The fairy stories of Hans Christian Andersen have become so popular among children and adults that they have almost become folk tales, part of the world's oral tradition of storytelling. The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea, The Nightingale, The Red Shoes, The Little Match Girl, Thumbelina, and The Little Mermaid have been enjoyed everywhere for more than 150 years. Andersen, an only child, was born in the Danish city of Odense in 1805; his mother took in washing and his father, who died when he was 11, was a shoemaker. He went to a local school and worked for a weaver and a tailor before, aged 14, moving to Copenhagen. He wrote his first story in 1828. He produced his first novel in 1835 and later wrote five more. He also wrote plays (but was never thought to be much of a dramatist), poetry, which is still popular in Denmark, travel books and an autobiography. But his lasting fame rests on his 168 fairy tales, from The Tinder Box in 1835 to Urbanus, not published till 1949; The Nightingale was published in 1843 and is said to have been inspired by his unrequited passion for the soprano Jenny Lind, who became known as the 'Swedish nightingale'. There are now Hans Christian Andersen museums in Odense and Copenhagen, which is also home to the statue of the Little Mermaid.
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) was born in Odense, Denmark to a poor family. He left home as a 14-year-old to seek his fortune at the theatre in Copenhagen. Andersen began writing plays and poetry before he left for Copenhagen, but it was not until 1835 that he published the first of the fairytales that would bring him international renown. Since then, his over 200 fairytales have enjoyed undiminished popularity, providing the basis for favorite American interpretations such as Disney's The Little Mermaid.