Andersen Fairy Tales

Oh Hans! Theater is Life

Oh Hans! Theater is LifeOh Hans! Theater is Life

When Hans was a young man he tried his hand at musical theater. He sang soprano. I don’t for how long Hans sang soprano, as it is usually a woman’s part. Hans did not stick with theater though and later became the writer we all know and love, but through Hans’ stories a person can tell that Hans loved the theater.

Hans didn’t write just one or two stories about the theater. Hans wrote multiple stories about the theater. There were characters who became singers and actors galore in Hans’ fairy tales. There were characters who loved going to watch the theater. There were plays thrown up in barns. It just went on and on and on and on. Hans may have left the life of theater, but theater certainly didn’t leave Hans.

As a person who has done just a bit of theater, I know what Hans means. It’s definitely fun. Theater takes a heck of a lot of work, but the togetherness and the whole thrill of making this production pull together is exhilarating. Your long hours practicing this song or this scene finally come together with costumes and music. There’s a crowd watching. The stage lights are hot. You’re burning up, but you’re having fun. Let me tell you something, if you’ve never been on a stage during a performance, it’s hot up there. There are reasons why various stage performers end up pouring sweat or maybe even just flat-out taking off all their clothes while performing. It’s Les Miserables like you’ve never seen it before…

Hans told stories in many parts of his life and his theater life was no exception. Performers also tell stories. They bring written word to life in front of a crowd. There is no safety net. There’s no pencil eraser. There’s no rewind or redo in front of a crowd. They practice a story and bring it to life, for better or worse, on a hot stage in front of eager faces.

Hans loved theater and I don’t blame him.

Andersen Fairy Tales

Oh Hans! Bertel is not your Man

Oh Hans! Bertel is not your ManOh Hans! Bertel is not your Man

Bertel, Bertel, Bertel, Bertel…how many times do we have to read this name in Hans’ stories.

Bertel Thorvaldsen is awesome. Bertel Thorvaldsen is great! Bertel Thorvaldsen is so talented. Bertel Thorvaldsen is handsome. Come on Hans, everyone can tell you have a guy crush on Bertel.

Bertel was pretty great. He was a very talented sculptor. He sculpted in the neo-classical style, which hadn’t been a thing for a long, long time. He even went to Italy to study sculpture. Denmark is very proud of Bertel. He came from Copenhagen and emerged a great artist.

Bertel’s work really was amazing. His sculptures remind me of Michelangelo’s. He was just an amazing sculptor. I cannot imagine the patience it took to create sculptures in marble in the same way that Bertel did. I’ve tried working in marble, it’s no picnic. What I made looked nowhere near as good as what Bertel made and my hunk of marble was tiny.

I can see why Hans admired Bertel so much. The things Bertel did were amazing, but I kind of wish Hans would shut up about him. Bertel was quite a bit older than Hans and most likely the two wouldn’t have had a whole lot to do with each other. Bertel died in 1844.

One of the things that Bertel did do, that Hans most likely thought was just awesome, was that Bertel sculpted figures from Greek mythology. Hans liked stories and so did Bertel. Hans probably read about this figures from Greek mythology and admired the way that Bertel could bring them to life, in a way. There was Jason standing there in three-dimensions brought out of an old Greek story. It must have been pretty inspiring to see this story character right there standing in front of you. Hans loved stories and Hans loved theater.

I think Hans saw Bertel as another story-teller. Hans brought ideas to life in his stories and so too did Bertel. Hans admired Bertel so much, but that doesn’t mean that I still don’t need a rest from Hans’ fangirling over Bertel.

Andersen Fairy Tales

Oh Hans! This Isn’t a History Lesson

Oh Hans! This Isn't a History LessonOh Hans! This Isn’t a History Lesson

Hans, Hans, Hans…if I wanted a history lesson, I’d read a history book, not a fairy tale. I get that you’re proud of Denmark, but goodness, I could probably pass a Danish citizenship test now, if that’s a thing. Hans loved Denmark, as we have already established, and he was not above enumerating the history of Denmark in his stories, multiple times.

