Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales, First Series
by Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales
Edited by J. H. Stickney
Illustrated by Edna F. Hart
Ginn and Company
COPYRIGHT, 1886, 1914, BY J. H. STICKNEY
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The Athenæum Press
GINN AND COMPANY · PROPRIETORS
· BOSTON · U.S.A.
THE FIR TREE
THE LITTLE MATCH
THE LOVING PAIR
THE HAPPY FAMILY
THE MONEY BOX
THE SNOW QUEEN
THE ROSES AND
THE OLD HOUSE
The Hans Andersen Fairy Tales will be read in schools and homes as
long as there are children who love to read. As a story-teller for
children the author has no rival in power to enlist the imagination and
carry it along natural, healthful lines. The power of his tales to
charm and elevate runs like a living thread through whatever he writes.
In the two books in which they are here presented they have met the
tests and held an undiminishing popularity among the best children's
books. They are recognized as standards, and as juvenile writings come
to be more carefully standardized, their place in permanent literature
will grow wider and more secure. A few children's authors will be
ranked among the Immortals, and Hans Andersen is one of them.
Denmark and Finland supplied the natural background for the quaint
fancies and growing genius of their gifted son, who was story-teller,
playwright, and poet in one. Love of nature, love of country,
fellow-feeling with life in everything, and a wonderful gift for
investing everything with life wrought together to produce in him a
character whose spell is in all his writings. The Story of My Life is
perhaps the most thrilling of all of them. Recognized in courts of
kings and castles of nobles, he recited his little stories with the
same simplicity by which he had made them familiar in cottages of the
peasantry, and endeared himself alike to all who listened. These
attributes, while they do not account for his genius, help us to
unravel the charm of it. The simplest of the stories meet Ruskin's
requirement for a child's storythey are sweet and sad.
From most writers who have contributed largely to children's
literature only a few selected gems are likely to gain permanence. With
Andersen the case is different. While there are such gems, the greater
value lies in taking these stories as a type of literature and living
in it a while, through the power of cumulative reading. It is not too
much to say that there is a temper and spirit in Andersen which is all
his owna simple philosophy which continuous reading is sure to
impart. For this reason these are good books for a child to own; an
occasional re-reading will inspire in him a healthy, normal taste in
reading. Many of the stories are of value to read to very young
children. They guide an exuberant imagination along natural channels.
The text of the present edition is a reprint of an earlier one which
was based upon a sentence-by-sentence comparison of the four or five
translations current in Europe and America. It has been widely
commended as enjoyable reading, while faithful to the letter and spirit
of the Danish original. A slight abridgment has been made in two of the
longer stories. The order of the selections adapts the reading to the
growing childthe First Series should be sufficiently easy for
children of about eight or nine years old.
J. H. STICKNEY
[Illustration: They danced merrily ... around the tree.]
HANS ANDERSEN'S FAIRY TALES
THE FIR TREE
FAR away in the forest, where the warm sun and the fresh air made a
sweet resting place, grew a pretty little fir tree. The situation was
all that could be desired; and yet the tree was not happy, it wished so
much to be like its tall companions, the pines and firs which grew
The sun shone, and the soft air fluttered its leaves, and the little
peasant children passed by, prattling merrily; but the fir tree did not
Sometimes the children would bring a large basket of raspberries or
strawberries, wreathed on straws, and seat themselves near the fir
tree, and say, Is it not a pretty little tree? which made it feel
even more unhappy than before.
And yet all this while the tree grew a notch or joint taller every
year, for by the number of joints in the stem of a fir tree we can
discover its age.
Still, as it grew, it complained: Oh! how I wish I were as tall as
the other trees; then I would spread out my branches on every side, and
my crown would overlook the wide world around. I should have the birds
building their nests on my boughs, and when the wind blew, I should bow
with stately dignity, like my tall companions.
So discontented was the tree, that it took no pleasure in the warm
sunshine, the birds, or the rosy clouds that floated over it morning
Sometimes in winter, when the snow lay white and glittering on the
ground, there was a little hare that would come springing along, and
jump right over the little tree's head; then how mortified it would
Two winters passed; and when the third arrived, the tree had grown
so tall that the hare was obliged to run round it. Yet it remained
unsatisfied and would exclaim: Oh! to grow, to grow; if I could but
keep on growing tall and old! There is nothing else worth caring for in
In the autumn the woodcutters came, as usual, and cut down several
of the tallest trees; and the young fir, which was now grown to a good,
full height, shuddered as the noble trees fell to the earth with a
After the branches were lopped off, the trunks looked so slender and
bare that they could scarcely be recognized. Then they were placed, one
upon another, upon wagons and drawn by horses out of the forest. Where
could they be going? What would become of them? The young fir tree
wished very much to know.
So in the spring, when the swallows and the storks came, it asked:
Do you know where those trees were taken? Did you meet them?
The swallows knew nothing; but the stork, after a little reflection,
nodded his head and said: Yes, I think I do. As I flew from Egypt, I
met several new ships, and they had fine masts that smelt like fir.
These must have been the trees; and I assure you they were stately;
they sailed right gloriously!
Oh, how I wish I were tall enough to go on the sea, said the fir
tree. Tell me what is this sea, and what does it look like?
It would take too much time to explaina great deal too much,
said the stork, flying quickly away.
Rejoice in thy youth, said the sunbeam; rejoice in thy fresh
growth and in the young life that is in thee.
And the wind kissed the tree, and the dew watered it with tears, but
the fir tree regarded them not.
* * * * *
Christmas time drew near, and many young trees were cut down, some
that were even smaller and younger than the fir tree, who enjoyed
neither rest nor peace for longing to leave its forest home. These
young trees, which were chosen for their beauty, kept their branches,
and they, also, were laid on wagons and drawn by horses far away out of
Where are they going? asked the fir tree. They are not taller
than I am; indeed, one is not so tall. And why do they keep all their
branches? Where are they going?
We know, we know, sang the sparrows; we have looked in at the
windows of the houses in the town, and we know what is done with them.
Oh! you cannot think what honor and glory they receive. They are
dressed up in the most splendid manner. We have seen them standing in
the middle of a warm room, and adorned with all sorts of beautiful
thingshoney cakes, gilded apples, playthings, and many hundreds of
And then, asked the fir tree, trembling in all its branches, and
then what happens?
We did not see any more, said the sparrows; but this was enough
I wonder whether anything so brilliant will ever happen to me,
thought the fir tree. It would be better even than crossing the sea. I
long for it almost with pain. Oh, when will Christmas be here? I am now
as tall and well grown as those which were taken away last year. O that
I were now laid on the wagon, or standing in the warm room with all
that brightness and splendor around me! Something better and more
beautiful is to come after, or the trees would not be so decked out.
Yes, what follows will be grander and more splendid. What can it be? I
am weary with longing. I scarcely know what it is that I feel.
Rejoice in our love, said the air and the sunlight. Enjoy thine
own bright life in the fresh air.
But the tree would not rejoice, though it grew taller every day, and
winter and summer its dark-green foliage might be seen in the forest,
while passers-by would say, What a beautiful tree!
A short time before the next Christmas the discontented fir tree was
the first to fall. As the ax cut sharply through the stem and divided
the pith, the tree fell with a groan to the earth, conscious of pain
and faintness and forgetting all its dreams of happiness in sorrow at
leaving its home in the forest. It knew that it should never again see
its dear old companions the trees, nor the little bushes and
many-colored flowers that had grown by its side; perhaps not even the
birds. Nor was the journey at all pleasant.
The tree first recovered itself while being unpacked in the
courtyard of a house, with several other trees; and it heard a man say:
We only want one, and this is the prettiest. This is beautiful!
Then came two servants in grand livery and carried the fir tree into
a large and beautiful apartment. Pictures hung on the walls, and near
the tall tile stove stood great china vases with lions on the lids.
There were rocking-chairs, silken sofas, and large tables covered with
pictures; and there were books, and playthings that had cost a hundred
times a hundred dollarsat least so said the children.
Then the fir tree was placed in a large tub full of sandbut green
baize hung all round it so that no one could know it was a tuband it
stood on a very handsome carpet. Oh, how the fir tree trembled! What
was going to happen to him now? Some young ladies came, and the
servants helped them to adorn the tree.
On one branch they hung little bags cut out of colored paper, and
each bag was filled with sweetmeats. From other branches hung gilded
apples and walnuts, as if they had grown there; and above and all
around were hundreds of red, blue, and white tapers, which were
fastened upon the branches. Dolls, exactly like real men and women,
were placed under the green leaves,the tree had never seen such
things before,and at the very top was fastened a glittering star made
of gold tinsel. Oh, it was very beautiful. This evening, they all
exclaimed, how bright it will be!
O that the evening were come, thought the tree, and the tapers
lighted! Then I shall know what else is going to happen. Will the trees
of the forest come to see me? Will the sparrows peep in at the windows,
I wonder, as they fly? Shall I grow faster here than in the forest, and
shall I keep on all these ornaments during summer and winter? But
guessing was of very little use. His back ached with trying, and this
pain is as bad for a slender fir tree as headache is for us.
At last the tapers were lighted, and then what a glistening blaze of
splendor the tree presented! It trembled so with joy in all its
branches that one of the candles fell among the green leaves and burned
some of them. Help! help! exclaimed the young ladies; but no harm was
done, for they quickly extinguished the fire.
After this the tree tried not to tremble at all, though the fire
frightened him, he was so anxious not to hurt any of the beautiful
ornaments, even while their brilliancy dazzled him.
And now the folding doors were thrown open, and a troop of children
rushed in as if they intended to upset the tree, and were followed more
slowly by their elders. For a moment the little ones stood silent with
astonishment, and then they shouted for joy till the room rang; and
they danced merrily round the tree while one present after another was
taken from it.
What are they doing? What will happen next? thought the tree. At
last the candles burned down to the branches and were put out. Then the
children received permission to plunder the tree.
Oh, how they rushed upon it! There was such a riot that the branches
cracked, and had it not been fastened with the glistening star to the
ceiling, it must have been thrown down.
Then the children danced about with their pretty toys, and no one
noticed the tree except the children's maid, who came and peeped among
the branches to see if an apple or a fig had been forgotten.
* * * * *
A story, a story, cried the children, pulling a little fat man
towards the tree.
Now we shall be in the green shade, said the man as he seated
himself under it, and the tree will have the pleasure of hearing,
also; but I shall only relate one story. What shall it be? Ivede-Avede
or Humpty Dumpty, who fell downstairs, but soon got up again, and at
last married a princess?
Ivede-Avede, cried some; Humpty Dumpty, cried others; and there
was a famous uproar. But the fir tree remained quite still and thought
to himself: Shall I have anything to do with all this? Ought I to make
a noise, too? but he had already amused them as much as they wished
and they paid no attention to him.
Then the old man told them the story of Humpty Dumptyhow he fell
downstairs, and was raised up again, and married a princess. And the
children clapped their hands and cried, Tell another, tell another,
for they wanted to hear the story of Ivede-Avede; but this time they
had only Humpty Dumpty. After this the fir tree became quite silent
and thoughtful. Never had the birds in the forest told such tales as
that of Humpty Dumpty, who fell downstairs, and yet married a princess.
Ah, yes! so it happens in the world, thought the fir tree. He
believed it all, because it was related by such a pleasant man.
Ah, well! he thought, who knows? Perhaps I may fall down, too,
and marry a princess; and he looked forward joyfully to the next
evening, expecting to be again decked out with lights and playthings,
gold and fruit. To-morrow I will not tremble, thought he; I will
enjoy all my splendor, and I shall hear the story of Humpty Dumpty
again, and perhaps of Ivede-Avede. And the tree remained quiet and
thoughtful all night.
In the morning the servants and the housemaid came in. Now,
thought the fir tree, all my splendor is going to begin again. But
they dragged him out of the room and upstairs to the garret and threw
him on the floor in a dark corner where no daylight shone, and there
they left him. What does this mean? thought the tree. What am I to
do here? I can hear nothing in a place like this; and he leaned
against the wall and thought and thought.
And he had time enough to think, for days and nights passed and no
one came near him; and when at last somebody did come, it was only to
push away some large boxes in a corner. So the tree was completely
hidden from sight, as if it had never existed.
[Illustration: Threw him on the floor ..... and there they left
It is winter now, thought the tree; the ground is hard and
covered with snow, so that people cannot plant me. I shall be sheltered
here, I dare say, until spring comes. How thoughtful and kind everybody
is to me! Still, I wish this place were not so dark and so dreadfully
lonely, with not even a little hare to look at. How pleasant it was out
in the forest while the snow lay on the ground, when the hare would run
by, yes, and jump over me, too, although I did not like it then. Oh! it
is terribly lonely here.
Squeak, squeak, said a little mouse, creeping cautiously towards
the tree; then came another, and they both sniffed at the fir tree and
crept in and out between the branches.
Oh, it is very cold, said the little mouse. If it were not we
should be very comfortable here, shouldn't we, old fir tree?
I am not old, said the fir tree. There are many who are older
than I am.
Where do you come from? asked the mice, who were full of
curiosity; and what do you know? Have you seen the most beautiful
places in the world, and can you tell us all about them? And have you
been in the storeroom, where cheeses lie on the shelf and hams hang
from the ceiling? One can run about on tallow candles there; one can go
in thin and come out fat.
I know nothing of that, said the fir tree, but I know the wood,
where the sun shines and the birds sing. And then the tree told the
little mice all about its youth. They had never heard such an account
in their lives; and after they had listened to it attentively, they
said: What a number of things you have seen! You must have been very
Happy! exclaimed the fir tree; and then, as he reflected on what
he had been telling them, he said, Ah, yes! after all, those were
happy days. But when he went on and related all about Christmas Eve,
and how he had been dressed up with cakes and lights, the mice said,
How happy you must have been, you old fir tree.
I am not old at all, replied the tree; I only came from the
forest this winter. I am now checked in my growth.
What splendid stories you can tell, said the little mice. And the
next night four other mice came with them to hear what the tree had to
tell. The more he talked the more he remembered, and then he thought to
himself: Yes, those were happy days; but they may come again. Humpty
Dumpty fell downstairs, and yet he married the princess. Perhaps I may
marry a princess, too. And the fir tree thought of the pretty little
birch tree that grew in the forest; a real princess, a beautiful
princess, she was to him.
Who is Humpty Dumpty? asked the little mice. And then the tree
related the whole story; he could remember every single word. And the
little mice were so delighted with it that they were ready to jump to
the top of the tree. The next night a great many more mice made their
appearance, and on Sunday two rats came with them; but the rats said it
was not a pretty story at all, and the little mice were very sorry, for
it made them also think less of it.
Do you know only that one story? asked the rats.
Only that one, replied the fir tree. I heard it on the happiest
evening in my life; but I did not know I was so happy at the time.
We think it is a very miserable story, said the rats. Don't you
know any story about bacon or tallow in the storeroom?
No, replied the tree.
Many thanks to you, then, replied the rats, and they went their
The little mice also kept away after this, and the tree sighed and
said: It was very pleasant when the merry little mice sat round me and
listened while I talked. Now that is all past, too. However, I shall
consider myself happy when some one comes to take me out of this
But would this ever happen? Yes; one morning people came to clear up
the garret; the boxes were packed away, and the tree was pulled out of
the corner and thrown roughly on the floor; then the servants dragged
it out upon the staircase, where the daylight shone.
Now life is beginning again, said the tree, rejoicing in the
sunshine and fresh air. Then it was carried downstairs and taken into
the courtyard so quickly that it forgot to think of itself and could
only look about, there was so much to be seen.
The court was close to a garden, where everything looked blooming.
Fresh and fragrant roses hung over the little palings. The linden trees
were in blossom, while swallows flew here and there, crying, Twit,
twit, twit, my mate is coming; but it was not the fir tree they meant.
Now I shall live, cried the tree joyfully, spreading out its
branches; but alas! they were all withered and yellow, and it lay in a
corner among weeds and nettles. The star of gold paper still stuck in
the top of the tree and glittered in the sunshine.
Two of the merry children who had danced round the tree at Christmas
and had been so happy were playing in the same courtyard. The youngest
saw the gilded star and ran and pulled it off the tree. Look what is
sticking to the ugly old fir tree, said the child, treading on the
branches till they crackled under his boots.
And the tree saw all the fresh, bright flowers in the garden and
then looked at itself and wished it had remained in the dark corner of
the garret. It thought of its fresh youth in the forest, of the merry
Christmas evening, and of the little mice who had listened to the story
of Humpty Dumpty.
Past! past! said the poor tree. Oh, had I but enjoyed myself
while I could have done so! but now it is too late.
Then a lad came and chopped the tree into small pieces, till a large
bundle lay in a heap on the ground. The pieces were placed in a fire,
and they quickly blazed up brightly, while the tree sighed so deeply
that each sigh was like a little pistol shot. Then the children who
were at play came and seated themselves in front of the fire, and
looked at it and cried, Pop, pop. But at each pop, which was a deep
sigh, the tree was thinking of a summer day in the forest or of some
winter night there when the stars shone brightly, and of Christmas
evening, and of Humpty Dumpty,the only story it had ever heard or
knew how to relate,till at last it was consumed.
The boys still played in the garden, and the youngest wore on his
breast the golden star with which the tree had been adorned during the
happiest evening of its existence. Now all was past; the tree's life
was past and the story also pastfor all stories must come to an end
at some time or other.
LITTLE TUK! An odd name, to be sure! However, it was not the little
boy's real name. His real name was Carl; but when he was so young that
he could not speak plainly, he used to call himself Tuk. It would be
hard to say why, for it is not at all like Carl; but the name does as
well as any, if one only knows it.
Little Tuk was left at home to take care of his sister Gustava, who
was much younger than himself; and he had also to learn his lesson.
Here were two things to be done at the same time, and they did not at
all suit each other. The poor boy sat with his sister in his lap,
singing to her all the songs he knew, yet giving, now and then, a
glance into his geography, which lay open beside him. By to-morrow
morning he must know the names of all the towns in Seeland by heart,
and be able to tell about them all that could be told.
His mother came at last, and took little Gustava in her arms. Tuk
ran quickly to the window and read and read till he had almost read his
eyes outfor it was growing dark, and his mother could not afford to
There goes the old washerwoman down the lane, said the mother, as
she looked out of the window. She can hardly drag herself along, poor
thing; and now she has to carry that heavy pail from the pump. Be a
good boy, little Tuk, and run across to help the poor creature, will
you not? And little Tuk ran quickly and helped to bear the weight of
the pail. But when he came back into the room, it was quite dark.
Nothing was said about a candle, and it was of no use to wish for one;
he must go to his little trundle-bed, which was made of an old settle.
There he lay, still thinking of the geography lesson, of Seeland,
and of all that the master had said. He could not read the book again,
as he should by rights have done, for want of a light. So he put the
geography-book under his pillow. Somebody had once told him that would
help him wonderfully to remember his lesson, but he had never yet found
that one could depend upon it.
There he lay and thought and thought, till all at once he felt as
though some one were gently sealing his mouth and eyes with a kiss. He
slept and yet did not sleep, for he seemed to see the old washerwoman's
mild, kind eyes fixed upon him, and to hear her say: It would be a
shame, indeed, for you not to know your lesson to-morrow, little Tuk.
You helped me; now I will help you, and our Lord will help us both.
All at once the leaves of the book began to rustle under little
Tuk's head, and he heard something crawling about under his pillow.
Cluck, cluck, cluck! cried a hen, as she crept towards him. (She
came from the town of Kjöge.) I'm a Kjöge hen, she said. And then she
told him how many inhabitants the little town contained, and about the
battle that had once been fought there, and how it was now hardly worth
mentioning, there were so many greater things.
[Illustration: All in a moment he was on horseback, and on he went,
Scratch, scratch! kribbley crabbley! and now a great wooden bird
jumped down upon the bed. It was the popinjay from the shooting ground
at Præstö. He had reckoned the number of inhabitants in Præstö, and
found that there were as many as he had nails in his body. He was a
proud bird. Thorwaldsen lived in one corner of Præstö, close by me. Am
I not a pretty bird, a merry popinjay?
And now little Tuk no longer lay in bed. All in a moment he was on
horseback, and on he went, gallop, gallop! A splendid knight, with a
bright helmet and waving plume,a knight of the olden time,held him
on his own horse; and on they rode together, through the wood of the
ancient city of Vordingborg, and it was once again a great and busy
town. The high towers of the king's castle rose against the sky, and
bright lights were seen gleaming through the windows. Within were music
and merrymaking. King Waldemar was leading out the noble ladies of his
court to dance with him.
Suddenly the morning dawned, the lamps grew pale, the sun rose, the
outlines of the buildings faded away, and at last one high tower alone
remained to mark the spot where the royal castle had stood. The vast
city had shrunk into a poor, mean-looking little town. The schoolboys,
coming out of school with their geography-books under their arms, said,
Two thousand inhabitants; but that was a mere boast, for the town had
not nearly so many.
And little Tuk lay in his bed. He knew not whether he had been
dreaming or not, but again there was some one close by his side.
Little Tuk! little Tuk! cried a voice; it was the voice of a young
sailor boy. I am come to bring you greeting from Korsör. Korsör is a
new town, a living town, with steamers and mail coaches. Once people
used to call it a low, ugly place, but they do so no longer.
'I dwell by the seaside,' says Korsör; 'I have broad highroads and
pleasure gardens; and I have given birth to a poet, a witty one, too,
which is more than all poets are. I once thought of sending a ship all
round the world; but I did not do it, though I might as well have done
so. I dwell so pleasantly, close by the port; and I am fragrant with
perfume, for the loveliest roses bloom round about me, close to my
And little Tuk could smell the roses and see them and their fresh
green leaves. But in a moment they had vanished; the green leaves
spread and thickeneda perfect grove had grown up above the bright
waters of the bay, and above the grove rose the two high-pointed towers
of a glorious old church. From the side of the grass-grown hill gushed
a fountain in rainbow-hued streams, with a merry, musical voice, and
close beside it sat a king, wearing a gold crown upon his long dark
hair. This was King Hroar of the springs; and hard by was the town of
Roskilde (Hroar's Fountain). And up the hill, on a broad highway, went
all the kings and queens of Denmark, wearing golden crowns; hand in
hand they passed on into the church, and the deep music of the organ
mingled with the clear rippling of the fountain. For nearly all the
kings and queens of Denmark lie buried in this beautiful church. And
little Tuk saw and heard it all.
Don't forget the towns, said King Hroar.
Then all vanished; though where it went he knew not. It seemed like
turning the leaves of a book.
And now there stood before him an old peasant woman from Sorö, the
quiet little town where grass grows in the very market place. Her green
linen apron was thrown over her head and back, and the apron was very
wet, as if it had been raining heavily.
And so it has, she said. And she told a great many pretty things
from Holberg's comedies, and recited ballads about Waldemar and
Absalon; for Holberg had founded an academy in her native town.
All at once she cowered down and rocked her head as if she were a
frog about to spring. Koax! cried she; it is wet, it is always wet,
and it is as still as the grave in Sorö. She had changed into a frog.
Koax! and again she was an old woman. One must dress according to
the weather, she said.
It is wet! it is wet! My native town is like a bottle; one goes in
at the cork, and by the cork one must come out. In old times we had the
finest of fish; now we have fresh, rosy-cheeked boys at the bottom of
the bottle. There they learn wisdomGreek, Greek, and Hebrew! Koax!
It sounded exactly as if frogs were croaking, or as if some one were
walking over the great swamp with heavy boots. So tiresome was her
tone, all on the same note, that little Tuk fell fast asleep; and a
very good thing it was for him.
But even in sleep there came a dream, or whatever else it may be
called. His little sister Gustava, with her blue eyes and flaxen
ringlets, was grown into a tall, beautiful girl, who, though she had no
wings, could fly; and away they now flew over Seelandover its green
woods and blue waters.
Hark! Do you hear the cock crow, little Tuk? 'Cock-a-doodle-do!'
The fowls are flying hither from Kjöge, and you shall have a farmyard,
a great, great poultry yard of your own! You shall never suffer hunger
or want. The golden goose, the bird of good omen, shall be yours; you
shall become a rich and happy man. Your house shall rise up like King
Waldemar's towers and be richly decked with statues like those of
Thorwaldsen at Præstö.
Understand me well; your good name shall be borne round the world,
like the ship that was to sail from Korsör, and at Roskilde you shall
speak and give counsel wisely and well, little Tuk, like King Hroar;
and when at last you shall lie in your peaceful grave you shall sleep
As if I lay sleeping in Sorö, said Tuk, and he woke. It was a
bright morning, and he could not remember his dream, but it was not
necessary that he should. One has no need to know what one will live to
And now he sprang quickly out of bed and sought his book, that had
lain under his pillow. He read his lesson and found that he knew the
towns perfectly well.
And the old washerwoman put her head in at the door and said, with a
friendly nod: Thank you, my good child, for yesterday's help. May the
Lord fulfill your brightest and most beautiful dreams! I know he will.
Little Tuk had forgotten what he had dreamed, but it did not matter.
There was One above who knew it all.
THE UGLY DUCKLING
IT was so beautiful in the country. It was the summer time. The
wheat fields were golden, the oats were green, and the hay stood in
great stacks in the green meadows. The stork paraded about among them
on his long red legs, chattering away in Egyptian, the language he had
learned from his lady mother.
All around the meadows and cornfields grew thick woods, and in the
midst of the forest was a deep lake. Yes, it was beautiful, it was
delightful in the country.
In a sunny spot stood a pleasant old farmhouse circled all about
with deep canals; and from the walls down to the water's edge grew
great burdocks, so high that under the tallest of them a little child
might stand upright. The spot was as wild as if it had been in the very
center of the thick wood.
In this snug retreat sat a duck upon her nest, watching for her
young brood to hatch; but the pleasure she had felt at first was almost
gone; she had begun to think it a wearisome task, for the little ones
were so long coming out of their shells, and she seldom had visitors.
The other ducks liked much better to swim about in the canals than to
climb the slippery banks and sit under the burdock leaves to have a
gossip with her. It was a long time to stay so much by herself.
At length, however, one shell cracked, and soon another, and from
each came a living creature that lifted its head and cried Peep,
Quack, quack! said the mother; and then they all tried to say it,
too, as well as they could, while they looked all about them on every
side at the tall green leaves. Their mother allowed them to look about
as much as they liked, because green is good for the eyes.
What a great world it is, to be sure, said the little ones, when
they found how much more room they had than when they were in the
Is this all the world, do you imagine? said the mother. Wait till
you have seen the garden. Far beyond that it stretches down to the
pastor's field, though I have never ventured to such a distance. Are
you all out? she continued, rising to look. No, not all; the largest
egg lies there yet, I declare. I wonder how long this business is to
last. I'm really beginning to be tired of it; but for all that she sat
Well, and how are you to-day? quacked an old duck who came to pay
her a visit.
