April 3, 2014
As I’ve said in many previous posts, many grand things have come out of Denmark. I mean, women who emigrated from Denmark founded The Danish Home of Chicago, and they were pretty grand indeed!
With just over 5.5 million people currently calling this small Nordic country home it’s actually pretty surprising just how much our American culture has been impacted by these “hygge” (translation: ‘pleasant’) Danes. I touched on these influences in a previous post. You can read it here.
One such aspect of American society that has been heavily inspired is in literature. You (or your children or grandchildren) may be enthralled with all things Disney. One such movie that has taken America (and the world!) by storm recently is Frozen (2013). Characters with the names Elsa, Anna and Olaf, I think it is safe to assume that it takes place in the Scandinavian region. Another example of Scandinavian literature influencing
American culture is the highly popular and beloved Disney movie The Little Mermaid (1989). Although these are both movie examples, films are most often adapted or influenced from books. In the case of The Little Mermaid it was adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen tale of the same name, Den Lille Havfrue in Danish.
Hans Christian Andersen is not just quite possibly one of the most famous Danes, but also one of the most adored children’s authors of all time. Many of his fairy tales have influenced various aspects of American culture, and his books have been translated in over 150 different
languages. There are even statues in New York, Slovakia, Copenhagen and here in Chicago dedicated to H.C. Andersen (as he’s known in Denmark). Coincidentally, Margrethe’s husband George was on the Hans Christian Andersen Committee in Chicago, which was founded in 1891 and worked to commission the statue that currently stands In Lincoln Park today.
This week marks the 209th birthday of this beloved author who was born in Odense, Denmark in 1805. Although he was a very accomplished writer for his time, befriending Charles Dickens and Beatrix Potter later in his life, he had originally wanted to be an actor. He was an only child and his father passed away when we was eleven. Due to his class status he was not given a proper education and struggled with poverty and prejudice for many, many years. However, he possessed a vivid imagination and the confidence that would eventually lead him to wealth, success and honorable notoriety all over the world. Turned down many times over, Andersen persevered. When he was 33 his determination paid off when The King of Denmark awarded him a life stipend for his immeasurable talents. By 1845 his folktales and stories were being translated into English. He began to gain popularity with foreign audiences and was hailed as a famous dignitary. In 1875, near the end of his life, he was even honored in England as “The Greatest Living Author.” He lives on today in many ways, and continues to be the pride of his country.
What is your favorite children’s story?
Visit our newest Pinterest page devoted to Hans Christian Andersen and his influence all over the world!
“Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale” – H.C. Andersen