Monday, December 24, 2012

Hans Christian Andersen

It's Monday, Monday and today we're talking about Hans Christian Andersen.  He wrote The Little Match Girl (the book we're reviewing Friday) along with more than a few fairy tales.

This is Mr. Andersen.  And those spots are on the
picture, not your computer screen.

Andersen was born in 1805 to a relatively poor family.  However, his father was an elementary school teacher and taught Andersen how to read.  All through his younger years, Andersen actually got lucky in terms of his education.  He ran into benefactors that paid for his education.  It was not all good for him, however, as he was much abused by his schoolmaster as a child and greatly discouraged from writing, despite having a predisposition for it.

A lot of Andersen's early career actually had nothing to do with fairly tales.  He wrote a few short stories and a lot of poetry.  Poetry was actually what he was best at.  However, the book that really made him famous was actually his autobiography of all things.

When he finally started writing and publishing novels, they were very unpopular.  Some of them were just repeats of stories he had heard, but later in his career, they were original stories.  However, they were not the fairy tales we know today.  Most of Andersen's fairy tales have very dark themes.  For instance, The Little Mermaid was about a mermaid that went to shore because she loved a prince.  But she couldn't talk because her tongue was cut out and couldn't walk because, if she did, it felt as if she were walking on needles.  In the end, she doesn't even get her prince, he falls for another, and she dies.  The "happy" ending of the story is that she's turned into sea foam and is saved by the spirits of the sky, who sentence her to good deeds for 300 years, entirely dependent on good children. It's a lot like how the original Grimm tales were not the happy, Disney-fied versions we know and love today. They did the same thing with Anderson's work.

Despite the depressing nature of his tales, the third and fourth volumes were intended for children.  In fact, it was the volume for children that made him so widely known.

In his personal life, Andersen had a long series of unrequited love, whether that be for women or men.  Andersen did have many sexual feelings towards men, but his first love was a woman by the name of Riborg Voigt, whom there were letters to even at his death in 1875. (I vote that we get Riborg to be a more popular baby name than Bella in 2013. Who's with me?)

To this day, we read his works.  Stories such as The Emperor's New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea and The Ugly Duckling.  Today they are made into new stories, TV shows and, as in the case of The Little Mermaid, movies (though the Disney Version varies incredibly from the original to make it "kid friendly.")

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