There's one egg that takes a deal of hatching. The shell is hard
and will not break, said the fond mother, who sat still upon her nest.
But just look at the others. Have I not a pretty family? Are they not
the prettiest little ducklings you ever saw? They are the image of
their fatherthe good for naught! He never comes to see me.
Let me see the egg that will not break, said the old duck. I've
no doubt it's a Guinea fowl's egg. The same thing happened to me once,
and a deal of trouble it gave me, for the young ones are afraid of the
water. I quacked and clucked, but all to no purpose. Let me take a look
at it. Yes, I am right; it's a Guinea fowl, upon my word; so take my
advice and leave it where it is. Come to the water and teach the other
children to swim.
I think I will sit a little while longer, said the mother. I have
sat so long, a day or two more won't matter.
Very well, please yourself, said the old duck, rising; and she
* * * * *
At last the great egg broke, and the latest bird cried Peep, peep,
as he crept forth from the shell. How big and ugly he was! The mother
duck stared at him and did not know what to think. Really, she said,
this is an enormous duckling, and it is not at all like any of the
others. I wonder if he will turn out to be a Guinea fowl. Well, we
shall see when we get to the waterfor into the water he must go, even
if I have to push him in myself.
On the next day the weather was delightful. The sun shone brightly
on the green burdock leaves, and the mother duck took her whole family
down to the water and jumped in with a splash. Quack, quack! cried
she, and one after another the little ducklings jumped in. The water
closed over their heads, but they came up again in an instant and swam
about quite prettily, with their legs paddling under them as easily as
possible; their legs went of their own accord; and the ugly gray-coat
was also in the water, swimming with them.
Oh, said the mother, that is not a Guinea fowl. See how well he
uses his legs, and how erect he holds himself! He is my own child, and
he is not so very ugly after all, if you look at him properly. Quack,
quack! come with me now. I will take you into grand society and
introduce you to the farmyard, but you must keep close to me or you may
be trodden upon; and, above all, beware of the cat.
When they reached the farmyard, there was a wretched riot going on;
two families were fighting for an eel's head, which, after all, was
carried off by the cat. See, children, that is the way of the world,
said the mother duck, whetting her beak, for she would have liked the
eel's head herself. Come, now, use your legs, and let me see how well
you can behave. You must bow your heads prettily to that old duck
yonder; she is the highest born of them all and has Spanish blood;
therefore she is well off. Don't you see she has a red rag tied to her
leg, which is something very grand and a great honor for a duck; it
shows that every one is anxious not to lose her, and that she is to be
noticed by both man and beast. Come, now, don't turn in your toes; a
well-bred duckling spreads his feet wide apart, just like his father
and mother, in this way; now bend your necks and say 'Quack!'
The ducklings did as they were bade, but the other ducks stared, and
said, Look, here comes another broodas if there were not enough of
us already! And bless me, what a queer-looking object one of them is;
we don't want him here; and then one flew out and bit him in the neck.
Let him alone, said the mother; he is not doing any harm.
Yes, but he is so big and ugly. He's a perfect fright, said the
spiteful duck, and therefore he must be turned out. A little biting
will do him good.
The others are very pretty children, said the old duck with the
rag on her leg, all but that one. I wish his mother could smooth him
up a bit; he is really ill-favored.
That is impossible, your grace, replied the mother. He is not
pretty, but he has a very good disposition and swims as well as the
others or even better. I think he will grow up pretty, and perhaps be
smaller. He has remained too long in the egg, and therefore his figure
is not properly formed; and then she stroked his neck and smoothed the
feathers, saying: It is a drake, and therefore not of so much
consequence. I think he will grow up strong and able to take care of
The other ducklings are graceful enough, said the old duck. Now
make yourself at home, and if you find an eel's head you can bring it
And so they made themselves comfortable; but the poor duckling who
had crept out of his shell last of all and looked so ugly was bitten
and pushed and made fun of, not only by the ducks but by all the
[Illustration: Bless me, what a queer-looking object one of them
He is too big, they all said; and the turkey cock, who had been
born into the world with spurs and fancied himself really an emperor,
puffed himself out like a vessel in full sail and flew at the duckling.
He became quite red in the head with passion, so that the poor little
thing did not know where to go, and was quite miserable because he was
so ugly as to be laughed at by the whole farmyard.
So it went on from day to day; it got worse and worse. The poor
duckling was driven about by every one; even his brothers and sisters
were unkind to him and would say, Ah, you ugly creature, I wish the
cat would get you and his mother had been heard to say she wished he
had never been born. The ducks pecked him, the chickens beat him, and
the girl who fed the poultry pushed him with her feet. So at last he
ran away, frightening the little birds in the hedge as he flew over the
palings. They are afraid because I am so ugly, he said. So he flew
still farther, until he came out on a large moor inhabited by wild
ducks. Here he remained the whole night, feeling very sorrowful.
In the morning, when the wild ducks rose in the air, they stared at
their new comrade. What sort of a duck are you? they all said, coming
He bowed to them and was as polite as he could be, but he did not
reply to their question. You are exceedingly ugly, said the wild
ducks; but that will not matter if you do not want to marry one of our
Poor thing! he had no thoughts of marriage; all he wanted was
permission to lie among the rushes and drink some of the water on the
moor. After he had been on the moor two days, there came two wild
geese, or rather goslings, for they had not been out of the egg long,
which accounts for their impertinence. Listen, friend, said one of
them to the duckling; you are so ugly that we like you very well. Will
you go with us and become a bird of passage? Not far from here is
another moor, in which there are some wild geese, all of them
unmarried. It is a chance for you to get a wife. You may make your
fortune, ugly as you are.
Bang, bang, sounded in the air, and the two wild geese fell dead
among the rushes, and the water was tinged with blood. Bang, bang,
echoed far and wide in the distance, and whole flocks of wild geese
rose up from the rushes.
The sound continued from every direction, for the sportsmen
surrounded the moor, and some were even seated on branches of trees,
overlooking the rushes. The blue smoke from the guns rose like clouds
over the dark trees, and as it floated away across the water, a number
of sporting dogs bounded in among the rushes, which bent beneath them
wherever they went. How they terrified the poor duckling! He turned
away his head to hide it under his wing, and at the same moment a
large, terrible dog passed quite near him. His jaws were open, his
tongue hung from his mouth, and his eyes glared fearfully. He thrust
his nose close to the duckling, showing his sharp teeth, and then
splash, splash, he went into the water, without touching him.
Oh, sighed the duckling, how thankful I am for being so ugly;
even a dog will not bite me.
And so he lay quite still, while the shot rattled through the
rushes, and gun after gun was fired over him. It was late in the day
before all became quiet, but even then the poor young thing did not
dare to move. He waited quietly for several hours and then, after
looking carefully around him, hastened away from the moor as fast as he
could. He ran over field and meadow till a storm arose, and he could
hardly struggle against it.
Towards evening he reached a poor little cottage that seemed ready
to fall, and only seemed to remain standing because it could not decide
on which side to fall first. The storm continued so violent that the
duckling could go no farther. He sat down by the cottage, and then he
noticed that the door was not quite closed, in consequence of one of
the hinges having given way. There was, therefore, a narrow opening
near the bottom large enough for him to slip through, which he did very
quietly, and got a shelter for the night. Here, in this cottage, lived
a woman, a cat, and a hen. The cat, whom his mistress called My little
son, was a great favorite; he could raise his back, and purr, and
could even throw out sparks from his fur if it were stroked the wrong
way. The hen had very short legs, so she was called Chickie
Short-legs. She laid good eggs, and her mistress loved her as if she
had been her own child. In the morning the strange visitor was
discovered; the cat began to purr and the hen to cluck.
What is that noise about? said the old woman, looking around the
room. But her sight was not very good; therefore when she saw the
duckling she thought it must be a fat duck that had strayed from home.
Oh, what a prize! she exclaimed. I hope it is not a drake, for then
I shall have some ducks' eggs. I must wait and see.
So the duckling was allowed to remain on trial for three weeks; but
there were no eggs.
Now the cat was the master of the house, and the hen was the
mistress; and they always said, We and the world, for they believed
themselves to be half the world, and by far the better half, too. The
duckling thought that others might hold a different opinion on the
subject, but the hen would not listen to such doubts.
Can you lay eggs? she asked. No. Then have the goodness to
cease talking. Can you raise your back, or purr, or throw out
sparks? said the cat. No. Then you have no right to express an
opinion when sensible people are speaking. So the duckling sat in a
corner, feeling very low-spirited; but when the sunshine and the fresh
air came into the room through the open door, he began to feel such a
great longing for a swim that he could not help speaking of it.
What an absurd idea! said the hen. You have nothing else to do;
therefore you have foolish fancies. If you could purr or lay eggs, they
would pass away.
But it is so delightful to swim about on the water, said the
duckling, and so refreshing to feel it close over your head while you
dive down to the bottom.
Delightful, indeed! it must be a queer sort of pleasure, said the
hen. Why, you must be crazy! Ask the cathe is the cleverest animal I
know; ask him how he would like to swim about on the water, or to dive
under it, for I will not speak of my own opinion. Ask our mistress, the
old woman; there is no one in the world more clever than she is. Do you
think she would relish swimming and letting the water close over her
I see you don't understand me, said the duckling.
We don't understand you? Who can understand you, I wonder? Do you
consider yourself more clever than the cat or the old woman?I will
say nothing of myself. Don't imagine such nonsense, child, and thank
your good fortune that you have been so well received here. Are you not
in a warm room and in society from which you may learn something? But
you are a chatterer, and your company is not very agreeable. Believe
me, I speak only for your good. I may tell you unpleasant truths, but
that is a proof of my friendship. I advise you, therefore, to lay eggs
and learn to purr as quickly as possible.
I believe I must go out into the world again, said the duckling.
Yes, do, said the hen. So the duckling left the cottage and soon
found water on which it could swim and dive, but he was avoided by all
other animals because of his ugly appearance.
Autumn came, and the leaves in the forest turned to orange and gold;
then, as winter approached, the wind caught them as they fell and
whirled them into the cold air. The clouds, heavy with hail and
snowflakes, hung low in the sky, and the raven stood among the reeds,
crying, Croak, croak. It made one shiver with cold to look at him.
All this was very sad for the poor little duckling.
One evening, just as the sun was setting amid radiant clouds, there
came a large flock of beautiful birds out of the bushes. The duckling
had never seen any like them before. They were swans; and they curved
their graceful necks, while their soft plumage shone with dazzling
whiteness. They uttered a singular cry as they spread their glorious
wings and flew away from those cold regions to warmer countries across
the sea. They mounted higher and higher in the air, and the ugly little
duckling had a strange sensation as he watched them. He whirled himself
in the water like a wheel, stretched out his neck towards them, and
uttered a cry so strange that it frightened even himself. Could he ever
forget those beautiful, happy birds! And when at last they were out of
his sight, he dived under the water and rose again almost beside
himself with excitement. He knew not the names of these birds nor where
they had flown, but he felt towards them as he had never felt towards
any other bird in the world.
He was not envious of these beautiful creatures; it never occurred
to him to wish to be as lovely as they. Poor ugly creature, how gladly
he would have lived even with the ducks, had they only treated him
kindly and given him encouragement.
The winter grew colder and colder; he was obliged to swim about on
the water to keep it from freezing, but every night the space on which
he swam became smaller and smaller. At length it froze so hard that the
ice in the water crackled as he moved, and the duckling had to paddle
with his legs as well as he could, to keep the space from closing up.
He became exhausted at last and lay still and helpless, frozen fast in
Early in the morning a peasant who was passing by saw what had
happened. He broke the ice in pieces with his wooden shoe and carried
the duckling home to his wife. The warmth revived the poor little
creature; but when the children wanted to play with him, the duckling
thought they would do him some harm, so he started up in terror,
fluttered into the milk pan, and splashed the milk about the room. Then
the woman clapped her hands, which frightened him still more. He flew
first into the butter cask, then into the meal tub and out again. What
a condition he was in! The woman screamed and struck at him with the
tongs; the children laughed and screamed and tumbled over each other in
their efforts to catch him, but luckily he escaped. The door stood
open; the poor creature could just manage to slip out among the bushes
and lie down quite exhausted in the newly fallen snow.
It would be very sad were I to relate all the misery and privations
which the poor little duckling endured during the hard winter; but when
it had passed he found himself lying one morning in a moor, amongst the
rushes. He felt the warm sun shining and heard the lark singing and saw
that all around was beautiful spring.
Then the young bird felt that his wings were strong, as he flapped
them against his sides and rose high into the air. They bore him
onwards until, before he well knew how it had happened, he found
himself in a large garden. The apple trees were in full blossom, and
the fragrant elders bent their long green branches down to the stream,
which wound round a smooth lawn. Everything looked beautiful in the
freshness of early spring. From a thicket close by came three beautiful
white swans, rustling their feathers and swimming lightly over the
smooth water. The duckling saw these lovely birds and felt more
strangely unhappy than ever.
I will fly to these royal birds, he exclaimed, and they will kill
me because, ugly as I am, I dare to approach them. But it does not
matter; better be killed by them than pecked by the ducks, beaten by
the hens, pushed about by the maiden who feeds the poultry, or starved
with hunger in the winter.
Then he flew to the water and swam towards the beautiful swans. The
moment they espied the stranger they rushed to meet him with
Kill me, said the poor bird and he bent his head down to the
surface of the water and awaited death.
But what did he see in the clear stream below? His own imageno
longer a dark-gray bird, ugly and disagreeable to look at, but a
graceful and beautiful swan.
To be born in a duck's nest in a farmyard is of no consequence to a
bird if it is hatched from a swan's egg. He now felt glad at having
suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much
better all the pleasure and happiness around him; for the great swans
swam round the newcomer and stroked his neck with their beaks, as a
Into the garden presently came some little children and threw bread
and cake into the water.
[Illustration: The new one is the most beautiful of all...]
See, cried the youngest, there is a new one; and the rest were
delighted, and ran to their father and mother, dancing and clapping
their hands and shouting joyously, There is another swan come; a new
one has arrived.
Then they threw more bread and cake into the water and said, The
new one is the most beautiful of all, he is so young and pretty. And
the old swans bowed their heads before him.
Then he felt quite ashamed and hid his head under his wing, for he
did not know what to do, he was so happyyet he was not at all proud.
He had been persecuted and despised for his ugliness, and now he heard
them say he was the most beautiful of all the birds. Even the elder
tree bent down its boughs into the water before him, and the sun shone
warm and bright. Then he rustled his feathers, curved his slender neck,
and cried joyfully, from the depths of his heart, I never dreamed of
such happiness as this while I was the despised ugly duckling.
LITTLE IDA'S FLOWERS
MY POOR flowers are quite faded! said little Ida. Only yesterday
evening they were so pretty, and now all the leaves are drooping. Why
do they do that? she asked of the student, who sat on the sofa. He was
a great favorite with her, because he used to tell her the prettiest of
stories and cut out the most amusing things in paperhearts with
little ladies dancing in them, and high castles with doors which one
could open and shut. He was a merry student. Why do the flowers look
so wretched to-day? asked she again, showing him a bouquet of faded
Do you not know? replied the student. The flowers went to a ball
last night, and are tired. That's why they hang their heads.
What an idea, exclaimed little Ida. Flowers cannot dance!
Of course they can dance! When it is dark, and we are all gone to
bed, they jump about as merrily as possible. They have a ball almost
And can their children go to the ball? asked Ida.
Oh, yes, said the student; daisies and lilies of the valley, that
are quite little.
And when is it that the prettiest flowers dance?
Have you not been to the large garden outside the town gate, in
front of the castle where the king lives in summerthe garden that is
so full of lovely flowers? You surely remember the swans which come
swimming up when you give them crumbs of bread? Believe me, they have
capital balls there.
I was out there only yesterday with my mother, said Ida, but
there were no leaves on the trees, and I did not see a single flower.
What has become of them? There were so many in the summer.
They are inside the palace now, replied the student. As soon as
the king and all his court go back to the town, the flowers hasten out
of the garden and into the palace, where they have famous times. Oh, if
you could but see them! The two most beautiful roses seat themselves on
the throne and act king and queen. All the tall red cockscombs stand
before them on either side and bow; they are the chamberlains. Then all
the pretty flowers come, and there is a great ball. The blue violets
represent the naval cadets; they dance with hyacinths and crocuses, who
take the part of young ladies. The tulips and the tall tiger lilies are
old ladies,dowagers,who see to it that the dancing is well done and
that all things go on properly.
But, asked little Ida, is there no one there to harm the flowers
for daring to dance in the king's castle?
No one knows anything about it, replied the student. Once during
the night, perhaps, the old steward of the castle does, to be sure,
come in with his great bunch of keys to see that all is right; but the
moment the flowers hear the clanking of the keys they stand stock-still
or hide themselves behind the long silk window curtains. Then the old
steward will say, 'Do I not smell flowers here?' but he can't see
That is very funny, exclaimed little Ida, clapping her hands with
glee; but should not I be able to see the flowers?
To be sure you can see them, replied the student. You have only
to remember to peep in at the windows the next time you go to the
palace. I did so this very day, and saw a long yellow lily lying on the
sofa. She was a court lady.
Do the flowers in the Botanical Garden go to the ball? Can they go
all that long distance?
Certainly, said the student; for the flowers can fly if they
please. Have you not seen the beautiful red and yellow butterflies that
look so much like flowers? They are in fact nothing else. They have
flown off their stalks high into the air and flapped their little
petals just as if they were wings, and thus they came to fly about. As
a reward for always behaving well they have leave to fly about in the
daytime, too, instead of sitting quietly on their stalks at home, till
at last the flower petals have become real wings. That you have seen
It may be, though, that the flowers in the Botanical Garden have
never been in the king's castle. They may not have heard what frolics
take place there every night. But I'll tell you; if, the next time you
go to the garden, you whisper to one of the flowers that a great ball
is to be given yonder in the castle, the news will spread from flower
to flower and they will all fly away. Then should the professor come to
his garden there won't be a flower there, and he will not be able to
imagine what has become of them.
But how can one flower tell it to another? for I am sure the
flowers cannot speak.
No; you are right there, returned the student. They cannot speak,
but they can make signs. Have you ever noticed that when the wind blows
a little the flowers nod to each other and move all their green leaves?
They can make each other understand in this way just as well as we do
And does the professor understand their pantomime? asked Ida.
Oh, certainly; at least part of it. He came into his garden one
morning and saw that a great stinging nettle was making signs with its
leaves to a beautiful red carnation. It was saying, 'You are so
beautiful, and I love you with all my heart!' But the professor doesn't
like that sort of thing, and he rapped the nettle on her leaves, which
are her fingers; but she stung him, and since then he has never dared
to touch a nettle.
Ha! ha! laughed little Ida, that is very funny.
How can one put such stuff into a child's head? said a tiresome
councilor, who had come to pay a visit. He did not like the student and
always used to scold when he saw him cutting out the droll pasteboard
figures, such as a man hanging on a gibbet and holding a heart in his
hand to show that he was a stealer of hearts, or an old witch riding on
a broomstick and carrying her husband on the end of her nose. The
councilor could not bear such jokes, and he would always say, as now:
How can any one put such notions into a child's head? They are only
But to little Ida all that the student had told her was very
entertaining, and she kept thinking it over. She was sure now that her
pretty yesterday's flowers hung their heads because they were tired,
and that they were tired because they had been to the ball. So she took
them to the table where stood her toys. Her doll lay sleeping, but Ida
said to her, You must get up, and be content to sleep to-night in the
table drawer, for the poor flowers are ill and must have your bed to
sleep in; then perhaps they will be well again by to-morrow.
And she at once took the doll out, though the doll looked vexed at
giving up her cradle to the flowers.
Ida laid the flowers in the doll's bed and drew the coverlet quite
over them, telling them to lie still while she made some tea for them
to drink, in order that they might be well next day. And she drew the
curtains about the bed, that the sun might not shine into their eyes.
All the evening she thought of nothing but what the student had told
her; and when she went to bed herself, she ran to the window where her
mother's tulips and hyacinths stood. She whispered to them, I know
very well that you are going to a ball to-night. The flowers pretended
not to understand and did not stir so much as a leaf, but that did not
prevent Ida from knowing what she knew.
When she was in bed she lay for a long time thinking how delightful
it must be to see the flower dance in the king's castle, and said to
herself, I wonder if my flowers have really been there. Then she fell
* * * * *
In the night she woke. She had been dreaming of the student and the
flowers and the councilor, who told her they were making game of her.
All was still in the room, the night lamp was burning on the table, and
her father and mother were both asleep.
I wonder if my flowers are still lying in Sophie's bed, she
thought to herself. How I should like to know! She raised herself a
little and looked towards the door, which stood half open; within lay
the flowers and all her playthings. She listened, and it seemed to her
that she heard some one playing upon the piano, but quite softly, and
more sweetly than she had ever heard before.
Now all the flowers are certainly dancing, thought she. Oh, how I
should like to see them! but she dared not get up for fear of waking
her father and mother. If they would only come in here! But the
flowers did not come, and the music went on so prettily that she could
restrain herself no longer, and she crept out of her little bed, stole
softly to the door, and peeped into the room. Oh, what a pretty sight
[Illustration: On the floor all the flowers danced gracefully....]
There was no night lamp in the room, still it was quite bright; the
moon shone through the window down upon the floor, and it was almost
like daylight. The hyacinths and tulips stood there in two rows. Not
one was left on the window, where stood the empty flower pots. On the
floor all the flowers danced gracefully, making all the turns, and
holding each other by their long green leaves as they twirled around.
At the piano sat a large yellow lily, which little Ida remembered to
have seen in the summer, for she recollected that the student had said,
How like she is to Miss Laura, and how every one had laughed at the
remark. But now she really thought that the lily was very like the
young lady. It had exactly her manner of playingbending its long
yellow face, now to one side and now to the other, and nodding its head
to mark the time of the beautiful music.
A tall blue crocus now stepped forward, sprang upon the table on
which lay Ida's playthings, went straight to the doll's cradle, and
drew back the curtains. There lay the sick flowers; but they rose at
once, greeted the other flowers, and made a sign that they would like
to join in the dance. They did not look at all ill now.
Suddenly a heavy noise was heard, as of something falling from the
table. Ida glanced that way and saw that it was the rod she had found
on her bed on Shrove Tuesday, and that it seemed to wish to belong to
the flowers. It was a pretty rod, for a wax figure that looked exactly
like the councilor sat upon the head of it.
The rod began to dance, and the wax figure that was riding on it
became long and great, like the councilor himself, and began to
exclaim, How can one put such stuff into a child's head? It was very
funny to see, and little Ida could not help laughing, for the rod kept
on dancing, and the councilor had to dance too,there was no help for
it,whether he remained tall and big or became a little wax figure
again. But the other flowers said a good word for him, especially those
that had lain in the doll's bed, so that at last the rod left it in
At the same time there was a loud knocking inside the drawer where
Sophie, Ida's doll, lay with many other toys. She put out her head and
asked in great astonishment: Is there a ball here? Why has no one told
me of it? She sat down upon the table, expecting some of the flowers
to ask her to dance with them; but as they did not, she let herself
fall upon the floor so as to make a great noise; and then the flowers
all came crowding about to ask if she were hurt, and they were very
politeespecially those that had lain in her bed.
She was not at all hurt, and the flowers thanked her for the use of
her pretty bed and took her into the middle of the room, where the moon
shone, and danced with her, while the other flowers formed a circle
around them. So now Sophie was pleased and said they might keep her
bed, for she did not mind sleeping in the drawer the least in the
But the flowers replied: We thank you most heartily for your
kindness, but we shall not live long enough to need it; we shall be
quite dead by to-morrow. But tell little Ida she is to bury us out in
the garden near the canary bird's grave; and then we shall wake again
next summer and be even more beautiful than we have been this year.
Oh, no, you must not die, said Sophie, kissing them as she spoke;
and then a great company of flowers came dancing in. Ida could not
imagine where they could have come from, unless from the king's garden.
Two beautiful roses led the way, wearing golden crowns; then followed
wallflowers and pinks, who bowed to all present. They brought a band of
music with them. Wild hyacinths and little white snowdrops jingled
merry bells. It was a most remarkable orchestra. Following these were
an immense number of flowers, all dancingviolets, daisies, lilies of
the valley, and others which it was a delight to see.
At last all the happy flowers wished one another good night. Little
Ida, too, crept back to bed, to dream of all that she had seen.
When she rose next morning she went at once to her little table to
see if her flowers were there. She drew aside the curtains of her
little bed; yes, there lay the flowers, but they were much more faded
to-day than yesterday. Sophie too was in the drawer, but she looked
Do you remember what you were to say to me? asked Ida of her.
But Sophie looked quite stupid and had not a word to say.
You are not kind at all, said Ida; and yet all the flowers let
you dance with them.
Then she chose from her playthings a little pasteboard box with
birds painted on it, and in it she laid the dead flowers.
That shall be your pretty casket, said she; and when my cousins
come to visit me, by and by, they shall help me to bury you in the
garden, in order that next summer you may grow again and be still more
The two cousins were two merry boys, Gustave and Adolphe. Their
father had given them each a new crossbow, which they brought with them
to show to Ida. She told them of the poor flowers that were dead and
were to be buried in the garden. So the two boys walked in front, with
their bows slung across their shoulders, and little Ida followed,
carrying the dead flowers in their pretty coffin. A little grave was
dug for them in the garden. Ida first kissed the flowers and then laid
them in the earth, and Adolphe and Gustave shot with their crossbows
over the grave, for they had neither guns nor cannons.
THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER
THERE were once five and twenty tin soldiers. They were brothers,
for they had all been made out of the same old tin spoon. They all
shouldered their bayonets, held themselves upright, and looked straight
before them. Their uniforms were very smart-lookingred and blueand
very splendid. The first thing they heard in the world, when the lid
was taken off the box in which they lay, was the words Tin soldiers!
These words were spoken by a little boy, who clapped his hands for joy.
The soldiers had been given him because it was his birthday, and now he
was putting them out upon the table.
Each was exactly like the rest to a hair, except one who had but one
leg. He had been cast last of all, and there had not been quite enough
tin to finish him; but he stood as firmly upon his one leg as the
others upon their two, and it was he whose fortunes became so
On the table where the tin soldiers had been set up were several
other toys, but the one that attracted most attention was a pretty
little paper castle. Through its tiny windows one could see straight
into the hall. In front of the castle stood little trees, clustering
round a small mirror which was meant to represent a transparent lake.
Swans of wax swam upon its surface, and it reflected back their images.
All this was very pretty, but prettiest of all was a little lady who
stood at the castle's open door. She too was cut out of paper, but she
wore a frock of the clearest gauze and a narrow blue ribbon over her
shoulders, like a scarf, and in the middle of the ribbon was placed a
shining tinsel rose. The little lady stretched out both her arms, for
she was a dancer, and then she lifted one leg so high that the Soldier
quite lost sight of it. He thought that, like himself, she had but one
That would be just the wife for me, thought he, if she were not
too grand. But she lives in a castle, while I have only a box, and
there are five and twenty of us in that. It would be no place for a
lady. Still, I must try to make her acquaintance. A snuffbox happened
to be upon the table and he lay down at full length behind it, and here
he could easily watch the dainty little lady, who still remained
standing on one leg without losing her balance.
