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Creator / Hans Christian Andersen

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Remember that bedtime story about the ugly duckling who became a swan? The image of a princess sleeping on a ton of mattresses... and a pea? The Fairy Tale about a mermaid who sold her voice to a sorceress to try to win the love of a human prince? Meet the Danish author of all the saddest and sweetest of the fairy tales we all grew up with, tales seen referenced in pop culture so frequently that many people have no idea they were written by the same author.

Born on April 2, 1805 (which is now "National Children's Book Day"), Hans Christian Andersen grew up to become to fairy tales what Shakespeare became to drama. His works range from the simple to the epic, are full of complex but meaningful symbolism, and span the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. They also are overtly Christian and these bits usually get taken out in adaptations.

Andersen was attracted to both men and women (admitting this in his writings), and had at least one same-sex relationship with the German Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar Eisenach, Carl Alexander, but this may not have been sexual (he asserted his celibacy too in early life). It's believed that his works about romantic incompatibility, such as "The Little Mermaid" and "Thumbelina", reflect his own short end in life. It's also noted that Andersen himself, his eccentric behavior and arrogance usually led to him getting kicked out by the various nobles who housed him.

He passed away in August 1875, having never married or had children.

Works by Hans Christian Andersen with their own pages include:

Andersen's other works provide examples of:

