Kids Corner | Fairytales and freedom – two famous Danish writers

Helen Dyrbye is a published author, translator and former scout leader from East Anglia in England who relocated to Denmark a long time ago and loves it here as much as ‘back home’.

I’d lived in Denmark for about a year, was top of my family’s ‘list of relatives to visit’ and had consequently seen a lot of sights, including the Little Mermaid. And I’d heard about Hans Christian Andersen, who apparently sometimes stayed with people for a little longer than they expected and compensated for it by writing enchanting, though sometimes slightly grisly fairy-tales about princesses, tinderboxes, and not least ugly ducklings. He was no George Clooney himself. Nevertheless, having worn a brace as a kid, I have a soft spot for him and consider myself a duckling still waiting to turn the page and discover the secret of eternal swanliness. Not likely with size eight feet. But anyway, the next time my friend Jane arrived from England, we decided to embark on a quest to visit the great HC’s birthplace in Odense to see where he was born, read his original handwritten stories and marvel at the intricate silhouette cut-outs (see our cut-outs at

Naturally, after dancing until dawn the night before, we missed the first train. And probably also the second. There was the 24-hour clock, which still stumps me sometimes, and the challenge of changing platforms in Copenhagen. But we made it to Odense. Finally. A whole 15 minutes before the museum shut. Not only had I missed my beauty sleep, but the closest I got to accomplishing my goal was swanning off in the wrong direction to catch the train back home.

Birthplace and museum
HC Andersens Hus, Bangs Boder 29, Odense; tickets: adults 95kr, under-17s free adm;, 6551 4601;

Visit his birthplace on April 2 (his birthday) when admission is free. When you visit the homepage, the EN stands for ‘English’ and The Tinderbox tab is especially for kids.

Closer to home?
The Fairytale World of Hans Christian Andersen, Rådhuspladsen 57, Cph K; tickets: over-14s: 85kr, under-14s: 68kr, under-11s: 43kr, under-4s: free adm, family tickets available

Spark an interest in The Little Match Girl, Thumbelina and the great man himself with sets, stories and soundtracks bringing characters into focus and detailing the humble childhood of the writer whose stories are translated into 123 languages – beaten only by the Bible. Though storyboards are in English, you’ll need to follow up at home in comfier surroundings unless you like reading about The Tin Soldier and other stories ‘on the hoof’. Combine your visit with Ripley’s ‘Believe it or Not’ at the same address and you’ll see an amazing collection of oddities. And I mean ‘odd’. With a chamber of horrors, shrunken heads, bizarre tribal traditions and stuffed animals with extra legs, it’s not for tiny tots but certainly boggles the mind. The stories of extreme handicaps that are courageously overcome echo the tale of the one-legged steadfast tin soldier, and there is a real fake mermaid.

A happy resting place

Assistens Cemetery, Kapelvej 4, Cph N

Hans Christian Andersen is buried in Copenhagen. Far from being sad, when I visited the grave I was cheered up by the balloons tied to the railings with cards from kids saying thank you.

The Little Mermaid musical
Operaen, Ekvipagemestervej 10, Cph K;, search for Den Lille Havfrue

The Little Mermaid statue is always on view at Langelinie, but the musical version of Disney’s Little Mermaid will be drawing crowds at the Opera House this summer. Some price categories are already selling out, but be careful because the English on-screen subtitles are not visible from some seats, so perhaps it’s best to call 7015 6565.

The National Gallery of Denmark, Sølvgade 48, Cph K; free adm; 3374 8494;

Another famous Danish writer, Søren Kierkegaard, was born 200 years ago last year (you might have noticed the bicentenary) and this exhibition for kids, on until 3 August 2014, has striking works of art that breathe new life into the philosopher’s thoughts on freedom, including a hunt for four-leafed clovers. But please walk fast past the poor fish in the blender or explain about scales of ethical justice when the chips are down.


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