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Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Anderson was born April 2, 1805 in Odense, Denmark, the son of a shoemaker and washerwoman. Poor in circumstances, Hans had a wealth of words and imagination that would take him beyond the world he was born to. He also had understanding parents who encouraged his love of reading and the theatre, even though they could not give him much more than that. Mocked for his gangly tallness and his strange fits of cramps that many thought were epileptic seizures, Hans found solace in the world of his imagination. Not suited for most of the vocations available, at the age of 14, Hans left for Copenhagen with visions of becoming a great stage singer and actor. But as fate would have it, he was less an entertainer of stage than he was a storyteller and soon began to write tales, some of them reworked versions of traditional stories. As his confidence grew, however, he began to fashion original stories.

Even without a proper education (with the help of influential friends, he did go back to school at 17, but was miserable and mocked among his 12-year-old peers), Hans discovered he was a worthy wordsmith. And in his worlds of creation, he had the power to overcome those handicaps he felt in reality. Those who slighted him were featured characters in his charming tales of morality, where the maligners became fools and the maligned were beautiful swans ready to burst forth. In his tales, a young woman who broke his heart became the foolish prince in "The Little Mermaid." His fatherís belief that they were descended from royalty and Hansí own insecurity about his looks would be assuaged in "The Ugly Duckling."

Originally written in Dutch, Hansí stories were first translated into English in 1846. By the time of his death in 1875, Hans was known throughout the English-speaking world as the charming storyteller whose stories spoke to the human heart. His tales still live on, re-interpreted by time and Disney movies. Some of us grew up with them: "The Little Mermaid", "The Emperor's New Clothes," "Princess and the Pea," "The Snow Queen," and "The Nightingale" just to name a few of his most familiar works. There are yet many more.

Here is one I grew up with. Read The Wild Swans.

More of his stories are featured at Fairytales Collection.

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