Hans Christian Andersen, referred to using the initials H. C. Andersen in Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia; was a Danish author, fairy tale writer, and poet noted for his children's stories. These include "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," "The Snow Queen," "The Little Mermaid," "Thumbelina," "The Little Match Girl," and "The Ugly Duckling."

During his lifetime he was acclaimed for having delighted children worldwide, and was feted by royalty. His poetry and stories have been translated into more than 150 languages. They have inspired motion pictures, plays, ballets, and animated films.

Early life

Hans Christian Andersen was born in the town of Odense, Denmark, on Tuesday, April 2, 1805. He was an only child. "Hans", "Christian" and "Andersen" were (and are) traditional and common Danish names.

Andersen's father, also Hans, considered himself related to nobility. His paternal grandmother had told his father that their family had in the past belonged to a higher social class, but investigations prove these stories unfounded. The family apparently was affiliated with Danish royalty, but through employment or trade. Today, speculation persists that Andersen may have been an illegitimate son of the royal family. In any case, King Frederick VI took a personal interest in him as a youth and paid for a part of his education. According to writer Rolf Dorset, Andersen's ancestry remains indeterminate. Hans Christian was forced to support himself. He worked as a weaver's apprentice and, later, for a tailor. At 14, he moved to Copenhagen to seek employment as an actor. Having an excellent soprano voice, he was accepted into the Royal Danish Theatre, but his voice soon changed. A colleague at the theatre told him that he considered Andersen a poet. Taking the suggestion seriously, he began to focus on writing.

Jonas Collin, who, following a chance encounter with Andersen, immediately felt a great affection for him, sent him to a grammar school in Slagelse, covering all his expenses. Andersen had already published his first story, The Ghost at Palnatoke's Grave, in 1822. Though not a keen student, he also attended school at Elsinore until 1827.

He later said his years in school were the darkest and most bitter of his life. At one school, he lived at his schoolmaster's home. There he was abused in order "to improve his character", he was told. He later said the faculty had discouraged him from writing in general, causing him to enter a state of depression.

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