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Today, storyteller Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) is the most famous Dane in the world. He is also the writer whose works are translated into the most languages. The poet's humble birthplace in Odense is now known as Hans Christian Andersen's House and…

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Bite marks and Bedouin knives

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Time / Periode 1842
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Hans Christian Andersen travelled more frequently and further afield than other writers. He visited not only conventional destinations, but also 'exotic' locations such as Scotland, North Africa, Portugal, Turkey and the Balkans. In 1841, he set off for the Orient. On 17 March, the steamer docks at the port of Malta. Andersen visits the church and views the ancient armour of the Knights of Malta. Out in the open country in a two-wheeled horse-drawn carriage. Only fig trees, all else is barren. His travelling companion, a Russian officer, does more than just look at the fig leaves. He pays a visit to a sexually voracious Maltese woman: "….he showed me on his arms traces of bites, so lustful was she, her hair purportedly reaching the ground". Andersen spends the evening out of harm's way writing, while a British military band plays on one of the warships. The diary is his memory, but it is private. The literary version is published in 1842 in the travelogue En Digters Bazar (A Poet's Baazar) – with not a word about bite marks, but naturally impressively well-written: ”[…] they made ready for sailing. There was a shouting and screaming round about us; the floating shops with their traders surrounded us. Naked boys begged; passengers came on board, our Persian sat on the coal sacks near the chimney, a Bedouin wrapped up in his white burnoose, and with pistols and knife in his belt, lay with his back against him; a few Maltese women, in their black veils, had grouped themselves near the machinery, and Greeks in different dresses and with the red fez on their heads, leaned against the gunwhale. Two sailors with halberds stood guard by the steps into the gangway, and kept order whilst packages, chests, and boxes were piled up. The boatswain's whistle sounded; the steam whizzed and hissed out of the tube and about the paddle wheels; the cannon sounded, the flags waved, and we glided out of Malta's road at a rapid rate, into the open Mediterranean, which lay as blue and still as a velvet carpet spread over the earth; the sea was like bluish ether a fixed starless sky beneath us; it extended in the transparent air, further than I have ever seen it; neither dark nor light striped bounded the horizon; there was a clearness, an infinity which cannot be painted, nor described except in the eternal depth of thought".

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From slum to fairytale

When Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense on 2 April 1805, his parents had no house of their …

Bite marks and Bedouin knives

Hans Christian Andersen travelled more frequently and further afield than other writers. He visited …

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