If Hans wasn’t writing a straight up ode to Demark’s history, he was writing a story where grandpa was telling the kids about history. Grandpa remembers when this happened. Grandpa remembers when that happened. Grandpa will tell you about King Christian or this king or that king. Grandpa will tell you about all of it.

The street lamps in Hans’ stories even remember the history of Denmark. When the street lamps are getting replaced with newer models, they recall the history of Denmark.

History is very important. We should know where we come from. We should know what has happened in our pasts. We should especially know the mistakes we have made so that we do not repeat them as a people. We should of course be proud of our accomplishments, but we don’t have to go on and on spouting history lessons to anyone who will listen.

Hans just really loved his country. He was patriotic, but you and I all know one of those patriotic people who annoy the heck out of us. You know, that guy who takes off his shirt and paints his beer belly with the American flag and shouts, “Murica!” That guy. Hans was sort of that guy, but a little more toned down. I highly doubt Hans painted any Danish flags anywhere on his body. He just wanted everyone to know Denmark’s history.

Hans, I read stories for edification, but also to be entertained. A straight-up history lesson is not entertaining. I’m just not that much of a history junkie.

Andersen Fairy Tales

Oh Hans! Babies Don’t Come from Storks

Oh Hans! Babies Don't Come from StorksOh Hans! Babies Don’t Come from Storks

Where do babies come from? Many parents dread this question right? Well, babies come from storks, or magical fairies, or special watering cans, surely, they don’t exist because of sex?

This conversation always reminds me of a scene from Addams Family Values. The Addams are at the hospital, Morticia is having a baby. There are some other kids there and their mom is also having a baby. The girl is telling Wednesday and Pugsley about how their mom got pregnant. There was something about a fairy maybe and something else, it was a big drawn-out explanation as to how their mom got pregnant. Wednesday simply says, “Our parents had sex.” In the end, it’s the simplest explanation.

Hans was quite fond of the idea of stork bringing babies. Hans was a grown man. I’m pretty sure he knew where babies came from. Even if Hans never got around to having sex, he had probably figured out that women got pregnant because they had sex with a man at some point. That didn’t stop him from writing about storks bringing babies. Hans even wrote an entire story about how there were babies in a pond and then they got put in a flower and then the story took them somewhere.

Then there were all the other stories where Hans mentioned storks taking babies to people’s homes. How did the storks get their babies? Did it just magically happen? Or were storks the only ones who had sex?

I don’t know if Hans’ thought up this entire idea that storks brought babies, or maybe if he just took the idea and ran with it. Because of Hans’ promotion of the idea, no matter who thought it up, we had a whole bunch of parents tell their kids that storks bring babies and it’s even been popularized in our culture. I’ve seen plenty of cartoons about storks bringing the baby, sometimes the wrong baby. There’s at least one Looney Tunes short to that effect.

I guess there was a point when people were so squeamish about this that they had to make up some fanciful story about where babies came from, but Hans, why? Why Hans why? Why write about it? Why perpetuate inaccurate ideas? Kids may be naive and sometimes stupid, but they’re smarter than “a stork brought your little brother.”

Andersen Fairy Tales

Oh Hans! Get a Girlfriend Already

Oh Hans! Get a Girlfriend AlreadyOh Hans! Get a Girlfriend Already

Hans was a romantic man, but all that romance didn’t get him a wife, or a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, or much of anything besides Jenny Lind telling him that she thought of him more like a brother. While reading Hans’ stories, it’s evident that Hans thought highly of the idea of romance. So many of the characters in the story fell in love. They wanted to be together more than anything, but many times, their love was not to be.

In the first example of this The Tin Soldier, the ballerina and the tin soldier do love each other, but do they get to be together? Nope. What about the story of the Ice Maiden? Do Rudy and his girl get to be together? The day before their wedding, Rudy is swallowed up by icy water and drowns. What about the ill-fated couple who first toasted their engagement with a bottle of wine? Nope, they too were never together. What about the man who ended up buried alive in the church of Skagen underneath sand? His love died before they could be together as well.

There were not many happy endings for lovers in Hans’ stories. Hans didn’t have happy endings in love for himself. He didn’t know what a loving relationship was like. Hans was on his own. He loved people, but they apparently didn’t love him back, at least in the way that Hans would have liked.