When the evening came all the other tin soldiers were put away in
their box, and the people in the house went to bed. Now the playthings
began to play in their turn. They visited, fought battles, and gave
balls. The tin soldiers rattled in the box, for they wished to join the
rest, but they could not lift the lid. The nutcrackers turned
somersaults, and the pencil jumped about in a most amusing way. There
was such a din that the canary woke and began to speakand in verse,
too. The only ones who did not move from their places were the Tin
Soldier and the Lady Dancer. She stood on tiptoe with outstretched
arms, and he was just as persevering on his one leg; he never once
turned away his eyes from her.
Twelve o'clock struckcrash! up sprang the lid of the snuffbox.
There was no snuff in it, but a little black goblin. You see it was not
a real snuffbox, but a jack-in-the-box.
Tin Soldier, said the Goblin, keep thine eyes to thyself. Gaze
not at what does not concern thee!
But the Tin Soldier pretended not to hear.
Only wait, then, till to-morrow, remarked the Goblin.
Next morning, when the children got up, the Tin Soldier was placed
on the window sill, and, whether it was the Goblin or the wind that did
it, all at once the window flew open and the Tin Soldier fell head
foremost from the third story to the street below. It was a tremendous
fall! Over and over he turned in the air, till at last he rested, his
cap and bayonet sticking fast between the paving stones, while his one
leg stood upright in the air.
[Illustration: Away he sailed ... down the gutter...]
The maidservant and the little boy came down at once to look for
him, but, though they nearly trod upon him, they could not manage to
find him. If the Soldier had but once called Here am I! they might
easily enough have heard him, but he did not think it becoming to cry
out for help, being in uniform.
It now began to rain; faster and faster fell the drops, until there
was a heavy shower; and when it was over, two street boys came by.
Look you, said one, there lies a tin soldier. He must come out
and sail in a boat.
So they made a boat out of an old newspaper and put the Tin Soldier
in the middle of it, and away he sailed down the gutter, while the boys
ran along by his side, clapping their hands.
Goodness! how the waves rocked that paper boat, and how fast the
stream ran! The Tin Soldier became quite giddy, the boat veered round
so quickly; still he moved not a muscle, but looked straight before him
and held his bayonet tightly.
All at once the boat passed into a drain, and it became as dark as
his own old home in the box. Where am I going now? thought he. Yes,
to be sure, it is all that Goblin's doing. Ah! if the little lady were
but sailing with me in the boat, I would not care if it were twice as
Just then a great water rat, that lived under the drain, darted
Have you a passport? asked the rat. Where is your passport?
But the Tin Soldier kept silence and only held his bayonet with a
The boat sailed on, but the rat followed. Whew! how he gnashed his
teeth and cried to the sticks and straws: Stop him! stop him! He
hasn't paid toll! He hasn't shown his passport!
But the stream grew stronger and stronger. Already the Tin Soldier
could see daylight at the point where the tunnel ended; but at the same
time he heard a rushing, roaring noise, at which a bolder man might
have trembled. Think! just where the tunnel ended, the drain widened
into a great sheet that fell into the mouth of a sewer. It was as
perilous a situation for the Soldier as sailing down a mighty waterfall
would be for us.
He was now so near it that he could not stop. The boat dashed on,
and the Tin Soldier held himself so well that no one might say of him
that he so much as winked an eye. Three or four times the boat whirled
round and round; it was full of water to the brim and must certainly
The Tin Soldier stood up to his neck in water; deeper and deeper
sank the boat, softer and softer grew the paper; and now the water
closed over the Soldier's head. He thought of the pretty little dancer
whom he should never see again, and in his ears rang the words of the
Wild adventure, mortal danger,
Be thy portion, valiant stranger.
The paper boat parted in the middle, and the Soldier was about to
sink, when he was swallowed by a great fish.
Oh, how dark it was! darker even than in the drain, and so narrow;
but the Tin Soldier retained his courage; there he lay at full length,
shouldering his bayonet as before.
To and fro swam the fish, turning and twisting and making the
strangest movements, till at last he became perfectly still.
Something like a flash of daylight passed through him, and a voice
said, Tin Soldier! The fish had been caught, taken to market, sold
and bought, and taken to the kitchen, where the cook had cut him with a
large knife. She seized the Tin Soldier between her finger and thumb
and took him to the room where the family sat, and where all were eager
to see the celebrated man who had traveled in the maw of a fish; but
the Tin Soldier remained unmoved. He was not at all proud.
They set him upon the table there. But how could so curious a thing
happen? The Soldier was in the very same room in which he had been
before. He saw the same children, the same toys stood upon the table,
and among them the pretty dancing maiden, who still stood upon one leg.
She too was steadfast. That touched the Tin Soldier's heart. He could
have wept tin tears, but that would not have been proper. He looked at
her and she looked at him, but neither spoke a word.
And now one of the little boys took the Tin Soldier and threw him
into the stove. He gave no reason for doing so, but no doubt the Goblin
in the snuffbox had something to do with it.
The Tin Soldier stood now in a blaze of red light. The heat he felt
was terrible, but whether it proceeded from the fire or from the love
in his heart, he did not know. He saw that the colors were quite gone
from his uniform, but whether that had happened on the journey or had
been caused by grief, no one could say. He looked at the little lady,
she looked at him, and he felt himself melting; still he stood firm as
ever, with his bayonet on his shoulder. Then suddenly the door flew
open; the wind caught the Dancer, and she flew straight into the stove
to the Tin Soldier, flashed up in a flame, and was gone! The Tin
Soldier melted into a lump; and in the ashes the maid found him next
day, in the shape of a little tin heart, while of the Dancer nothing
remained save the tinsel rose, and that was burned as black as a coal.
THERE was once a woman who wished very much to have a little child.
She went to a fairy and said: I should so very much like to have a
little child. Can you tell me where I can find one?
Oh, that can be easily managed, said the fairy. Here is a
barleycorn; it is not exactly of the same sort as those which grow in
the farmers' fields, and which the chickens eat. Put it into a
flowerpot and see what will happen.
Thank you, said the woman; and she gave the fairy twelve
shillings, which was the price of the barleycorn. Then she went home
and planted it, and there grew up a large, handsome flower, somewhat
like a tulip in appearance, but with its leaves tightly closed, as if
it were still a bud.
It is a beautiful flower, said the woman, and she kissed the red
and golden-colored petals; and as she did so the flower opened, and she
could see that it was a real tulip. But within the flower, upon the
green velvet stamens, sat a very delicate and graceful little maiden.
She was scarcely half as long as a thumb, and they gave her the name of
Little Thumb, or Thumbelina, because she was so small.
A walnut shell, elegantly polished, served her for a cradle; her bed
was formed of blue violet leaves, with a rose leaf for a counterpane.
Here she slept at night, but during the day she amused herself on a
table, where the peasant wife had placed a plate full of water.
Round this plate were wreaths of flowers with their stems in the
water, and upon it floated a large tulip leaf, which served the little
one for a boat. Here she sat and rowed herself from side to side, with
two oars made of white horsehair. It was a very pretty sight.
Thumbelina could also sing so softly and sweetly that nothing like her
singing had ever before been heard.
One night, while she lay in her pretty bed, a large, ugly, wet toad
crept through a broken pane of glass in the window and leaped right
upon the table where she lay sleeping under her rose-leaf quilt.
What a pretty little wife this would make for my son, said the
toad, and she took up the walnut shell in which Thumbelina lay asleep,
and jumped through the window with it, into the garden.
In the swampy margin of a broad stream in the garden lived the toad
with her son. He was uglier even than his mother; and when he saw the
pretty little maiden in her elegant bed, he could only cry Croak,
Don't speak so loud, or she will wake, said the toad, and then
she might run away, for she is as light as swan's-down. We will place
her on one of the water-lily leaves out in the stream; it will be like
an island to her, she is so light and small, and then she cannot
escape; and while she is there we will make haste and prepare the
stateroom under the marsh, in which you are to live when you are
Far out in the stream grew a number of water lilies with broad green
leaves which seemed to float on the top of the water. The largest of
these leaves appeared farther off than the rest, and the old toad swam
out to it with the walnut shell, in which Thumbelina still lay asleep.
The tiny creature woke very early in the morning and began to cry
bitterly when she found where she was, for she could see nothing but
water on every side of the large green leaf, and no way of reaching the
Meanwhile the old toad was very busy under the marsh, decking her
room with rushes and yellow wildflowers, to make it look pretty for her
new daughter-in-law. Then she swam out with her ugly son to the leaf on
which she had placed poor Thumbelina. She wanted to bring the pretty
bed, that she might put it in the bridal chamber to be ready for her.
The old toad bowed low to her in the water and said, Here is my son;
he will be your husband, and you will live happily together in the
marsh by the stream.
Croak, croak, croak, was all her son could say for himself. So the
toad took up the elegant little bed and swam away with it, leaving
Thumbelina all alone on the green leaf, where she sat and wept. She
could not bear to think of living with the old toad and having her ugly
son for a husband. The little fishes who swam about in the water
beneath had seen the toad and heard what she said, so now they lifted
their heads above the water to look at the little maiden.
As soon as they caught sight of her they saw she was very pretty,
and it vexed them to think that she must go and live with the ugly
No, it must never be! So they gathered together in the water,
round the green stalk which held the leaf on which the little maiden
stood, and gnawed it away at the root with their teeth. Then the leaf
floated down the stream, carrying Thumbelina far away out of reach of
Thumbelina sailed past many towns, and the little birds in the
bushes saw her and sang, What a lovely little creature. So the leaf
swam away with her farther and farther, till it brought her to other
lands. A graceful little white butterfly constantly fluttered round her
and at last alighted on the leaf. The little maiden pleased him, and
she was glad of it, for now the toad could not possibly reach her, and
the country through which she sailed was beautiful, and the sun shone
upon the water till it glittered like liquid gold. She took off her
girdle and tied one end of it round the butterfly, fastening the other
end of the ribbon to the leaf, which now glided on much faster than
before, taking Thumbelina with it as she stood.
Presently a large cockchafer flew by. The moment he caught sight of
her he seized her round her delicate waist with his claws and flew with
her into a tree. The green leaf floated away on the brook, and the
butterfly flew with it, for he was fastened to it and could not get
Oh, how frightened Thumbelina felt when the cockchafer flew with her
to the tree! But especially was she sorry for the beautiful white
butterfly which she had fastened to the leaf, for if he could not free
himself he would die of hunger. But the cockchafer did not trouble
himself at all about the matter. He seated himself by her side, on a
large green leaf, gave her some honey from the flowers to eat, and told
her she was very pretty, though not in the least like a cockchafer.
[Illustration: Glided on much faster than before....]
After a time all the cockchafers who lived in the tree came to pay
Thumbelina a visit. They stared at her, and then the young lady
cockchafers turned up their feelers and said, She has only two legs!
how ugly that looks. She has no feelers, said another. Her waist is
quite slim. Pooh! she is like a human being.
Oh, she is ugly, said all the lady cockchafers. The cockchafer who
had run away with her believed all the others when they said she was
ugly. He would have nothing more to say to her, and told her she might
go where she liked. Then he flew down with her from the tree and placed
her on a daisy, and she wept at the thought that she was so ugly that
even the cockchafers would have nothing to say to her. And all the
while she was really the loveliest creature that one could imagine, and
as tender and delicate as a beautiful rose leaf.
During the whole summer poor little Thumbelina lived quite alone in
the wide forest. She wove herself a bed with blades of grass and hung
it up under a broad leaf, to protect herself from the rain. She sucked
the honey from the flowers for food and drank the dew from their leaves
So passed away the summer and the autumn, and then came the
winterthe long, cold winter. All the birds who had sung to her so
sweetly had flown away, and the trees and the flowers had withered. The
large shamrock under the shelter of which she had lived was now rolled
together and shriveled up; nothing remained but a yellow, withered
stalk. She felt dreadfully cold, for her clothes were torn, and she was
herself so frail and delicate that she was nearly frozen to death. It
began to snow, too; and the snowflakes, as they fell upon her, were
like a whole shovelful falling upon one of us, for we are tall, but she
was only an inch high. She wrapped herself in a dry leaf, but it
cracked in the middle and could not keep her warm, and she shivered
Near the wood in which she had been living was a large cornfield,
but the corn had been cut a long time; nothing remained but the bare,
dry stubble, standing up out of the frozen ground. It was to her like
struggling through a large wood.
Oh! how she shivered with the cold. She came at last to the door of
a field mouse, who had a little den under the corn stubble. There dwelt
the field mouse in warmth and comfort, with a whole roomful of corn, a
kitchen, and a beautiful dining room. Poor Thumbelina stood before the
door, just like a little beggar girl, and asked for a small piece of
barleycorn, for she had been without a morsel to eat for two days.
You poor little creature, said the field mouse, for she was really
a good old mouse, come into my warm room and dine with me.
She was pleased with Thumbelina, so she said, You are quite welcome
to stay with me all the winter, if you like; but you must keep my rooms
clean and neat, and tell me stories, for I shall like to hear them very
much. And Thumbelina did all that the field mouse asked her, and found
herself very comfortable.
We shall have a visitor soon, said the field mouse one day; my
neighbor pays me a visit once a week. He is better off than I am; he
has large rooms, and wears a beautiful black velvet coat. If you could
only have him for a husband, you would be well provided for indeed. But
he is blind, so you must tell him some of your prettiest stories.
Thumbelina did not feel at all interested about this neighbor, for
he was a mole. However, he came and paid his visit, dressed in his
black velvet coat.
He is very rich and learned, and his house is twenty times larger
than mine, said the field mouse.
He was rich and learned, no doubt, but he always spoke slightingly
of the sun and the pretty flowers, because he had never seen them.
Thumbelina was obliged to sing to him, Ladybird, ladybird, fly away
home, and many other pretty songs. And the mole fell in love with her
because she had so sweet a voice; but he said nothing yet, for he was
very prudent and cautious. A short time before, the mole had dug a long
passage under the earth, which led from the dwelling of the field mouse
to his own, and here she had permission to walk with Thumbelina
whenever she liked. But he warned them not to be alarmed at the sight
of a dead bird which lay in the passage. It was a perfect bird, with a
beak and feathers, and could not have been dead long. It was lying just
where the mole had made his passage. The mole took in his mouth a piece
of phosphorescent wood, which glittered like fire in the dark. Then he
went before them to light them through the long, dark passage. When
they came to the spot where the dead bird lay, the mole pushed his
broad nose through the ceiling, so that the earth gave way and the
daylight shone into the passage.
In the middle of the floor lay a swallow, his beautiful wings pulled
close to his sides, his feet and head drawn up under his feathersthe
poor bird had evidently died of the cold. It made little Thumbelina
very sad to see it, she did so love the little birds; all the summer
they had sung and twittered for her so beautifully. But the mole pushed
it aside with his crooked legs and said: He will sing no more now. How
miserable it must be to be born a little bird! I am thankful that none
of my children will ever be birds, for they can do nothing but cry
'Tweet, tweet,' and must always die of hunger in the winter.
Yes, you may well say that, as a clever man! exclaimed the field
mouse. What is the use of his twittering if, when winter comes, he
must either starve or be frozen to death? Still, birds are very high
Thumbelina said nothing, but when the two others had turned their
backs upon the bird, she stooped down and stroked aside the soft
feathers which covered his head, and kissed the closed eyelids.
Perhaps this was the one who sang to me so sweetly in the summer, she
said; and how much pleasure it gave me, you dear, pretty bird.
The mole now stopped up the hole through which the daylight shone,
and then accompanied the ladies home. But during the night Thumbelina
could not sleep; so she got out of bed and wove a large, beautiful
carpet of hay. She carried it to the dead bird and spread it over him,
with some down from the flowers which she had found in the field
mouse's room. It was as soft as wool, and she spread some of it on each
side of the bird, so that he might lie warmly in the cold earth.
Farewell, pretty little bird, said she, farewell. Thank you for
your delightful singing during the summer, when all the trees were
green and the warm sun shone upon us. Then she laid her head on the
bird's breast, but she was alarmed, for it seemed as if something
inside the bird went thump, thump. It was the bird's heart; he was
not really dead, only benumbed with the cold, and the warmth had
restored him to life. In autumn all the swallows fly away into warm
countries; but if one happens to linger, the cold seizes it, and it
becomes chilled and falls down as if dead. It remains where it fell,
and the cold snow covers it.
Thumbelina trembled very much; she was quite frightened, for the
bird was large, a great deal larger than herself (she was only an inch
high). But she took courage, laid the wool more thickly over the poor
swallow, and then took a leaf which she had used for her own
counterpane and laid it over his head.
The next night she again stole out to see him. He was alive, but
very weak; he could only open his eyes for a moment to look at
Thumbelina, who stood by, holding a piece of decayed wood in her hand,
for she had no other lantern. Thank you, pretty little maiden, said
the sick swallow; I have been so nicely warmed that I shall soon
regain my strength and be able to fly about again in the warm
Oh, said she, it is cold out of doors now; it snows and freezes.
Stay in your warm bed; I will take care of you.
She brought the swallow some water in a flower leaf, and after he
had drunk, he told her that he had wounded one of his wings in a
thornbush and could not fly as fast as the others, who were soon far
away on their journey to warm countries. At last he had fallen to the
earth, and could remember nothing more, nor how he came to be where she
had found him.
All winter the swallow remained underground, and Thumbelina nursed
him with care and love. She did not tell either the mole or the field
mouse anything about it, for they did not like swallows. Very soon the
springtime came, and the sun warmed the earth. Then the swallow bade
farewell to Thumbelina, and she opened the hole in the ceiling which
the mole had made. The sun shone in upon them so beautifully that the
swallow asked her if she would go with him. She could sit on his back,
he said, and he would fly away with her into the green woods. But she
knew it would grieve the field mouse if she left her in that manner, so
she said, No, I cannot.
Farewell, then, farewell, you good, pretty little maiden, said the
swallow, and he flew out into the sunshine.
* * * * *
Thumbelina looked after him, and the tears rose in her eyes. She was
very fond of the poor swallow.
Tweet, tweet, sang the bird, as he flew out into the green woods,
and Thumbelina felt very sad. She was not allowed to go out into the
warm sunshine. The corn which had been sowed in the field over the
house of the field mouse had grown up high into the air and formed a
thick wood to Thumbelina, who was only an inch in height.
[Illustration: Nothing must be wanting when you are the wife of the
You are going to be married, little one, said the field mouse. My
neighbor has asked for you. What good fortune for a poor child like
you! Now we will prepare your wedding clothes. They must be woolen and
linen. Nothing must be wanting when you are the wife of the mole.
Thumbelina had to turn the spindle, and the field mouse hired four
spiders, who were to weave day and night. Every evening the mole
visited her and was continually speaking of the time when the summer
would be over. Then he would keep his wedding day with Thumbelina; but
now the heat of the sun was so great that it burned the earth and made
it hard, like stone. As soon as the summer was over the wedding should
take place. But Thumbelina was not at all pleased, for she did not like
the tiresome mole.
Every morning when the sun rose and every evening when it went down
she would creep out at the door, and as the wind blew aside the ears of
corn so that she could see the blue sky, she thought how beautiful and
bright it seemed out there and wished so much to see her dear friend,
the swallow, again. But he never returned, for by this time he had
flown far away into the lovely green forest.
When autumn arrived Thumbelina had her outfit quite ready, and the
field mouse said to her, In four weeks the wedding must take place.
Then she wept and said she would not marry the disagreeable mole.
Nonsense, replied the field mouse. Now don't be obstinate, or I
shall bite you with my white teeth. He is a very handsome mole; the
queen herself does not wear more beautiful velvets and furs. His
kitchens and cellars are quite full. You ought to be very thankful for
such good fortune.
So the wedding day was fixed, on which the mole was to take her away
to live with him, deep under the earth, and never again to see the warm
sun, because he did not like it. The poor child was very unhappy
at the thought of saying farewell to the beautiful sun, and as the
field mouse had given her permission to stand at the door, she went to
look at it once more.
Farewell, bright sun, she cried, stretching out her arm towards
it; and then she walked a short distance from the house, for the corn
had been cut, and only the dry stubble remained in the fields.
Farewell, farewell, she repeated, twining her arm around a little red
flower that grew just by her side. Greet the little swallow from me,
if you should see him again.
Tweet, tweet, sounded over her head suddenly. She looked up, and
there was the swallow himself flying close by. As soon as he spied
Thumbelina he was delighted. She told him how unwilling she was to
marry the ugly mole, and to live always beneath the earth, nevermore to
see the bright sun. And as she told him, she wept.
Cold winter is coming, said the swallow, and I am going to fly
away into warmer countries. Will you go with me? You can sit on my back
and fasten yourself on with your sash. Then we can fly away from the
ugly mole and his gloomy roomsfar away, over the mountains, into
warmer countries, where the sun shines more brightly than here; where
it is always summer, and the flowers bloom in greater beauty. Fly now
with me, dear little one; you saved my life when I lay frozen in that
dark, dreary passage.
Yes, I will go with you, said Thumbelina; and she seated herself
on the bird's back, with her feet on his outstretched wings, and tied
her girdle to one of his strongest feathers.
The swallow rose in the air and flew over forest and over seahigh
above the highest mountains, covered with eternal snow. Thumbelina
would have been frozen in the cold air, but she crept under the bird's
warm feathers, keeping her little head uncovered, so that she might
admire the beautiful lands over which they passed. At length they
reached the warm countries, where the sun shines brightly and the sky
seems so much higher above the earth. Here on the hedges and by the
wayside grew purple, green, and white grapes, lemons and oranges hung
from trees in the fields, and the air was fragrant with myrtles and
orange blossoms. Beautiful children ran along the country lanes,
playing with large gay butterflies; and as the swallow flew farther and
farther, every place appeared still more lovely.
At last they came to a blue lake, and by the side of it, shaded by
trees of the deepest green, stood a palace of dazzling white marble,
built in the olden times. Vines clustered round its lofty pillars, and
at the top were many swallows' nests, and one of these was the home of
the swallow who carried Thumbelina.
This is my house, said the swallow; but it would not do for you
to live thereyou would not be comfortable. You must choose for
yourself one of those lovely flowers, and I will put you down upon it,
and then you shall have everything that you can wish to make you
That will be delightful, she said, and clapped her little hands
A large marble pillar lay on the ground, which, in falling, had been
broken into three pieces. Between these pieces grew the most beautiful
large white flowers, so the swallow flew down with Thumbelina and
placed her on one of the broad leaves. But how surprised she was to see
in the middle of the flower a tiny little man, as white and transparent
as if he had been made of crystal! He had a gold crown on his head, and
delicate wings at his shoulders, and was not much larger than was she
herself. He was the angel of the flower, for a tiny man and a tiny
woman dwell in every flower, and this was the king of them all.
Oh, how beautiful he is! whispered Thumbelina to the swallow.
The little prince was at first quite frightened at the bird, who was
like a giant compared to such a delicate little creature as himself;
but when he saw Thumbelina he was delighted and thought her the
prettiest little maiden he had ever seen. He took the gold crown from
his head and placed it on hers, and asked her name and if she would be
his wife and queen over all the flowers.
This certainly was a very different sort of husband from the son of
the toad, or the mole with his black velvet and fur, so she said Yes to
the handsome prince. Then all the flowers opened, and out of each came
a little lady or a tiny lord, all so pretty it was quite a pleasure to
look at them. Each of them brought Thumbelina a present; but the best
gift was a pair of beautiful wings, which had belonged to a large white
fly, and they fastened them to Thumbelina's shoulders, so that she
might fly from flower to flower.
Then there was much rejoicing, and the little swallow, who sat above
them in his nest, was asked to sing a wedding song, which he did as
well as he could; but in his heart he felt sad, for he was very fond of
Thumbelina and would have liked never to part from her again.
You must not be called Thumbelina any more, said the spirit of the
flowers to her. It is an ugly name, and you are so very lovely. We
will call you Maia.
Farewell, farewell, said the swallow, with a heavy heart, as he
left the warm countries, to fly back into Denmark. There he had a nest
over the window of a house in which dwelt the writer of fairy tales.
The swallow sang Tweet, tweet, and from his song came the whole
I AM going to tell a story, said the Wind.
I beg your pardon, said the Rain, but now it is my turn. Have you
not been howling round the corner this long time, as hard as ever you
Is this the gratitude you owe me? said the Wind; I, who in honor
of you turn inside outyes, even breakall the umbrellas, when the
people won't have anything to do with you.
I will speak myself, said the Sunshine. Silence! and the
Sunshine said it with such glory and majesty that the weary Wind fell
prostrate, and the Rain, beating against him, shook him, as she said:
We won't stand it! She is always breaking throughis Madame
Sunshine. Let us not listen to her; what she has to say is not worth
hearing. And still the Sunshine began to talk, and this is what she
A beautiful swan flew over the rolling, tossing waves of the ocean.
Every one of its feathers shone like gold; and one feather drifted down
to the great merchant vessel that, with sails all set, was sailing
The feather fell upon the light curly hair of a young man, whose
business it was to care for the goods in the shipthe supercargo he
was called. The feather of the bird of fortune touched his forehead,
became a pen in his hand, and brought him such luck that he soon became
a wealthy merchant, rich enough to have bought for himself spurs of
goldrich enough to change a golden plate into a nobleman's shield, on
which, said the Sunshine, I shone.
* * * * *
The swan flew farther, away and away, over the sunny green meadow,
where the little shepherd boy, only seven years old, had lain down in
the shade of the old tree, the only one there was in sight.
In its flight the swan kissed one of the leaves of the tree, and
falling into the boy's hand, it was changed to three leavesto tento
a whole book; yes, and in the book he read about all the wonders of
nature, about his native language, about faith and knowledge. At night
he laid the book under his pillow, that he might not forget what he had
The wonderful book led him also to the schoolroom, and thence
everywhere, in search of knowledge. I have read his name among the
names of learned men, said the Sunshine.
* * * * *
The swan flew into the quiet, lonely forest, and rested awhile on
the deep, dark lake where the lilies grow, where the wild apples are to
be found on the shore, where the cuckoo and the wild pigeon have their
In the wood was a poor woman gathering firewoodbranches and dry
sticks that had fallen. She bore them on her back in a bundle, and in
her arms she held her little child. She too saw the golden swan, the
bird of fortune, as it rose from among the reeds on the shore. What was
it that glittered so? A golden egg that was still quite warm. She laid
it in her bosom, and the warmth remained. Surely there was life in the
egg! She heard the gentle pecking inside the shell, but she thought it
was her own heart that was beating.
