A visit to Solvang is a visit to a Danish community. Settled in the early 1900’s, Solvang is the result of the Danish-American’s that relocated from the fertile fields of Des Moines, Iowa to the Santa Ynez Valley of California where ground was more affordable. They moved here to build a Danish school so it makes sense to find connections to Hans Christian Andersen one of the greatest Danish, and worldwide children’s author of all times. When Linda Spanberger and I headed to Solvang after a trip to the North American Travel Journalist Conference in Oxnard California we found elements of Hans Christian Andersen everywhere!
There is the statue a huge bust of Andersen in the aptly named Hans Christen Andersen park. The Solvang Visitor’s Bureau states, “This monument of Hans Christian Andersen Denmark’s renowned Fairy Tale Writer was created by Henry Luckow Nielsen of Copenhagen, Denmark.”
The statue was presented to the Community of Solvang by Friends of Denmark and it was sponsored by the Solvang Chapter of Rebuild National Park Society in 1976. This is a great place for a photo-op with the famous author. Seeing this close up I just realized his nose looks to be rubbed for good luck like the Abraham Lincoln statue at Lincoln’s tomb. They would have been living at the same time so who knows, their paths may have crossed. While President Lincoln is Springfield, Illinois’s fair son, it appears that Andersen is the same for Copenhagen and Solvang!
The park is just one of the places to learn about this author that was so prolific and created such magical stories. The other is the Hans Christian Andersen museum. The museum is upstairs from the Book Loft and is operated by the Ugly Duckling Foundation, a non-profit organization established to foster public understanding and enjoyment of Hans Christian Andersen and his work. Open daily from 9 to 5 be ready to walk a set of stairs and be catapulted back to your childhood as you read the titles of his works. I loved the small Princess and the Pea display perched on a table with as many variations of this book as you could ever imagine. The model was made by local artist Carl Jacobsen.
Hans Christian Andersen was born in 1805 and left his home town of Odense at 14 to “become famous”. The museum brochure states that he tried his hand at many literary forms then in 1835 he began to publish his fairy tales. “Andersen never surpassed these fairy tales with their subtle narrative style. Behind the straightforward meaning easily understood by children, there are deeper ones meant for adults. It was to this naïve and direct approach that he owed his world fame; anyone anywhere could, and can understand him. Of all the writers of this world, Andersen is the only one to be read everywhere.”
While I knew of his writings I had not realized his unsuccessful attempts at romance never brought him closer than infatuation. In the museum they discuss these missed romances and the greatest known among them was the Swedish singer Jenny Lind.
While Andersen may not have found a romantic love and was a somewhat lonely man, he was and is loved by many. Over his life he wrote more than 160 fairy tales which have been translated into more than 100 languages. Some of the best known include The Ugly Ducking, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Little Mermaid and The Princess and the Pea.Besides his fairy tales he also wrote travel journals, plays, novels and poetry. There are also displays of Andersen artwork that included cutouts that he often made for the amusement of his friends and their children.