Hans Christian Andersen's Funen countryside

Hans Christian Andersen made use of Danish surroundings when writing his tales, and in his comprehensive memoirs, he has described a Denmark and a world in a process of colossal change.

 

When Hans Christian came into the world in 1805, the Funen (and Danish) forestland had been ruined by grazing animals and excessive felling. The communal system of agriculture with open fields had long since disappeared, and the farmers were busy trying to gain a better yield from the new fields which they now cultivated separately. Hedges were put up, the fields were drained and enriched with marl.

Most of the farmers were copyholders under the estates and all citizens were subject to an absolute monarch. Norway and Schleswig-Holstein were still integrated parts of the kingdom. In addition, voyages at sea were by sailing ship, journeys on land in horsedrawn carriages along terrible roads, and messages were sent as letters borne by men on horseback or on foot.

When Andersen died in 1875, the forests had become conservation areas and been enlarged and the heathland in Jutland was in the process of being planted. Norway and Schleswig-Holstein had also been lost in war. The countryside was now adorned with stone walls and hedges of hawthorn. Most of the waterholes in the fields had been drained and grain yields had trebled. In 1849, the absolute monarchy was done away with and democracy introduced at both local and national levels.

Steamships and steam engines transported people between the various parts of the country. The two-thousand-year reign of the sailing ship was coming to an end. Electricity had been invented, while the petrol engine and telephone were only just round the corner. New cobbled roads stretched northwards and southwards on Funen - and telegraphy ensured that news was flashed at lightning speed from place to place. Last but not least, 'the small (thatched, half-timbered) cottage at the bend in the road' was demolished and replaced by a levelled brick house with slate roof.

Click here to see the pampflet Hans Christian Andersen's Funen countryside

 
 

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