Straw into Gold

Looking out from the window in Andersen's childhood home in Odense, Denmark.
Looking out from the window in Andersen’s childhood home in Odense, Denmark.

Last year I wrote a post on papercutting (The World of Papercutting, Feb. 8, 2012), and in the process, came across the papercuts of Hans Christian Andersen. I learned that Andersen (1805-1875) was an amazing artist, who not only sang and wrote, but drew, made collages, and could cut intricate pictures from pieces of paper.  And, he wrote fairy tales.

He first achieved fame through writing, and his novels were considered on par with those of Charles Dickens, a contemporary. But he achieved blazing fame with his fairy tales. Andersen’s fairy tales are not like those of the Grimms Brothers, who collected folk tales. Andersen wrote his own stories, and scholars think that these stories were his way of transmuting the pain of his life–he was bedeviled with deep insecurities, sadness and depression–into his shimmering fairy tales, thus turning straw into gold.

hans4It was in the drawing rooms of his wealthy patrons that he entertained by telling stories, usually to the children, while simultaneously cutting intricate pictures from paper.  The papercuttings were carefully stored away as family mementos, and that is how many have come down to us.

Scene of dancers, pierots, and sandmen. A two-fold cutting.
Scene of dancers, pierots, and sandmen. A two-fold cutting.

Here is another papercutting,

rsz_1hans7He even made paper dolls.

Andersen had beautiful, calligraphic handwriting.

He also made amazing collages, long before the time of Braque and Picasso.

hans3But for many, he will always be known for his fairy tales. I always found his stories to be frightening as a child, but now I am fascinated to read them–they carry me away.

Illustration from "The Snow Queen"
Illustration from “The Snow Queen”

The first photo in this post comes from “Homes of the Great,” by Claude Arthaud. A photo of a room where Andersen lived (from the same source) can be found in “The World of Papercutting” post. The other images come from “The Amazing Paper Cuttings of Hans Christian Andersen,” by Beth Wagner Brust, and from “Hans Christian Andersen as an Artist,” by Kjeld Heltoft. A good biography of Andersen is “Hans Christian Andersen: the Life of a Storyteller,” by Jackie Wullschlager.


IMG_2367On a totally unrelated topic, just wanted to show a box of cookies that I took to the  Church bake sale. The cookies on the right are from the “Easy Christmas Cookie” post on Dec. 17. 2011. The cookies on the left are Lithuanian Poppyseed Cookies. No recipe for these yet-need to tinker with them!

Hope the coming week isn’t too stressful! Perhaps reading a fairy tale or two could relieve holiday stress. Take care. Namaste. Fran

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