Andersen grew up on the rough and tumble streets of Odense where at a young age Hans established himself as a tenacious brawler willing to take on children twice his size. For three years in a row his grammar school classmates voted him “Boy Most Likely to Pummel.”
After school Andersen joined the deadly but lucrative Danish underground cage fighting circuit, where his unbridled viciousness earned him the nickname “Bloody Hans.”
But Andersen’s brutality wasn’t limited to his actions the cage fighting arena. Using his ever growing writing skills, Andersen would craft a children’s fairy tale basing the main character on one of his soundly thrashed opponents.
The Little Mermaid – Named for Carl Milkkelson, who Andersen defeated by beating him senseless with a 25 pound herring.
The Little Match Girl – During a fight in 1848, Andersen punched Bjorn Vastergand so hard his head burst into flames.
Thumbelina – Andersen crushed the thumbs of the number one contender Jacob Holtz in a match that would end Holtz’s career as a Denmark’s favorite shadow puppeteer.
The Ugly Duckling – Andersen bit the head off a live duck in 1844 on a dare from his opponent Fritz Pedersen. Author Charles Dickens who was present at the fight said it was “the most horrifying thing he had ever witnessed, the industrial revolution included.”
By the time cage fighting was outlawed in the mid 1850’s Andersen had already published volumes of poems, short stories and fairy tales based on his terrible exploits in the ring. In the decades leading up to his death Andersen had successfully rewrote his own history, becoming a beloved storyteller who was the toast of Europe and skillfully erasing the legend of “Bloody Hans,” a man who killed more Danish men than the Protestant Reformation.