Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark, in 1805. He endured a lonely, impoverished childhood consoled by little more than his own imagination. He escaped to a theatre life in Copenhagen aged 14 where the support of a powerful patron enabled him to complete his scant education, and to write. His poetry, novels and travel books became hugely popular. But it was his Fairy Tales, the first children's stories of their kind, published in instalments from 1835 until the time of his death in 1875, that have immortalised him. Translated into more than 100 languages and adapted to every kind of media, they have made Andersen the most important children's writer in history.
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