The Storyteller’s Fountain

A Hans Christian Andersen Fountain by Jens Galschiot



On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Hans Christian Andersen’s birth in 2005, I have been asked by politicians, industrialists and citizens to make a suggestion for a sculpture in honour of the great poet of our city. This is the background of my draft.

I have always been fascinated by storytelling and fairytales that allow the exuberance of imagina­tion. This fascination shows in many of my sculptures.

I have made a model of copper in the scale 1/10 which can be seen in my workshop.

Idea: The creation of a sculpture showing the entire universe of Hans Christian Andersen and forming an active part of the urban environment. The basis of the idea is to create:

-         A sculpture where most of the figures of all the stories are represented.

-         A sculpture made in an idiom that is reasonably accessible (my usual idiom) and is under­standable to children and adults, foreigners and Danes.

-         A sculpture in which you can make discoveries and also makes the observer wiser on Hans Christian Andersen.

-         A sculpture that relates to the own kaleidoscopic idiom of Hans Christian Andersen.

-         A sculpture that acknowledges that the joy of recognition is often the biggest.

-         A sculpture that relates to and lets itself inspire by the historically long series of traditional portraits of Hans Christian Andersen.

-         A sculpture that has its basis in Hans Christian Andersen as a storyteller and functions by involving present-day storytellers.

Elements of the sculpture

The sculpture consists of 5 elements each of which has a function and a symbolic significance in the descrip­tion of Hans Christian Andersen: The figure of the poet, the circle, the storyteller chair, the sculpture wings and fountains.

The 5 elements:

1. The circle: The fountain consists of a large circle of bronze with a diameter of 10 metres, of which the outer side is shaped like a big bench. The circle is made of dark polished bronze that makes a comfortable seat. The basin edge is 1 metre high and rounded.

2. Hans Christian Andersen: On the edge of the circle sits a 3½ metre high sculpture of Hans Christian Andersen taking a foot-bath in the basin. He is fairly traditionally made, wearing a frock coat and in his Sunday best, but he is taking a little pause for thought, and has taken off his shoes to cool his feet in the basin.

3. The sculpture wings: Beside the Hans Christian Andersen figure two walls are rising to the height of 5 metres. The surface is covered with hundreds of smaller sculptures all representing figures from the fairytales. The many sculptures interweave kaleidoscopically. The sculpture wings will make the Hans Christian Andersen figure seem as though it is sitting between two small peaks, the entrance to a large gate or perhaps in the middle of a pair of gigantic surrealistic swan wings.

4. The Storyteller’s chair: On the opposite side of Hans Christian Andersen the circle will make a turn toward the centre. In the middle of the turn the bronze bench will change shape and rise into the storyteller’s chair, which rises over the basin edge. The person sitting on this chair has the figure of the poet in the background between the wings with the fairytale figures.

5. The water sculptures: The basin will hold 50 cm of water that is sprinkled periodically from small nozzles on the sides of the circle. On the inner side of the sculpture wings there will be a constant flow of water on the surface, which will give the inner side of the wings the hint of a glossy grotto surface. At the bottom of the basin there will be several smaller sculptures under the surface of the water. Mainly the fairytale figures belonging to the water element, like for instance Agnethe and the Merman, the Mermaid, the Marsh King’s Daughter, etc. These sculptures will only be visible in the evening when the underwater sculptures are illuminated.


Interactive sculpture

The sculpture has some built-in practical functions:

It will work as a sort of oasis of relaxation, where the passers-by can sit on the bronze bench and relax.

The seat for the storyteller which is placed in the basin is to be used, for instance, on a fixed day of the week, when a storyteller comes to tell one or more stories, weather permitting They do not have to be stories of H.C.A. I have discussed this with the Odense Storyteller Society, which aims to build up such a tradition similar to the one in Central Park in New York. In this way a bridge is built from the universe of our old writer of fairytales to the storytelling tradition in present-day Denmark. One could imagine that good storytellers visiting Odense could be asked to sit on the chair and read a story to the citizens.

The bench makes a turn inwards toward the centre of the circle, which means that there should be room for the audience to sit and listen to the stories. Also there are a number of smaller seats on the ground in front of the storyteller’s chair. This makes more room for audience.

The sculpture wings will be divided into an outside and an inside facing the basin. On the inside will be the figures of The Ugly Duckling, Thumbelina, etc. These figures represented here belong mainly to the element of water. On the outside the figures belonging to the land element will be placed.

Only specialists will be able to identify all the figures of the stories, though everybody will try. This will increase the knowledge of the whole body of H.C.A.’s work and give the visitors knowledge of the less known stories. One could imagine that visitors would make it a point of honour to recognize the greatest possible number of stories, and this way the fountain will work as an inter­active sculpture, which most likely will have a high tourist potential.

The H.C.A. sculpture is created from a traditional concept of his figure. During the last few years there has been a tendency to describe H.C.A.’s vanity. These descriptions might be true, but I see him as a warm and critical storyteller, defending the weaker party and in his own subtle way dissociating himself from the double standards of his age and of the present world as well. This is also what made me portray him in a relaxed and popular pose.

H.C.A. is an inseparable part of Danish culture and an important source of inspiration to many a Danish writer or artist. To stress this symbolically one will be able to see H.C.A. in the background when the storyteller is in his chair.

Materials: copper and bronze.

Lighting: At night the H.C.A. figure and the sculpture wings are illuminated from below by an underwater spot­light.

Location: In a central site or a park that can be transformed into an oasis of relaxation.

More info: I will be in a position to show the model and further information about my ideas about H.C.A. if you are interested.

On you can find this description, various writings about the sculpture and pictures of the model.



Jens Galschiot, sculptor, Banevaenget 22, DK-5270 Odense N, Denmark

Tel. (45) 6614 4038, Fax (45) 6618 4158, E-mail:, Internet:


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2012 (startet 2003): Fortællerbrønden
Additional Information:
Categories: 2012 (startet 2003): Fortællerbrønden | Happenings and Art Installations | 2005: Local events
Themes: Hans Christian Andersen
Sculptures: Storytellers Fountain
Type: Concepts
Dates: 2003 | 2004 | 2005
Locations: Odense, Denmark | Flakhaven (Town Hall sq.), Odense, Denmark | Sortebrødre Torv, Odense, Denmark
Co-operators and Helpers: Beklædningsfagskolen i Odense / Dress Vocational School | Brian Østergaard, e-mergency | C.C. Nielsen, Micro Matic A/S | Lars Bjørnsten | Leif Ã…hl Petersen, stats. aut. rev. | LO, Odense | Merete Næsted | Mutantes, Cuba | Odense Byråd | Odense Kommunes Kunstfond | Rey Gaspar Morales Vásquez, Mexico | Sara, kunststuderende | Sven-Erik Peterson, HK | Troels Beck | Uciel, mexicansk maler
Partners: Hanne Nordentoft, Korup Sogns Kunstforening
Related Persons and Entities: Bjørn Nørgaard
Sponsors: Beklædningsfagskolen i Odense / Dress Vocational School | BG Bank | Clausen Offset ApS | e-mergency | Microcom ApS