Thursday, April 2, 2015

APRIL 2 = Ponce in Florida, Hans Christian Andersen

On today's date, April 2....
In 1513 =

Spanish Explorer Ponce de Leon, who was looking for the "Fountain of Youth" ran into Florida instead, or so the story went.  According to the History of Ponce de Leon in Florida compiled by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas:
"The 2nd of April running West-Northwest, the water diminishing to nine fathoms, at one league from land... they ran along beside the coast seeking harbor, and at night anchored near the land in eight fathoms of water.  And believing that this land was an island, they named it La Florida, because it had a very beautiful view of many and cool woodlands, and because it was level and uniform, and because, moreover, they discovered it in the time of the Feast of Flowers {Pascua Florida}..."

Antonio may have gotten these details right, as he had access to the ship's log.  But as he was writing in 1601, he likely was speculating about many of the details.  Further, the claim that Ponce de Leon was searching for the Fountain of Youth came from the Memoir of Hernando D'Escalante Fontaneda written in 1575. Fonteneda thought that the mythical fountain was in Florida, and said that Ponce de Leon was searching for it there.  His account likely influenced Antonio's work some 25 years later. But the fact remains that de Leon may possibly have heard these stories, but he did not mention it anywhere in his writings about his expedition to Florida.

In 1805 =

Hans Christian Andersen (right) , one of the worlds great story tellers, and the author of some of the classic children's fairy tales of history was born in Odensk, near the capital city of Denmark, Copenhagen.   Andersen's output during his life was not restricted to his children's stories as he wrote novels, plays and poetry.  In fact, "A Walk From Amager" (1829) a literary spoof was his first major work.  But it has been in his works for children that he expressed themes that have transcended his own time and place and touched on ideas which have come down to the present.

"The little mermaid grew fonder and fonder of human beings, and more and more she wished that she could live among them.... "Can't I do something to get an immortal soul?" "No," said the old woman said.  "Only if a human being loved you so much that you meant more to him than his father or mother -- and only if his thoughts and feelings were devoted to you, and he let the pastor put his right hand in your's with the promise of faithfulness now and for all eternity.  Then his soul would flow into your body, and you too could share in human happiness. "

Yes, that story is from the story "The Little Mermaid" which formed the basis of the enormously popular Walt Disney cartoon movie of the same name.  Just think: when you're thinking of a person who is hyper-sensitive to things and conditions, you're likely to think of "The Princess and the Pea" - a story by Andersen.  When you're thinking of a popular fad that everyone pretends to like, but which secretly they hate, or which they just don't understand, you're likely to think of "The Emperor's New Clothes." This man who would achieve considerable success with his published work in his lifetime died of liver cancer on August 4 in 1875. By that time he was paid an annual stipend by the Danish government as "national treasure." A statue of him by August Saaybe was erected and can now be seen in Rosenborg Castle Gardens in Copenhagen.


Ponce de Leon =

Hans Christian Andersen =

"The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen"  Translated by Diana Crone Frank and Jeffrey Frank, Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2005.

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