  • An Aesop: Often a Space Whale Aesop as in "The Rose Elf" (don't kill your sister's beloved, or the spirits that live inside the blossoms will murder you in your sleep).
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In his story "The Galoshes of Fortune", the eponymous shoes grant the wishes of whoever is wearing them. This usually ends badly, as the characters are unaware of their power.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • When companies adapt his works, most writers attempt to remove the Died Happily Ever After trope with varying results.
    • The early English translations did their best to remove anything deemed inappropriate for children, such as Family-Unfriendly Death and violence in general, less than moral behavior by protagonists, adultery, and any appearances by the Devil (who in some cases was replaced by "a most wicked magician"). This, in combination with the generally poor quality of the translations, which were often based on German translations rather than the original Danish text, gave Andersen a reputation as harmless childrens' entertainment and nothing more in the Anglosphere until a long time into the 20th century.
  • Break the Haughty: "The Wicked Prince" is about a wicked prince who tries to overthrow God after being told that it would be blasphemous to put statues of himself in churches. He suffers several humiliating defeats that end in him being driven mad and his own soldiers laughing at him.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: In "The Bishop of Børglum Cloister and His Kinsmen," the Bishop sends men to the shore whenever there's a shipwreck. Their job is to murder all the surviving sailors so the Bishop can claim the right of salvage.
  • Chariot Pulled by Cats: In his fairy tale "Ole-Luk-Oie", Hjalmar dreams that he rides in a boat pulled by swans.
  • Cranky Neighbor: A mild variety, mostly on the subject of Denmark and Norway. Mostly in "The Rags", where the two nationalities lash out towards each other, with an ironic twist. Also in "The Elf Mound", where the Norwegian Troll King is trying to get a bride from the more Danish fairy stock. She finds the Norwegian trolls rude.
  • Creator Breakdown: invoked Rumors abound that several of Andersen's works are a result of dealing with his own romantic and sexual issues. "The Nightingale" was allegedly a tribute to a singer known as "The Swedish Nightingale", Jenny Lind, who did not reciprocate Andersen's romantic feelings. "The Little Mermaid" was a similar case, of Andersen dealing with 'losing' a close friend (one he had feelings for) to marriage.
  • Deliverance from Damnation: In "The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf", the eponymous girl Inge is ultimately saved from Hell thanks to the prayers of a virtuous woman (the only one who has pitied Inge since childhood).
  • Delivery Stork:
    • In "The Storks" (1839), a family of storks raising their young on a farmhouse roof are repeatedly taunted by a group of children with a mean-spirited mocking song about storks. When the young storks are finally grown, they take revenge on the children by flying to "the pond where all the little human babies lie until the storks come to take them to their parents", and picking up a little baby sibling for every child who did not mock the storks, but none for the children who mocked them. The boy who told the other children to stop taunting the storks gets both a brother and a sister, and the boy who always started the song gets a dead baby for a brother.
    • A Justified Trope in "The Marsh-King's Daughter" (1858): A stork watches a princess being dragged into a bog lake by the Marsh King (a swamp creature similar to a nix). The stork keeps visiting the lake and eventually notices a water lily growing up from the lake; on the lily there forms a large bud which finally opens to reveal a human baby. Realizing that the baby is the daughter of the abducted princess and the Marsh King, the stork takes up the baby and delivers it to a childless family living nearby, by reaching through a window and laying it on the wife's chest while she is sleeping; the couple is happy to adopt the baby. The stork hangs a lampshade by musing that since people say he is bringing the babies, he might as well for once do it for real.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The protagonist of "The Flying Trunk" uses the titular magical luggage to pretend to be God and get himself engaged to a Turkish princess. In the last paragraph, the trunk is burned to ashes by the celebratory fireworks, so he never gets back into the castle, the princess waits hopelessly for his return for the rest of her life, and he spends the rest of his as a vagrant storyteller.
  • Died Happily Ever After: Dying horribly (which appears to be intended as happily) and going to Heaven seems to be Andersen's idea of the ultimate Happy Ending. Averted, however in "The Nightingale", which has a regular Happy Ending: the protagonist, thought to be already dead by everyone, survives after all.
  • Disobey This Message: The fairy in "The Garden of Paradise" tells the prince that she is bound to beckon to him and to say "Follow me". As she is a Forbidden Fruit, the prince needs to disobey that instruction.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • "The Storks". A young boy leads several other boys into singing a song that taunts a family of storks. As revenge, the storks refuse to bring any of the boys baby brothers or sisters...except for the boy who led the song. The storks bring him a dead baby brother.
    • "In the Duck Yard". An injured songbird is resting in a duck yard, where a proud and haughty Portuguese duck resides. The songbird makes the mistake of comparing the Portuguese to a cat, so the duck decapitates the songbird.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: In "Ole Lukoie/Lukoje", Death is a handsome, awe-inspiring horseman.
    "There," he said, "you can see my brother, the other Ole Lukoie. He is also called Death. You can see that he doesn't look nearly as bad as they make him out to be in the picture books, where he is only bones and knuckles. No, his coat is embroidered with silver. It is the magnificent uniform of a hussar, and a cloak of black velvet floats behind him and billows over his horse. See how he gallops along."
  • Engagement Challenge:
    • The princess in "The Traveling Companion" requires all her suitors to answer three impossible questions (the protagonist gets "What am I thinking about right now?"). The penalty for getting even one question wrong is death.
    • In "How to Cook Soup Upon a Sausage Pin," the mouse king declares that he'll marry whichever mouse can find the best recipe for making soup on a sausage pin.
    • The princess in "Blockhead Hans" declares that she'll marry the man whom she judges best in conversation. This turns out to be harder than it sounds; for many suitors, just being at the palace and in her presence is so overwhelming that their speech fails them.
    • In "The Ice Maiden," Babette's father will only let Rudy marry her if he can retrieve an eaglet from a nest high in the mountains that he'd previously declared unreachable.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Describes the story and relationship between the titular characters in "Big Claus and Little Claus". Both are greedy and unscrupulous, and bring about other people's deaths while scheming against each other.
  • The Fool: The farmer and his wife in "What Father Says is Always Right." The farmer makes a series of terrible barters, starting the day with a horse and ending up with a bag of rotten apples, and thinking he's getting the better end of each deal, but because his wife praises his reasoning instead of hitting him for being so stupid, they win a huge amount of gold and silver in a bet.
  • Forbidden Fruit: The fairy in "The Garden of Paradise". Should she be kissed, the garden will be ruined.
