Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales make up a necessary componenant to any collection of fairy tales. In fact, Andersen's life was like a fairy tale in many ways. Out of the poverty, hardship, and loneliness of his youth, he came to be one of the most honored men of his time. Many of the more than 160 fairy tales he wrote, including "The Ugly Duckling," "The Princess and the Pea," and "The Little Mermaid," have become literary classics enjoyed by children and adults alike.
Andersen was born on April 2, 1805, in Odense, Denmark. His parents were poor; his father worked as a shoemaker and his mother was a washerwoman. In 1819, Andersen moved to the capital city of Copenhagen, where he hoped to become an actor in the Royal Theater. Directors of the Royal Theater sympathized with his efforts to write plays but finally concluded that Andersen needed an education. One of the directors raised money to send him away to school. He later attended and graduated from Copenhagen University.
After his schooling, Andersen spent many years traveling and writing poems, books, and plays, which met with some success. It was not until he was 30 that he wrote any fairy tales. His first small book of fairy tales became popular almost immediately, and from then on his fame grew rapidly, spreading from country to country.
Andersen put many pieces of his own life into his fairy tales. Andersen published his last fairy tales in 1872, and after a long illness, he died in Copenhagen on August 4, 1875.