April 9, 2015
One of the most beloved and renowned authors of all time celebrated a milestone recently. April 2nd marked the 210th birthday of Hans Christian Andersen, arguably one of the most well known children’s writers of all time. There is no denying that H.C. Andersen, as he is affectionately known throughout Scandinavia, is one of the most popular Danes. So just why are his stories still so treasured and adored 140 years after his death? What is the draw to this man who lived in a time and place with, it would seem, hardly a connection to today’s audience?
In taking a peek into his life and the times he lived in, you could say that Hans Christian Andersen was a non-conformist. He was influenced by those who came before him, yet forged his own path through the world. He is best known for his progressive style of writing, which ultimately transformed mainstream ideas about fairy tales. However, he also wrote many novels and plays, drew and sketched often, made beautiful paper cuts, and also traveled, making 29 trips between 1830-1873 and writing 5 travel books. He had a very sad and lonely childhood and never married, yet his creativity and individuality attracted the company of the most famous and influential people of that time, and made him eternally adored.
In today’s sense, Hans Christian Andersen led more of an unconventional lifestyle for the 19th century. Born very poor, he did not allow his social class to dictate his destiny or limit his potential. He worked very hard to receive an education and make his way in the world, breaking free of social barriers and not allowing his creativity to be stifled based on mainstream beliefs. By the very definition, Hans Christian Andersen may today be considered a hipster.
Although in today’s world the very term hipster sometimes carries negative connotations, the origin of the word dates back to the 1940’s and describes an individual who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices, is a pioneer of the latest cultural trends and ideals, values independent thinking and creativity, and has an appreciation of the arts. Like the hepcats, beatniks, hippies and hipsters who came after him, in the true sense of the word H.C. Andersen embodies the characteristics of this group. Although just based on these ideals, simply labeling him as such goes against their dogma.
Hans Christian Andersen’s stories are still treasured today because he wrote for everyone, and his stories still inspire many aspects of our culture. His tales encourage adults to discover their inner child and inspire children to dream and imagine. They are timeless, inventive and everlasting, just like H.C. Andersen himself!