At home in her poor cottage she took out the egg. 'Tick! tick!' it
said, as if it had been a gold watch, but it was not; it was an egga
real, living egg.
The egg cracked and opened, and a dear little baby swan, all
feathered as with the purest gold, pushed out its tiny head. Around its
neck were four rings, and as this woman had four boysthree at home,
and this little one that was with her in the lonely woodshe
understood at once that there was one for each boy. Just as she had
taken them the little gold bird took flight.
She kissed each ring, then made each of the children kiss one of
the rings, laid it next the child's heart awhile, then put it on his
finger. I saw it all, said the Sunshine, and I saw what happened
[Illustration: The egg cracked and opened....]
One of the boys, while playing by a ditch, took a lump of clay in
his hand, then turned and twisted it till it took shape and was like
Jason, who went in search of the Golden Fleece and found it.
The second boy ran out upon the meadow, where stood the
flowersflowers of all imaginable colors. He gathered a handful and
squeezed them so tightly that the juice flew into his eyes, and some of
it wet the ring upon his hand. It cribbled and crawled in his brain and
in his hands, and after many a day and many a year, people in the great
city talked of the famous painter that he was.
The third child held the ring in his teeth, and so tightly that it
gave forth soundthe echo of a song in the depth of his heart. Then
thoughts and feelings rose in beautiful sounds,rose like singing
swans,plunged, too, like swans, into the deep, deep sea. He became a
great musical composer, a master, of whom every country has the right
to say, 'He was mine, for he was the world's.'
And the fourth little oneyes, he was the 'ugly duck' of the
family. They said he had the pip and must eat pepper and butter like a
sick chicken, and that was what was given him; but of me he got a warm,
sunny kiss, said the Sunshine. He had ten kisses for one. He was a
poet and was first kissed, then buffeted all his life through.
But he held what no one could take from himthe ring of fortune
from Dame Fortune's golden swan. His thoughts took wing and flew up and
away like singing butterfliesemblems of an immortal life.
That was a dreadfully long story, said the Wind.
And so stupid and tiresome, said the Rain. Blow upon me, please,
that I may revive a little.
And while the Wind blew, the Sunshine said: The swan of fortune
flew over the lovely bay where the fishermen had set their nets. The
very poorest one among them was wishing to marryand marry he did.
To him the swan brought a piece of amber. Amber draws things toward
itself, and this piece drew hearts to the house where the fisherman
lived with his bride. Amber is the most wonderful of incense, and there
came a soft perfume, as from a holy place, a sweet breath from
beautiful nature, that God has made. And the fisherman and his wife
were happy and grateful in their peaceful home, content even in their
poverty. And so their life became a real Sunshine Story.
I think we had better stop now, said the Wind. I am dreadfully
bored. The Sunshine has talked long enough.
I think so, too, said the Rain.
And what do we others who have heard the story say?
We say, Now the story's done.
THERE was once a Darning-needle who thought herself so fine that she
came at last to believe that she was fit for embroidery.
Mind now that you hold me fast, she said to the Fingers that took
her up. Pray don't lose me. If I should fall on the ground I should
certainly be lost, I am so fine.
That's more than you can tell, said the Fingers, as they grasped
her tightly by the waist.
I come with a train, you see, said the Darning-needle, as she drew
her long thread after her; but there was no knot in the thread.
The Fingers pressed the point of the Needle upon an old pair of
slippers, in which the upper leather had burst and must be sewed
together. The slippers belonged to the cook.
This is very coarse work! said the Darning-needle. I shall never
get through alive. There, I'm breaking! I'm breaking! and break she
did. Did I not say so? said the Darning-needle. I'm too delicate for
such work as that.
Now it's quite useless for sewing, said the Fingers; but they
still held her all the same, for the cook presently dropped some melted
sealing wax upon the needle and then pinned her neckerchief in front
See, now I'm a breastpin, said the Darning-needle. I well knew
that I should come to honor; when one is something, one always comes to
something. Merit is sure to rise. And at this she laughed, only
inwardly, of course, for one can never see when a Darning-needle
laughs. There she sat now, quite at her ease, and as proud as if she
sat in a state carriage and gazed upon all about her.
May I take the liberty to ask if you are made of gold? she asked
of the pin, her neighbor. You have a splendid appearance and quite a
remarkable head, though it is so little. You should do what you can to
growof course it is not every one that can have sealing wax dropped
And the Darning-needle drew herself up so proudly that she fell out
of the neckerchief into the sink, which the cook was at that moment
Now I'm going to travel, said the Darning-needle, if only I don't
But that was just what happened to her.
I'm too delicate for this world, she said, as she found herself in
the gutter. But I know who I am, and there is always some little
pleasure in that! It was thus that the Darning-needle kept up her
proud bearing and lost none of her good humor. And now all sorts of
things swam over herchips and straws and scraps of old newspapers.
Only see how they sail along, said the Darning-needle to herself.
They little know what is under them, though it is I, and I sit firmly
here. See! there goes a chip! It thinks of nothing in the world but
itselfof nothing in the world but a chip! There floats a straw; see
how it turns and twirls about. Do think of something besides yourself
or you may easily run against a stone. There swims a bit of a
newspaper. What's written upon it is forgotten long ago, yet how it
spreads itself out and gives itself airs! I sit patiently and quietly
here! I know what I am, and I shall remain the samealways.
One day there lay something beside her that glittered splendidly.
She thought it must be a diamond, but it was really only a bit of
broken glass from a bottle. As it shone so brightly the Darning-needle
spoke to it, introducing herself as a breastpin.
You are a diamond, I suppose, she said.
Why, yes, something of the sort.
So each believed the other to be some rare and costly trinket; and
they began to converse together upon the world, saying how very
conceited it was.
Yes, said the Darning-needle, I have lived in a young lady's box;
and the young lady happened to be a cook. She had five fingers upon
each of her hands, and anything more conceited and arrogant than those
five fingers, I never saw. And yet they were only there that they might
take me out of the box or put me back again.
Were they of high descent? asked the Bit of Bottle. Did they
No, indeed, replied the Darning-needle; but they were none the
less haughty. There were five brothers of themall of the Finger
family. And they held themselves so proudly side by side, though they
were of quite different heights. The outermost, Thumbling he was
called, was short and thick set; he generally stood out of the rank, a
little in front of the others; he had only one joint in his back, and
could only bow once; but he used to say that if he were cut off from a
man, that man would be cut off from military service. Foreman, the
second, put himself forward on all occasions, meddled with sweet and
sour, pointed to sun and moon, and when the fingers wrote, it was he
who pressed the pen. Middleman, the third of the brothers, could look
over the others' heads, and gave himself airs for that. Ringman, the
fourth, went about with a gold belt about his waist; and little
Playman, whom they called Peter Spielman, did nothing at all and was
proud of that, I suppose. There was nothing to be heard but boasting,
and that is why I took myself away.
And now we sit here together and shine, said the Bit of Bottle.
At that very moment some water came rushing along the gutter, so
that it overflowed and carried the glass diamond along with it.
So he is off, said the Darning-needle, and I still remain. I am
left here because I am too slender and genteel. But that's my pride,
and pride is honorable. And proudly she sat, thinking many thoughts.
I could almost believe I had been born of a sunbeam, I'm so fine.
It seems as if the sunbeams were always trying to seek me under the
water. Alas, I'm so delicate that even my own mother cannot find me. If
I had my old eye still, which broke off, I think I should crybut no,
I would not; it's not genteel to weep.
One day a couple of street boys were paddling about in the gutter,
hunting for old nails, pennies, and such like. It was dirty work, but
they seemed to find great pleasure in it.
Hullo! cried one of them, as he pricked himself with the
Darning-needle; here's a fellow for you!
I'm not a fellow! I'm a young lady! said the Darning-needle, but
no one heard it.
The sealing wax had worn off, and she had become quite black; but
black makes one look slender, and is always becoming. She thought
herself finer even than before.
There goes an eggshell sailing along, said the boys; and they
stuck the Darning-needle into the shell.
A lady in black, and within white walls! said the Darning-needle;
that is very striking. Now every one can see me. I hope I shall not be
seasick, for then I shall break.
But the fear was needless; she was not seasick, neither did she
Nothing is so good to prevent seasickness as to have a steel
stomach and to bear in mind that one is something a little more than an
ordinary person. My seasickness is all over now. The more genteel and
honorable one is, the more one can endure.
Crash went the eggshell, as a wagon rolled over both of them. It was
a wonder that she did not break.
Mercy, what a crushing weight! said the Darning-needle. I'm
growing seasick, after all. I'm going to break!
But she was not sick, and she did not break, though the wagon wheels
rolled over her. She lay at full length in the road, and there let her
THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL
IT was dreadfully cold; it was snowing fast, and was almost dark, as
evening came onthe last evening of the year. In the cold and the
darkness, there went along the street a poor little girl, bareheaded
and with naked feet. When she left home she had slippers on, it is
true; but they were much too large for her feetslippers that her
mother had used till then, and the poor little girl lost them in
running across the street when two carriages were passing terribly
fast. When she looked for them, one was not to be found, and a boy
seized the other and ran away with it, saying he would use it for a
cradle some day, when he had children of his own.
So on the little girl went with her bare feet, that were red and
blue with cold. In an old apron that she wore were bundles of matches,
and she carried a bundle also in her hand. No one had bought so much as
a bunch all the long day, and no one had given her even a penny.
Poor little girl! Shivering with cold and hunger she crept along, a
perfect picture of misery.
The snowflakes fell on her long flaxen hair, which hung in pretty
curls about her throat; but she thought not of her beauty nor of the
cold. Lights gleamed in every window, and there came to her the savory
smell of roast goose, for it was New Year's Eve. And it was this of
which she thought.
In a corner formed by two houses, one of which projected beyond the
other, she sat cowering down. She had drawn under her her little feet,
but still she grew colder and colder; yet she dared not go home, for
she had sold no matches and could not bring a penny of money. Her
father would certainly beat her; and, besides, it was cold enough at
home, for they had only the house-roof above them, and though the
largest holes had been stopped with straw and rags, there were left
many through which the cold wind could whistle.
[Illustration: Where the light fell upon the wall it became
And now her little hands were nearly frozen with cold. Alas! a
single match might do her good if she might only draw it from the
bundle, rub it against the wall, and warm her fingers by it. So at last
she drew one out. Whisht! How it blazed and burned! It gave out a warm,
bright flame like a little candle, as she held her hands over it. A
wonderful little light it was. It really seemed to the little girl as
if she sat before a great iron stove with polished brass feet and brass
shovel and tongs. So blessedly it burned that the little maiden
stretched out her feet to warm them also. How comfortable she was! But
lo! the flame went out, the stove vanished, and nothing remained but
the little burned match in her hand.
She rubbed another match against the wall. It burned brightly, and
where the light fell upon the wall it became transparent like a veil,
so that she could see through it into the room. A snow-white cloth was
spread upon the table, on which was a beautiful china dinner-service,
while a roast goose, stuffed with apples and prunes, steamed famously
and sent forth a most savory smell. And what was more delightful still,
and wonderful, the goose jumped from the dish, with knife and fork
still in its breast, and waddled along the floor straight to the little
But the match went out then, and nothing was left to her but the
thick, damp wall.
She lighted another match. And now she was under a most beautiful
Christmas tree, larger and far more prettily trimmed than the one she
had seen through the glass doors at the rich merchant's. Hundreds of
wax tapers were burning on the green branches, and gay figures, such as
she had seen in shop windows, looked down upon her. The child stretched
out her hands to them; then the match went out.
Still the lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher. She
saw them now as stars in heaven, and one of them fell, forming a long
trail of fire.
Now some one is dying, murmured the child softly; for her
grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now dead,
had told her that whenever a star falls a soul mounts up to God.
She struck yet another match against the wall, and again it was
light; and in the brightness there appeared before her the dear old
grandmother, bright and radiant, yet sweet and mild, and happy as she
had never looked on earth.
Oh, grandmother, cried the child, take me with you. I know you
will go away when the match burns out. You, too, will vanish, like the
warm stove, the splendid New Year's feast, the beautiful Christmas
tree. And lest her grandmother should disappear, she rubbed the whole
bundle of matches against the wall.
And the matches burned with such a brilliant light that it became
brighter than noonday. Her grandmother had never looked so grand and
beautiful. She took the little girl in her arms, and both flew
together, joyously and gloriously, mounting higher and higher, far
above the earth; and for them there was neither hunger, nor cold, nor
carethey were with God.
But in the corner, at the dawn of day, sat the poor girl, leaning
against the wall, with red cheeks and smiling mouthfrozen to death on
the last evening of the old year. Stiff and cold she sat, with the
matches, one bundle of which was burned.
She wanted to warm herself, poor little thing, people said. No one
imagined what sweet visions she had had, or how gloriously she had gone
with her grandmother to enter upon the joys of a new year.
THE LOVING PAIR
A WHIPPING Top and a Ball lay close together in a drawer among other
playthings. One day the Top said to the Ball, Since we are living so
much together, why should we not be lovers?
But the Ball, being made of morocco leather, thought herself a very
high-bred lady, and would hear nothing of such a proposal. On the next
day the little boy to whom the playthings belonged came to the drawer;
he painted the Top red and yellow, and drove a bright brass nail right
through the head of it; it looked very smart indeed as it spun around
Look at me, said he to the Ball. What do you say to me now; why
should we not make a match of it, and become man and wife? We suit each
other so well!you can jump and I can dance. There would not be a
happier pair in the whole world!
Do you think so? said the Ball. Perhaps you do not know that my
father and mother were morocco slippers, and that I have a Spanish cork
in my body!
Yes, but then I am made of mahogany, said the Top; the Mayor
himself turned me. He has a turning lathe of his own, and he took great
pleasure in making me.
Can I trust you in this? asked the Ball.
May I never be whipped again, if what I tell you is not true,
returned the Top.
You plead your cause well, said the Ball; but I am not free to
listen to your proposal. I am as good as engaged to a swallow. As often
as I fly up into the air, he puts his head out of his nest, and says,
'Will you?' In my heart I have said Yes to him, and that is almost the
same as an engagement; but I'll promise never to forget you.
A deal of good that will do me, said the Top, and they left off
speaking to each other.
Next day the Ball was taken out. The Top saw it fly like a bird into
the airso high that it passed quite out of sight. It came back again;
but each time that it touched the earth, it sprang higher than before.
This must have been either from its longing to mount higher, like the
swallow, or because it had the Spanish cork in its body. On the ninth
time the little Ball did not return. The boy sought and sought, but all
in vain, for it was gone.
I know very well where she is, sighed the Top. She is in the
swallow's nest, celebrating her wedding.
The more the Top thought of this the more lovely the Ball became to
him; that she could not be his bride seemed to make his love for her
the greater. She had preferred another rather than himself, but he
could not forget her. He twirled round and round, spinning and humming,
but always thinking of the Ball, who grew more and more beautiful the
more he thought of her. And thus several years passed,it came to be
an old love,and now the Top was no longer young!
One day he was gilded all over; never in his life had he been half
so handsome. He was now a golden top, and bravely he spun, humming all
the time. But once he sprang too highand was gone!
They looked everywhere for him,even in the cellar,but he was
nowhere to be found. Where was he?
He had jumped into the dustbin, and lay among cabbage stalks,
sweepings, dust, and all sorts of rubbish that had fallen from the
gutter in the roof.
Alas! my gay gilding will soon be spoiled here. What sort of
trumpery can I have got among? And then he peeped at a long cabbage
stalk which lay much too near him, and at something strange and round,
which appeared like an apple, but was not. It was an old Ball that must
have lain for years in the gutter, and been soaked through and through
Thank goodness! at last I see an equal; one of my own sort, with
whom I can talk, said the Ball, looking earnestly at the gilded Top.
I am myself made of real morocco, sewed together by a young lady's
hands, and within my body is a Spanish cork; though no one would think
it now. I was very near marrying the swallow, when by a sad chance I
fell into the gutter on the roof. I have lain there five years, and I
am now wet through and through. You may think what a wearisome
situation it has been for a young lady like me.
The Top made no reply. The more he thought of his old love, and the
more he heard, the more sure he became that this was indeed she.
Then came the housemaid to empty the dustbin. Hullo! she cried;
why, here's the gilt Top. And so the Top was brought again to the
playroom, to be used and honored as before, while nothing was again
heard of the Ball.
And the Top never spoke again of his old lovethe feeling must have
passed away. And it is not strange, when the object of it has lain five
years in a gutter, and been drenched through and through, and when one
meets her again in a dustbin.
THE LEAPING MATCH
THE Flea, the Grasshopper, and the Frog once wanted to see which of
them could jump the highest. They made a festival, and invited the
whole world and every one else besides who liked to come and see the
grand sight. Three famous jumpers they were, as all should say, when
they met together in the room.
I will give my daughter to him who shall jump highest, said the
King; it would be too bad for you to have the jumping, and for us to
offer no prize.
The Flea was the first to come forward. He had most exquisite
manners, and bowed to the company on every side; for he was of noble
blood, and, besides, was accustomed to the society of man, and that, of
course, had been an advantage to him.
Next came the Grasshopper. He was not quite so elegantly formed as
the Flea, but he knew perfectly well how to conduct himself, and he
wore the green uniform which belonged to him by right of birth. He
said, moreover, that he came of a very ancient Egyptian family, and
that in the house where he then lived he was much thought of.
The fact was that he had been just brought out of the fields and put
in a card-house three stories high, and built on purpose for him, with
the colored sides inwards, and doors and windows cut out of the Queen
of Hearts. And I sing so well, said he, that sixteen parlor-bred
crickets, who have chirped from infancy and yet got no one to build
them card-houses to live in, have fretted themselves thinner even than
before, from sheer vexation on hearing me.
It was thus that the Flea and the Grasshopper made the most of
themselves, each thinking himself quite an equal match for the
[Illustration: He made a sideways jump into the lap of the
The Leapfrog said not a word; but people said that perhaps he
thought the more; and the housedog who snuffed at him with his nose
allowed that he was of good family. The old councilor, who had had
three orders given him in vain for keeping quiet, asserted that the
Leapfrog was a prophet, for that one could see on his back whether the
coming winter was to be severe or mild, which is more than one can see
on the back of the man who writes the almanac.
I say nothing for the present, exclaimed the King; yet I have my
own opinion, for I observe everything.
And now the match began. The Flea jumped so high that no one could
see what had become of him; and so they insisted that he had not jumped
at allwhich was disgraceful after all the fuss he had made.
The Grasshopper jumped only half as high; but he leaped into the
King's face, who was disgusted by his rudeness.
The Leapfrog stood for a long time, as if lost in thought; people
began to think he would not jump at all.
I'm afraid he is ill! said the dog and he went to snuff at him
again; when lo! he suddenly made a sideways jump into the lap of the
princess, who sat close by on a little golden stool.
There is nothing higher than my daughter, said the King;
therefore to bound into her lap is the highest jump that can be made.
Only one of good understanding would ever have thought of that. Thus
the Frog has shown that he has sense. He has brains in his head, that
And so he won the princess.
I jumped the highest, for all that, said the Flea; but it's all
the same to me. The princess may have the stiff-legged, slimy creature,
if she likes. In this world merit seldom meets its reward. Dullness and
heaviness win the day. I am too light and airy for a stupid world.
And so the Flea went into foreign service.
The Grasshopper sat without on a green bank and reflected on the
world and its ways; and he too said, Yes, dullness and heaviness win
the day; a fine exterior is what people care for nowadays. And then he
began to sing in his own peculiar wayand it is from his song that we
have taken this little piece of history, which may very possibly be all
untrue, although it does stand printed here in black and white.
THE HAPPY FAMILY
THE largest green leaf in this country is certainly the burdock. Put
one in front of your waist, and it is just like an apron; or lay it
upon your head, and it is almost as good as an umbrella, it is so
Burdock never grows singly; where you find one plant of the kind you
may be sure that others grow in its immediate neighborhood. How
magnificent they look!
And all this magnificence is food for snailsthe great white
snails, which grand people in olden times used to have dished up as
fricassees, and of which, when they had eaten, they would say, H'm,
how nice! for they really fancied them delicious. These snails lived
on burdock leaves, and that was why burdock was planted.
Now there was an old estate where snails were no longer considered a
delicacy. The snails had therefore died out, but the burdock still
flourished. In all the alleys and in all the beds it had grown and
grown, so that it could no longer be checked; the place had become a
perfect forest of burdock.
Here and there stood an apple or plum tree to serve as a kind of
token that there had been once a garden, but everything, from one end
of the garden to the other, was burdock, and beneath the shade of the
burdock lived the last two of the ancient snails.
They did not know themselves how old they were, but they well
remembered the time when there were a great many of them, that they had
descended from a family that came from foreign lands, and that this
forest in which they lived had been planted for them and theirs. They
had never been beyond the limits of the garden, but they knew that
there was something outside their forest, called the castle, and that
there one was boiled, and became black, and was then laid upon a silver
dishthough what happened afterward they had never heard, nor could
they exactly fancy how it felt to be cooked and laid on a silver dish.
It was, no doubt, a fine thing, and exceedingly genteel.
Neither the cockchafer, nor the toad, nor the earthworm, all of whom
they questioned on the matter, could give them the least information,
for none of them had ever been cooked and served upon silver dishes.
The old white snails were the grandest race in the world; of this
they were well aware. The forest had grown for their sake, and the
castle or manor house too had been built expressly that in it they
might be cooked and served.
Leading now a very quiet and happy life and having no children, they
had adopted a little common snail, and had brought it up as their own
child. But the little thing would not grow, for he was only a common
snail, though his foster mother pretended to see a great improvement in
him. She begged the father, since he could not perceive it, to feel the
little snail's shell, and to her great joy and his own, he found that
his wife was right.
One day it rained very hard. Listen! said the Father Snail; hear
what a drumming there is on the burdock leavesrum-dum-dum,
There are drops, too, said the Mother Snail; they come trickling
down the stalks. We shall presently find it very wet here. I'm glad we
have such good houses, and that the youngster has his also. There has
really been more done for us than for any other creatures. Every one
must see that we are superior beings. We have houses from our very
birth, and the burdock forest is planted on our account. I should like
to know just how far it reaches, and what there is beyond.
There is nothing better than what we have here, said the Father
Snail. I wish for nothing beyond.
And yet, said the mother, I should like to be taken to the
castle, and boiled, and laid on a silver dish; that has been the
destiny of all our ancestors, and we may be sure it is something quite
out of the common way.
The castle has perhaps fallen to ruin, said the Father Snail, or
it may be overgrown with burdock, so that its inmates are unable to
come out. There is no hurry about the matter. You are always in such a
desperate hurry, and the youngster there begins to take after you. He's
been creeping up that stem yonder these three days. It makes me quite
dizzy to look at him.
But don't scold him, said the mother. He creeps carefully. We old
people have nothing else to live for, and he will be the joy of our old
age. Have you thought how we can manage to find a wife for him? Do you
not think that farther into the forest there may be others of our own
I dare say there may be black snails, said the old father, black
snails, without a house at all; and they are vulgar, though they think
so much of themselves. But we can employ the black ants, who run about
so muchhurrying to and fro as if they had all the business of the
world on their hands. They will certainly be able to find a wife for
our young gentleman.
I know the fairest of the fair, said one of the ants; but I'm
afraid it would not do, for she's a queen.
She's none the worse for that, said both the old snails. Has she
She has a palace, answered the ants; the most splendid ant
castle, with seven hundred galleries.
Thank you! said the Mother Snail. Our boy shall not go to live in
an ant hill. If you know of nothing better, we will employ the white
gnats, who fly both in rain and sunshine and know all the ins and outs
of the whole burdock forest.
We have found a wife for him, said the gnats. A hundred paces
from here there sits, on a gooseberry bush, a little snail with a
house. She is all alone and is old enough to marry. It is only a
hundred human steps from here.
Then let her come to him, said the old couple. He has a whole
forest of burdock, while she has only a bush.
So they went and brought the little maiden snail. It took eight days
to perform the journey, but that only showed her high breeding, and
that she was of good family.
And then the wedding took place. Six glow-worms gave all the light
they could, but in all other respects it was a very quiet affair. The
old people could not bear the fatigue of frolic or festivity. The
Mother Snail made a very touching little speech. The father was too
much overcome to trust himself to say anything.
They gave the young couple the entire burdock forest, saying what
they had always said, namely, that it was the finest inheritance in the
world, and that if they led an upright and honorable life, and if their
family should increase, without doubt both themselves and their
children would one day be taken to the manor castle and be boiled black
and served as a fricassee in a silver dish.
And after this the old couple crept into their houses and never came
out again, but fell asleep. The young pair now ruled in the forest and
had a numerous family. But when, as time went on, none of them were
ever cooked or served on a silver dish, they concluded that the castle
had fallen to ruin and that the world of human beings had died out; and
as no one contradicted them, they must have been right.
And the rain continued to fall upon the burdock leaves solely to
entertain them with its drumming, and the sun shone to light the forest
for their especial benefit, and very happy they werethey and the
whole snail familyinexpressibly happy!
A ROSE TREE stood in the window. But a little while ago it had been
green and fresh, and now it looked sicklyit was in poor health, no
doubt. A whole regiment was quartered on it and was eating it up; yet,
notwithstanding this seeming greediness, the regiment was a very decent
and respectable one. It wore bright-green uniforms. I spoke to one of
the Greenies. He was but three days old, and yet he was already a
grandfather. What do you think he said? It is all truehe spoke of
himself and of the rest of the regiment. Listen!
We are the most wonderful creatures in the world. At a very early
age we are engaged, and immediately we have the wedding. When the cold
weather comes we lay our eggs, but the little ones lie sunny and warm.
The wisest of the creatures, the ant,we have the greatest respect for
him!understands us well. He appreciates us, you may be sure. He does
not eat us up at once; he takes our eggs, lays them in the family ant
hill on the ground floorlays them, labeled and numbered, side by
side, layer on layer, so that each day a new one may creep out of the
egg. Then he puts us in a stable, pinches our hind legs, and milks us
till we die. He has given us the prettiest of names'little milch
All creatures who, like the ant, are gifted with common sense call
us by this pretty name. It is only human beings who do not. They give
us another name, one that we feel to be a great affrontgreat enough
to embitter our whole life. Could you not write a protest against it
for us? Could you not rouse these human beings to a sense of the wrong
they do us? They look at us so stupidly or, at times, with such envious
eyes, just because we eat a rose leaf, while they themselves eat every
created thingwhatever grows and is green. And oh, they give us the
most humiliating of names! I will not even mention it. Ugh! I feel it
to my very stomach. I cannot even pronounce itat least not when I
have my uniform on, and that I always wear.
I was born on a rose leaf. I and all the regiment live on the rose
tree. We live off it, in fact. But then it lives again in us, who
belong to the higher order of created beings.
