The Hans Christian Andersen Museum


Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75)

Hans Christian Andersen left his home town of Odense, a poor boy of fourteen, to "become famous" in Copenhagen. Andersen's lifelong and uncompromising faith in his destiny helped him to realize his boldest dreams despite opposition. After trying his hand at many literary forms, he began to publish his fairy tales in 1835. They came out in small volumes until his death. It was only in these that his genius found its true expression Andersen never surpassed these fairy tales with their subtle narrative style. Behind the straightforward meaning easily understood by children, there are deeper ones meant for adults. And, it was his naive and direct approach that he owed his world fame; anyone anywhere could, and can, understand him. Of all the writers of this world, Andersen is the only one to be read everywhere.Yet, he was to remain a very lonely man, never getting further than a romantic infatuation for women, among them the celebrated Swedish singer Jenny Lind. His friends were all patrons rather than intimates and his constant sense of indebtedness to them wounded his pride. Before he died his great dream came true when Odense, the town of this birth, was illuminated in his honor.

Once upon a time there was a Prince who wanted to have a Princess of his own. But she had to be a real Princess. He traveled all over the world to find one, but there was always something wrong. He found plenty of Princesses, but the Prince could never be absolutely sure they were real Princesses. 

There was always something that wasn't quite right. At last he returned home and was very sad because he wanted a real Princess so badly.One evening a terrible storm blew up. There was lightning and thunder and rain came down in torrents -- it was frightening! All at once there was a knock at the gate and the old King went out to open it.Standing outside was a Princess. What a sight she was out there in the storm! She didn't look like a Princess. Water was running down her hair and her clothes. It ran in at the tips of her shoes and out at the heels. Still, she said she was a real Princess."Well, we shall soon see about that!" thought the old Queen. She didn't say anything, but she went into the bedroom, took off all the bedding and placed a pea on the bottom of the bed. Then she took twenty mattresses and laid them on top of the pea, and then twenty of the softest featherbeds on top of the mattresses. That is where the Princess had to sleep for the night.In the morning they asked how she had slept. "Oh, it was just miserable!" said the Princess. "I hardly slept a wink all night! Goodness knows what was in the bed! I was lying on something so hard that I am black and blue all over. It's perfectly awful!"Then, of course, they knew she was a real Princess, because she had felt the pea through twenty mattresses and twenty featherbeds. No one but a real Princess could have such tender skin as that.And so the Prince took her as a wife, because now he knew he had a real Princess. The pea was put in a museum where it can still be seen, unless someone has taken it.​​

Now, how's that for a good story?

Museum Highlights:

  • Andersen's life and work
  • Jenny Lind, the beloved singer known throughout the world as "the Swedish Nightingale," Andersen's unrequited love
  • Jean Hersholt, Hollywood philanthropist, 
  • Dr. Christian of radio fame, noted Andersen scholar