"It doesn't matter about being born in a duckyard, as long as you are hatched from a swan's egg"
"The Ugly Duckling"
Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark on 2 April 1805. He was an only child. His father, also named Hans, considered himself related to nobility (his paternal grandmother had told his father that their family had belonged to a higher social class, but investigations have disproved these stories). A persistent speculation suggests that Andersen was an illegitimate son of King Christian VIII, but this notion has been challenged.
Andersen's father, who had received an elementary school education, introduced his son to literature, reading to him the Arabian Nights. Andersen's mother, Anne Marie Andersdatter, was an illiterate washerwoman. Following her husband's death in 1816, she remarried in 1818. Andersen was sent to a local school for poor children where he received a basic education and had to support himself, working as an apprentice to a weaver and, later, to a tailor. At fourteen, he moved to Copenhagen to seek employment as an actor. Having an excellent soprano voice, he was accepted into the Royal Danish Theatre, but his voice soon changed. A colleague at the theatre told him that he considered Andersen a poet. Taking the suggestion seriously, Andersen began to focus on writing.
Andersen's childhood home in Odense
Jonas Collin, director of the Royal Danish Theatre, held great affection for Andersen and sent him to a grammar school in Slagelse, persuading King Frederick VI to pay part of the youth's education. Andersen had by then published his first story, "The Ghost at Palnatoke's Grave" (1822). Though not a stellar pupil, he also attended school at Elsinore until 1827.
He later said his years in school were the darkest and most bitter of his life. At one school, he lived at his schoolmaster's home, where he was abused, being told that it was "to improve his character". He later said the faculty had discouraged him from writing, driving him into a depression.