The human beings do not like us. They pursue and murder us with
soapsuds. Oh, it is a horrid drink! I seem to smell it even now. You
cannot think how dreadful it is to be washed when one was not made to
be washed. Men! you who look at us with your severe, soapsud eyes,
think a moment what our place in nature is: we are born upon the roses,
we die in rosesour whole life is a rose poem. Do not, I beg you, give
us a name which you yourselves think so despicablethe name I cannot
bear to pronounce. If you wish to speak of us, call us 'the ants' milch
cowsthe rose-tree regimentthe little green things.'
And I, the man, stood looking at the tree and at the little
Greenies (whose name I shall not mention, for I should not like to
wound the feelings of the citizens of the rose tree), a large family
with eggs and young ones; and I looked at the soapsuds I was going to
wash them in, for I too had come with soap and water and murderous
intentions. But now I will use it for soap bubbles. Look, how
beautiful! Perhaps there lies in each a fairy tale, and the bubble
grows large and radiant and looks as if there were a pearl lying inside
The bubble swayed and swung. It flew to the door and then burst, but
the door opened wide, and there stood Dame Fairytale herself! And now
she will tell you better than I can about (I will not say the name) the
little green things of the rosebush.
Plant lice! said Dame Fairytale. One must call things by their
right names. And if one may not do so always, one must at least have
the privilege of doing so in a fairy tale.
OLE-LUK-OIE THE DREAM GOD
THERE is nobody in the whole world who knows so many stories as
Ole-Luk-Oie, or who can relate them so nicely.
In the evening while the children are seated at the tea table or in
their little chairs, very softly he comes up the stairs, for he walks
in his socks. He opens the doors without the slightest noise and throws
a small quantity of very fine dust in the little ones' eyes (just
enough to prevent them from keeping them open), and so they do not see
him. Then he creeps behind them and blows softly upon their necks till
their heads begin to droop.
But Ole-Luk-Oie does not wish to hurt them. He is very fond of
children and only wants them to be quiet that he may tell them pretty
stories, and he knows they never are quiet until they are in bed and
asleep. Ole-Luk-Oie seats himself upon the bed as soon as they are
asleep. He is nicely dressed; his coat is made of silken stuff, it is
impossible to say of what color, for it changes from green to red and
from red to blue as he turns from side to side. Under each arm he
carries an umbrella. One of them, with pictures on the inside, he
spreads over good children, and then they dream the most charming
stories. But the other umbrella has no pictures, and this he holds over
the naughty children, so that they sleep heavily and wake in the
morning without having dreamed at all.
Now we shall hear how Ole-Luk-Oie came every night during a whole
week to a little boy named Hjalmar, and what it was that he told him.
There were seven stories, as there are seven days in the week.
Now pay attention, said Ole-Luk-Oie in the evening, when Hjalmar
was in bed, and I will decorate the room.
Immediately all the flowers in the flowerpots became large trees
with long branches reaching to the ceiling and stretching along the
walls, so that the whole room was like a greenhouse. All the branches
were loaded with flowers, each flower as beautiful and as fragrant as a
rose, and had any one tasted them he would have found them sweeter even
than jam. The fruit glittered like gold, and there were cakes so full
of plums that they were nearly bursting. It was incomparably beautiful.
At the same time sounded dismal moans from the table drawer in which
lay Hjalmar's schoolbooks.
What can that be now? said Ole-Luk-Oie, going to the table and
pulling out the drawer.
It was a slate, in such distress because of a wrong figure in a sum
that it had almost broken itself to pieces. The pencil pulled and
tugged at its string as if it were a little dog that wanted to help but
And then came a moan from Hjalmar's copy book. Oh, it was quite
terrible to hear! On each leaf stood a row of capital letters, every
one having a small letter by its side. This formed a copy. Under these
were other letters, which Hjalmar had written; they fancied they looked
like the copy, but they were mistaken, for they were leaning on one
side as if they intended to fall over the pencil lines.
See, this is the way you should hold yourselves, said the copy.
Look here, you should slope thus, with a graceful curve.
Oh, we are very willing to do so, said Hjalmar's letters, but we
cannot, we are so wretchedly made.
You must be scratched out, then, said Ole-Luk-Oie.
Oh, no! they cried, and then they stood up so gracefully that it
was quite a pleasure to look at them.
Now we must give up our stories, and exercise these letters, said
Ole-Luk-Oie. One, twoone, two So he drilled them till they stood
up gracefully and looked as beautiful as a copy could look. But after
Ole-Luk-Oie was gone, and Hjalmar looked at them in the morning, they
were as wretched and awkward as ever.
As soon as Hjalmar was in bed Ole-Luk-Oie touched with his little
magic wand all the furniture in the room, which immediately began to
chatter. And each article talked only of itself.
Over the chest of drawers hung a large picture in a gilt frame,
representing a landscape, with fine old trees, flowers in the grass,
and a broad stream which flowed through the wood past several castles
far out into the wild ocean.
Ole-Luk-Oie touched the picture with his magic wand, and immediately
the birds began to sing, the branches of the trees rustled, and the
clouds moved across the sky, casting their shadows on the landscape
Then Ole-Luk-Oie lifted little Hjalmar up to the frame and placed
his feet in the picture, on the high grass, and there he stood with the
sun shining down upon him through the branches of the trees. He ran to
the water and seated himself in a little boat which lay there, and
which was painted red and white.
The sails glittered like silver, and six swans, each with a golden
circlet round its neck and a bright, blue star on its forehead, drew
the boat past the green wood, where the trees talked of robbers and
witches, and the flowers of beautiful little elves and fairies whose
histories the butterflies had related to them.
Brilliant fish with scales like silver and gold swam after the boat,
sometimes making a spring and splashing the water round them; while
birds, red and blue, small and great, flew after him in two long lines.
The gnats danced round them, and the cockchafers cried Buzz, buzz.
They all wanted to follow Hjalmar, and all had some story to tell him.
It was a most delightful sail.
[Illustration: On the balconies stood princesses.]
Sometimes the forests were thick and dark, sometimes like a
beautiful garden gay with sunshine and flowers; he passed great palaces
of glass and of marble, and on the balconies stood princesses, whose
faces were those of little girls whom Hjalmar knew well and had often
played with. One of the little girls held out her hand, in which was a
heart made of sugar, more beautiful than any confectioner ever sold. As
Hjalmar sailed by he caught hold of one side of the sugar heart and
held it fast, and the princess held fast too, so that it broke in two
pieces. Hjalmar had one piece and the princess the other, but Hjalmar's
was the larger.
At each castle stood little princes acting as sentinels. They
presented arms and had golden swords and made it rain plums and tin
soldiers, so that they must have been real princes.
Hjalmar continued to sail, sometimes through woods, sometimes as it
were through large halls, and then by large cities. At last he came to
the town where his nurse lived, who had carried him in her arms when he
was a very little boy and had always been kind to him. She nodded and
beckoned to him and then sang the little verses she had herself
composed and sent to him:
How many, many hours I think on thee,
My own dear Hjalmar, still my pride and joy!
How have I hung delighted over thee,
Kissing thy rosy cheeks, my darling boy!
Thy first low accents it was mine to hear,
To-day my farewell words to thee shall fly.
Oh, may the Lord thy shield be ever near
And fit thee for a mansion in the sky!
And all the birds sang the same tune, the flowers danced on their
stems, and the old trees nodded as if Ole-Luk-Oie had been telling them
stories, as well.
How the rain did pour down! Hjalmar could hear it in his sleep, and
when Ole-Luk-Oie opened the window the water flowed quite up to the
window sill. It had the appearance of a large lake outside, and a
beautiful ship lay close to the house.
Wilt thou sail with me to-night, little Hjalmar? said Ole-Luk-Oie.
Then we shall see foreign countries, and thou shalt return here in the
All in a moment there stood Hjalmar, in his best clothes, on the
deck of the noble ship, and immediately the weather became fine.
They sailed through the streets, round by the church, while on every
side rolled the wide, great sea.
They sailed till the land disappeared, and then they saw a flock of
storks who had left their own country and were traveling to warmer
climates. The storks flew one behind another and had already been a
long, long time on the wing.
One of them seemed so tired that his wings could scarcely carry him.
He was soon left very far behind. At length he sank lower and lower,
with outstretched wings, flapping them in vain, till his feet touched
the rigging of the ship, and he slid from the sails to the deck and
stood before them. Then a sailor boy caught him and put him in the
henhouse with the fowls, the ducks, and the turkeys, while the poor
stork stood quite bewildered among them.
Just look at that fellow, said the chickens.
Then the turkey cock puffed himself out as large as he could and
inquired who he was, and the ducks waddled backwards, crying, Quack,
The stork told them all about warm Africaof the pyramids and of
the ostrich, which, like a wild horse, runs across the desert. But the
ducks did not understand what he said, and quacked amongst themselves,
We are all of the same opinion; namely, that he is stupid.
Yes, to be sure, he is stupid, said the turkey cock, and gobbled.
Then the stork remained quite silent and thought of his home in
Those are handsome thin legs of yours, said the turkey cock. What
do they cost a yard?
Quack, quack, quack, grinned the ducks; but the stork pretended
not to hear.
You may as well laugh, said the turkey, for that remark was
rather witty, but perhaps it was above you. Ah, ah, is he not clever?
He will be a great amusement to us while he remains here. And then he
gobbled, and the ducks quacked: Gobble, gobble; Quack, quack!
What a terrible uproar they made while they were having such fun
Then Hjalmar went to the henhouse and, opening the door, called to
the stork. He hopped out on the deck. He had rested himself now, and he
looked happy and seemed as if he nodded to Hjalmar as if to thank him.
Then he spread his wings and flew away to warmer countries, while the
hens clucked, the ducks quacked, and the turkey cock's head turned
To-morrow you shall be made into soup, said Hjalmar to the fowls;
and then he awoke and found himself lying in his little bed.
It was a wonderful journey which Ole-Luk-Oie had made him take this
What do you think I have here? said the Dream Man. Do not be
frightened, and you shall see a little mouse. And then he held out his
hand, in which lay a lovely little creature. It has come to invite you
to a wedding. Two little mice are going to be married to-night. They
live under the floor of your mother's storeroom, and that must be a
fine dwelling place.
But how can I get through the little mouse-hole in the floor?
asked the little boy.
Leave me to manage that, said the Dream Man. I will soon make you
small enough. And then he touched the boy with his magic wand, upon
which he became smaller and smaller until at last he was no longer than
a little finger. Now you can borrow the dress of your tin soldier. I
think it will just fit you. It looks well to wear a uniform when you go
Yes, certainly, said the boy, and in a moment he was dressed as
neatly as the neatest of all tin soldiers.
Will you be so good as to seat yourself in your mamma's thimble,
said the little mouse, that I may have the pleasure of drawing you to
Will you really take so much trouble, young lady? said he. And so
in this way he rode to the mouse's wedding.
First they went under the floor, and then through a long passage
which was scarcely high enough to allow the thimble to drive under, and
the whole passage was lit up with the light of rotten wood.
Does it not smell delicious? asked the mouse, as she drew him
along. The wall and the floor have been smeared with bacon rind;
nothing could be nicer.
Very soon they arrived at the bridal hall. On the right stood all
the little lady mice, whispering and giggling as if they were making
game of each other. To the left were the gentlemen mice, stroking their
whiskers with their forepaws. And in the center of the hall could be
seen the bridal pair, standing side by side in a hollow cheese rind and
kissing each other while all eyes were upon them.
More and more friends kept coming, till the mice were in danger of
treading each other to death; for the bridal pair now stood in the
doorway, and none could pass in or out.
The room had been rubbed over with bacon rind like the passage,
which was all the refreshment offered to the guests. But for dessert a
pea was passed around, on which a mouse had bitten the first letters of
the names of the betrothed pair. This was something quite uncommon. All
the mice said it was a very beautiful wedding, and that they had been
very agreeably entertained.
After this Hjalmar returned home. He had certainly been in grand
society, but he had been obliged to creep under a room and to make
himself small enough to wear the uniform of a tin soldier.
It is incredible how many old people there are who would be glad to
have me at night, said Ole-Luk-Oie, especially those who have done
'Good old Ole,' say they to me, 'we cannot close our eyes, and we
lie awake the whole night and see all our evil deeds sitting on our
beds like little imps and sprinkling us with scalding water. Will you
come and drive them away, that we may have a good night's rest?' and
then they sigh so deeply and say: 'We would gladly pay you for it. Good
night, Ole-Luk, the money lies in the window.' But I never do anything
What shall we do to-night? asked Hjalmar.
I do not know whether you would care to go to another wedding,
replied Ole-Luk-Oie, although it is quite a different affair from the
one we saw last night. Your sister's large doll, that is dressed like a
man and is called Herman, intends to marry the doll Bertha. It is also
the dolls' birthday, and they will receive many presents.
Yes, I know that already, said Hjalmar; my sister always allows
her dolls to keep their birthdays or to have a wedding when they
require new clothes. That has happened already a hundred times, I am
Yes, so it may; but to-night is the hundred-and-first wedding, and
when that has taken place it must be the last; therefore this is to be
extremely beautiful. Only look.
Hjalmar looked at the table, and there stood the little cardboard
dolls' house, with lights in all the windows, and drawn up before it
were the tin soldiers, presenting arms.
The bridal pair were seated on the floor, leaning against the leg of
the table, looking very thoughtful and with good reason. Then
Ole-Luk-Oie, dressed up in grandmother's black gown, married them.
As soon as the ceremony was concluded all the furniture in the room
joined in singing a beautiful song which had been composed by the lead
pencil, and which went to the melody of a military tattoo:
Waft, gentle breeze, our kind farewell
To the tiny house where the bride folks dwell.
With their skin of kid leather fitting so well,
They are straight and upright as a tailor's ell.
Hurrah! hurrah! for beau and belle.
Let echo repeat our kind farewell.
And now came the presents; but the bridal pair had nothing to eat,
for love was to be their food.
Shall we go to a country house, or travel? asked the bridegroom.
They consulted the swallow, who had traveled so far, and the old hen
in the yard, who had brought up five broods of chickens.
And the swallow talked to them of warm countries where the grapes
hang in large clusters on the vines and the air is soft and mild, and
about the mountains glowing with colors more beautiful than we can
But they have no red cabbage such as we have, said the hen. I was
once in the country with my chickens for a whole summer. There was a
large sand pit in which we could walk about and scratch as we liked.
Then we got into a garden in which grew red cabbage. Oh, how nice it
was! I cannot think of anything more delicious.
But one cabbage stalk is exactly like another, said the swallow;
and here we often have bad weather.
Yes, but we are accustomed to it, said the hen.
But it is so cold here, and freezes sometimes.
Cold weather is good for cabbages, said the hen; besides, we do
have it warm here sometimes. Four years ago we had a summer that lasted
more than five weeks, and it was so hot one could scarcely breathe. And
then in this country we have no poisonous animals, and we are free from
robbers. He must be a blockhead, who does not consider our country the
finest of all lands. He ought not to be allowed to live here. And then
the hen wept very much and said: I have also traveled. I once went
twelve miles in a coop, and it was not pleasant traveling at all.
The hen is a sensible woman, said the doll Bertha. I don't care
for traveling over mountains, just to go up and come down again. No,
let us go to the sand pit in front of the gate and then take a walk in
the cabbage garden.
And so they settled it.
[Illustration: Look at these ... Chinese people ...]
Am I to hear any more stories? asked little Hjalmar, as soon as
Ole-Luk-Oie had sent him to sleep.
We shall have no time this evening, said he, spreading out his
prettiest umbrella over the child. Look at these Chinese people. And
then the whole umbrella appeared like a large china bowl, with blue
trees and pointed bridges upon which stood little Chinamen nodding
We must make all the world beautiful for to-morrow morning, said
Ole-Luk-Oie, for it will be a holiday; it is Sunday. I must now go to
the church steeple and see if the little sprites who live there have
polished the bells so that they may sound sweetly; then I must go into
the fields and see if the wind has blown the dust from the grass and
the leaves; and the most difficult task of all which I have to do is to
take down all the stars and brighten them up. I have to number them
first before I put them in my apron, and also to number the places from
which I take them, so that they may go back into the right holes, or
else they would not remain and we should have a number of falling
stars, for they would all tumble down one after another.
Hark ye, Mr. Luk-Oie! said an old portrait which hung on the wall
of Hjalmar's bedroom. Do you know me? I am Hjalmar's
great-grandfather. I thank you for telling the boy stories, but you
must not confuse his ideas. The stars cannot be taken down from the sky
and polished; they are spheres like our earth, which is a good thing
Thank you, old great-grandfather, said Ole-Luk-Oie. I thank you.
You may be the head of the family, as no doubt you are, and very old,
but I am older still. I am an ancient heathen. The old Romans and
Greeks named me the Dream God. I have visited the noblest houses,yes,
and I continue to do so,still I know how to conduct myself both to
high and low, and now you may tell the stories yourself; and so
Ole-Luk-Oie walked off, taking his umbrellas with him.
Well, well, one is never to give an opinion, I suppose, grumbled
the portrait. And it woke Hjalmar.
Good evening, said Ole-Luk-Oie.
Hjalmar nodded, and then sprang out of bed and turned his
great-grandfather's portrait to the wall so that it might not interrupt
them as it had done yesterday. Now, said he, you must tell me some
stories about five green peas that lived in one pod, or of the
chickseed that courted the chickweed, or of the Darning-needle who
acted so proudly because she fancied herself an embroidery needle.
You may have too much of a good thing, said Ole-Luk-Oie. You know
that I like best to show you something, so I will show you my brother.
He is also called Ole-Luk-Oie, but he never visits any one but once,
and when he does come he takes him away on his horse and tells him
stories as they ride along.
He knows only two stories. One of these is so wonderfully beautiful
that no one in the world can imagine anything at all like it, but the
other it would be impossible to describe.
Then Ole-Luk-Oie lifted Hjalmar up to the window. There, now you
can see my brother, the other Ole-Luk-Oie; he is also called Death. You
see he is not so bad as they represent him in picture books. There he
is a skeleton, but here his coat is embroidered with silver, and he
wears the splendid uniform of a hussar, and a mantle of black velvet
flies behind him over the horse. Look, how he gallops along.
Hjalmar saw that as this Ole-Luk-Oie rode on he lifted up old and
young and carried them away on his horse. Some he seated in front of
him and some behind, but always inquired first, How stands the record
Good, they all answered.
Yes, but let me see for myself, he replied, and they were obliged
to give him the books. Then all those who had Very good or
Exceedingly good came in front of the horse and heard the beautiful
story, while those who had Middling or Fairly good in their books
were obliged to sit behind. They cried and wanted to jump down from the
horse, but they could not get free, for they seemed fastened to the
Why, Death is a most splendid Luk-Oie, said Hjalmar. I am not in
the least afraid of him.
You need have no fear of him, said Ole-Luk-Oie; but take care and
keep a good conduct book.
Now I call that very instructive, murmured the great-grandfather's
portrait. It is useful sometimes to express an opinion. So he was
These are some of the doings and sayings of Ole-Luk-Oie. I hope he
may visit you himself this evening and relate some more.
THE MONEY BOX
IN a nursery where a number of toys lay scattered about, a money box
stood on the top of a very high wardrobe. It was made of clay in the
shape of a pig and had been bought of the potter. In the back of the
pig was a slit, and this slit had been enlarged with a knife so that
dollars, or even crown pieces, might slip throughand indeed there
were two in the box, besides a number of pence. The money-pig was
stuffed so full that it could no longer rattle, which is the highest
state of perfectness to which a money-pig can attain.
There he stood upon the cupboard, high and lofty, looking down upon
everything else in the room. He knew very well that he had enough
inside himself to buy up all the other toys, and this gave him a very
good opinion of his own value.
The rest thought of this fact also, although they did not express
it, there were so many other things to talk about. A large doll, still
handsome (though rather old, for her neck had been mended) lay inside
one of the drawers, which was partly open. She called out to the
others, Let us have a game at being men and women; that is something
worth playing at.
Upon this there was a great uproar; even the engravings which hung
in frames on the wall turned round in their excitement and showed that
they had a wrong side to them, although they had not the least
intention of exposing themselves in this way or of objecting to the
It was late at night, but as the moon shone through the windows,
they had light at a cheap rate. And as the game was now to begin, all
were invited to take part in it, even the children's wagon, which
certainly belonged among the coarser playthings. Each has its own
value, said the wagon; we cannot all be noblemen; there must be some
to do the work.
The money-pig was the only one who received a written invitation. He
stood so high that they were afraid he would not accept a verbal
message. But in his reply he said if he had to take a part he must
enjoy the sport from his own home; they were to arrange for him to do
so. And so they did.
The little toy theater was therefore put up in such a way that the
money-pig could look directly into it. Some wanted to begin with a
comedy and afterwards to have a tea party and a discussion for mental
improvement, but they began with the latter first.
The rocking-horse spoke of training and races; the wagon, of
railways and steam powerfor these subjects belonged to each of their
professions, and it was right they should talk of them. The clock
talked politicsTick, tick. He professed to know what was the time
of the day, but there was a whisper that he did not go correctly. The
bamboo cane stood by, looking stiff and proud (he was vain of his brass
ferrule and silver top), and on the sofa lay two worked cushions,
pretty but stupid.
When the play at the little theater began, the rest sat and looked
on; they were requested to applaud and stamp, or crack, whenever they
felt gratified with what they saw. The riding whip said he never
cracked for old people, only for the youngthose who were not yet
married. I crack for everybody, said the nutcracker.
Yes, and a fine noise you make, thought the audience as the play
It was not worth much, but it was very well played, and all the
actors turned their painted sides to the audience, for they were made
to be seen only on one side. The acting was wonderful, excepting that
sometimes the actors came out beyond the lamps, because the wires were
a little too long.
The doll whose neck had been mended was so excited that the place in
her neck burst, and the money-pig declared he must do something for one
of the players as they had all pleased him so much. So he made up his
mind to mention one of them in his will as the one to be buried with
him in the family vault, whenever that event should happen.
They enjoyed the comedy so much that they gave up all thoughts of
the tea party and only carried out their idea of intellectual
amusement, which they called playing at men and women. And there was
nothing wrong about it, for it was only play. All the while each one
thought most of himself or of what the money-pig could be thinking. The
money-pig's thoughts were on (as he supposed) a very far-distant
timeof making his will, and of his burial, and of when it might all
come to pass.
Certainly sooner than he expected; for all at once down he came from
the top of the press, fell on the floor, and was broken to pieces. Then
all the pennies hopped and danced about in the most amusing manner. The
little ones twirled round like tops, and the large ones rolled away as
far as they could, especially the one great silver crown piece, who had
often wanted to go out into the world. And he had his wish as well as
all the rest of the money. The pieces of the money-pig were thrown into
the dustbin, and the next day there stood a new money-pig on the
cupboard, but it had not a farthing inside it yet, and therefore, like
the old one, could not rattle.
This was the beginning with him, and with us it shall be the end of
THERE was once a little boy who had taken cold by going out and
getting his feet wet. No one could think how he had managed to do so,
for the weather was quite dry. His mother undressed him and put him to
bed, and then she brought in the teapot to make him a good cup of elder
tea, which is so warming.
At the same time the friendly old man who lived all alone at the top
of the house came in at the door. He had neither wife nor child, but he
was very fond of children and knew so many fairy tales and stories that
it was a pleasure to hear him talk. Now, if you drink your tea, said
the mother, very likely you will have a story in the meantime.
[Illustration: But how did the little fellow get his feet wet?
Yes, if I could think of a new one to tell, said the old man. But
how did the little fellow get his feet wet? asked he.
Ah, said the mother, that is what we cannot make out.
Will you tell me a story? asked the boy.
Yes, if you can tell me exactly how deep the gutter is in the
little street through which you go to school.
Just halfway up to my knee, said the boy, promptly; that is, if I
stand in the deepest part.
It is easy to see how we got our feet wet, said the old man.
Well, now I suppose I ought to tell a story, but really I don't know
You can make up one, I know, said the boy. Mother says that you
can turn everything you look at into a story, and everything, even,
that you touch.
Ah, but those tales and stories are worth nothing. The real ones
come of themselves; they knock at my forehead and say, 'Here we are!'
Won't there be a knock soon? asked the boy. And his mother laughed
as she put elder flowers in the teapot and poured boiling water over
them. Oh, do tell me a story.
Yes, if a story comes of itself, but tales and stories are very
grand; they only come when it pleases them. Stop, he cried all at
once, here we have it; look! there is a story in the teapot now.
The little boy looked at the teapot and saw the lid raise itself
gradually and long branches stretch out, even from the spout, in all
directions till they became larger and larger, and there appeared a
great elder tree covered with flowers white and fresh. It spread itself
even to the bed and pushed the curtains aside, and oh, how fragrant the
In the midst of the tree sat a pleasant-looking old woman in a very
strange dress. The dress was green, like the leaves of the elder tree,
and was decorated with large white elder blossoms. It was not easy to
tell whether the border was made of some kind of stuff or of real
What is that woman's name? asked the boy.
The Romans and Greeks called her a dryad, said the old man, but
we do not understand that name; we have a better one for her in the
quarter of the town where the sailors live. They call her Elder-flower
Mother, and you must pay attention to her now, and listen while you
look at the beautiful tree.
Just such a large, blooming tree as this stands outside in the
corner of a poor little yard, and under this tree, one bright sunny
afternoon, sat two old people, a sailor and his wife. They had
great-grandchildren, and would soon celebrate the golden wedding, which
is the fiftieth anniversary of the wedding day in many countries, and
the Elder Mother sat in the tree and looked as pleased as she does now.
'I know when the golden wedding is to be,' said she, but they did
not hear her; they were talking of olden times. 'Do you remember,' said
the old sailor, 'when we were quite little and used to run about and
play in the very same yard where we are now sitting, and how we planted
little twigs in one corner and made a garden?'
'Yes,' said the old woman, 'I remember it quite well; and how we
watered the twigs, and one of them was a sprig of elder that took root
and put forth green shoots, until in time it became the great tree
under which we old people are now seated.'
'To be sure,' he replied, 'and in that corner yonder stands the
water butt in which I used to swim my boat that I had cut out all
myself; and it sailed well too. But since then I have learned a very
different kind of sailing.'
'Yes, but before that we went to school,' said she, 'and then we
were prepared for confirmation. How we both cried on that day! But in
the afternoon we went hand in hand up to the round tower and saw the
view over Copenhagen and across the water; then we went to
Fredericksburg, where the king and queen were sailing in their
beautiful boat on the canals.'
'But I had to sail on a very different voyage elsewhere and be away
from home for years on long voyages,' said the old sailor.
'Ah yes, and I used to cry about you,' said she, 'for I thought you
must be lying drowned at the bottom of the sea, with the waves sweeping
over you. And many a time have I got up in the night to see if the
weathercock had turned; it turned often enough, but you came not. How
well I remember one day the rain was pouring down from the skies, and
the man came to the house where I was in service to take away the dust.
