THE LIZ LIBRARY PRESENTS:
This child was born in 1805 in the slums of Odense, Denmark. His father was a poor shoemaker, only 22 when he was born. His mother was illiterate, a superstitious and alcoholic washerwoman who was years older than the father and had a daughter who was a prostitute. His grandmother liked to tell stories, including one that the family was related to royalty. Both of his parents spoiled the child, and although he did learn to read and write, that was his only childhood education. The entire family lived in one room.
From an early age he would make up his own stories and write and perform plays. He would memorize entire plays of Shakespeare and perform them in his makeshift toy theatre at home. He also liked to sing. He was a somewhat strange boy, dyslexic, tall, and effeminate, with a soprano voice. He became quite well known in his neighborhood for his reciting and acting. He also was highly emotional, and a bit of a hypochondriac, given to attacks of fits and cramps.
When he was 11, his father died in a fire, and at that point he had to go out and work. He worked as an apprentice to a weaver and a tailor, and then in a cigarette factory, where his co-workers once insisted that he was really a girl and actually pulled down his pants to check.
When he was fourteen, he convinced his mother to let him leave home for Copenhagen to try to become an actor and singer on the stage. He ultimately failed at this endeavor, but he did meet many people, some who were kind and some who abused him. One man convinced him that he was supposed to be a writer, not an actor, and also that he should go to school.
The boy actually published a story before he first started to attend grammar school at the age of 17, funded by this same benefactor. It was a boarding school -- he lived in the home of the schoolmaster. He was a bad student, and of a ridiculously old age to be in grammar school, and so he hated it. The school master also hated him. Nevertheless he persisted in attending the school for seven years until he passed his graduation exams. All the while he continued writing. Once he graduated, his hard times were over.
His published plays, novels and short stories steadily gained him attention in higher and higher circles in his country. The stories he wrote often were metaphors for things in his own life, and often had morality lessons in them.
The boy never married, being somewhat strange in his relationships with both men and women, although he often professed himself to be in love with this or that person. He spent much of his life living in the homes of wealthy patrons, where he continued his writing, which brought him international fame by his late 30s.
By the time he died at the age of 70, he left the world a collection of some of its best-loved literature for both adults and children, including short stories that shaped generations of cultural reference and remain well-known today. The author of "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", "The Snow Queen", "The Little Mermaid", "Thumbelina", "The Little Match Girl", "The Princess and the Pea", "The Ugly Duckling", "The Red Shoes", "The Emperor's New Clothes", and many, many others was the father of the modern fairy tale,
Hans Christian Andersen, a
boy from a "fatherless home."
* The term "fatherless" is used in this series as it is in current research and policy rhetoric by the U.S. federal government, DHHS and the National Fatherhood Initiative, most U.S. states in connection with child custody law and policy, and various family values and fatherhood interest policy and lobbying groups.
"...Just add Dad, the magic ingredient. It's hard to know where wishful thinking becomes deliberate deception. But this argument, advanced by the fathers' rights movement, is like saying that, since Mercedes Benz owners make more money than people who drive Hyundais, you will become wealthy if you buy a Mercedes..." Mike Peterson
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