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.