Friday, July 24, 2009

Hans Christian Andersen- The Poor boy of Odense

I want to tell you a story about a man with three heads. 204 years ago, a little boy was born in a poor village in the heart of Odense, Denmark. His name was Hans Christian Andersen.

Odense has been around for over 1,000 years, but its most famous resident is still- Hans Christian Andersen. He was born on April 2, 1805, the same year that Joseph Smith was born in a little town in the United States.

Every Day on the way to our outreach center, we pass by the "Hans Christian Andersen Village" where HC Andersen was born (you never call him Hans- but it is alright to call him HC).

Odense is often called a Fairy Tale Town because of the hundreds of famous tales that he wrote during his life time. These tales have been translated into over 152 languages. He wrote 168 original fairy tales. Some had cheerful, happy endings- like the Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea, and the Emporer's New clothes... but others were dark, tragic tales- like the Little Match Girl and the Steadfast Tin Soldier.
His tales are often short and full of wit and charm. Take time to read the original voice of HC Andersen. You will be charmed- like the rest of the world has been through for over 150 years.

This statue was begun before HC Andersen died. It was placed in Odense in the center of town, behind ST Knud's Kirken (Church) where he played when he was a child. Today there are all kinds of reminders of this creative man and his stories all over Odense..(as well as Copenhagen, Solvang,California, New York City, even a multi-million dollar amusement park in Shanghai, China.)

Our daughter, Kathy and Scott, her husband-- met HC in his museum when they were here a few weeks ago. We visited the little slum house where he grew up in the poorest part of town.

They discovered that the people of Odense have a wonderful sense of humor about their story teller. Hans Christian Andersen invited them to sit with him on his bench.

He left his feet under this real foot stool.

He let us hold his finger in the middle of town square...and is still traveling all over the world attached to letters and packages.

He tells his stories on the Odense River. This paper hat (now Tin) was a boat for his steadfast tin soldier.

And here is the Steadfast Tin Soldier, himself, teaching us all how to be steadfast even if we are have serious problems. (I have actually read this little story and plan to introduce you to this soldier and his 24 brothers- soon)

Andy Warhol has become a HC Andersen fan. We can now wear HC Andersen whenever we want.

I was so surprised, when we were sitting at a red light and I looked up to discover that Hans Christian Andersen can now tell us when to walk across the street. These walking lights are scattered all over town.

Hans Christian Andersen has hidden his tales in these twisted pillars on a cobblestone square.
His stories are told upside down and sideways in these imaginative pillars.
Every time we visit them we discover a new story.

Every one is reminding us to never forget this Fairy Tale Man.
Let us celebrate his 205 th birthday with the next part of this story.

An unforgetable Christmas Gift for a Fairy Tale Town...

I started this tale with a promise that you would meet our three headed man of Odense...
Once upon a time, during a rainy day in December, a big Christmas gift appeared right across the street from the old train station.

It was wrapped in green Christmas plastic.

Many gathered to see what their gift would be. No one could unwrap it, so they brought a big crane to carefully remove the pretty green wrapping.

All of Odense gathered to see the greatest Christmas gift in 200 years. What could it be? Everyone began to clap, especially the man with the black hat. You see, he had created the gift.

This was a very solemn occasion. Every one held their breath.. the man who made the gift took off his hat.

The crane lifted the wrapping and strange, lumpy feet appeared, standing on colorful blocks of stone.

Between the toes of the odd feet was a little toad.

Then came some arms that twisted around each other. If you looked closely, you could see little children and people climbing up the arms.

Can you see the Danish flag, flying proudly over this unveiling?

Next came colorful dancing dolls, with strange poses, and round hair do's.

Some were rusty brown, and others wore curley clothes in bronze green.

The twisted arms were holding a tower of Babel. I am not sure why. Maybe it is because everyone was confused when the tower of babel was finished in the Old Testament. Even the languages were confused. Maybe this will happen when the city of Odense discovers this gift posed right next to a park where kings use to live.

The crowning surprise was a golden egg resting on the shoulder of a man with three heads.

The gift was finally unwrapped. Some were astonished and proud of this magnificent gift, especially the man with the black hat. Others were shocked. Some were even angry. Who was this three headed twisted man, with three big noses, and lumpy melted legs ?
The man with the black hat proudly announced, with lots of flowery words, that this was the statue of their beloved Hans Christian Andersen. He told the Christmas crowd that the statue had three heads in honor of HC Andersen's three personalities- The most important head was because he was a fairy tale poet. That head was called- "The Improvisor." The second head was because he wandered all over the world. It was called "The traveler." The last head was because he was "a strangely complicated human being." It was called "The Shadow." It was a "trinity portrait of Hans Christian Andersen." The sculptor was a famous modern Danish artist named Bjorn Noguard.

Some say that the three headed HC Andersen was inspired by this paper cut made by the first hans Christian Andersen many years ago.

One time Hans Christian Andersen was asked when he was going to write his autobiography. He answered:" I already have, it is called 'The Ugly

As I look out the window of the train station. I see - in bronze, stone and a golden egg, an ugly duckling that may never become a swan. Thank Heavens. I don't know what this town would do with a three headed swan.
It's summer now. The Christmas gift has become part of the every day life in Odense. Some still wish that the 3 headed man would become a swan. As for me, I've become quite fond of this ugly duckling.
I guess the moral of this story can be found in Ether 12: 23- 29
"If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble...If they humble themselves before me..I will make weak things become strong unto them."
Have fun reading the little stories by our famous story teller from the "wrong side of the tracks" ( I don't think that is a Danish thing to say)...
Enjoy the tales of Hans Christian Andersen the humble cobbler's son who became so famous that the whole world has heard of our little town called Odense. Thank you H.C.


  1. Belva,
    I'm soooo happy. I've caught up on all of your posts. Thanks for all of the stories and pictures. I learned a lot of new things. And what a joy for you guys to have Scott and Kathy. Great experiencing these things with you. Sure love you and miss you. How about a skyping time?
    We're off to another visa trip next week so maybe we can chat before then. Thanks for being my friend and always teaching me lots of things.
    Love ya,

  2. Very well done. Through the written word and the photographic image, you have shed some light on HC and his talents that I'd never known of previously. Thank you for sharing!