INTERVIEWS Fairy Tale Experiences

Minister of Cultural Affairs Brian Mikkelsen has decided to support the celebration of Hans Christian Andersen with a total of 56 million DKK. This huge contribution will provide dividends in the form of tourism, business cooperation and a cornucopia of major cultural events, predicts the minister.

By H.C. Andersen 2005 - 07 October 2002

When Minister of Culture Brian Mikkelsen was a boy, his mother read the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, "The Little Matchstick Girl," aloud to him and it came to mean something special to him. 

The tale of a lonely, orphan girl's struggle to survive with her matchsticks made such a big impression that the 36-year old minister still remember it vividly to this day.

"I was moved by the story.  Very moved because, of course, the bitter cold takes her," relates Brian Mikkelsen.

Since that time, he has had many happy moments with the Danish fairy tale writer.  First, by having read to him and then reading himself the many tales - including for his own four children. And more recently when, as Minster of Culture, he presented the government's contribution to the celebration of Hans Christian Andersen 2005. 

"For me, Hans Christian Andersen is one of the greatest, most magical things we have in Danish culture - not only because of the fairy tales, which are familiar to all Danes - and to thousands of people throughout the rest of the world - but also because of the many cultural experiences created on the foundation of Hans Christian Andersen's works," Brian Mikkelsen says.

The Special Magic of the Fairy Tales
This is far from the first time Minister of Culture Brian Mikkelsen has been made aware of Hans Christian Andersen's status as an artist of a special calibre.

Like most other Danes, many of the tales were read to him when he was a child. In addition to "The Little Matchstick Girl," he best remembers "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Brave Tin Soldier."  Later, as he grew older and as an adult, he read many of the world-renowned tales himself.  And today as a father of four, he reads aloud many of the same fairy tales for his children to the extent his long working days in the ministry allow.

"The fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen contain a special sort of energy and a unique faith in life as a small miracle.  It is this courage and belief in life that captivates.  At the same time, most of the fairy tales take their starting point in things that touch us all:  the need to be loved and to find one's place in the world.  This is true not only of "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Brave Tin Soldier," but also "The Little Matchstick Girl," even though it is very sad . . . ."

Brian Mikkelsen notes that the experience of Hans Christian Andersen's many tales is not limited to big, thick fairy tale books read aloud by parents and grandparents. He has himself seen them reproduced in animated series, films and television shows.  In his children's generation, they may be found in computer games and other modern media though the tales remain the same as in the books.

"This proves the durability of Hans Christian Andersen.  His tales are timeless and universal, which is simply fantastic," he says.

Encounters Abroad
Hans Christian Andersen's popularity through the world has for many years convinced Brian Mikkelsen that the fairy tale writer is an international icon.

On his journeys abroad, the Conservative Party politician has met many people who have often mentioned Hans Christian Andersen and his tales, when the topic of Denmark was broached.  Many of them could relate various tales in detail and some were even familiar with more details and titles than most Danes.

"People often speak of Hans Christian Andersen, when they speak of Denmark.  They know his fairy tales and adventures.  And they connect them to Denmark, even though they might live on the other side of the globe.  This is unique and proof of Hans Christian Andersen's status in the world," he says. 

For the Minister of Culture, the tremendous significance of the fairy tale writer for the world is one of the leading elements in the great celebration of the author in Hans Christian Andersen 2005.  The event has an international character and will not only take place in Denmark but throughout the entire world.  And this is an important dimension in the government's support for the project.

"Clearly, the celebration of Hans Christian Andersen will have colossal importance for tourism and the presentation of Denmark and Danish culture to the world.  It will be bigger than the City of Culture 96 - even bigger than hosting the Eurovision Song Contest last year. In other words, HCA 2005 will not only have economic advantages but cultural advantages, when Danes of all ages get the chance to re-experience the great Danish fairy tale writer.  It will be a beautiful alliance," the minister says.

Business and Art
The alliance with the project's private investor, the Bikuben Foundation, has also played a crucial role in the government's decision to support HCA 2005. 

Since his first days in office, Minster of Culture Brian Mikkelsen has been proposing more cooperation between cultural life and the business sector to the benefit of both in the form of inspiration and the exchange of experience. 

Over the course of this past spring, he opened two cultural-business projects, Louiz and NyX, and introduced an arts deduction for businesses in order to encourage stronger growth in the sale of Danish art.  And in the next several months, he will introduce new measures and initiatives to promote cooperation between businesses and artists in all conceivable forms.

"The singular and generous donation of the Bikuben Foundation to HCA 2005 is a model for cooperation between culture and business.  And the cooperation is a cornerstone for this government's cultural policy, since it enables a number of artists to make a living from their art and makes it possible to prioritise state support for the development of new talent and art that could not otherwise survive in the fray of the market."

The Minster of Culture himself is also convinced that Hans Christian Andersen would have collaborated with all sorts of businesses and investment funds, if he were a part of the contemporary market and culture.

"With his curiosity and nose for extraordinary tales, he would undoubtedly have been able to enchant business leaders and big cultural foundations and enter into unique collaborations for his own benefit and that of his larger audience."