Erik Christian Haugaard was born in Frederiksberg, Denmark. He came to the United States in 1940 after fleeing the Nazi invasion of Denmark, and later served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. He attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina from 1941 to 1942. He also attended the New School for Social Research in New York City.
In 1963, he published his first book for children and young adults, Hakon of Rogen's Saga. The book was well received by readers and critics and was a recipient of an American Library Association (ALA) Notable Book Award. He has received a number of awards for his subsequent publications including recognition for his 1978 translation of The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories of Hans Christian Andersen. Haugaard married Myrna Seld in 1949 and together they had two children. They later lived in Denmark and Ireland.
Work papers of Erik Christian Haugaard are maintained in the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. The collection consists of material received from Erik Haugaard and Houghton Mifflin between 1967 and 1984.
The University of Minnesota collection of Erik Christian Haugaard papers contains production material, consisting of manuscript materials, for nine titles published between 1963 and 1995.