I went down to him with the dust box and stood for a moment at the
door,what shocking weather it was!and while I stood there the
postman came up and brought me a letter from you.
'How that letter had traveled about! I tore it open and read it. I
laughed and wept at the same time, I was so happy. It said that you
were in warm countries where the coffee berries grew, and what a
beautiful country it was, and described many other wonderful things.
And so I stood reading by the dustbin, with the rain pouring down, when
all at once somebody came and clasped me round the waist.'
'Yes, and you gave him such a box on the ears that they tingled,'
said the old man.
'I did not know that it was you,' she replied; 'but you had arrived
as quickly as your letter, and you looked so handsome, and, indeed, so
you are still. You had a large yellow silk handkerchief in your pocket
and a shiny hat on your head. You looked quite fine. And all the time
what weather it was, and how dismal the street looked!'
'And then do you remember,' said he, 'when we were married, and our
first boy came, and then Marie, and Niels, and Peter, and Hans
'Indeed I do,' she replied; 'and they are all grown up respectable
men and women, whom every one likes.'
'And now their children have little ones,' said the old sailor.
'There are great-grandchildren for us, strong and healthy too. Was it
not about this time of year that we were married?'
'Yes, and to-day is the golden-wedding day,' said Elder-tree
Mother, popping her head out just between the two old people; and they
thought it was a neighbor nodding to them. Then they looked at each
other and clasped their hands together. Presently came their children
and grand*-children, who knew very well that it was the golden-wedding
day. They had already wished them joy on that very morning, but the old
people had forgotten it, although they remembered so well all that had
happened many years before. And the elder tree smelled sweet, and the
setting sun shone upon the faces of the old people till they looked
quite ruddy. And the youngest of their grandchildren danced round them
joyfully, and said they were going to have a feast in the evening, and
there were to be hot potatoes. Then the Elder Mother nodded in the tree
and cried 'Hurrah!' with all the rest.
But that is not a story, said the little boy who had been
Not till you understand it, said the old man. But let us ask the
Elder Mother to explain it.
It was not exactly a story, said the Elder Mother, but the story
is coming now, and it is a true one. For out of truth the most
wonderful stories grow, just as my beautiful elder bush has sprung out
of the teapot. And then she took the little boy out of bed and laid
him on her bosom, and the blooming branches of elder closed over them
so that they sat, as it were, in a leafy bower, and the bower flew with
them through the air in the most delightful manner.
Then the Elder Mother all at once changed to a beautiful young
maiden, but her dress was still of the same green stuff, ornamented
with a border of white elder blossoms such as the Elder Mother had
worn. In her bosom she wore a real elder flower, and a wreath of the
same was entwined in her golden ringlets. Her large blue eyes were very
beautiful to look at. She was of the same age as the boy, and they
kissed each other and felt very happy.
They left the arbor together, hand in hand, and found themselves in
a beautiful flower garden which belonged to their home. On the green
lawn their father's stick was tied up. There was life in this stick for
the little ones, for no sooner did they place themselves upon it than
the white knob changed into a pretty neighing head with a black,
flowing mane, and four long, slender legs sprung forth. The creature
was strong and spirited, and galloped with them round the grassplot.
Hurrah! now we will ride many miles away, said the boy; we'll
ride to the nobleman's estate, where we went last year.
Then they rode round the grassplot again, and the little maiden,
who, we know, was Elder-tree Mother, kept crying out: Now we are in
the country. Do you see the farmhouse, with a great baking oven
standing out from the wall by the road-side like a gigantic egg? There
is an elder spreading its branches over it, and a cock is marching
about and scratching for the chickens. See how he struts!
Now we are near the church. There it stands on the hill, shaded by
the great oak trees, one of which is half dead. See, here we are at the
blacksmith's forge. How the fire burns! And the half-clad men are
striking the hot iron with the hammer, so that the sparks fly about.
Now then, away to the nobleman's beautiful estate! And the boy saw all
that the little girl spoke of as she sat behind him on the stick, for
it passed before him although they were only galloping round the
grassplot. Then they played together in a side walk and raked up the
earth to make a little garden. Then she took elder flowers out of her
hair and planted them, and they grew just like those which he had heard
the old people talking about, and which they had planted in their young
days. They walked about hand in hand too, just as the old people had
done when they were children, but they did not go up the round tower
nor to Fredericksburg garden. No; but the little girl seized the boy
round the waist, and they rode all over the whole country (sometimes it
was spring, then summer; then autumn and winter followed), while
thousands of images were presented to the boy's eyes and heart, and the
little girl constantly sang to him, You must never forget all this.
And through their whole flight the elder tree sent forth the sweetest
They passed roses and fresh beech trees, but the perfume of the
elder tree was stronger than all, for its flowers hung round the little
maiden's heart, against which the boy so often leaned his head during
It is beautiful here in the spring, said the maiden, as they stood
in a grove of beech trees covered with fresh green leaves, while at
their feet the sweet-scented thyme and blushing anemone lay spread amid
the green grass in delicate bloom. O that it were always spring in the
fragrant beech groves!
Here it is delightful in summer, said the maiden, as they passed
old knights' castles telling of days gone by and saw the high walls and
pointed gables mirrored in the rivers beneath, where swans were sailing
about and peeping into the cool green avenues. In the fields the corn
waved to and fro like the sea. Red and yellow flowers grew amongst the
ruins, and the hedges were covered with wild hops and blooming
convolvulus. In the evening the moon rose round and full, and the
haystacks in the meadows filled the air with their sweet scent. These
were scenes never to be forgotten.
It is lovely here also in autumn, said the little maiden, and then
the scene changed again. The sky appeared higher and more beautifully
blue, while the forest glowed with colors of red, green, and gold. The
hounds were off to the chase, and large flocks of wild birds flew
screaming over the Huns' graves, where the blackberry bushes twined
round the old ruins. The dark blue sea was dotted with white sails, and
in the barns sat old women, maidens, and children picking hops into a
large tub. The young ones sang songs, and the old ones told fairy tales
of wizards and witches. There could be nothing more pleasant than all
Again, said the maiden, it is beautiful here in winter. Then in
a moment all the trees were covered with hoarfrost, so that they looked
like white coral. The snow crackled beneath the feet as if every one
had on new boots, and one shooting star after another fell from the
sky. In warm rooms there could be seen the Christmas trees, decked out
with presents and lighted up amid festivities and joy. In the country
farmhouses could be heard the sound of a violin, and there were games
for apples, so that even the poorest child could say, It is beautiful
And beautiful indeed were all the scenes which the maiden showed to
the little boy, and always around them floated the fragrance of the
elder blossom, and ever above them waved the red flag with the white
cross, under which the old seaman had sailed. The boywho had become a
youth, and who had gone as a sailor out into the wide world and sailed
to warm countries where the coffee grew, and to whom the little girl
had given an elder blossom from her bosom for a keepsake, when she took
leave of himplaced the flower in his hymn book; and when he opened it
in foreign lands he always turned to the spot where this flower of
remembrance lay, and the more he looked at it the fresher it appeared.
He could, as it were, breathe the homelike fragrance of the woods, and
see the little girl looking at him from between the petals of the
flower with her clear blue eyes, and hear her whispering, It is
beautiful here at home in spring and summer, in autumn and in winter,
while hundreds of these home scenes passed through his memory.
Many years had passed, and he was now an old man, seated with his
old wife under an elder tree in full blossom. They were holding each
other's hands, just as the great-grandfather and grandmother had done,
and spoke, as they did, of olden times and of the golden wedding. The
little maiden with the blue eyes and with the elder blossoms in her
hair sat in the tree and nodded to them and said, To-day is the golden
[Illustration: As she placed them on the heads of the old people,
each flower became a golden crown.]
And then she took two flowers out of her wreath and kissed them, and
they shone first like silver and then like gold, and as she placed them
on the heads of the old people, each flower became a golden crown. And
there they sat like a king and queen under the sweet-scented tree,
which still looked like an elder bush. Then he related to his old wife
the story of the Elder-tree Mother, just as he had heard it told when
he was a little boy, and they both fancied it very much like their own
story, especially in parts which they liked the best.
Well, and so it is, said the little maiden in the tree. Some call
me Elder Mother, others a dryad, but my real name is Memory. It is I
who sit in the tree as it grows and grows, and I can think of the past
and relate many things. Let me see if you have still preserved the
Then the old man opened his hymn book, and there lay the elder
flower, as fresh as if it had only just been placed there, and Memory
nodded. And the two old people with the golden crowns on their heads
sat in the red glow of the evening sunlight and closed their eyes,
andandthe story was ended.
The little boy lay in his bed and did not quite know whether he had
been dreaming or listening to a story. The teapot stood on the table,
but no elder bush grew out of it, and the old man who had really told
the tale was on the threshold and just going out at the door.
How beautiful it was, said the little boy. Mother, I have been to
I can quite believe it, said his mother. When any one drinks two
full cups of elder-flower tea, he may well get into warm countries;
and then she covered him up, that he should not take cold. You have
slept well while I have been disputing with the old man as to whether
it was a real story or a fairy legend.
And where is the Elder-tree Mother? asked the boy.
She is in the teapot, said the mother, and there she may stay.
THE SNOW QUEEN
STORY THE FIRST
WHICH DESCRIBES A LOOKING-GLASS AND ITS BROKEN FRAGMENTS
YOU must attend to the beginning of this story, for when we get to
the end we shall know more than we now do about a very wicked
hobgoblin; he was one of the most mischievous of all sprites, for he
was a real demon.
One day when he was in a merry mood he made a looking-glass which
had the power of making everything good or beautiful that was reflected
in it shrink almost to nothing, while everything that was worthless and
bad was magnified so as to look ten times worse than it really was.
The most lovely landscapes appeared like boiled spinach, and all the
people became hideous and looked as if they stood on their heads and
had no bodies. Their countenances were so distorted that no one could
recognize them, and even one freckle on the face appeared to spread
over the whole of the nose and mouth. The demon said this was very
amusing. When a good or holy thought passed through the mind of any one
a wrinkle was seen in the mirror, and then how the demon laughed at his
All who went to the demon's schoolfor he kept a schooltalked
everywhere of the wonders they had seen, and declared that people could
now, for the first time, see what the world and its inhabitants were
really like. They carried the glass about everywhere, till at last
there was not a land nor a people who had not been looked at through
this distorted mirror.
They wanted even to fly with it up to heaven to see the angels, but
the higher they flew the more slippery the glass became, and they could
scarcely hold it. At last it slipped from their hands, fell to the
earth, and was broken into millions of pieces.
But now the looking-glass caused more unhappiness than ever, for
some of the fragments were not so large as a grain of sand, and they
flew about the world into every country. And when one of these tiny
atoms flew into a person's eye it stuck there, unknown to himself, and
from that moment he viewed everything the wrong way, and could see only
the worst side of what he looked at, for even the smallest fragment
retained the same power which had belonged to the whole mirror.
Some few persons even got a splinter of the looking-glass in their
hearts, and this was terrible, for their hearts became cold and hard
like a lump of ice. A few of the pieces were so large that they could
be used as windowpanes; it would have been a sad thing indeed to look
at our friends through them. Other pieces were made into spectacles,
and this was dreadful, for those who wore them could see nothing either
rightly or justly. At all this the wicked demon laughed till his sides
shook, to see the mischief he had done. There are still a number of
these little fragments of glass floating about in the air, and now you
shall hear what happened with one of them.
A LITTLE BOY AND A LITTLE GIRL
In a large town full of houses and people there is not room for
everybody to have even a little garden. Most people are obliged to
content themselves with a few flowers in flowerpots.
In one of these large towns lived two poor children who had a garden
somewhat larger and better than a few flowerpots. They were not brother
and sister, but they loved each other almost as much as if they had
been. Their parents lived opposite each other in two garrets where the
roofs of neighboring houses nearly joined each other, and the water
pipe ran between them. In each roof was a little window, so that any
one could step across the gutter from one window to the other.
The parents of each of these children had a large wooden box in
which they cultivated kitchen vegetables for their own use, and in each
box was a little rosebush which grew luxuriantly.
After a while the parents decided to place these two boxes across
the water pipe, so that they reached from one window to the other and
looked like two banks of flowers. Sweet peas drooped over the boxes,
and the rosebushes shot forth long branches, which were trained about
the windows and clustered together almost like a triumphal arch of
leaves and flowers.
The boxes were very high, and the children knew they must not climb
upon them without permission; but they often had leave to step out and
sit upon their little stools under the rosebushes or play quietly
In winter all this pleasure came to an end, for the windows were
sometimes quite frozen over. But they would warm copper pennies on the
stove and hold the warm pennies against the frozen pane; then there
would soon be a little round hole through which they could peep, and
the soft, bright eyes of the little boy and girl would sparkle through
the hole at each window as they looked at each other. Their names were
Kay and Gerda. In summer they could be together with one jump from the
window, but in winter they had to go up and down the long staircase and
out through the snow before they could meet.
See! there are the white bees swarming, said Kay's old grandmother
one day when it was snowing.
Have they a queen bee? asked the little boy, for he knew that the
real bees always had a queen.
To be sure they have, said the grandmother. She is flying there
where the swarm is thickest. She is the largest of them all and never
remains on the earth, but flies up to the dark clouds. Often at
midnight she flies through the streets of the town and breathes with
her frosty breath upon the windows; then the ice freezes on the panes
into wonderful forms that look like flowers and castles.
Yes, I have seen them, said both the children; and they knew it
must be true.
Can the Snow Queen come in here? asked the little girl.
Only let her come, said the boy. I'll put her on the warm stove,
and then she'll melt.
The grandmother smoothed his hair and told him more stories.
That same evening when little Kay was at home, half undressed, he
climbed upon a chair by the window and peeped out through the little
round hole. A few flakes of snow were falling, and one of them, rather
larger than the rest, alighted on the edge of one of the flower boxes.
Strange to say, this snowflake grew larger and larger till at last it
took the form of a woman dressed in garments of white gauze, which
looked like millions of starry snowflakes linked together. She was fair
and beautiful, but made of iceglittering, dazzling ice. Still, she
was alive, and her eyes sparkled like bright stars, though there was
neither peace nor rest in them. She nodded toward the window and waved
her hand. The little boy was frightened and sprang from the chair, and
at the same moment it seemed as if a large bird flew by the window.
On the following day there was a clear frost, and very soon came the
spring. The sun shone; the young green leaves burst forth; the swallows
built their nests; windows were opened, and the children sat once more
in the garden on the roof, high above all the other rooms.
[Illustration: The children sat once more in the garden on the
How beautifully the roses blossomed this summer! The little girl had
learned a hymn in which roses were spoken of. She thought of their own
roses, and she sang the hymn to the little boy, and he sang, too:
Roses bloom and fade away;
The Christ-child shall abide alway.
Blessed are we his face to see
And ever little children be.
Then the little ones held each other by the hand, and kissed the
roses, and looked at the bright sunshine, and spoke to it as if the
Christ-child were really there. Those were glorious summer days. How
beautiful and fresh it was out among the rosebushes, which seemed as if
they would never leave off blooming.
One day Kay and Gerda sat looking at a book of pictures of animals
and birds. Just then, as the clock in the church tower struck twelve,
Kay said, Oh, something has struck my heart! and soon after, There
is certainly something in my eye.
The little girl put her arm round his neck and looked into his eye,
but she could see nothing.
I believe it is gone, he said. But it was not gone; it was one of
those bits of the looking-glass,that magic mirror of which we have
spoken,the ugly glass which made everything great and good appear
small and ugly, while all that was wicked and bad became more visible,
and every little fault could be plainly seen. Poor little Kay had also
received a small splinter in his heart, which very quickly turned to a
lump of ice. He felt no more pain, but the glass was there still. Why
do you cry? said he at last. It makes you look ugly. There is nothing
the matter with me now. Oh, fie! he cried suddenly; that rose is
worm-eaten, and this one is quite crooked. After all, they are ugly
roses, just like the box in which they stand. And then he kicked the
boxes with his foot and pulled off the two roses.
Why, Kay, what are you doing? cried the little girl; and then when
he saw how grieved she was he tore off another rose and jumped through
his own window, away from sweet little Gerda.
When afterward she brought out the picture book he said, It is only
fit for babies in long clothes, and when grandmother told stories he
would interrupt her with but; or sometimes when he could manage it he
would get behind her chair, put on a pair of spectacles, and imitate
her very cleverly to make the people laugh. By and by he began to mimic
the speech and gait of persons in the street. All that was peculiar or
disagreeable in a person he would imitate directly, and people said,
That boy will be very clever; he has a remarkable genius. But it was
the piece of glass in his eye and the coldness in his heart that made
him act like this. He would even tease little Gerda, who loved him with
all her heart.
His games too were quite different; they were not so childlike. One
winter's day, when it snowed, he brought out a burning glass, then,
holding out the skirt of his blue coat, let the snowflakes fall upon
Look in this glass, Gerda, said he, and she saw how every flake of
snow was magnified and looked like a beautiful flower or a glittering
Is it not clever, said Kay, and much more interesting than
looking at real flowers? There is not a single fault in it. The
snowflakes are quite perfect till they begin to melt.
Soon after, Kay made his appearance in large, thick gloves and with
his sledge at his back. He called upstairs to Gerda, I've got leave to
go into the great square, where the other boys play and ride. And away
In the great square the boldest among the boys would often tie their
sledges to the wagons of the country people and so get a ride. This was
capital. But while they were all amusing themselves, and Kay with them,
a great sledge came by; it was painted white, and in it sat some one
wrapped in a rough white fur and wearing a white cap. The sledge drove
twice round the square, and Kay fastened his own little sledge to it,
so that when it went away he went with it. It went faster and faster
right through the next street, and the person who drove turned round
and nodded pleasantly to Kay as if they were well acquainted with each
other; but whenever Kay wished to loosen his little sledge the driver
turned and nodded as if to signify that he was to stay, so Kay sat
still, and they drove out through the town gate.
Then the snow began to fall so heavily that the little boy could not
see a hand's breadth before him, but still they drove on. He suddenly
loosened the cord so that the large sledge might go on without him, but
it was of no use; his little carriage held fast, and away they went
like the wind. Then he called out loudly, but nobody heard him, while
the snow beat upon him, and the sledge flew onward. Every now and then
it gave a jump, as if they were going over hedges and ditches. The boy
was frightened and tried to say a prayer, but he could remember nothing
but the multiplication table.
The snowflakes became larger and larger, till they appeared like
great white birds. All at once they sprang on one side, the great
sledge stopped, and the person who had driven it rose up. The fur and
the cap, which were made entirely of snow, fell off, and he saw a lady,
tall and white; it was the Snow Queen.
We have driven well, said she; but why do you tremble so? Here,
creep into my warm fur. Then she seated him beside her in the sledge,
and as she wrapped the fur about him, he felt as if he were sinking
into a snowdrift.
Are you still cold? she asked, as she kissed him on the forehead.
The kiss was colder than ice; it went quite through to his heart, which
was almost a lump of ice already. He felt as if he were going to die,
but only for a momenthe soon seemed quite well and did not notice the
cold all around him.
My sledge! Don't forget my sledge, was his first thought, and then
he looked and saw that it was bound fast to one of the white birds
which flew behind him. The Snow Queen kissed little Kay again, and by
this time he had forgotten little Gerda, his grandmother, and all at
Now you must have no more kisses, she said, or I should kiss you
Kay looked at her. She was so beautiful, he could not imagine a more
lovely face; she did not now seem to be made of ice as when he had seen
her through his window and she had nodded to him.
In his eyes she was perfect, and he did not feel at all afraid. He
told her he could do mental arithmetic as far as fractions, and that he
knew the number of square miles and the number of inhabitants in the
country. She smiled, and it occurred to him that she thought he did not
yet know so very much.
He looked around the vast expanse as she flew higher and higher with
him upon a black cloud, while the storm blew and howled as if it were
singing songs of olden time. They flew over woods and lakes, over sea
and land; below them roared the wild wind; wolves howled, and the snow
crackled; over them flew the black, screaming crows, and above all
shone the moon, clear and brightand so Kay passed through the long,
long winter's night, and by day he slept at the feet of the Snow Queen.
THE ENCHANTED FLOWER GARDEN
But how fared little Gerda in Kay's absence?
What had become of him no one knew, nor could any one give the
slightest information, excepting the boys, who said that he had tied
his sledge to another very large one, which had driven through the
street and out at the town gate. No one knew where it went. Many tears
were shed for him, and little Gerda wept bitterly for a long time. She
said she knew he must be dead, that he was drowned in the river which
flowed close by the school. The long winter days were very dreary. But
at last spring came with warm sunshine.
Kay is dead and gone, said little Gerda.
I don't believe it, said the sunshine.
He is dead and gone, she said to the sparrows.
We don't believe it, they replied, and at last little Gerda began
to doubt it herself.
I will put on my new red shoes, she said one morning, those that
Kay has never seen, and then I will go down to the river and ask for
It was quite early when she kissed her old grandmother, who was
still asleep; then she put on her red shoes and went, quite alone, out
of the town gate, toward the river.
Is it true that you have taken my little playmate away from me?
she said to the river. I will give you my red shoes if you will give
him back to me.
And it seemed as if the waves nodded to her in a strange manner.
Then she took off her red shoes, which she liked better than anything
else, and threw them both into the river, but they fell near the bank,
and the little waves carried them back to land just as if the river
would not take from her what she loved best, because it could not give
her back little Kay.
But she thought the shoes had not been thrown out far enough. Then
she crept into a boat that lay among the reeds, and threw the shoes
again from the farther end of the boat into the water; but it was not
fastened, and her movement sent it gliding away from the land. When she
saw this she hastened to reach the end of the boat, but before she
could do so it was more than a yard from the bank and drifting away
faster than ever.
Little Gerda was very much frightened. She began to cry, but no one
heard her except the sparrows, and they could not carry her to land,
but they flew along by the shore and sang as if to comfort her: Here
we are! Here we are!
The boat floated with the stream, and little Gerda sat quite still
with only her stockings on her feet; the red shoes floated after her,
but she could not reach them because the boat kept so much in advance.
[Illustration: There came a very old woman out of the house]
The banks on either side of the river were very pretty. There were
beautiful flowers, old trees, sloping fields in which cows and sheep
were grazing, but not a human being to be seen.
Perhaps the river will carry me to little Kay, thought Gerda, and
then she became more cheerful, and raised her head and looked at the
beautiful green banks; and so the boat sailed on for hours. At length
she came to a large cherry orchard, in which stood a small house with
strange red and blue windows. It had also a thatched roof, and outside
were two wooden soldiers that presented arms to her as she sailed past.
Gerda called out to them, for she thought they were alive; but of
course they did not answer, and as the boat drifted nearer to the shore
she saw what they really were.
Then Gerda called still louder, and there came a very old woman out
of the house, leaning on a crutch. She wore a large hat to shade her
from the sun, and on it were painted all sorts of pretty flowers.
You poor little child, said the old woman, how did you manage to
come this long, long distance into the wide world on such a rapid,
rolling stream? And then the old woman walked into the water, seized
the boat with her crutch, drew it to land, and lifted little Gerda out.
And Gerda was glad to feel herself again on dry ground, although she
was rather afraid of the strange old woman.
Come and tell me who you are, said she, and how you came here.
Then Gerda told her everything, while the old woman shook her head
and said, Hem-hem; and when Gerda had finished she asked the old
woman if she had not seen little Kay. She told her he had not passed
that way, but he very likely would come. She told Gerda not to be
sorrowful, but to taste the cherries and look at the flowers; they were
better than any picture book, for each of them could tell a story. Then
she took Gerda by the hand, and led her into the little house, and
closed the door. The windows were very high, and as the panes were red,
blue, and yellow, the daylight shone through them in all sorts of
singular colors. On the table stood some beautiful cherries, and Gerda
had permission to eat as many as she would. While she was eating them
the old woman combed out her long flaxen ringlets with a golden comb,
and the glossy curls hung down on each side of the little round,
pleasant face, which looked fresh and blooming as a rose.
I have long been wishing for a dear little maiden like you, said
the old woman, and now you must stay with me and see how happily we
shall live together. And while she went on combing little Gerda's hair
the child thought less and less about her adopted brother Kay, for the
old woman was an enchantress, although she was not a wicked witch; she
conjured only a little for her own amusement, and, now, because she
wanted to keep Gerda. Therefore she went into the garden and stretched
out her crutch toward all the rose trees, beautiful though they were,
and they immediately sank into the dark earth, so that no one could
tell where they had once stood. The old woman was afraid that if little
Gerda saw roses, she would think of those at home and then remember
little Kay and run away.
Then she took Gerda into the flower garden. How fragrant and
beautiful it was! Every flower that could be thought of, for every
season of the year, was here in full bloom; no picture book could have
more beautiful colors. Gerda jumped for joy, and played till the sun
went down behind the tall cherry trees; then she slept in an elegant
bed, with red silk pillows embroidered with colored violets, and she
dreamed as pleasantly as a queen on her wedding day.
The next day, and for many days after, Gerda played with the flowers
in the warm sunshine. She knew every flower, and yet, although there
were so many of them, it seemed as if one were missing, but what it was
she could not tell. One day, however, as she sat looking at the old
woman's hat with the painted flowers on it, she saw that the prettiest
of them all was a rose. The old woman had forgotten to take it from her
hat when she made all the roses sink into the earth. But it is
difficult to keep the thoughts together in everything, and one little
mistake upsets all our arrangements.
What! are there no roses here? cried Gerda, and she ran out into
the garden and examined all the beds, and searched and searched. There
was not one to be found. Then she sat down and wept, and her tears fell
just on the place where one of the rose trees had sunk down. The warm
tears moistened the earth, and the rose tree sprouted up at once, as
blooming as when it had sunk; and Gerda embraced it, and kissed the
roses, and thought of the beautiful roses at home, and, with them, of
Oh, how I have been detained! said the little maiden. I wanted to
seek for little Kay. Do you know where he is? she asked the roses; do
you think he is dead?
And the roses answered: No, he is not dead. We have been in the
ground, where all the dead lie, but Kay is not there.
Thank you, said little Gerda, and then she went to the other
flowers and looked into their little cups and asked, Do you know where
little Kay is? But each flower as it stood in the sunshine dreamed
only of its own little fairy tale or history. Not one knew anything of
Kay. Gerda heard many stories from the flowers, as she asked them one
after another about him.
And then she ran to the other end of the garden. The door was
fastened, but she pressed against the rusty latch, and it gave way. The
door sprang open, and little Gerda ran out with bare feet into the wide
world. She looked back three times, but no one seemed to be following
her. At last she could run no longer, so she sat down to rest on a
great stone, and when she looked around she saw that the summer was
over and autumn very far advanced. She had known nothing of this in the
beautiful garden where the sun shone and the flowers grew all the year
Oh, how I have wasted my time! said little Gerda. It is autumn; I
must not rest any longer, and she rose to go on. But her little feet
were wounded and sore, and everything around her looked cold and bleak.
