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A new way to explore Denmark's cultural past

Denmark's own H.C. Andersen gets a brand-new museum in Odense

Photographs: H.C. Andersens Hus / Museum

Text: Erin Gustafson

Here in Denmark, it's nearly impossible to miss the famous Danish fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen's influence. Especially in Odense, where the author was born on April 2, 1805. His stories and tales have been translated and adored around the world. You may know "The Little Mermaid," "The Princess and The Pea," "The Ugly Duckling," "Thumbelina", or "The Emperor's New Clothes." Tributes and statues to these iconic stories litter the public spaces all over the charming town of Odense on the island of Funen. Literary fans can walk in his footsteps through the lanes of the old town and, when open, step inside the exact house where he was born or peruse the museum filled with artefacts from his life. But coming this summer, a brand-new institution and garden complex will welcome guests with a new way of exploring the author's incredible world.

"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower." - Hans Christian Anderson, The Complete Fairy Tales

The new Hans Christian Andersen museum will be located not far from his historic house in the middle of old town Odense. It has been designed by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who is also responsible for the forthcoming Tokyo Olympic Stadium. Kuma, whose integrated museum and surrounding garden design beat out other local firms' bids, was inspired by Andersen's story, "The Tinder Box," or "Fyrtøjet" in Danish. That tale opens with a witch offering a soldier returning from war an incredible opportunity. If he retrieves a magical tinder box from inside a hollow tree, he can keep whatever else he finds within the tree's underground chambers. And while the tale's twists don't end well for the witch, the museum hopes to take you into the metaphorical tree and explore the power of the box. Here in the new museum, the focus will be less about Andersen's past and more about experiencing his myriad stories themselves. Through visual projections and visitor involvement in this striking space, the viewer will get a sense of the world through the author's eyes.

"Hans Christian Andersen's artistic universe is fantastic because it turns the notions of the world you thought you knew upside down, but without putting anything else in its place. His adventures do not point to a new unambiguous truth, but to the open - to the wonder and diversity of the world." – Henrik Lübker, Creative Director of H.C. Andersens Hus.

While we wait for the stunning looking space to open for visitors, Odense is still a worthy place to explore more of the author's past. With Denmark's latest reopening for outdoor cultural institutions, you can step back in time at Den Fynske Landby, The Funen Village - an open-air museum dedicated to sharing Danish village life when Andersen was alive. Opening from April 1 and requiring a negative Covid test no more than 72 hours old for visitors over 15. Check the website for the latest rules and safe visiting recommendations.

The Funen Village

Sejerskovvej 20, 5260 Odense S

For the latest on the new H.C. Andersen Museum – follow @hcandersensodense on Instagram and Facebook. Tillykke med fødselsdagen Hans Christian Andersen!

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