Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller

Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller

by Jackie Wullschlager
     
 

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Beloved by generations of children and adults around the world for tales such as "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Emperor's New Clothes," Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) revolutionized children's literature. Although others before him had collected and retold folk stories and fairy tales, Andersen was the first to create the stories himself, instilling a previously

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Overview

Beloved by generations of children and adults around the world for tales such as "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Emperor's New Clothes," Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) revolutionized children's literature. Although others before him had collected and retold folk stories and fairy tales, Andersen was the first to create the stories himself, instilling a previously stilted genre with new humor, wisdom, and pathos.

Drawing on letters, diaries, and other original sources (many never before translated from the Danish), Wullschlager shows in this compelling, extensively researched biography how Andersen's writings—darker and more diverse than previously recognized—reflected the complexities of his life, a far cry from the "happily ever after" of a fairy tale. As we follow in his footsteps from Golden Age Copenhagen to the princely courts of Germany and the villas of southern Italy, Andersen becomes a figure every bit as fascinating as a character from one of his stories—a gawky, self-pitying, and desperate man, but also one of the most gifted storytellers the world has ever known.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Andersen (1805-1875) and his work receive perceptive and uncondescending treatment from Financial Times arts critic Wullschlager (Inventing Wonderland). In his autobiographies (and autobiographical novels), Andersen portrayed his life as a Danish Horatio Alger story, "the poor shoemaker and washerwoman's son" who rose to international prominence through a talent for storytelling. While that summary is accurate enough in itself, that talent for storytelling led him to embellish some details, such as family stories about aristocratic connections, while obscuring others, particularly his unrequited attachments to the Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind and a series of stern and serious Copenhagen gentlemen. Gauche and gawky, self-absorbed and self-pitying, Andersen nonetheless had his own personal charm and could hold audiences spellbound at his readings. As one of the first Danish writers with an international reputation, he parlayed his fame into visits with assorted German princes and the likes of Franz Liszt and Charles Dickens. Wullschlager gives a colorful travelogue of his restless journeys in Italy, France and England and contrasts them with his upbringing and adulthood in the parochial Denmark, which, as Wullschlager notes, felt stifling to his romantic temperament. Yet he could work only in his homeland and needed its praise to the end of his life. That praise usually was for him as a children's author, but Wullschlager also reads into the adult themes and artistry of The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen, as well as Andersens's adult novels, giving him full credit as a real, adult person. 24 pages of photos. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Danish author Hans Christian Andersen was one of the greatest fairy-tale writers of all time, with stories like "The Ugly Duckling," "The Emperor's New Clothes," and "The Tin Soldier" defining him as an all-time great in the world of children's literature. Wullschlager, a literary critic and European arts correspondent for the Financial Times, has written the first major biography of this consummate storyteller. She shatters what has become the standard image of the author as a "sweet-natured, pathetic entertainer." In fact, Andersen lived a difficult life and never found real satisfaction with his success. Wullschlager succeeds brilliantly at portraying Andersen's inner mind and uncovering his hopes and fears and details the historical context that served to produce such a grand body of literature. Relying on letters, diaries, and original German and Danish accounts, Wullschlager has written a biography that will be a standard study for years to come. Recommended for all libraries. Ron Ratliff, Kansas State Univ., Manhattan Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A well-researched biography of the famed children's author, by Financial Times critic Wullschlager (Inventing Wonderland, 1995). Born to a poor washerwoman and a young shoemaker in tiny Odense, Denmark, in 1805, Andersen was an effeminate, unattractive boy who left home at 14 to seek fame on the stage in Copenhagen. Unsuccessful as an actor, he managed to find a wealthy patron who provided for his education and helped launch his writing career. He made little mark as an author until 1835, when he turned to the fairy tales that would ultimately bring him fame. Drawing heavily on Andersen's diaries and correspondence, Wullschlager paints a revealing portrait: an over-sensitive and essentially child-like man who was conflicted about his ambiguous sexuality and haunted by his humble origins. Especially interesting is Andersen's complicated relationship with his primary audience; he wrote for adults and was annoyed that the public looked upon him as a children's author. Andersen traveled widely, and the accounts of his visits are a source of some humor (and a fair amount of insight): he was once introduced to fellow children's author Jakob Grimm (who had never heard of him), and was received as a London houseguest by Charles Dickens (who subsequently pinned up the note, "Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks—which seemed to the family AGES!"). A popular but lonely man, Andersen left his entire estate to a lifelong unrequited love, and among the hundreds who attended his funeral there was apparently not a single blood relative. A solid and worthwhile biography. (24 b&w photos) Reader's Subscription featured selection

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226917474
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
06/28/2002
Edition description:
1
Pages:
506
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Jackie Wullschlager is a literary critic and European arts correspondent for the Financial Times in London. She is the author of Inventing Wonderland: The Lives and Fantasies of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, J. M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame and A. A. Milne.

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