Hans Christian Anderson is the man who created Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina,
The Ugly Duckling and many other beloved fairy tales which have become a part of our collective consciousness. His stories have been translated into 125 languages and are read around the world.
But they were not particularly well received when they were first published. Andersen was in fact, recognised as a novelist and a travel writer before he came to be known for his fairy tales.
His first, successful book was The Improvisatore. It is an autobiographical novel, reflecting Andersen’s travels in Italy in 1833 and it reveals much about his own life and aspirations as experienced by Antonio, the novel’s principal character.
Considered by some to be the first modern European novel, it was published by Reitzels Forlag in 1835. It was an immediate success. It was published in Germany the following year and, in France three years later. For many years, The Improvisatore was the most widely read of all of Andersen’s works.
In 1851, he published to wide acclaim
In Sweden, a volume of travel sketches. A keen traveler, Andersen published several other travelogues: Shadow Pictures of a Journey to the Harz, Swiss Saxony, A Poet’s Bazaar, In Spain, and A Visit to Portugal.
In his travelogues, Andersen paid heed to some of the contemporary conventions of travel writing, but he manipulated the genre to suit his own purposes.
Each of his travelogues combines documentary and descriptive accounts of the sights he saw with more philosophical passages on topics such as being an author, immortality, and the role of fiction in a travelogue.
But it’s for his three collections of fairy tales that he is remembered today. Andersen wrote in the everyday language of the common Danish people, and he refused to talk down to children or shelter them from the dark and scary.
Later translators cut out some of the scarier parts and gave the tales happy endings, and so we think of them as lighthearted and innocent, but that was not originally the case.
Sources : Writer’s almanac