National Geographic : 1979 Dec
(Continuedfrom page 838) gaily colored calico scarf, so tightly tied up that his long neck seemed to make an effort to escape: in short, a truly surprising figure, who became even more peculiar when, with a couple of steps forward and a repeated bow, he began his high-flown speech with these words: 'May I have the honor of expressing my feel ings for the stage in a poem written by myself? ... '" Such audacious naivete won him notice as well as guffaws. Amused patrons donated some money for him and even found him a place in the Royal Theater's ballet school, where he soon had a walk-on role in a ballet, playing, of all things, a troll. He took home the program-it was the first time he had seen his name in print-and stared at it by candlelight long into the night. A copy of the program today hangs in the Royal Theater. f UT ANDERSEN'S physical awk wardness inevitably doomed his stage career. And when his greatest asset his soprano voice-finally changed, he decided on a new path to fame: He would become a poet, a writer, a digter. But first he needed a formal education. A highly placed patron won him a royal stipend to attend a provincial state grammar school. For six years the ugly duckling tended to the tedium of a formal curriculum. When he finally fin ished his studies at age 23, the transforma tion was complete. He had become the wild swan of his dreams. Already, one of his schoolboy efforts, a poem entitled "The Dying Child," had won him international literary notice. Now he launched into a prodigious output of poems, plays, essays, travel books, and novels. Among the latter were The Improvisatore and Only a Fiddler, both thinly disguised fictional autobiographies that became best sellers throughout Europe. In those days foreign editions were pirat ed, providing few if any royalties. Andersen buttressed his finances by trying his hand at some "trifles," as he called them. His slender paper-covered volume of Eventyr, fortalte for B0rn-FairyTales Told for Children appeared in 1835. It contained four stories: "The Tinder-Box," "Little Claus and Big Claus," "The Princess on the Pea," and "Little Ida's Flowers." The first three re worked stories he had heard as a child. The last was wholly his own, as most of his tales would be from then on. Andersen called these tales eventyr-a Danish word related to the English "adven ture," with an added connotation of fantasy. In German, the word is translated Marchen. In English and French they are called fairy "She hadn'tsold anything all day, and no one had given her a single penny." Andersen's "Little Match Seller" relates the last hours of a freezing street vendorwho keeps warm by burning matches she in tended to sell. Each time she strikes one, visions appearbefore her: a roast goose dinner, then a daz zling Christmas tree, finally the ghost of her grandmother, who "took the little girl into her arms, and together they flew in joy and splendour, up, up, to where there was no cold, no hunger,nofear. They were with God."