The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea — the memorable stories of Hans Christian Andersen have woven themselves into the fabric of today’s culture, from children’s books to animated features. Like many fairy tales, however, these stories were never meant solely for a young audience. The morality plays of these tales were intended for adults, and in fact much of the subtle points made in these stories ordinarily fly over the heads of young children anyway.
Denmark's most famous statue
The most well-known memorial related to Andersen is probably the statue of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen Harbour. A gift from brewer Carl Jacobsen, who owned the Carlsberg breweries, the statue was presented in 1913 by sculptor Edvard Eriksen. Set on a rock by the sea, so that she would always be wet like a real mermaid, the statue has become the symbol of Copenhagen over the years.
Sadly, this statue probably holds a record for being the most often vandalized national symbol of Denmark. The head and arms have been amputated before and paint has been sprayed often. The statue has been repaired and placed in its location after each episode, the most recent in October 2003.
Inspiration for a story
Hans Christian Andersen moved to the city of Copenhagen in 1819, from his birth town of Odense. From then on, the city became his home. Many of the places that provided inspiration for his stories still exist within the old city, which used to lie within walled fortifications. Here, he aspired to be a ballet dancer, actor and singer. However, it was providence that led him to a career in writing, which has proven to be his forte and ticket to fame. The world has been much enriched by his stories.
The Tivoli Gardens (pictured right), opened in 1843, provided him with the inspiration for his story “The Nightingale”. The attraction that he had seen then was the “Chinese Bazaar” but it no longer exists today. The Tivoli Gardens are one of Copenhagen’s favourite public places, with carousels and pavilions ringed by paths suitable for cycling and walking. Today, the Gardens continue to provide entertainment such as classical music, ballet performances and jazz festivals. For Christmas, a Tree Lighting ceremony is held in mid-November.
In life as in the story...
Some of the places where Hans Christian Andersen stayed have been remembered with memorial plaques. Apart from hostels and rented lodgings, Andersen also spent time in the homes of rich patrons from time to time, and was often abroad on travel. Among the places that he has stayed is the Amalienborg Palace, home to the Danish Royal Family. The Royal Life Guard conducts a changing of the guard ceremony at noon when the Royal Family is resident at the palace. The main attraction at the palace is the museum in the apartments of King Christian IX. During his long reign (1863-1906) his children and grandchildren either ruled or were consorts of the Kings of England, Russia, Sweden, Greece and Norway. They brought with them gifts from all over Europe, which formed the collection here at Amalienborg Palace.
The Round Tower is a stone tower 36 metres high, located in the heart of Copenhagen. It was mentioned in Andersen’s “The Tinderbox” and has always been known for its impressive view. In 1716, the Empress Catherine and Peter the Great of Russia even rode horseback to the top.
Andersen wrote a tribute to Østergade, comparing it to Rome’s Corso and Naples’ Toledo. The Østergade is today located within the Strøget area, a pedestrian-only street which now forms Scandinavia’s major shopping street. Nearby attractions include the showroom for the Royal Porcelain Factory. The Royal Porcelain Factory’s wares evoke memories of some of Andersen’s characters.
The Year 2005 will see several major events held in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of Hans Christian Andersen’s birth. Events will be held on a worldwide scale, but many will center upon Copenhagen. Special exhibitions and other events will be held to commemorate this anniversary in that year. The Opening Gala is scheduled for 2 April 2005.
Hans Christian Andersen once said that “to travel is to live”, and the same advice may well hold true for you as well, so why not make a Scandinavian trip to discover the city that was home to the storyteller himself?