Niels Ingwersen recently delivered a lecture titled "You Don't Understand Me: Hans Christian Andersen, His Critics and His Audience," at the Library of Congress to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the storyteller's birth on April 2, 1805, in Odense, Denmark.
The program was sponsored jointly by the Library's Rare Book and Special Collections Division, the Royal Danish Embassy, the American Scandinavian Association, the American Scandinavian Foundation and other Scandinavian groups. Items from the Library's Hersholt Collection, the most comprehensive collection of Anderseniana in America, were also on display.
In his lecture, Ingwersen focused on the Danish storyteller's struggle for acceptance. Like the "Ugly Duckling" in one of his stories, Andersen overcame poverty and prejudice through his literary efforts, which made him a celebrity worldwide. Some of his best-known stories include "Thumbelina," "The Emperor's New Clothes" and "The Little Mermaid."
Ingwersen, a professor and Andersen scholar at the University of Wisconsin, has won several awards for excellence in teaching. In 1997 he was appointed Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.
The Library's Hersholt Collection, an accumulation of first editions, manuscript and other material related to Andersen, was donated to the Library's Rare Book Division by the Danish-American actor Jean Hersholt in 1951. Hersholt was a prolific screen actor whose career began in silent films. He was also known for a radio series featuring the kindly Dr. Christian.
Hersholt translated more than 160 of Andersen's fairytales, which he compiled into a six-volume set titled "The Complete Andersen," published in 1949. The actor and author may be best remembered for the posthumous Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, given to an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.