There were other factors to consider with Hans’ lack of relationships in his life. He was weird, no doubt, and had some hang ups about being physically intimate with anyone. Ultimately, we write about what we know, correct? Hans didn’t know real life stories of people ending up together, so his characters didn’t end up together.

There was a period in history, in stories rather, where it was romantic if everybody died. It was a tragedy, but wasn’t it just so romantic that they loved each other and then they died?

I think this whole mentality is kind of stupid, but I get the appeal. You could read a story about “true love” between two people and maybe their love is pretty great and they’re at the height of being in love, infatuated, and then they get hit by a bus. This “in love” couple never knows the hardships that come with being in a relationship, besides both being at the same place and same time where a bus also happened to be. Their love doesn’t have time to fade. Their love doesn’t have hardships to face. They never get into the day-to-day aspects of being in relationship where no one wants to cook dinner and no one can decide where to go out to eat at. Their love hasn’t had the time to be diminished or spoiled or put through tests. It’s almost pure in a way. When “in love” characters die in a story, it’s almost as if we’ve preserved their love before it gets touched by real life. Isn’t it so romantic?

Hans really liked the idea of two people being “in love” and so he wrote about it, but he wasn’t so sure about the after part, so many of his characters didn’t get an “after.”

Andersen Fairy Tales

Oh Hans! You Sure Love Denmark

Oh Hans! You Sure Love DenmarkOh Hans! You Sure Love Denmark

Hans is all about him some Denmark. Denmark, Denmark, Denmark–Hans loved it. This is what we would call Nationalism, or in Hans’ case, there was a specific breed of nationalism called Scandinavism. Basically, it’s about celebrating Scandinavia.

Hans was born in Denmark and lived there basically his entire life. It should be no surprise that he loved it. When you create a nationalistic piece of artwork, you’re celebrating the country that you hail from. In Hans’ stories he repeatedly mentioned Denmark and how great it was. He spoke of Danish history. He spoke of Danish victory. He spoke of Danish folklore. He lauded Danish artists. He loved stories about Danish pirates. He loved the Danish countryside. He loved Copenhagen. Hans just loved Denmark.

Hans wrote about Denmark in such a way that I need to go and see Denmark someday. I need to go and see the church at Skagen that’s buried partially in the sand. I need to go see Hans’ house at Odense. I need to go and see the city of Copenhagen that Hans keeps going on about. I need to go see the windy coasts that pirates used to frequent.

I learned more about Danish artists by reading Hans’ stories than I ever did with my Viggo Mortensen fan-girling, and trust me, there’s been a lot of fan-girling.

Hans has educated me about Danish history. Some of this stuff I would have never learned had it not been for Hans writing about it in his stories.

Hans loved Denmark in a way that puts me to shame in the patriotism department. Hans, buddy, you did Denmark proud.

Andersen Fairy Tales

Oh Hans!

Oh Hans!Oh Hans!

My journey with Hans Christian Andersen has come to an end, but there will be several essays about Hans and his stories to come.

I spent quite a while reading through all of Hans’ stories and analyzing them. Reading one author’s work isn’t quite as fun as reading something from multiple authors, but it’s still fun. If you read a large part of one author’s work you get to know them in a way. Artists put a lot of themselves into their work, whether they mean to or not. You create what you know. If you know sadness, you will create sadness in some shape or form. If you know happiness, it will be there as well. If you are lonely, your loneliness will show through in your work. If you are a romantic, it’s there. If you love music, if you love history, if you love your country, if you’re religious–it’s all there.

Let’s do a little recap of the facts of Hans before we jump into essays about his fairy tales. Hans lived from 1805-1875. He was born in Odense, Denmark. Hans came from a relatively poor family, but managed to get something of an education. He was also very interested in theater. He sang, as a soprano of all things, and acted.

Hans began his career of writing both stories and poems.

In his personal life, he never married, and probably never had sex. He loved both men and women, but apparently no one ever took Hans up on his offers. Love letters to various people were in Hans’ history, but Hans never really experienced a serious relationship in his life. He fell out of bed at 75 and never recovered. Most likely, Hans died of liver cancer.

In a few essays, we’re going to look at how Hans’ life intruded into his stories.