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Hans Christian Andersen and His Sister, Karen Marie Rosenvinge

One of the most famous Danes of all times is the writer Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875). His international fame is based on his fairy tales, but in reality he was a much more versatile writer as he also published novels and a few plays as well as having written about himself, his life and friends in his now published diaries. He himself must have felt the need to strike the fact of his versatility as he is quoted for having said that the parents of his prime readers, i.e. the children, also would find something worthwhile in his stories. Perhaps he felt a little worm of disappointment gnaw at his pride because his fame was based on stories for children and not on his works for grown-ups even though they were considered quite outstanding?

What also gnawed at his system was the thought of his half-sister – or “his mother’s daughter” as he calls this sibling, Karen Marie Danielsdatter Rosenvinge (1799-1846). They might have been able to brighten each other’s lives had they been friends, but no, he could not bring anything that natural over his heart – and his pride. In his opinion she was a disgrace to him and the seemingly mild writer, even writing devotional fairy tales for children, never was happy to see her or to hear of her.

Could the reason for this be that she, being the eldest by six years, had bullied him in the childhood? Well, most of her childhood she, who was one of the three illegitimate children of a man who was never married to her mother, was fostered out and only lived with the family for a short period of time. The mother of both the children, Karen Marie and Hans Christian, also was born an illegitimate child and she was reputed to be a good person whom he loved so why could her son not accept his sister who started out in the same social position as their mother? It is safe to say that he never accepted this sister and that he seems to have suspected her of living an immoral and thus disgraceful life.

In the article “H.C. Andersens halvsøster, Karen Marie Rosenvinge, og hendes slægt” (: “The half-sister of Hans Christian Andersen, Karen Marie Rosenvinge, and her Family” by Bent Østergaard and Kenneth V. Jørgensen it is stated once and for all that there is nothing on her in police archives of that time. Or put another way: Karen Marie was not a prostitute and thus a disgrace to her family, she was a hard working washer woman like their mother. Most likely she was sent out to work as a servant at the tender age of 9-10 years and even though she was very upset when she could not have the address of her brother when he set out from his home as a child to try his luck in Copenhagen she did not stalk him when he got famous and thus wealthier than anyone in their family.

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