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Hans Christian Andersen

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The fairy-tale of Hans Christian Andersen's life -- the ugly duckling who became a literary swan -- began on the 2 April 1805, and Denmark is not letting his imminent 200th birthday go unremarked, knowing that Hans Christian Andersen belonged not just to Denmark, but to the world, and that his bicentenary should be celebrated internationally.

Andersen's fantastic writings have now reached even further than the author himself, who spent 10 of his 70 years abroad, visiting Iberia and Istanbul, Norway and Naples, a gigantic achievement in the 19th century, when travelling was lengthy, difficult, and filled with frightful dangers. 

Scott # 249

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H.C. Andersen was born under extremely poor conditions in the Danish town Odense (the Island of Funen) as the son of a shoe-maker and a washer-woman.  Because of his poor background he decided very early in life  to become "something", and today we must all admit that he achieved.  

To the left is shown a cover with a letter from H.C. Andersen to "Herr Kandidat William Bloch, Kjöbenhavn". 

The handwriting is that of H.C. Andersen, as also shown on the image at the top of this page.   

It is said, that the fairy tale The Ugly Duckling more or less describes his own life, being born in extreme poverty, and being so ugly that he couldn't possibly belong to normal society (!), but with a little bit of effort ended up by being one of the most estimated persons of his time, the beautiful swan!  Equally, the fairy tale "The Story About A Mother" is said to describe his own mother's terribly  harsh life.    

  • Denmark 1935.  "The Ugly Duckling".  Fairy Tale published 1844.  Scott # 246.

He suffered from an enormous complex of inferiority because of his characteristic profile, which made him believe that he was so ugly that nobody would ever want to marry him!  Consequently he never married, but had, nevertheless, countless girlfriends, among others the famous Swedish opera singer, Jenny Lind, known as "The Swedish Nightingale", whom he met in 1840.  Although she always called him "brother", he was hopelessly in love with her.  One of his fairy tales, The Nightingale, was inspired by their life long friendship.  In another tale, "Under the Willow Tree", (not illustrated on stamps) Andersen describes in allegorical form his childhood, youth and infatuation with Jenny Lind.  

  • Poland 1987.  Issued for the International Stamp Exhibition Hafnia'87.  "The Nightingale".  Fairy Tale published 1844.  Scott # 2833.

  • Sweden 1975.  Jenny Lind.  The stamp is engraved by Czeslaw Slania.  Scott # 1110. See also Bank Notes for a Swedish bank note depicting Jenny Lind. 

Though he is best known for children's fairy tales, Andersen wrote other books.  His first, in 1831, "Shadow Picture of a Journey to the Harz Mountains and Saxony" is a vivid account of his first journey abroad.  Altogether Andersen made 29 journeys in Europe (never without a rope to save his life in case of fire!).  His early fairy tales, including "The Tinder Box, Thumbelina, and "The Princess and the Pea", were published in 1835 and brought him immortality.  

When he died at the age of 70 on 4th August 1875, one newspaper obituary wrote:  "Andersen knew how to strike chords that reverberated in every human heart". 

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Throughout his life Andersen wrote more than 300 fairytales, most of which have been translated into nearly any known language of  this world.  Further he was an acknowledged dramatist at the Danish National Theatre, as well as he wrote a few novels based on his rather detailed diaries from his travels, and a lot of poems to which world famous composers have created the music.  

In 1952 a movie about his life was released, starring the American movie actor Danny Kaye in the part of H.C. Andersen. The movie is a musical and fictional account of Andersen's life in which he, as a young shoemaker, discovers his talent for writing and tells several of his stories, including “Thumbelina” and “The Emperor's New Clothes.”.  Here is a quote from the movie:  

Andersen (to a customer in his cobbler shop): “I sometimes think that shoes have a life of their own. The ones that squeak don’t like to leave the shop, and the ones that hurt don’t like the person that’s wearing them.”   

Commemorating 100 years of cinema Danny Kaye has been pictured on an Israeli stamp, issued 1995.

Please note that Danny Kaye has also been pictured on an entertainers set from Gambia (5th November 1988), showing Cary Grant, Danny Kaye, Yul Brynner, Laurel & Hardy, Fred Astaire & Ginger Rodgers, Marx Brothers and others.  Set of 8 + 2 souvenir sheets.  Sc. 768-77.  

Finally Danny Kaye has been pictured on a set of USA-entertainers, Grenada 1992, featuring Phil Silvers, Frank Sinatra, Jack Benny, Danny Kaye, Bob Hope and others.  The set contains 8 stamps + 2 souvenir sheets, Sc. 2083-92.  

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