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Treasure 29: The Snow Queen and Hans Christian Andersen
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Treasure 29: The Snow Queen and Hans Christian Andersen

Historic Documents
Léa Moreau
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Treasure 29: The Snow Queen and Hans Christian Andersen
Historic Documents
Treasure 29: The Snow Queen and Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen wrote 'The Snow Queen' in 1844. Aberdeen City Libraries hold a number of interesting resources relating to the author. Perhaps the most notable is a 1926 reprint of his autobiography 'The True Story of My Life' translated by Mary Howitt and published by George Routledge & Sons.

Born in Odense, Denmark in 1805, Andersen wrote three autobiographies during his lifetime. 'The Book of My Life', written in 1832 aged 27, was for close friends, the Collin family, and was not intended for publication. 'The True Story of My Life' in 1846 was to accompany a German edition of his collected works and his final autobiography, 'The Fairy Tale of My Life', was published in 1855.

Mary Howitt (1799-1888) was an English author who came to prominence as a translator of Scandinavian literature, in particular eighteen volumes of the Swedish novelist Frederika Bremer (1842-1863) and many translations of Hans Christian Andersen. In the 1926 preface to 'The True Story of My Life' Scottish author and poet, Violet Jacob, claims that Howitt's "precise and innocence English" is the ideal vehicle for conveying Andersen's writing. It was through Howitt's translations that the English speaking world first came to know Andersen's work.

Howitt dedicates her translation of 'The True Story of My Life' to the Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind (1820-1887). Lind was world famous for her immaculate voice, generosity and strong religious convictions. She and Andersen were good friends. When Lind rejected Andersen as a suitor she became the model for the Snow Queen with a heart of ice. Their friendship endured nonetheless and in 'The True Story of My Life' Andersen explains the central influence Lind had on his work: "Through Jenny Lind I first became sensible of the holiness there is in art; through her I learned that one must forget oneself in the service of the Supreme. No books, no men have had a better or a more ennobling influence on me as the poet, than Jenny Lind, and I therefore have spoken of her so long and so warmly here."

The autobiography also contains other glimpses into the inspiration behind 'The Snow Queen'. For example, Andersen's childhood surroundings are said to have inspired the roof top garden on which the story's heroes, Gerda and Kai, first meet and become friends: "Our little room, which was almost filled with the shoemaker's bench, the bed, and my crib, was the abode of my childhood; the walls, however, were covered with pictures, and over the work-bench was a cupboard containing books and songs; the little kitchen was full of shining plates and metal pans, and by means of a ladder it was possible to go out on the roof, where, in the gutters between and the neighbour's house, there stood a great chest filled with soil, my mother's sole garden, and where she grew her vegetables. In my story of the Snow Queen that garden still blooms."
Hans Christian Andersen, Snow Queen
Aberdeen Local Studies
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