denmark and much oftener by the Crown Prince. He died on the 4th of August, 1875. The sunset hours of his life were as calm and peaceful as his life had been always busy, but always serene.
    We cannot forbear quoting here a poem in honor of this great master of fairy-lore written by his distinguished fellow countryman, Bjornstjerne Bjornson.



"Our sky is not so free,
A child is on the sea,
Nor have our woods the palm-tree' sway
As in the south, men say,
But the northern lights flash over the sky,
The woods whisper fairy tales airily
And the sea doth bound
As lingering sound
Of our father's song of victory.

"A traveler from that wonderland,
Thou bringest tidings in thy hand
Of winter's dreams by northern lights,
The pranks of the woods in their fancy flights;
Aye, of a place so far away
That folks and beasts together play,
And the veriest flower
Will talk by the hour
So plain that a child its meaning can say.

"Where heaven itself in holy love
Bends as a Christmas-tree above
And all goes on before God's face;
Tidings thou bearest from that place,
And comest to sirocco-laden Rome,
Breathing of beech and birch from home
With melody
And witchery
From the north land's Faerie."

Hans Christian Andersen

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The Stories on this site were compiled from the following historical publications and others.

Hans Christian Andersen
Andersen's Fairy Tales
Chicago - New York - San Francisco
Belford, Clarke & Co.

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen's
for the
Copyrighted 1893, McLoughlin Bros.

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
Camden Press
Dalziel Bros. Engravers and Printers Copyright Unknown, est. 1870

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
E.P. Dutton and Co.
© 1906-1907

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
The Century Company,
The DeVinne Press
Copyright 1900