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Like in fairy tales

"My life is a pretty fairy tale, so rich and happy," wrote Hans Christian Andersen in his autobiography. The poor son of a shoemaker goes out into the world and becomes a celebrated writer. Enough reason for a festival in his native Odense with fairytale events.

"My life is a pretty fairy tale, so rich and happy", wrote Hans Christian Andersen in his autobiography, which he appropriately called "The fairy tale of my life". Indeed, the social rise of the Danish writer has fairytale traits: the poor son of a shoemaker from the Danish provinces goes out into the world and becomes a celebrated Auror.

Adventure playground

From August 18-25, 2019, one of Denmark's largest cultural events will transform the city of Odense on the Baltic island of Fyn into an adventure playground. The Hans Christian Andersen Festival takes visitors into the world of the great Danish poet with around 500 events, shows, concerts, dance and theater performances as well as comedy and street performances. The program of the annual festival in Hans Christian Andersen's birthplace is designed for all age groups and for the most part free of charge. This year the motto of the festival is “Anything is possible”.

Everything is possible

Overcoming boundaries, leaving the well-trodden paths, seeing the magic of things, feeling the power of language and looking for community: These values ​​run like a red thread through the life and work of Hans Christian Andersen and therefore also form the basis for the festival program his honor. Whether fairytale concerts by Danish stars like Mads Langer, Rasmus Walter, Nicklas Sahl and Alexander Oscar, light shows in the city's parks, street art with magical mythical creatures or storytellers breaking through thought patterns - the influence of Hans Christian Andersen is reflected in all items on the program.


Odense is Denmark's third largest city with just under 180,000 inhabitants. With its numerous Hans Christian Andersen attractions, it breathes the spirit of history, is at the same time young and modern with a new harbor bath, street food market and hip gourmet restaurants - a city in upheaval. A new Hans Christian Andersen Museum will be built in Odense on around 5,600 square meters by 2021, embedded in a large “magical” garden.

The life of Hans Christian Andersen

“The little girl was now walking on her bare, delicate feet, which were all red and blue from the cold. In her old apron she carried a lot of sulfurwood and she was holding a bundle in one hand. During the whole day no one had bought anything from her, no one had given alms. "

He knows the poverty and deprivation that Hans Christian Andersen describes in “The Little Girl with the Sulfur Woods” from his own experience: his father is a poor shoemaker, his mother a laundress who later dies in the poor house, his aunt runs a brothel - the circumstances into which Andersen was born on April 2, 1805 in Odense do not give rise to hope for a dazzling career.

The poor circumstances of his childhood provide Andersen later motifs for many of his fairy tales and the often poor outcome of his stories. First, however, they kindle the boy’s desire to escape poverty and pursue a career.

He is magically drawn to books, and even more so by the world of theater. Because Odense on the Danish island of Funen was still small at the time, but it still has a theater.

At the age of 14, Andersen made a momentous decision: he turned his back on his hometown and went to Copenhagen. There he wants to make a name for himself at the Royal Theater as a singer, dancer and actor.

The Emperor's New Clothes

“But what did it see in the clear water? It saw its own image below, which was no longer a clumsy black-gray bird, ugly and nasty, but a swan itself. It doesn't do any harm to be born in a duck yard if you've only been lying in a swan's egg! ”(From“ The ugly young duckling ”).

Andersen's attempts to make a career in the theater initially fail. But he finds a patron in the high-ranking official Jonas Collin, who becomes a kind of second father for Andersen and with whose family he remains connected throughout his life. Andersen attends Latin school, receives private tuition and studies. He started to write when he was still at school. He celebrated his first success with the poem "The dying child". By 1835 he made a name for himself in Europe with poems, plays, two novels and his first “Fairy Tales, Told for Children”. Only his compatriots initially refuse him recognition: his fairy tales are described by critics as "harmful" and "irresponsible".

Only years later did the Danes recognize Andersen's works. It is especially the fairy tales that establish his world fame. They make him a celebrated artist who is awarded the highest order in the country by the Danish king.

When Andersen died of liver cancer on August 4, 1875 in Copenhagen, he wrote a total of 160 fairy tales. Almost all over the world, children grow up with Andersen's fairy tales to this day. They have been translated into over 120 languages.

Fairy tales like "The Princess and the Pea", "The Emperor's New Clothes" or "Thumbelina" have become common property in Europe. Andersen biographer Jens Andersen explained the success of his namesake as follows: “One level of fairy tales is intended for children, and a second, perhaps more demanding, level for their fathers and mothers. He wanted to tell stories for both of them. ”There is also a third level: It is aimed at the child in us.