"H. C. Andersens gennembrud i Tyskland".
This paper has been published in Andersen og Verden, Odense 1993.
Hans Christian Andersen's Breakthrough in GermanyIvy York Möller-Christensen
(summary for pages 321-28)
The author has recently finished a research project concerning H. C. Andersen's breakthrough in Germany. The results are presented in her dissertation Den gyldne trekant. H. C. Andersens gennembrud i Tyskland 1831-1850, Odense 1992 (401 pp.; bibliography pp. 305-401).
The period covers the reception of a considerable part of H. C. Andersen's oeuvre; in the period dealt with he published four novels, a number of fairy tales, Bilderbuch ohne Bilder (Picture-Book without Pictures), two accounts of his travels, and a considerable number of lyrics. The dissertation is based both on primary and secondary material containing works in German by and about Andersen.
As early as 1835, when he published Jugendleben und Träume eines italienischen Dichters (The Improvisatore) one can see how H. C. Andersen tried to promote himself and his works to people of influence, in this case the publisher Brockhaus in Leipzig.
In Germany there arose very early a strong interest in the personality of H. C. Andersen and the fantastic story of his life. The poet's real breakthrough came with the publication of his novel Nur ein Geiger! (Only a Fiddler) in 1838. Success was largely due to the fact that the publication was linked with a fairly extensive biography, written by Captain G. F. von Jenssen; in fact the honour of authorship must be attributed to H. C. Andersen himself. Moreover H. C. Andersen was fully aware of the effect of this biography as well as that of other publications revealing the story of his life. Jenssen's text points everywhere to the author's own role as the main character in what is presented as the fantastic story of his life. This connection of the novel, containing some autobiographical lines, with the story of his life was the beginning of the creation of a myth surrounding the poet, which appeared to be a kind of mythologization of the relation between life and art.
H. C. Andersen's life story offers strong evidence of the romantic belief in genius. Thus the reception of his work verifies tradition; at the same time his life story provides the beginning of a drama depicting a case of upward social mobility - just as in the biography. This in the German context of the time is a rather modern feature.
Genuine "Bildungsdenken", idyllic and conservative Biedermeier as well as the idea of social emancipation, could all find their place within the myth surrounding H. C. Andersen. This formation of a myth which combines the components of the semi-fictional H. C. Andersen, the works, and the biographical facts, is called the golden triangle.
A dismantling of the myth of the golden triangle did not begin until 1847. The dissolution was based on several circumstances. One of these resulted from the national conflicts of that time. Another resided in the fact that H. C. Andersen's great German autobiography Das Märchen meines Lebens ohne Dichtung (The True Story of My Life), 1847, quite unintentionally destroyed the myth which had so long sustained the image of H. C. Andersen in Germany.