Hans Christian Andersen was born in the town of Odense, Denmark, on April 2, 1805. The beloved author of some of the most famous fairy tales of all time, Andersen remains a favorite author of children all over the world. On April 2 each year, Andersen's birthday is celebrated as International Children's Book Day.
King Frederick VI of Denmark took an interest in Andersen as a child and paid for part of his education. After his father died, however, Andersen was forced to find a job to support himself. After working as both a weaver's apprentice and a tailor, Andersen moved to Copenhagen when he was just 14 years old.
He had an excellent singing voice and soon found work as an actor with the Royal Danish Theatre. Eventually, his voice changed, and he turned to writing.
Between 1835 and 1872, Andersen published many children's stories. He is probably best known for Fairy Tales and Stories.
Most children have heard many of his most popular stories, including "The Little Mermaid," "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Ugly Duckling," "The Tinderbox," "Little Claus and Big Claus," "Princess and the Pea," "The Snow Queen," "The Nightingale" and "The Steadfast Tin Soldier."
Famous for these and many other stories, Andersen became known as the "father of the modern fairy tale." Some believe Andersen's stories became so popular because they were not meant just for children, but for adults, too. Even though his stories are simple and charming, most of them also feature important moral lessons.
While many fairy tales are based on old folk tales, only a dozen or so of Andersen's 156 fairy tales were inspired by well-known stories. All the rest were original works.
Over the past hundred years, Andersen's fairy tales have been translated into more than 150 different languages. They've inspired plays, ballets and many movies. They've also been immortalized in many ways around the world.
For example, in the Copenhagen harbor, there is a statue of The Little Mermaid. Visitors to New York City's Central Park can see a statue of Hans Christian Andersen with the Ugly Duckling. Shanghai residents can even visit a $13 million theme park based on Andersen's fairy tales!