J. K. Rowling receives the "H. C. Andersen Literature Award"

In connection with the annual Harry Potter Festival in Odense, Denmark, J. K. Rowling received the first "H.C. Andersen Literature Award" in Odense Concert Hall, Tuesday, October 19, 2010.

The purpose of the award is to pay tribute to Hans Christian Andersen’s influence on writers from all over the world by selecting award winners whose works can be tied to Hans Christian Andersen’s through similarities in genre or narrative qualities.

When Rowling arrived at Odense Concert Hall, she was greeted with standing ovations, screaming fangirls and press photographers going crazy. Later, at the press conference, Rowling admitted that she had only experienced a greeting that massive once before, and that was in Carnegie Hall. She said that it made her feel like one of the Beatles.

The award ceremony in Odense Concert Hall was very moving with Odense Symphony Orchestra performing John Williams’ "Hedwig’s Theme" and Countess Caroline Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille making the nomination speech. The Countess said that what makes Rowling a genuinely extraordinary writer is that she doesn’t pretend that the world we live in is plain sailing. Even wizards experience times of crisis and injustice and that helps the reader identify with Harry Potter.

"Who has not mourned Dubledore’s death," the Countess said, "or marvelled at The Mirror of Erised or laughed at the pranks of the Weasley twins?"

But – as the Countess pointed out – Rowling’s greatest achievement is that her life has broken all imaginable boundaries and in that way inspired millions of children and adults.

Her Royal Highness Princess Marie presented the award to J. K. Rowling, an award consisting of £50,000 and a very heavy bronze sculpture of Hans Christian Andersen’s "The Ugly Duckling" which the Princess and the Writer tried to lift up in vain. The merriment that this caused was prolonged when Rowling nodded at a ginger female violinist in the Odense Symphony Orchestra and said, "You really know how to make me feel welcome. I see that one of the Weasley cousins is in the orchestra."

Rowling now thanked for the award, saying that she was humbled and deeply honoured to receive it. She didn’t presume to compare her Harry Potter books with Hans Christian Andersen’s stories that have lasted two centuries, but she admired that Hans Christian Andersen was not afraid to depict cruelty and pain. She said that the true dilemmas of childhood are the dilemmas of the whole of life: those of belonging and betrayal, of the power of the group and the courage it takes to be an individual. That is why writing that succeeds with children often succeeds just as well with adults.

After the ceremony, Rowling did a 15 minutes press conference in which she told the press that at the moment she is writing all the things that she didn’t have the time to write while she was working on the Harry Potter series, but she wouldn’t rule out that she would write a HP8 in ten years time. She said that ever since she was a child, she had had a need to write and that she was happy that her wealth had made it possible for her give money to charities, especially to research in multiple sclerosis, the disease from which her mother died. She told the press that she has a good relationship to the cast of Harry Potter and that she had never met people nicer, more intelligent and well-adjusted than the young actors. Finally she admitted, that she had never read Stephenie Meyer’s "Twilight" series and that her favourite Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale is "The Brave Tin Soldier".

Upon leaving the Concert Hall, Rowling walked to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. On her route, young actors from the Hans Christian Andersen Parade acted out scenes from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. After visiting the museum so went to Odense Town Square where the annual Harry Potter Festival took place. The square had turned into Diagon Alley complete with Ollivander’s, The Daily Prophet, Eeylops Owl Emporium, Flourish & Blotts, The Leaky Cauldron, Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions and Quality Quidditch Supplies. J. K. Rowling signed autographs while the chimes of Odense Cathedral played "Hedwig’s Theme".

Rowling then went inside the Town Hall to read from her Harry Potter books to children aged 8-14. She answered a few questions as well, telling the kids that the person she identifies with in Harry Potter is Hermione. She finished her visit to Odense with lunch with the notabilities of the city.

© Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2010