Even if Hans Andersen is the most widely read writer in the world - he has been translated into more than 100 languages - and even if within individual countries and cultures he is known much more widely than other writers are, his oeuvre is not an obvious topic for lectures and research at foreign universities, except in places where Danish scholars decide to cultivate this subject.
This may seem strange, but it is undoubtedly connected with the fact that outside Denmark Andersen is synonymous with children's literature, which is still a low-status subject at many universities. Of course that need not matter, for Andersen will be read neither more nor less because universities abroad neglect his work. His audience are not bound by academic prejudice, and his books are retranslated and republished quite independently of the attitudes of foreign universities.
If nevertheless there is reason to try to change this situation, it is because Hans Andersen himself stated quite clearly that children only understood "Staffagen" - external matters - whereas the real essence of his tales was for adults. Andersen's position as world-famous author of children's fairy tales thus builds on a drastically truncated view of what he wrote, a view merited neither by the country from which he came (and which accordingly believes that it understands him better than anybody else) nor justified by the tales themselves. Quite apart from the fact that the reading public abroad deserve to have their eyes opened to the wisdom and potential artistic experience inherent in the tales they know - and the many which they do not know.
It was against this background that the Hans Christian Andersen Center, founded at Odense University in 1988, decided to initiate a series of international Hans Christian Andersen conferences. Such conferences had never been held before, either in Denmark or elsewhere.
And thus from 25 to 31 August 1991, well over 70 scholars from 16 countries met in Odense to hear research papers and to discuss Andersen, concentrating on the topic "Andersen seen in an adult perspective", i.e. not Andersen as a writer for adults - that would have limited the discussion to specific genres - but the whole oeuvre seen from the point of view of adult literature.
It is the contributions to this conference which are issued here in book form. The structure of the book reflects that of the conference, with its plenary lectures, its different sections, and its reports about research in the field of Hans Andersen studies in a number of the countries represented at the conference (some of whom had nothing to report). All manuscripts in Danish or Swedish have been summarized in English in a separate section at the end of this publication, arranged alphabetically by author, and with a cross-reference to the place in the book where the article is to be found.
The book has become quite bulky; this is due to the fact that the editorial board considered it important at this first Hans Christian Andersen Conference to publish as many as possible of the contributions from the international circle who had come forward to support the initiative, especially as this conference was to mark the beginning of several of the same kind. Therefore, very few lectures were omitted; the editors have co-operated with the authors to give the contributions such a form that together they may function as a survey of Andersen research till now. We also hope that they will signal the beginning of a bright future. The plenary lectures are being published in China (Anhui Publishers, Hefei), translated by Guo Dehua.
At the end of the conference it was decided to meet again in 1995, which of course is one of the lesser Andersen anniversaries, and to have the subsequent conferences in the years 2000 - preferably outside Denmark, e.g. in the United States - and again in Odense in 2005, to celebrate the year of the great Andersen jubilee, the bicentenary of his birth.
A great number of Danish foundations and companies sponsored the conference. We would like to thank them once again for their generous support which made the occasion possible.
The Munke Mølle Foundation has contributed towards the cost of printing the conference papers, for which we express our warm thanks.
Special thanks are due to the secretary of the Andersen Center, Solveig B. Madsen, who has cheerfully shouldered the heavy burden of typing the manuscript and keeping the editors up to the mark.
Johan de Mylius Aage Jørgensen Viggo Hjørnager Pedersen