THE RELEVANT QUEER: Author of the World’s Most Widely Translated Fairy Tales, Including “The Little Mermaid”, Hans Christian Andersen, Born April 2, 1805

Hans Christian Andersen, July 1860, Ph: Franz Hanfstaengl

“Enjoy life. There’s plenty of time to be dead.”

TRQ: Hans Christian Andersen, Born April 2, 1805

Author of the world’s most widely translated fairy tales, including “The Little Mermaid” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Hans Christian Andersen was born In Odense, Denmark. Born to poor parents, Andersen had an unwavering passion for storytelling that often tells of the plight of the underdog. Due in part to financial support from King Frederick, Andersen attended the University of Copenhagen in 1928. 

Though he wrote several plays and autobiographical novels, Andersen is best known for his fairy tales, which have found audiences in children and adults alike. Often told from the perspective of children, Andersen’s stories include themes of optimism and pessimism more comprehensible to adults. He combined elements of folk traditions with those of spoken language, rather than literary traditions, which was considered innovative at the time. 

Anderson kept diaries, journals and letters, which allow us a glimpse of his life and thoughts. A true romantic, he showered affection on men and women who were often out of his reach. Andersen fell in love with singer Jenny Lind and the dancer Harald Scharff, who whom Andersen wrote “I long for him daily.” 

Rejection by Edvard Collin, to whom Andersen mailed over 500 letters, sent him into a depression during which he wrote “The Little Mermaid.” In the original telling, the mermaid sacrifices herself so that her prince may love another. 

Andersen’s most successful relationship was with the Grand Duke Carl Alexander, who himself had recently married. Andersen wrote, “I quite love the young duke, he is the first of all princes that I really find attractive, and that I wish was not a prince or that I was one myself.” 

Both were known for being emotional to a theatrical extent, and they would often sit holding hands and exchange love letters. In one passage, Andersen writes of a visit to the Duke when “The Hereditary Grand Duke walked arm in arm with me across the courtyard of the castle to my room, kissed me lovingly, asked me always to love him though he was just an ordinary person… I fell asleep with the melancholy, happy feeling that I was the guest of this strange prince at his castle and loved by him… It is like a fairy tale.” 

Andersen also recounts a time in the Duke’s bedroom, when he “… went to see the Hereditary Grand duke at eight o’clock in the morning, he received me in his shirt with only a gown around himself; ‘I can do that, we know each other.’ He pressed me to his breast, we kissed each other. ‘Think of this hour,’ he said, ‘as being yesterday. We are friends for life.’ We both wept.” 

Andersen was internationally revered, and paid a stipend by the Danish Government, who considered him to be a national treasure. Andersen was friends with novelist Charles Dickens, whom he visited in England twice, and his stories became English-language classics that would later influence writers like Beatrix Potter. 

Eighty years after his death, the first Hans Christian Andersen Award was established in 1956 by the International Board on Books for Young People to recognise those authors of children’s books worthy of highest distinction in their contribution to literature. Following in 1966, the Illustrator’s Award was established. In 2010, the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award was established by the Danish to recognise contributions to children’s literature. 





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