Saturday, May 9, 2015

Bicentenary of the Birth of Hans Christian Andersen 14.12.2005

This lovely stamp of R$0.55 was issued by Brazil on 14.12.2005 to commemorate the Bicentenary of the Birth of Hans Christian Anderson.

Born in Denmark in 1805, Hans Christian Andersen is remembered for his fairy tales: “The Ugly Duckling,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Princess and the Pea,” and some 150 others. This year, Denmark will celebrate their native son in a series of festivals, exhibits, symphonies, and theatricals. These events will be coordinated with others taking place around the globe in a “Worldwide Celebration of Andersen’s Bicentenary”.
  If the truth be known, Andersen was not at all like the cheerful children’s author played by Danny Kaye in the film about him. Instead, Andersen makes Denmark’s other melancholy celebrities – Hamlet (“that moody Dane”) and Søren Kierkegaard (the philosopher of anxiety) – look like slackers. His biography suggests reasons: his idealistic father was often away fighting for his hero Napoleon and died when the boy was eleven, his mother (fifteen years her husband’s senior) seems to have lead a racy life, and his dotty grandmother (a resident of a mental asylum) encouraged his love of fairy tales by telling him queer folk stories.
 Besides acute poverty, Andersen also suffered because he was tall, awkward, and – to be as kind as possible but as photos attest – striking in his homeliness. Indeed, when he finally found a patron to pay for his education, this lanky 17-year-old was mercilessly tortured at school by children five years younger than him – in other words, treated as badly as the Ugly Duckling is.
Of course, the Ugly Duckling turned into a beautiful swan and became universally loved. While this is ostensibly Andersen’s own story, more to the point is his theme of the Revenge of the Rejected. In the tale “The Swineherd,” for example, a prince masquerades as a peasant in order to turn the tables on a princess who refused his offer of marriage: in the end, he reveals he is a prince, rebuffs her, and strolls away in smug satisfaction. Here is both a picture of Andersen’s unlucky love life and his fantasy comeuppances.
His first love, Riborg Voigt, was the girl-next-door and declined his proposal, eventually marrying another; when he died, around Andersen’s neck was found a pouch he wore all his life and that contained a letter from her. His next courtship was more impossible; the most beautiful woman in Europe at the time, the opera singer Jenny Lind, indicated she wanted to be “just friends” with her lovestruck but homely swain.
Andersen was drawn to suffering. His most representative tale may be “The Little Match-Girl” which tells of an abused child who freezes to death in the streets, still clutching the matches she means to sell, while the good burghers of the town are toasty indoors eating their New Year’s dinners. But again, the story ends with a comeuppance: God shames the well-to-do by taking up the poor little matchgirl and admitting her to heaven.
Andersen’s stories are especially appealing to the young when they fancy themselves a Cinderella: mistreated and under-appreciated, dreaming of belated recognition and fantasy revenge. His life and his tales might be summarized under this reassuring headline: “Geek Does Good.”

Thank you Dear Merja for this lovely FDC.

1 comment:

  1. "As the New Year is fresh in mind, the dominant question in mind of everyone is, “How will you make 2015 a great year?”

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