Hans Christian Andersen Bicentenary


A few days ago I received a lovely letter from a good friend in Denmark. She mentioned that the whole country is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen, as are many countries around the world. She wondered if we might have anything happening here. I hadn’t noticed anything, though admittedly I’ve been half asleep the last three weeks, until yesterday’s edition of the “Vancouver Sun” newspaper where on page C4 is an article by David Montgomery entitled “The ugly duckling’s happy ever after.” Unfortunately it’s available online to subscribers only.

Anyway this sent me searching and finding lots of interesting sites, including a dedicated Hans Christian Andersen 2005 website. Many of the first celebrations happened early April, which I would have loved to have seen, but it looks like much is going on throughout the year in many places around the world, including China, Japan and Singapore.

H.C. Andersen wrote novels, poetry, travelogues and plays but achieved his greatest success with his fairy tales. He was also an artist, doing drawings of his travels, and imaginative papercuts, collages and picturebooks.

I agree with David Montgomery that Andersen’s fairy tales have been told and retold and adapted and appropriated. Later generations feel such proprietorship that they take liberties with the work. I’ve always been annoyed by Disney Studios and many children’s book publishers taking and changing stories by Andersen (and many other authors), often without any acknowledgment of the original. All because the poor cobbler’s son somehow managed to unlock the shared human storehouse of image, action, moral and meaning, and weave them into captivating tales that spoke universally. His fairy tales were not just for kids. He grew into a literary swan. Many of his stories have become part of our daily language, like about politicians/leaders and the “emperor’s new clothes”.

Happy 200th Birthday, Hans Christian Andersen – you live on in your beloved stories!

More links:
– Interesting notes on official illustrations as well as some papercuts done by Andersen himself, one of which was used in the stamp above.

April 17, 2005 in Books, Other artists by Marja-Leena