A surfeit of imagination is, obviously, a great benefit to the creator of fairy tales — but as has been widely recorded, Hans Christian Andersen’s inventiveness seems to have also been present in the way he viewed his health. In fact, several biographers who have examined his diaries and letters have come to describe him as a hypochondriac, who often thought that he was chronically sick or that a small injury might be the end of him. According to “Hans Christian Andersen: The Story of His Life and Work” by Elias Bredsdorf, one entry in the writer’s diary records an incident in which he received a small splinter scratch on his foot. “Perhaps my death will come as a result of such a tiny cause; it must come soon,” Andersen ruminated.
The entry is just one of many that show the author was paranoid about experiencing a sudden bodily decline. After feeling dizzy one day, he guessed that it must have been a case of spinal tuberculosis. Elsewhere, after falling out of bed one night and hurting his knee, he told friends that he expected it would lead to hydrarthrosis, a form of arthritis. Though today we would describe such behavior as hypochondria, Andersen’s friends and acquaintances often attributed his fears to his “sensitive” nature.