There is no doubt that Hans Christian Andersen himself was convinced that the poor shoemaker Hans Andersen (1782 - 1816) was indeed his father. This is an integral part of the feeling of being a child of the lower classes, which followed and pursued him throughout life in spite of honours, fame and friendly accept in royal circles and among the nobility. But in spite of that he may in certain moments have played with the idea of being of higher extraction - just like his literary role model, Aladdin, in Oehlenschläger's eponymous play (1805), where it turns out that an emir, and not the poor tailor Mustapha, is Aladdin's real father (thus legitimizing his right to his rise in society and to becoming a sultan himself in the end). In his autobiographies, at any rate, Andersen maintains - undoubtedly inspired by the idealized stories of his paternal grandmother - that the family had originally been better placed socially, which, however, is not correct.
On several occasions theories have been put forward about other "fathers" for Hans Christian Andersen, among them a porter at the Hospital (the workhouse), Nicolas Gomard (a French Huguenot immigrant), who is listed as a godfather for Andersen, but who might have been his real father. The most tenacious of these theories is the one put forward by the then headmaster of Slagelse grammar school, Jens Jørgensen (in his book H.C. Andersen. En sand myte 1987 (Hans Christian Andersen. A true myth)). Jens Jørgensen asserts that the then Prince Christian Frederik (the later King Christian VIII) and a noblewoman from Funen, Elise Ahlefeldt-Laurvig, were his real parents, and that Andersen himself very well knew this. As the theory is put forward in the book, however, it rests on a scandalous abuse of sources and has indeed been emphatically denounced by all experts on Christian VIII as well as on Hans Christian Andersen. However, this massive rejection has further stimulated interest in the theory among the general public.Back
© 2002 Johan de Mylius, The Hans Christian Andersen Center