Tag-arkiv: Denmark

I never liked fairy tales

(edit: I found this post from febr. 2008, written just before I started this blog. I might as well publish it here. I’ll write soon about how/why I found it)
H. C. Andersen. Source: Wikipedia

I never liked fairy tales, not even as a child. Yesterday I visited the H. C. Andersen museum in Odense and it didn’t really help me to change my mind. As a boy I liked the set-up of the stories, the athmosphere and questions that arose during the reading. I often was wondering how the story would end and how all problems would be solved. But the solutions that were offered to create an end to the stories were most of the times very unsatisfying. It was as if the writer didn’t know himself and just when it became interesting he or she created a witch or a fairy to do some magic and suddenly solve all unsolved endings. And they live happily ever after and got many children. Boom! End.

I had in mind that H.C. Andersen and the Grimm Brothers used old folk tales and other sources and I got the idea that those original sources might be more interesting than these uninspired endings.

During my visit to the museum yesterday I got the impression that H. C. Andersen was a hard working writer that gave almost everything in order to succeed. He tried many things to get his career going and apparently had the plan of producing as much as possible and hoping that something might work some day. This fits with my idea of the writer of the fairy tales being someone who knew how to write a story but who didn’t had much to add.

It is also interesting to make a comparison between all his travels and visits to the upper class of Europe, and an, especially in our days, often advised managment plan of making one’s name known by giving interviews, lectures and making as much noise as possible. His travel activities must have helped him making a career in writing, which might explain part of his fame.

According to the museum there are some reports of H. C. Andersen being unaware of the impression he made during these visits (most striking when visiting Charles Dickens) and probably unjustly combined with the fact that the seemed to be unsuccesful with woman I got the idea that he might have been a hard working man that had his mind set up on succeeding as a writer.
The texts of the exhibition gave the impression that he wasn’t perfectly happy about his private life. It must have been tough for the young H.C. to become anything at all considering his unfortunate background, so his determination must have been vital for him during the main part of his life. One wonders if it didn’t turn into an obsession that ruled his life a little too much to become happy. It is nice that people like his stories but it must have been even more important for him as a person to live a happy life.

Informationens 9 manifestos

The article “Litterære manifester for et nyt årti” in the Danish newspaper Informationen gives 9 manifestos of contemporary Danish writers containing their thoughts about literature in the new decennia that we just entered. As always the thoughts are personal and thereby very different from each other. Some don’t believe in manifestos while others write a nice little article with their thoughts. One subject that is more often mentioned is the difference between the popular detective stories and the less commercial literary works. Most hope that the latter will survive the stream of very well marketed, and occasionally well written detective stories. This cry for support for the original, more personal literary works make it clear that the writers see a clear difference in value between the two kind of books. The literary works might not make the writer a lot of money (and maybe if they do than only after the writer’s death) but they do contribute to the more interesting and valuable part of literature. (Thanks to Ian)

Vejle Kunstmuseum

I recently visited Vejle Kunstmuseum again. My previous visit had been some years ago, when it still was just one building, the old library.
At that time there wasn’t too much space but I nevertheless liked the atmosphere and thought it had been a nice visit. Sometimes you get more out of a small museum than a big one, as you have to concentrate on the few things that are exhibited. But of course in a small museum it is very important what the current exhibition displays.
I know Vejle museum has a large amount of high quality prints and drawings which were at that time only visible on demand during the opening hours of the library. When I saw on their homepage that the museum has been extended with 2 other buildings I was hoping that there would be some room now for an permanent exhibition of some of the prints and drawings. Unfortunately there wasn’t really anything visible in the normal museum exhibition, but it is possible to see some fine Rembrandt etchings on request. They are in a separate, locked room and absolutely worth the trouble asking for permission to see them.
The current special exhibition at the moment (until the 10th of January) is a fairly big exhibition of the museums works and private works of the local artist Albert Bertelsen. I knew he makes very interesting graphical works, both abstract or for example with themes from Færøerne so this was a good opportunity to visit the museum in its new state. And I liked just about everything about the museum and the Bertelsen exhibition. The main exhibition shows local works and other works from different periods, as there for example is a classical room with views upon Vejle or a small room with works by Svavar Gudnason followed by a Cobra inspired room with among others Asger Jorn, Richard Mortensen and Else Alfelts. I didn’t see any foreign (non-Danish) works in the museum as far as I remember.
Albert Bertelsen was great, just as I had expected. He knows his job, has an excellent technique and a fine sense of humour, composition and mood.


Map of the main attack by the Swedish army on Copenhagen on the 11th of February 1659. Source: Wikipedia

When listening to the danish language program Sproghjørnet I heard a discussion about the word “Prøvesten”. It was said that besides being a stone to test whether a material was what it seemed to be, for example gold,  it had also been the name of a ship. This ship, together with other ships, was after ending its duties, sunk to form the basis of a little Island called Prøvesten on which was build a fortress to defend Copenhagen.


I went looking for this little island on the internet and saw that it is now part of Copenhagen harbour, well connected to the mainland. I also found this map showing the little island of Prøvesten but also the rather immense defense works of Copenhagen. I had hardly realized that those remains of the defense system still exist and that Copenhagen had once been fortress like that. I came to think of this post of Cristhoper’s picture blog with the text explaining about an amazing long siege of Copenhagen.


It struck me that there is a lot of focus in Denmark on the prehistoric times of the Vikings and before. An enormously rich and unique period of Danish history, but there have been other times, much closer to ours, that have been of major importance to the present state of this part of the world.


I know a tiny little bit about Swedish supremacy and Danish invasions and interests in the south of Sweden and the Danish interests in the north of Germany. There must have been many wars and events, but it is not a very common thing to discuss this period in the media or elsewhere.


Was Copenhagen indeed such a strong fort as the remains of its walls suggest?


Being a Dutchman I remember a story from Danish history books about the Dutch “helping” to free Copenhagen from a siege by the Swedes, and I wondered if it was a part of the same story.


It is quite amazing to notice that finding information about this period is not that simple. The internet is great, fantastic, but sometimes it is clear that it is also still young and under development.


Luckily there is Wikipedia telling about the long siege of the apparently well defended and walled city of Copenhagen in 1658 to 1660.  And indeed it is confirmed here that the intervention of the Dutch fleet was a major help that probably saved the town. Wikipedia states (without naming a source) that Dutch marines even helped on land, o.a. in this fragment:


“The moats and the beaches had been kept free of ice, and now the ice free zones were widened to 44 feet with the help from 600 Dutch marines. The ice was thick, and the work was done in heavy snowfall from 4 o’clock in the afternoon till evening on the 10 February.”


After reading a little bit more about this Swedish attack on Denmark I now understand that Denmark was on the verge of being wiped out completely. A major event as big as the defeat against Germany in 1864. The latter being more often mentioned and commemorated, probably also because it is not that long ago (as a result of this war parts of south Denmark became danish again as late as in 1920). But where as the teaching of history and the culture and identity of the Dutch is mainly based upon the 17th century, it is in Denmark an eventful period that seems to be outside the main interest or perhaps overshadowed by other periods.