  • Gossip Evolution: "It's Perfectly True" shows how the true story evolves into so many different versions with every teller still insisting that it's perfectly true.
  • Happiness Realized Too Late: "The Fir Tree" features a young fir tree wishing that it could be as big as the other fir trees of the forest, or at the very least be cut down to make something as valuable as a ship's mast. However, when it finds that other small fir trees are being cut down for Christmas, the little tree thinks being ornamented and treasured throughout the happiest time of the year sounds even better, and rejoices when it becomes a family's Christmas tree... only to end up being discarded in the attic at the end of the festivities, where it remains until spring arrives, whereupon it's unceremoniously dragged outside, sneered at, cut to pieces and burned. In the end, all the tree can do is look back on its earlier days and wish that it had enjoyed them when it had the chance.
  • Hope Spot: Many tales come out as this. The small tale has a happy ending, but the big picture is always a different matter.
  • An Ice Person: The Snow Queen, for certain, and The Ice Maiden, who is not the Snow Queen, but an entirely different spirit.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Eliza in "The Wild Swans" is so sweet that she can turn cursed toads into beautiful red poppies.
  • Kick the Dog: Inge, "The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf", is first introduced as a child tormenting insects.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Little Claus is the protagonist of "Big Claus and Little Claus" because, despite the story's Evil Versus Evil nature, he at least has traces of humanity (e.g. mourning when his grandmother dies) and is less actively murderous than Big Claus (who straight-up murders his own grandmother for money, and is also a total idiot).
  • Lunarians: In "The Galoshes of Fortune", the titular galoshes grant the wishes of whoever is wearing them. A watchman wishes he could visit the Moon, so he does and sees the moon people, who believe that the Earth must be uninhabited, because it has a thick atmosphere.
  • Mouse World: "Thumbelina" features one, with the tiny protagonist having adventures among the small creatures of the forest.
  • Mutual Envy: In "The Galoshes of Fortune", the titular galoshes cause wishes to come true (although no one who wears them is aware of this property). A watchman puts them on and, looking up into a lieutenant's window, wishes he were the lieutenant. He enters the consciousness of the lieutenant — and the lieutenant, looking down enviously, wishes he were the watchman, which restores the watchman to himself.
  • Nameless Narrative: Many of his stories don't name the characters and merely refer to them by their titles, e.g. 'the mermaid' and 'the prince' in "The Little Mermaid."
  • Nature Is Not Nice: "A Drop of Water" is about a scientist who looks at a drop of water in a magnifying glass and is horrified to find it full of tiny Eldritch Abomination-like creatures tearing each other apart.
  • Pride: A common Fatal Flaw. Vain characters, or characters who refuse to humble themselves, often get humbled by circumstance.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: "The Wicked Prince", who full-on declares war on God.
  • Rags to Riches: "The Janitor's Son" follows a poor janitor's son as he becomes a skilled architect and eventually a royal councilor (although, as you'd expect with Andersen, the focus is on the boy's relationship with the general's daughter).
  • Revenant Zombie: In "The Traveling Companion," the companion himself is the dead man whom the protagonist had helped ensure would rest in peace. Once the debt is repaid, he dies again.
  • Riches to Rags: Marie Grubbe in "The Family of Hen-Grethe" is the daughter of a wealthy knight. She runs away from several rich but intolerable husbands; having no homes left, she becomes homeless, and eventually marries a poor man.
  • Rodent Cellmates: One of the mice who takes up the challenge in "How to Cook Soup Upon a Sausage Pin" befriends a human prisoner in the course of her quest, and stays with him so long that she forgets about the quest until he's taken away.
  • The Sandman: The fairytale "Ole Lukøje". "Luk-øje"is Danish for "Shut-eye", thus "Ole Lukøje" is the Danish name for Mr. Sandman.
  • Satan: Features in "The Philosopher's Stone", among other works. He is prominent when Andersen discusses truth vs untruth. Satan is clearly the "prince of lies", while God is the equivalent of truth.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: Present in many of his works. The most egregious example would be "Ole-Luk-Oie". Simplified, writing a "C" (and worse) in school will get you to Hell after death. Yes, a C.
  • Sinister Minister: Olaf Glob, title character of "The Bishop of Børglum Cloister and His Kinsmen," is solely interested in increasing his temporal power and material wealth. He's introduced having the survivors of a shipwreck murdered so he can claim the right of salvage, then gets the Pope to excommunicate a widowed noblewoman and seizes her husband's estate.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: As the writer of so many beloved fairy tales, his works fall right off the idealistic end of the scale. A couple of his stories, however (such as "The Shadow") turn out to be surprisingly cynical.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: The title character of "The Dung Beetle." He seems to have zero accomplishments under his belt, but spends the story looking down his nose at everyone and getting offended at not being treated like royalty.
  • Success Through Insanity: The very premise of "Blockhead Hans". Taking a dead crow, an old shoe, and a pocketful of mud to woo a princess makes him certifiably crazy... but while his more educated brothers fall at the first hurdle after meeting the princess, Hans actually pulls it off by virtue of his eccentricity letting him keep up with her verbal sparring.
  • Swan Boats: In the fairy tale "Ole-Luk-Oie", Hjalmar dreams that he rides in a boat pulled by swans.
  • Tautological Templar: The Portuguese duck in "In the Duck Yard" considers herself a loving mother figure to the songbird even after she literally murders him for an unintentional insult.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Several of his stories feature boys who fall in love with female friends who move away, usually ending with the boy never marrying:
    • Knud in "Under the Willow Tree." He eventually asks his old friend Johanna to marry him, but they've chosen incompatible career paths. The story ends with Johanna becoming engaged to someone else and Knud freezing to death as he tries to make his way home across Europe alone.
    • Ib from "Ib and Little Christina." Again, Christina moves away and falls in love with someone else. Ib accepts this, though he's privately depressed. He actually winds up the luckier of the two, and raises Christina's orphaned daughter.
    • Anton in "The Pepperman's Nightcap." When they meet again as adults, Molly simply tells him that she's not in love with him, but wants to remain friends. He's quite bitter about it at first, but his feelings mellow after he suffers real hardships and realizes she would've shared in them if she'd married him. He becomes a pepperman (local seller employed by a spice merchant) because he's single and always will be, which is literally a job requirement.
  • Victorious Childhood Friend:
    • George from "The Janitor's Son" is a rare example where Andersen does let the protagonist marry his childhood friend.
    • Played with in "The Family of Hen-Grethe": Marie does eventually marry Soren, but it's not a happy marriage. She sticks with him, though, because it's implied her previous husbands were even worse.
  • What's Up, King Dude?: In "The Princess and the Swineherd", a minor prince with designs on the imperial princess goes up to the emperor and says "Good morning, emperor. Can I have a job?"

Andersen has appeared as a Historical Domain Character in the following works: