HCA NEWS The Greatest Dane of All Time

Readers of Danish national daily Berlingske Tidende have elected Hans Christian Andersen as The Greatest Dane of All Time.

By Mikkel Stjernberg - H.C. Andersen 2005 - 04 May 2004

Berlingske Tidende readers have overwhelmingly elected Danish national poet - and poet of the world - Hans Christian Andersen as The Greatest Dane of All Time.

In all, 14,381 readers voted in the national popularity contest. With 34.6 percent of the vote, Andersen holds an almost 10 percent lead over his closest rival, nuclear physicist Niels Bohr, who took second place with 25.1 percent of the vote.

Niels Bohr was the only candidate to seriously rival Hans Christian Andersen, emphasised by the fact that A.P. Møller, founder of the MAERSK shipping company, had to contend with 8.4 percent of the vote. Readers submitted their vote either by letter or e-mail.

Berlingske Tidende expresses surprise at the level of reader response. Historian Claus Bjørn from Berlingske Tidende comments on why the choice of Hans Christian Andersen was so equivocal:

"He belongs to us all. We have all grown up with him. As an adult you realise just how outstanding an author he is. He is also widely known abroad. The personality people most readily identify with in Denmark - depending on their educational and social background, religion and nationality - is Hans Christian Andersen," says Claus Bjørn to Berlingske Tidende.

The fact that Hans Christian Andersen belongs to the world is reflected in the worldwide celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen in 2005.

Open-minded traveller
Hans Christian Andersen was a cosmopolitan and travelled to the far corners of Europe to learn from other cultures.

Cultural affairs commentator and author of the Hans Christian Andersen biography 'Andersen - a biography', Jens Andersen, says to Berlingske Tidende:

"Whereas Danish writers who preceded Hans Christian Andersen - such as Ludvig Holberg and Jens Baggesen - would journey to central Europe, Andersen sought the periphery. He diverged from traditional travel routes through Germany, France and Italy and travelled where no other Danish Golden Age poet had set foot - to the Black Sea and the Balkans, Scotland, Portugal and Tangier - on bold journeys that often followed circular routes so that the way home never followed the road out," writes Jens Andersen and continues:

"Hans Christian Andersen was an open-minded traveller. He crossed national borders with ease and bridged political and religious divides with an open mind. Whereas flagwaving Danes today often hold reservations towards the rest of Europe - and especially more alien cultures and religions - Andersen, on the other hand, would bridge the gap between 'them' and 'us' time and time again. In this respect, Andersen reflected the Romanticist sentiments held by Danish physicist H.C. Ørsted, who Andersen admired greatly. Ørsted believed that national awareness should always serve the further development of common cultural ground so that nations would grow closer."