The long willow leaves were quite yellow, the dewdrops fell like water,
leaf after leaf dropped from the trees; the sloe thorn alone still bore
fruit, but the sloes were sour and set the teeth on edge. Oh, how dark
and weary the whole world appeared!
THE PRINCE AND PRINCESS
Gerda was obliged to rest again, and just opposite the place where
she sat she saw a great crow come hopping toward her across the snow.
He stood looking at her for some time, and then he wagged his head and
said, Caw, caw, good day, good day. He pronounced the words as
plainly as he could, because he meant to be kind to the little girl,
and then he asked her where she was going all alone in the wide world.
The word alone Gerda understood very well and felt how much it
expressed. So she told the crow the whole story of her life and
adventures and asked him if he had seen little Kay.
The crow nodded his head very gravely and said, Perhaps I haveit
No! Do you really think you have? cried little Gerda, and she
kissed the crow and hugged him almost to death, with joy.
Gently, gently, said the crow. I believe I know. I think it may
be little Kay; but he has certainly forgotten you by this time, for the
Does he live with a princess? asked Gerda.
Yes, listen, replied the crow; but it is so difficult to speak
your language. If you understand the crows' language, then I can
explain it better. Do you?
No, I have never learned it, said Gerda, but my grandmother
understands it, and used to speak it to me. I wish I had learned it.
It does not matter, answered the crow. I will explain as well as
I can, although it will be very badly done; and he told her what he
In this kingdom where we now are, said he, there lives a princess
who is so wonderfully clever that she has read all the newspapers in
the worldand forgotten them too, although she is so clever.
A short time ago, as she was sitting on her throne, which people
say is not such an agreeable seat as is often supposed, she began to
sing a song which commences with these words:
Why should I not be married?
'Why not, indeed?' said she, and so she determined to marry if she
could find a husband who knew what to say when he was spoken to, and
not one who could only look grand, for that was so tiresome. She
assembled all her court ladies at the beat of the drum, and when they
heard of her intentions they were very much pleased.
'We are so glad to hear of it,' said they. 'We were talking about
it ourselves the other day.'
You may believe that every word I tell you is true, said the crow,
for I have a tame sweetheart who hops freely about the palace, and she
told me all this.
Of course his sweetheart was a crow, for birds of a feather flock
together, and one crow always chooses another crow.
Newspapers were published immediately with a border of hearts and
the initials of the princess among them. They gave notice that every
young man who was handsome was free to visit the castle and speak with
the princess, and those who could reply loud enough to be heard when
spoken to were to make themselves quite at home at the palace, and the
one who spoke best would be chosen as a husband for the princess.
Yes, yes, you may believe me. It is all as true as I sit here,
said the crow.
The people came in crowds. There was a great deal of crushing and
running about, but no one succeeded either on the first or the second
day. They could all speak very well while they were outside in the
streets, but when they entered the palace gates and saw the guards in
silver uniforms and the footmen in their golden livery on the staircase
and the great halls lighted up, they became quite confused. And when
they stood before the throne on which the princess sat they could do
nothing but repeat the last words she had said, and she had no
particular wish to hear her own words over again. It was just as if
they had all taken something to make them sleepy while they were in the
palace, for they did not recover themselves nor speak till they got
back again into the street. There was a long procession of them,
reaching from the town gate to the palace.
I went myself to see them, said the crow. They were hungry and
thirsty, for at the palace they did not even get a glass of water. Some
of the wisest had taken a few slices of bread and butter with them, but
they did not share it with their neighbors; they thought if the others
went in to the princess looking hungry, there would be a better chance
But Kay! tell me about little Kay! said Gerda. Was he among the
Stop a bit; we are just coming to him. It was on the third day that
there came marching cheerfully along to the palace a little personage
without horses or carriage, his eyes sparkling like yours. He had
beautiful long hair, but his clothes were very poor.
That was Kay, said Gerda, joyfully. Oh, then I have found him!
and she clapped her hands.
He had a little knapsack on his back, added the crow.
No, it must have been his sledge, said Gerda, for he went away
It may have been so, said the crow; I did not look at it very
closely. But I know from my tame sweetheart that he passed through the
palace gates, saw the guards in their silver uniform and the servants
in their liveries of gold on the stairs, but was not in the least
'It must be very tiresome to stand on the stairs,' he said. 'I
prefer to go in.'
The rooms were blazing with light; councilors and ambassadors
walked about with bare feet, carrying golden vessels; it was enough to
make any one feel serious. His boots creaked loudly as he walked, and
yet he was not at all uneasy.
It must be Kay, said Gerda; I know he had new boots on. I heard
them creak in grandmother's room.
They really did creak, said the crow, yet he went boldly up to
the princess herself, who was sitting on a pearl as large as a spinning
wheel. And all the ladies of the court were present with their maids
and all the cavaliers with their servants, and each of the maids had
another maid to wait upon her, and the cavaliers' servants had their
own servants as well as each a page. They all stood in circles round
the princess, and the nearer they stood to the door the prouder they
looked. The servants' pages, who always wore slippers, could hardly be
looked at, they held themselves up so proudly by the door.
It must be quite awful, said little Gerda; but did Kay win the
If I had not been a crow, said he, I would have married her
myself, although I am engaged. He spoke as well as I do when I speak
the crows' language. I heard this from my tame sweetheart. He was quite
free and agreeable and said he had not come to woo the princess, but to
hear her wisdom. And he was as pleased with her as she was with him.
Oh, certainly that was Kay, said Gerda; he was so clever; he
could work mental arithmetic and fractions. Oh, will you take me to the
It is very easy to ask that, replied the crow, but how are we to
manage it? However, I will speak about it to my tame sweetheart and ask
her advice, for, I must tell you, it will be very difficult to gain
permission for a little girl like you to enter the palace.
Oh, yes, but I shall gain permission easily, said Gerda, for when
Kay hears that I am here he will come out and fetch me in immediately.
Wait for me here by the palings, said the crow, wagging his head
as he flew away.
It was late in the evening before the crow returned. Caw, caw! he
said; she sends you greeting, and here is a little roll which she took
from the kitchen for you. There is plenty of bread there, and she
thinks you must be hungry. It is not possible for you to enter the
palace by the front entrance. The guards in silver uniform and the
servants in gold livery would not allow it. But do not cry; we will
manage to get you in. My sweetheart knows a little back staircase that
leads to the sleeping apartments, and she knows where to find the key.
Then they went into the garden, through the great avenue, where the
leaves were falling one after another, and they could see the lights in
the palace being put out in the same manner. And the crow led little
Gerda to a back door which stood ajar. Oh! how her heart beat with
anxiety and longing; it was as if she were going to do something wrong,
and yet she only wanted to know where little Kay was.
It must be he, she thought, with those clear eyes and that long
She could fancy she saw him smiling at her as he used to at home
when they sat among the roses. He would certainly be glad to see her,
and to hear what a long distance she had come for his sake, and to know
how sorry they had all been at home because he did not come back. Oh,
what joy and yet what fear she felt!
They were now on the stairs, and in a small closet at the top a lamp
was burning. In the middle of the floor stood the tame crow, turning
her head from side to side and gazing at Gerda, who curtsied as her
grandmother had taught her to do.
My betrothed has spoken so very highly of you, my little lady,
said the tame crow. Your story is very touching. If you will take the
lamp, I will walk before you. We will go straight along this way; then
we shall meet no one.
I feel as if somebody were behind us, said Gerda, as something
rushed by her like a shadow on the wall; and then it seemed to her that
horses with flying manes and thin legs, hunters, ladies and gentlemen
on horseback, glided by her like shadows.
They are only dreams, said the crow; they are coming to carry the
thoughts of the great people out hunting. All the better, for if their
thoughts are out hunting, we shall be able to look at them in their
beds more safely. I hope that when you rise to honor and favor you will
show a grateful heart.
You may be quite sure of that, said the crow from the forest.
They now came into the first hall, the walls of which were hung with
rose-colored satin embroidered with artificial flowers. Here the dreams
again flitted by them, but so quickly that Gerda could not distinguish
the royal persons. Each hall appeared more splendid than the last. It
was enough to bewilder one. At length they reached a bedroom. The
ceiling was like a great palm tree, with glass leaves of the most
costly crystal, and over the center of the floor two beds, each
resembling a lily, hung from a stem of gold. One, in which the princess
lay, was white; the other was red. And in this Gerda had to seek for
She pushed one of the red leaves aside and saw a little brown neck.
Oh, that must be Kay! She called his name loudly and held the lamp over
him. The dreams rushed back into the room on horseback. He woke and
turned his head roundit was not little Kay! The prince was only like
him; still he was young and pretty. Out of her white-lily bed peeped
the princess, and asked what was the matter. Little Gerda wept and told
her story, and all that the crows had done to help her.
You poor child, said the prince and princess; then they praised
the crows, and said they were not angry with them for what they had
done, but that it must not happen again, and that this time they should
Would you like to have your freedom? asked the princess, or would
you prefer to be raised to the position of court crows, with all that
is left in the kitchen for yourselves?
Then both the crows bowed and begged to have a fixed appointment;
for they thought of their old age, and it would be so comfortable, they
said, to feel that they had made provision for it.
[Illustration: The prince and princess themselves helped her into
And then the prince got out of his bed and gave it up to Gerdahe
could not do moreand she lay down. She folded her little hands and
thought, How good everybody is to me, both men and animals; then she
closed her eyes and fell into a sweet sleep. All the dreams came flying
back again to her, looking like angels now, and one of them drew a
little sledge, on which sat Kay, who nodded to her. But all this was
only a dream. It vanished as soon as she awoke.
The following day she was dressed from head to foot in silk and
velvet and invited to stay at the palace for a few days and enjoy
herself; but she only begged for a pair of boots and a little carriage
and a horse to draw it, so that she might go out into the wide world to
seek for Kay.
And she obtained not only boots but a muff, and was neatly dressed;
and when she was ready to go, there at the door she found a coach made
of pure gold with the coat of arms of the prince and princess shining
upon it like a star, and the coachman, footman, and outriders all
wearing golden crowns upon their heads. The prince and princess
themselves helped her into the coach and wished her success.
The forest crow, who was now married, accompanied her for the first
three miles; he sat by Gerda's side, as he could not bear riding
backwards. The tame crow stood in the doorway flapping her wings. She
could not go with them, because she had been suffering from headache
ever since the new appointment, no doubt from overeating. The coach was
well stored with sweet cakes, and under the seat were fruit and
Farewell, farewell, cried the prince and princess, and little
Gerda wept, and the crow wept; and then, after a few miles, the crow
also said farewell, and this parting was even more sad. However he flew
to a tree and stood flapping his black wings as long as he could see
the coach, which glittered like a sunbeam.
THE LITTLE ROBBER GIRL
The coach drove on through a thick forest, where it lighted up the
way like a torch and dazzled the eyes of some robbers, who could not
bear to let it pass them unmolested.
It is gold! it is gold! cried they, rushing forward and seizing
the horses. Then they struck dead the little jockeys, the coachman, and
the footman, and pulled little Gerda out of the carriage.
She is plump and pretty. She has been fed with the kernels of
nuts, said the old robber woman, who had a long beard, and eyebrows
that hung over her eyes. She is as good as a fatted lamb; how nice she
will taste! and as she said this she drew forth a shining knife, that
glittered horribly. Oh! screamed the old woman at the same moment,
for her own daughter, who held her back, had bitten her in the ear.
You naughty girl, said the mother, and now she had not time to kill
She shall play with me, said the little robber girl. She shall
give me her muff and her pretty dress, and sleep with me in my bed.
And then she bit her mother again, and all the robbers laughed.
I will have a ride in the coach, said the little robber girl, and
she would have her own way, for she was self-willed and obstinate.
She and Gerda seated themselves in the coach and drove away over
stumps and stones, into the depths of the forest. The little robber
girl was about the same size as Gerda, but stronger; she had broader
shoulders and a darker skin; her eyes were quite black, and she had a
mournful look. She clasped little Gerda round the waist and said:
They shall not kill you as long as you don't make me vexed with
you. I suppose you are a princess.
No, said Gerda; and then she told her all her history and how fond
she was of little Kay.
The robber girl looked earnestly at her, nodded her head slightly,
and said, They shan't kill you even if I do get angry with you, for I
will do it myself. And then she wiped Gerda's eyes and put her own
hands into the beautiful muff, which was so soft and warm.
The coach stopped in the courtyard of a robber's castle, the walls
of which were full of cracks from top to bottom. Ravens and crows flew
in and out of the holes and crevices, while great bulldogs, each of
which looked as if it could swallow a man, were jumping about; but they
were not allowed to bark.
In the large old smoky hall a bright fire was burning on the stone
floor. There was no chimney, so the smoke went up to the ceiling and
found a way out for itself. Soup was boiling in a large cauldron, and
hares and rabbits were roasting on the spit.
You shall sleep with me and all my little animals to-night, said
the robber girl after they had had something to eat and drink. So she
took Gerda to a corner of the hall where some straw and carpets were
laid down. Above them, on laths and perches, were more than a hundred
pigeons that all seemed to be asleep, although they moved slightly when
the two little girls came near them. These all belong to me, said the
robber girl, and she seized the nearest to her, held it by the feet,
and shook it till it flapped its wings. Kiss it, cried she, flapping
it in Gerda's face.
There sit the wood pigeons, continued she, pointing to a number of
laths and a cage which had been fixed into the walls, near one of the
openings. Both rascals would fly away directly, if they were not
closely locked up. And here is my old sweetheart 'Ba,' and she dragged
out a reindeer by the horn; he wore a bright copper ring round his neck
and was tethered to the spot. We are obliged to hold him tight too,
else he would run away from us also. I tickle his neck every evening
with my sharp knife, which frightens him very much. And the robber
girl drew a long knife from a chink in the wall and let it slide gently
over the reindeer's neck. The poor animal began to kick, and the little
robber girl laughed and pulled down Gerda into bed with her.
Will you have that knife with you while you are asleep? asked
Gerda, looking at it in great fright.
I always sleep with the knife by me, said the robber girl. No one
knows what may happen. But now tell me again all about little Kay, and
why you went out into the world.
Then Gerda repeated her story over again, while the wood pigeons in
the cage over her cooed, and the other pigeons slept. The little robber
girl put one arm across Gerda's neck, and held the knife in the other,
and was soon fast asleep and snoring. But Gerda could not close her
eyes at all; she knew not whether she was to live or to die. The
robbers sat round the fire, singing and drinking. It was a terrible
sight for a little girl to witness.
Then the wood pigeons said: Coo, coo, we have seen little Kay. A
white fowl carried his sledge, and he sat in the carriage of the Snow
Queen, which drove through the wood while we were lying in our nest.
She blew upon us, and all the young ones died, excepting us two. Coo,
What are you saying up there? cried Gerda. Where was the Snow
Queen going? Do you know anything about it?
She was most likely traveling to Lapland, where there is always
snow and ice. Ask the reindeer that is fastened up there with a rope.
Yes, there is always snow and ice, said the reindeer, and it is a
glorious place; you can leap and run about freely on the sparkling icy
plains. The Snow Queen has her summer tent there, but her strong castle
is at the North Pole, on an island called Spitzbergen.
O Kay, little Kay! sighed Gerda.
Lie still, said the robber girl, or you shall feel my knife.
In the morning Gerda told her all that the wood pigeons had said,
and the little robber girl looked quite serious, and nodded her head
and said: That is all talk, that is all talk. Do you know where
Lapland is? she asked the reindeer.
Who should know better than I do? said the animal, while his eyes
sparkled. I was born and brought up there and used to run about the
Now listen, said the robber girl; all our men are gone away; only
mother is here, and here she will stay; but at noon she always drinks
out of a great bottle, and afterwards sleeps for a little while; and
then I'll do something for you. She jumped out of bed, clasped her
mother round the neck, and pulled her by the beard, crying, My own
little nanny goat, good morning! And her mother pinched her nose till
it was quite red; yet she did it all for love.
When the mother had gone to sleep the little robber maiden went to
the reindeer and said: I should like very much to tickle your neck a
few times more with my knife, for it makes you look so funny, but never
mindI will untie your cord and set you free, so that you may run away
to Lapland; but you must make good use of your legs and carry this
little maiden to the castle of the Snow Queen, where her playfellow is.
You have heard what she told me, for she spoke loud enough, and you
The reindeer jumped for joy, and the little robber girl lifted Gerda
on his back and had the forethought to tie her on and even to give her
her own little cushion to sit upon.
Here are your fur boots for you, said she, for it will be very
cold; but I must keep the muff, it is so pretty. However, you shall not
be frozen for the want of it; here are my mother's large warm mittens;
they will reach up to your elbows. Let me put them on. There, now your
hands look just like my mother's.
But Gerda wept for joy.
I don't like to see you fret, said the little robber girl. You
ought to look quite happy now. And here are two loaves and a ham, so
that you need not starve.
These were fastened upon the reindeer, and then the little robber
maiden opened the door, coaxed in all the great dogs, cut the string
with which the reindeer was fastened, with her sharp knife, and said,
Now run, but mind you take good care of the little girl. And Gerda
stretched out her hand, with the great mitten on it, toward the little
robber girl and said Farewell, and away flew the reindeer over stumps
and stones, through the great forest, over marshes and plains, as
quickly as he could. The wolves howled and the ravens screamed, while
up in the sky quivered red lights like flames of fire. There are my
old northern lights, said the reindeer; see how they flash! And he
ran on day and night still faster and faster, but the loaves and the
ham were all eaten by the time they reached Lapland.
THE LAPLAND WOMAN AND THE FINLAND WOMAN
They stopped at a little hut; it was very mean looking. The roof
sloped nearly down to the ground, and the door was so low that the
family had to creep in on their hands and knees when they went in and
out. There was no one at home but an old Lapland woman who was dressing
fish by the light of a train-oil lamp.
The reindeer told her all about Gerda's story after having first
told his own, which seemed to him the most important. But Gerda was so
pinched with the cold that she could not speak.
Oh, you poor things, said the Lapland woman, you have a long way
to go yet. You must travel more than a hundred miles farther, to
Finland. The Snow Queen lives there now, and she burns Bengal lights
every evening. I will write a few words on a dried stockfish, for I
have no paper, and you can take it from me to the Finland woman who
lives there. She can give you better information than I can.
So when Gerda was warmed and had taken something to eat and drink,
the woman wrote a few words on the dried fish and told Gerda to take
great care of it. Then she tied her again on the back of the reindeer,
and he sprang high into the air and set off at full speed. Flash,
flash, went the beautiful blue northern lights the whole night long.
And at length they reached Finland and knocked at the chimney of the
Finland woman's hut, for it had no door above the ground. They crept
in, but it was so terribly hot inside that the woman wore scarcely any
clothes. She was small and very dirty looking. She loosened little
Gerda's dress and took off the fur boots and the mittens, or Gerda
would have been unable to bear the heat; and then she placed a piece of
ice on the reindeer's head and read what was written on the dried fish.
After she had read it three times she knew it by heart, so she popped
the fish into the soup saucepan, as she knew it was good to eat, and
she never wasted anything.
The reindeer told his own story first and then little Gerda's, and
the Finlander twinkled with her clever eyes, but said nothing.
You are so clever, said the reindeer; I know you can tie all the
winds of the world with a piece of twine. If a sailor unties one knot,
he has a fair wind; when he unties the second, it blows hard; but if
the third and fourth are loosened, then comes a storm which will root
up whole forests. Cannot you give this little maiden something which
will make her as strong as twelve men, to overcome the Snow Queen?
The power of twelve men! said the Finland woman. That would be of
very little use. But she went to a shelf and took down and unrolled a
large skin on which were inscribed wonderful characters, and she read
till the perspiration ran down from her forehead.
But the reindeer begged so hard for little Gerda, and Gerda looked
at the Finland woman with such tender, tearful eyes, that her own eyes
began to twinkle again. She drew the reindeer into a corner and
whispered to him while she laid a fresh piece of ice on his head:
Little Kay is really with the Snow Queen, but he finds everything
there so much to his taste and his liking that he believes it is the
finest place in the world; and this is because he has a piece of broken
glass in his heart and a little splinter of glass in his eye. These
must be taken out, or he will never be a human being again, and the
Snow Queen will retain her power over him.
But can you not give little Gerda something to help her to conquer
I can give her no greater power than she has already, said the
woman; don't you see how strong that is? how men and animals are
obliged to serve her, and how well she has gotten through the world,
barefooted as she is? She cannot receive any power from me greater than
she now has, which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart.
If she cannot herself obtain access to the Snow Queen and remove the
glass fragments from little Kay, we can do nothing to help her. Two
miles from here the Snow Queen's garden begins. You can carry the
little girl so far, and set her down by the large bush which stands in
the snow, covered with red berries. Do not stay gossiping, but come
back here as quickly as you can. Then the Finland woman lifted little
Gerda upon the reindeer, and he ran away with her as quickly as he
Oh, I have forgotten my boots and my mittens, cried little Gerda,
as soon as she felt the cutting cold; but the reindeer dared not stop,
so he ran on till he reached the bush with the red berries. Here he set
Gerda down, and he kissed her, and the great bright tears trickled over
the animal's cheeks; then he left her and ran back as fast as he could.
There stood poor Gerda, without shoes, without gloves, in the midst
of cold, dreary, ice-bound Finland. She ran forward as quickly as she
could, when a whole regiment of snowflakes came round her. They did
not, however, fall from the sky, which was quite clear and glittered
with the northern lights. The snowflakes ran along the ground, and the
nearer they came to her the larger they appeared. Gerda remembered how
large and beautiful they looked through the burning glass. But these
were really larger and much more terrible, for they were alive and were
the guards of the Snow Queen and had the strangest shapes. Some were
like great porcupines, others like twisted serpents with their heads
stretching out, and some few were like little fat bears with their hair
bristled; but all were dazzlingly white, and all were living
Little Gerda repeated the Lord's Prayer, and the cold was so great
that she could see her own breath come out of her mouth like steam, as
she uttered the words. The steam appeared to increase as she continued
her prayer, till it took the shape of little angels, who grew larger
the moment they touched the earth. They all wore helmets on their heads
and carried spears and shields. Their number continued to increase more
and more, and by the time Gerda had finished her prayers a whole legion
stood round her. They thrust their spears into the terrible snowflakes
so that they shivered into a hundred pieces, and little Gerda could go
forward with courage and safety. The angels stroked her hands and feet,
so that she felt the cold less as she hastened on to the Snow Queen's
But now we must see what Kay is doing. In truth he thought not of
little Gerda, and least of all that she could be standing at the front
of the palace.
OF THE PALACE OF THE SNOW QUEEN AND WHAT HAPPENED THERE AT LAST
The walls of the palace were formed of drifted snow, and the windows
and doors of cutting winds. There were more than a hundred rooms in it,
all as if they had been formed of snow blown together. The largest of
them extended for several miles. They were all lighted up by the vivid
light of the aurora, and were so large and empty, so icy cold and
There were no amusements here; not even a little bear's ball, when
the storm might have been the music, and the bears could have danced on
their hind legs and shown their good manners. There were no pleasant
games of snapdragon, or touch, nor even a gossip over the tea table for
the young-lady foxes. Empty, vast, and cold were the halls of the Snow
The flickering flames of the northern lights could be plainly seen,
whether they rose high or low in the heavens, from every part of the
castle. In the midst of this empty, endless hall of snow was a frozen
lake, broken on its surface into a thousand forms; each piece resembled
another, because each was in itself perfect as a work of art, and in
the center of this lake sat the Snow Queen when she was at home. She
called the lake The Mirror of Reason, and said that it was the best,
and indeed the only one, in the world.
[Illustration: In the center of the lake sat the Snow Queen]
Little Kay was quite blue with cold,indeed, almost black,but he
did not feel it; for the Snow Queen had kissed away the icy shiverings,
and his heart was already a lump of ice. He dragged some sharp, flat
pieces of ice to and fro and placed them together in all kinds of
positions, as if he wished to make something out of themjust as we
try to form various figures with little tablets of wood, which we call
a Chinese puzzle. Kay's figures were very artistic; it was the icy
game of reason at which he played, and in his eyes the figures were
very remarkable and of the highest importance; this opinion was owing
to the splinter of glass still sticking in his eye. He composed many
complete figures, forming different words, but there was one word he
never could manage to form, although he wished it very much. It was the
The Snow Queen had said to him, When you can find out this, you
shall be your own master, and I will give you the whole world and a new
pair of skates. But he could not accomplish it.
Now I must hasten away to warmer countries, said the Snow Queen.
I will go and look into the black craters of the tops of the burning
mountains, Etna and Vesuvius, as they are called. I shall make them
look white, which will be good for them and for the lemons and the
grapes. And away flew the Snow Queen, leaving little Kay quite alone
in the great hall which was so many miles in length. He sat and looked
at his pieces of ice and was thinking so deeply and sat so still that
any one might have supposed he was frozen.
Just at this moment it happened that little Gerda came through the
great door of the castle. Cutting winds were raging around her, but she
offered up a prayer, and the winds sank down as if they were going to
sleep. On she went till she came to the large, empty hall and caught
sight of Kay. She knew him directly; she flew to him and threw her arms
around his neck and held him fast while she exclaimed, Kay, dear
little Kay, I have found you at last!
But he sat quite still, stiff and cold.
Then little Gerda wept hot tears, which fell on his breast, and
penetrated into his heart, and thawed the lump of ice, and washed away
the little piece of glass which had stuck there. Then he looked at her,
and she sang:
Roses bloom and fade away,
But we the Christ-child see alway.
Then Kay burst into tears. He wept so that the splinter of glass
swam out of his eye. Then he recognized Gerda and said joyfully,
Gerda, dear little Gerda, where have you been all this time, and where
have I been? And he looked all around him and said, How cold it is,
and how large and empty it all looks, and he clung to Gerda, and she
laughed and wept for joy.
It was so pleasing to see them that even the pieces of ice danced,
and when they were tired and went to lie down they formed themselves
into the letters of the word which the Snow Queen had said he must find
out before he could be his own master and have the whole world and a
pair of new skates.
Gerda kissed his cheeks, and they became blooming; and she kissed
his eyes till they shone like her own; she kissed his hands and feet,
and he became quite healthy and cheerful. The Snow Queen might come
home now when she pleased, for there stood his certainty of freedom, in
the word she wanted, written in shining letters of ice.
Then they took each other by the hand and went forth from the great
palace of ice. They spoke of the grandmother and of the roses on the
roof, and as they went on the winds were at rest, and the sun burst
forth. When they arrived at the bush with red berries, there stood the
reindeer waiting for them, and he had brought another young reindeer
with him, whose udders were full, and the children drank her warm milk
and kissed her on the mouth.
They carried Kay and Gerda first to the Finland woman, where they
warmed themselves thoroughly in the hot room and had directions about
their journey home. Next they went to the Lapland woman, who had made
some new clothes for them and put their sleighs in order. Both the
reindeer ran by their side and followed them as far as the boundaries
of the country, where the first green leaves were budding. And here
they took leave of the two reindeer and the Lapland woman, and all said
Then birds began to twitter, and the forest too was full of green
young leaves, and out of it came a beautiful horse, which Gerda
remembered, for it was one which had drawn the golden coach. A young
girl was riding upon it, with a shining red cap on her head and pistols
in her belt. It was the little robber maiden, who had got tired of
staying at home; she was going first to the north, and if that did not
suit her, she meant to try some other part of the world. She knew Gerda
directly, and Gerda remembered her; it was a joyful meeting.
You are a fine fellow to go gadding about in this way, said she to
little Kay. I should like to know whether you deserve that any one
should go to the end of the world to find you.
But Gerda patted her cheeks and asked after the prince and princess.
They are gone to foreign countries, said the robber girl.
And the crow? asked Gerda.
Oh, the crow is dead, she replied. His tame sweetheart is now a
widow and wears a bit of black worsted round her leg. She mourns very
pitifully, but it is all stuff. But now tell me how you managed to get
Then Gerda and Kay told her all about it.
Snip, snap, snurre! it's all right at last, said the robber girl.
She took both their hands and promised that if ever she should pass
through the town, she would call and pay them a visit. And then she
rode away into the wide world.
But Gerda and Kay went hand in hand toward home, and as they
advanced, spring appeared more lovely with its green verdure and its
beautiful flowers. Very soon they recognized the large town where they
lived, and the tall steeples of the churches in which the sweet bells
were ringing a merry peal, as they entered it and found their way to
their grandmother's door.
They went upstairs into the little room, where all looked just as it
used to do. The old clock was going Tick, tick, and the hands pointed
to the time of day, but as they passed through the door into the room
they perceived that they were both grown up and become a man and woman.
The roses out on the roof were in full bloom and peeped in at the
window, and there stood the little chairs on which they had sat when
children, and Kay and Gerda seated themselves each on their own chair
and held each other by the hand, while the cold, empty grandeur of the
Snow Queen's palace vanished from their memories like a painful dream.
The grandmother sat in God's bright sunshine, and she read aloud
from the Bible, Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no
wise enter into the kingdom of God. And Kay and Gerda looked into each
other's eyes and all at once understood the words of the old song:
Roses bloom and fade away,
But we the Christ-child see alway.
And they both sat there, grown up, yet children at heart, and it was
summerwarm, beautiful summer.
THE ROSES AND THE SPARROWS
IT really appeared as if something very important were going on by
the duck pond, but this was not the case.
A few minutes before, all the ducks had been resting on the water or
standing on their headsfor that they can doand then they all swam
in a bustle to the shore. The traces of their feet could be seen on the
wet earth, and far and wide could be heard their quacking. The water,
so lately clear and bright as a mirror, was in quite a commotion.
But a moment before, every tree and bush near the old farmhouseand
even the house itself with the holes in the roof and the swallows'
nests and, above all, the beautiful rosebush covered with roseshad
been clearly reflected in the water. The rosebush on the wall hung over
the water, which resembled a picture only that everything appeared
upside down, but when the water was set in motion all vanished, and the
Two feathers, dropped by the fluttering ducks, floated to and fro on
the water. All at once they took a start as if the wind were coming,
but it did not come, so they were obliged to lie still, as the water
became again quiet and at rest. The roses could once more behold their
own reflections. They were very beautiful, but they knew it not, for no
one had told them. The sun shone between the delicate leaves, and the
sweet fragrance spread itself, carrying happiness everywhere.
How beautiful is our existence! said one of the roses. I feel as
if I should like to kiss the sun, it is so bright and warm. I should
like to kiss the roses too, our images in the water, and the pretty
birds there in their nests. There are some birds too in the nest above
us; they stretch out their heads and cry 'Tweet, tweet,' very faintly.
They have no feathers yet, such as their father and mother have. Both
above us and below us we have good neighbors. How beautiful is our
The young birds above and the young ones below were the same; they
were sparrows, and their nest was reflected in the water. Their parents
were sparrows also, and they had taken possession of an empty swallow's
nest of the year before, occupying it now as if it were their own.
Are those ducks' children that are swimming about? asked the young
sparrows, as they spied the feathers on the water.
If you must ask questions, pray ask sensible ones, said the
mother. Can you not see that these are feathers, the living stuff for
clothes, which I wear and which you will wear soon, only ours are much
finer? I should like, however, to have them up here in the nest, they
would make it so warm. I am rather curious to know why the ducks were
so alarmed just now. It could not be from fear of us, certainly, though
I did say 'tweet' rather loudly. The thick-headed roses really ought to
know, but they are very ignorant; they only look at one another and
smell. I am heartily tired of such neighbors.
Listen to the sweet little birds above us, said the roses; they
are trying to sing. They cannot manage it yet, but it will be done in
time. What a pleasure it will be, and how nice to have such lively
Suddenly two horses came prancing along to drink at the water. A
peasant boy rode on one of them; he had a broad-brimmed black hat on,
but had taken off the most of his clothes, that he might ride into the
deepest part of the pond; he whistled like a bird, and while passing
the rosebush he plucked a rose and placed it in his hat and then rode
on thinking himself very fine. The other roses looked at their sister
and asked each other where she could be going, but they did not know.
I should like for once to go out into the world, said one,
although it is very lovely here in our home of green leaves. The sun
shines warmly by day, and in the night we can see that heaven is more
beautiful still, as it sparkles through the holes in the sky.
She meant the stars, for she knew no better.
We make the house very lively, said the mother sparrow, and
people say that a swallow's nest brings luck, therefore they are
pleased to see us; but as to our neighbors, a rosebush on the wall
produces damp. It will most likely be removed, and perhaps corn will
grow here instead of it. Roses are good for nothing but to be looked at
and smelt, or perhaps one may chance to be stuck in a hat. I have heard
from my mother that they fall off every year. The farmer's wife
preserves them by laying them in salt, and then they receive a French
name which I neither can nor will pronounce; then they are sprinkled on
the fire to produce a pleasant smell. Such you see is their life. They
are only formed to please the eye and the nose. Now you know all about
As the evening approached, the gnats played about in the warm air
beneath the rosy clouds, and the nightingale came and sang to the roses
that the beautiful was like sunshine to the world, and that
the beautiful lives forever. The roses thought that the nightingale
was singing of herself, which any one indeed could easily suppose; they
never imagined that her song could refer to them. But it was a joy to
them, and they wondered to themselves whether all the little sparrows
in the nest would become nightingales.
We understood that bird's song very well, said the young sparrows,
but one word was not clear. What is the beautiful?
Oh, nothing of any consequence, replied the mother sparrow. It is
something relating to appearances over yonder at the nobleman's house.
The pigeons have a house of their own, and every day they have corn and
peas spread for them. I have dined there with them sometimes, and so
shall you by and by, for I believe the old maxim'Tell me what company
you keep, and I will tell you what you are.' Well, over at the noble
house there are two birds with green throats and crests on their heads.
They can spread out their tails like large wheels, and they reflect so
many beautiful colors that it dazzles the eyes to look at them. These
birds are called peacocks, and they belong to the beautiful; but
if only a few of their feathers were plucked off, they would not appear
better than we do. I would myself have plucked some out had they not
been so large.
I will pluck them, squeaked the youngest sparrow, who had as yet
no feathers of his own.
In the cottage dwelt two young married people, who loved each other
very much and were industrious and active so that everything looked
neat and pretty around them. Early on Sunday mornings the young wife
came out, gathered a handful of the most beautiful roses, and put them
in a glass of water, which she placed on a side table.
I see now that it is Sunday, said the husband, as he kissed his
little wife. Then they sat down and read in their hymn books, holding
each other's hands, while the sun shone down upon the young couple and
upon the fresh roses in the glass.
This sight is really too wearisome, said the mother sparrow, who
from her nest could look into the room; and she flew away.
The same thing occurred the next Sunday; and indeed every Sunday
fresh roses were gathered and placed in a glass, but the rose tree
continued to bloom in all its beauty. After a while the young sparrows
were fledged and wanted to fly, but the mother would not allow it, and
so they were obliged to remain in the nest for the present, while she
flew away alone. It so happened that some boys had fastened a snare
made of horsehair to the branch of a tree, and before she was aware,
her leg became entangled in the horsehair so tightly as almost to cut
it through. What pain and terror she felt! The boys ran up quickly and
seized her, not in a very gentle manner.
It is only a sparrow, they said. However they did not let her fly,
but took her home with them, and every time she cried they tapped her
on the beak.
In the farmyard they met an old man who knew how to make soap for
shaving and washing, in cakes or in balls. When he saw the sparrow
which the boys had brought home and which they said they did not know
what to do with, he said, Shall we make it beautiful?
A cold shudder passed over the sparrow when she heard this. The old
man then took a shell containing a quantity of glittering gold leaf
from a box full of beautiful colors and told the youngsters to fetch
the white of an egg, with which he besmeared the sparrow all over and
then laid the gold leaf upon it, so that the mother sparrow was now
gilded from head to tail. She thought not of her appearance, but
trembled in every limb. Then the soap maker tore a little piece out of
the red lining of his jacket, cut notches in it, so that it looked like
a cock'scomb, and stuck it on the bird's head.
Now you shall see gold-jacket fly, said the old man, and he
released the sparrow, which flew away in deadly terror with the
sunlight shining upon her. How she did glitter! All the sparrows, and
even a crow, who is a knowing old boy, were startled at the sight, yet
they all followed it to discover what foreign bird it could be. Driven
by anguish and terror, she flew homeward almost ready to sink to the
earth for want of strength. The flock of birds that were following
increased and some even tried to peck her.
Look at him! look at him! they all cried. Look at him! look at
him! cried the young ones as their mother approached the nest, for
they did not know her. That must be a young peacock, for he glitters
in all colors. It quite hurts one's eyes to look at him, as mother told
us; 'tweet,' this is the beautiful. And then they pecked the
bird with their little beaks so that she was quite unable to get into
the nest and was too much exhausted even to say tweet, much less I
am your mother. So the other birds fell upon the sparrow and pulled
out feather after feather till she sank bleeding into the rosebush.
You poor creature, said the roses, be at rest. We will hide you;
lean your little head against us.
The sparrow spread out her wings once more, then drew them in close
about her and lay dead among the roses, her fresh and lovely neighbors.
* * * * *
Tweet, sounded from the nest; where can our mother be staying? It
is quite unaccountable. Can this be a trick of hers to show us that we
are now to take care of ourselves? She has left us the house as an
inheritance, but as it cannot belong to us all when we have families,
who is to have it?
It won't do for you all to stay with me when I increase my
household with a wife and children, remarked the youngest.
I shall have more wives and children than you, said the second.
But I am the eldest, cried a third.
Then they all became angry, beat each other with their wings, pecked
with their beaks, till one after another bounced out of the nest. There
they lay in a rage, holding their heads on one side and twinkling the
eye that looked upward. This was their way of looking sulky.
They could all fly a little, and by practice they soon learned to do
so much better. At length they agreed upon a sign by which they might
be able to recognize each other in case they should meet in the world
after they had separated. This sign was to be the cry of tweet,
tweet, and a scratching on the ground three times with the left foot.
The youngster who was left behind in the nest spread himself out as
broad as ever he could; he was the householder now. But his glory did
not last long, for during that night red flames of fire burst through
the windows of the cottage, seized the thatched roof, and blazed up
frightfully. The whole house was burned, and the sparrow perished with
it, while the young couple fortunately escaped with their lives.
When the sun rose again, and all nature looked refreshed as after a
quiet sleep, nothing remained of the cottage but a few blackened,
charred beams leaning against the chimney, that now was the only master
of the place. Thick smoke still rose from the ruins, but outside on the
wall the rosebush remained unhurt, blooming and fresh as ever, while
each flower and each spray was mirrored in the clear water beneath.
How beautifully the roses are blooming on the walls of that ruined
cottage, said a passer-by. A more lovely picture could scarcely be
imagined. I must have it.
And the speaker took out of his pocket a little book full of white
leaves of paper (for he was an artist), and with a pencil he made a
sketch of the smoking ruins, the blackened rafters, and the chimney
that overhung them and which seemed more and more to totter; and quite
in the foreground stood the large, blooming rosebush, which added
beauty to the picture; indeed, it was for the sake of the roses that
the sketch had been made. Later in the day two of the sparrows who had
been born there came by.
Where is the house? they asked. Where is the nest? Tweet, tweet;
all is burned down, and our strong brother with it. That is all he got
by keeping the nest. The roses have escaped famously; they look as well
as ever, with their rosy cheeks; they do not trouble themselves about
their neighbors' misfortunes. I won't speak to them. And really, in my
opinion, the place looks very ugly; so they flew away.
On a fine, bright, sunny day in autumn, so bright that any one might
have supposed it was still the middle of summer, a number of pigeons
were hopping about in the nicely kept courtyard of the nobleman's
house, in front of the great steps. Some were black, others white, and
some of various colors, and their plumage glittered in the sunshine. An
old mother pigeon said to her young ones, Place yourselves in groups!
place yourselves in groups! it has a much better appearance.
What are those little gray creatures which are running about behind
us? asked an old pigeon with red and green round her eyes. Little
gray ones, little gray ones, she cried.
They are sparrowsgood little creatures enough. We have always had
the character of being very good-natured, so we allow them to pick up
some corn with us; they do not interrupt our conversation, and they
draw back their left foot so prettily.
Sure enough, so they did, three times each, and with the left foot
too, and said tweet, by which we recognize them as the sparrows that
were brought up in the nest on the house that was burned down.
The food here is very good, said the sparrows; while the pigeons
strutted round each other, puffed out their throats, and formed their
own opinions on what they observed.
Do you see the pouter pigeon? asked one pigeon of another. Do you
see how he swallows the peas? He takes too much and always chooses the
best of everything. Coo-oo, coo-oo. How the ugly, spiteful creature
erects his crest. And all their eyes sparkled with malice. Place
yourselves in groups, place yourselves in groups. Little gray coats,
little gray coats. Coo-oo, coo-oo.
So they went on, and it will be the same a thousand years hence.
The sparrows feasted bravely and listened attentively; they even
stood in ranks like the pigeons, but it did not suit them. So having
satisfied their hunger, they left the pigeons passing their own
opinions upon them to each other and slipped through the garden
railings. The door of a room in the house, leading into the garden,
stood open, and one of them, feeling brave after his good dinner,
hopped upon the threshold crying, Tweet, I can venture so far.
Tweet, said another, I can venture that, and a great deal more,
and into the room he hopped.
The first followed, and, seeing no one there, the third became
courageous and flew right across the room, saying: Venture everything,
or do not venture at all. This is a wonderful placea man's nest, I
suppose; and look! what can this be?
Just in front of the sparrows stood the ruins of the burned cottage;
roses were blooming over it, and their reflection appeared in the water
beneath, and the black, charred beams rested against the tottering
chimney. How could it be? How came the cottage and the roses in a room
in the nobleman's house? And then the sparrows tried to fly over the
roses and the chimney, but they only struck themselves against a flat
wall. It was a picturea large, beautiful picture which the artist had
painted from the little sketch he had made.
Tweet, said the sparrows, it is really nothing, after all; it
only looks like reality. Tweet, I suppose that is the beautiful.
Can you understand it? I cannot.
Then some persons entered the room and the sparrows flew away. Days
and years passed. The pigeons had often coo-oo-dwe must not say
quarreled, though perhaps they did, the naughty things! The sparrows
had suffered from cold in the winter and lived gloriously in summer.
They were all betrothed, or married, or whatever you like to call it.
They had little ones, and each considered its own brood the wisest and
One flew in this direction and another in that, and when they met
they recognized each other by saying tweet and three times drawing
back the left foot. The eldest remained single; she had no nest nor
young ones. Her great wish was to see a large town, so she flew to
Close by the castle, and by the canal, in which swam many ships
laden with apples and pottery, there was to be seen a great house. The
windows were broader below than at the top, and when the sparrows
peeped through they saw a room that looked to them like a tulip with
beautiful colors of every shade. Within the tulip were white figures of
human beings, made of marblesome few of plaster, but this is the same
thing to a sparrow. Upon the roof stood a metal chariot and horses, and
the goddess of victory, also of metal, was seated in the chariot
driving the horses.
It was Thorwaldsen's museum. How it shines and glitters, said the
maiden sparrow. This must be the beautiful,tweet,only this
is larger than a peacock. She remembered what her mother had told them
in her childhood, that the peacock was one of the greatest examples of
the beautiful. She flew down into the courtyard, where everything
also was very grand. The walls were painted to represent palm branches,
and in the midst of the court stood a large, blooming rose tree,
spreading its young, sweet, rose-covered branches over a grave. Thither
the maiden sparrow flew, for she saw many others of her own kind.
Tweet, said she, drawing back her foot three times. She had,
during the years that had passed, often made the usual greeting to the
sparrows she met, but without receiving any acknowledgment; for friends
who are once separated do not meet every day. This manner of greeting
was become a habit to her, and to-day two old sparrows and a young one
returned the greeting.
Tweet, they replied and drew back the left foot three times. They
were two old sparrows out of the nest, and a young one belonging to the
family. Ah, good day; how do you do? To think of our meeting here!
This is a very grand place, but there is not much to eat; this is
the beautiful. Tweet!
A great many people now came out of the side rooms, in which the
marble statues stood, and approached the grave where rested the remains
of the great master who carved them. As they stood round Thorwaldsen's
grave, each face had a reflected glory, and some few gathered up the
fallen rose leaves to preserve them. They had all come from afar; one
from mighty England, others from Germany and France. One very handsome
lady plucked a rose and concealed it in her bosom. Then the sparrows
thought that the roses ruled in this place, and that the whole house
had been built for themwhich seemed really too much honor; but as all
the people showed their love for the roses, the sparrows thought they
would not remain behindhand in paying their respects.
Tweet, they said, and swept the ground with their tails, and
glanced with one eye at the roses. They had not looked at them very
long, however, before they felt convinced that they were old
acquaintances, and so they actually were. The artist who had sketched
the rosebush and the ruins of the cottage had since then received
permission to transplant the bush and had given it to the architect,
for more beautiful roses had never been seen. The architect had planted
it on the grave of Thorwaldsen, where it continued to bloom, the image
of the beautiful, scattering its fragrant, rosy leaves to be
gathered and carried away into distant lands in memory of the spot on
which they fell.
Have you obtained a situation in town? then asked the sparrows of
The roses nodded. They recognized their little brown neighbors and
were rejoiced to see them again.
It is very delightful, said the roses, to live here and to
blossom, to meet old friends, and to see cheerful faces every day. It
is as if each day were a holiday.
Tweet, said the sparrows to each other. Yes, these really are our
old neighbors. We remember their origin near the pond. Tweet! how they
have risen, to be sure. Some people seem to get on while they are
asleep. Ah! there's a withered leaf. I can see it quite plainly.
And they pecked at the leaf till it fell, but the rosebush continued
fresher and greener than ever. The roses bloomed in the sunshine on
Thorwaldsen's grave and thus became linked with his immortal name.
THE OLD HOUSE
A VERY old house once stood in a street with several others that
were quite new and clean. One could read the date of its erection,
which had been carved on one of the beams and surrounded by scrolls
formed of tulips and hop tendrils; by this date it could be seen that
the old house was nearly three hundred years old. Entire verses too
were written over the windows in old-fashioned letters, and grotesque
faces, curiously carved, grinned at you from under the cornices. One
story projected a long way over the other, and under the roof ran a
leaden gutter with a dragon's head at the end. The rain was intended to
pour out at the dragon's mouth, but it ran out of his body instead, for
there was a hole in the gutter.
All the other houses in the street were new and well built, with
large windowpanes and smooth walls. Any one might see they had nothing
to do with the old house. Perhaps they thought: How long will that
heap of rubbish remain here, to be a disgrace to the whole street? The
parapet projects so far forward that no one can see out of our windows
what is going on in that direction. The stairs are as broad as the
staircase of a castle and as steep as if they led to a church tower.
The iron railing looks like the gate of a cemetery, and there are brass
knobs upon it. It is really too ridiculous.
Opposite to the old house were more nice new houses, which had just
the same opinion as their neighbors.
At the window of one of them sat a little boy with fresh, rosy
cheeks and clear, sparkling eyes, who was very fond of the old house in
sunshine or in moonlight. He would sit and look at the wall, from which
the plaster had in some places fallen off, and fancy all sorts of
scenes which had been in former timeshow the street must have looked
when the houses had all gable roofs, open staircases, and gutters with
dragons at the spout. He could even see soldiers walking about with
halberds. Certainly it was a very good house to look at for amusement.
An old man lived in it who wore knee breeches, a coat with large
brass buttons, and a wig which any one could see was a real one. Every
morning there came an old man to clean the rooms and to wait upon him,
otherwise the old man in the knee breeches would have been quite alone
in the house. Sometimes he came to one of the windows and looked out;
then the little boy nodded to him, and the old man nodded back again,
till they became acquainted, and were friends, although they had never
spoken to each other; but that was of no consequence.
The little boy one day heard his parents say, The old man is very
well off, but he must be terribly lonely. So the next Sunday morning
the little boy wrapped something in a paper, and took it to the door of
the old house, and said to the attendant who waited upon the old man:
Will you please to give this from me to the gentleman who lives here?
I have two tin soldiers, and this is one of them, and he shall have it,
because I know he is terribly lonely.
The old attendant nodded and looked very much pleased, and then he
carried the tin soldier into the house.
Afterwards he was sent over to ask the little boy if he would not
like to pay a visit himself. His parents gave him permission, and so it
was that he gained admission to the old house.
The brass knobs on the railings shone more brightly than ever, as if
they had been polished on account of his visit; and on the doors were
carved trumpeters standing in tulips, and it seemed as if they were
blowing with all their might, their cheeks were so puffed out:
Tanta-ra-ra, the little boy is coming. Tanta-ra-ra, the little boy is
Then the door opened. All round the hall hung old portraits of
knights in armor and ladies in silk gowns; and the armor rattled, and
the silk dresses rustled. Then came a staircase which went up a long
way, and then came down a little way and led to a balcony which was in
a very ruinous state. There were large holes and long cracks, out of
which grew grass and leaves; indeed the whole balcony, the courtyard,
and the walls were so overgrown with green that they looked like a
In the balcony stood flowerpots on which were heads having asses'
ears, but the flowers in them grew just as they pleased. In one pot,
pinks were growing all over the sides,at least the green leaves
were,shooting forth stalk and stem and saying as plainly as they
could speak, The air has fanned me, the sun has kissed me, and I am
promised a little flower for next Sundayreally for next Sunday!
Then they entered a room in which the walls were covered with
leather, and the leather had golden flowers stamped upon it.
Gilding wears out with time and bad weather,
But leather endures; there's nothing like leather,
said the walls. Chairs handsomely carved, with elbows on each side
and with very high backs, stood in the room; and as they creaked they
seemed to say: Sit down. Oh dear! how I am creaking; I shall certainly
have the gout like the old cupboard. Gout in my back, ugh!
And then the little boy entered the room where the old man sat.
Thank you for the tin soldier, my little friend, said the old man,
and thank you also for coming to see me.
Thanks, thanksor Creak, creaksaid all the furniture.
There was so much furniture that the pieces stood in each other's
way to get a sight of the little boy. On the wall near the center of
the room hung the picture of a beautiful lady, young and gay, dressed
in the fashion of the olden times, with powdered hair and a full, stiff
skirt. She said neither thanks nor creak, but she looked down upon
the little boy with her mild eyes, and he said to the old man,
Where did you get that picture?
From the shop opposite, he replied. Many portraits hang there. No
one seems to know any of them or to trouble himself about them. The
persons they represent have been dead and buried long since. But I knew
this lady many years ago, and she has been dead nearly half a century.
[Illustration: Thank you for the tin soldier, my little friend,
said the old man....]
Under a glass beneath the picture hung a nosegay of withered
flowers, which were, no doubt, half a century old too, at least they
And the pendulum of the old clock went to and fro, and the hands
turned round, and as time passed on everything in the room grew older,
but no one seemed to notice it.
They say at home, said the little boy, that you are very lonely.
Oh, replied the old man, I have pleasant thoughts of all that is
past recalled by memory, and now you too are come to visit me, and that
is very pleasant.
Then he took from the bookcase a book full of pictures representing
long processions of wonderful coaches such as are never seen at the
present time, soldiers like the knave of clubs, and citizens with
waving banners. The tailors had a flag with a pair of scissors
supported by two lions, and on the shoemakers' flag there were not
boots but an eagle with two heads, for the shoemakers must have
everything arranged so that they can say, This is a pair. What a
picture book it was! And then the old man went into another room to
fetch apples and nuts. It was very pleasant, certainly, to be in that
I cannot endure it, said the tin soldier, who stood on a shelf;
it is so lonely and dull here. I have been accustomed to live in a
family, and I cannot get used to this life. I cannot bear it. The whole
day is long enough, but the evening is longer. It is not here as it was
in your house opposite, when your father and mother talked so
cheerfully together, while you and all the dear children made such a
delightful noise. Do you think he gets any kisses? Do you think he ever
has friendly looks or a Christmas tree? He will have nothing now but
the grave. Oh! I cannot bear it.
You must not look on the sorrowful side so much, said the little
boy. I think everything in this house is beautiful, and all the old,
pleasant thoughts come back here to pay visits.
Ah, but I never see any, and I don't know them, said the tin
soldier; and I cannot bear it.
You must bear it, said the little boy. Then the old man came back
with a pleasant face, and brought with him beautiful preserved fruits
as well as apples and nuts, and the little boy thought no more of the
How happy and delighted the little boy was! And after he returned
home, and while days and weeks passed, a great deal of nodding took
place from one house to the other, and then the little boy went to pay
another visit. The carved trumpeters blew: Tanta-ra-ra, there is the
little boy. Tanta-ra-ra. The swords and armor on the old knights'
pictures rattled, the silk dresses rustled, the leather repeated its
rhyme, and the old chairs that had the gout in their backs cried
Creak; it was all exactly like the first time, for in that house one
day and one hour were just like another.
I cannot bear it any longer, said the tin soldier; I have wept
tears of tin, it is so melancholy here. Let me go to the wars and lose
an arm or a leg; that would be some change. I cannot bear it. Now I
know what it is to have visits from one's old recollections and all
they bring with them. I have had visits from mine, and you may believe
me it is not altogether pleasant. I was very nearly jumping from the
shelf. I saw you all in your house opposite, as if you were really
It was Sunday morning, and you children stood round the table,
singing the hymn that you sing every morning. You were standing quietly
with your hands folded, and your father and mother were looking just as
serious, when the door opened, and your little sister Maria, who is not
two years old, was brought into the room. You know she always dances
when she hears music and singing of any sort, so she began to dance
immediately, although she ought not to have done so; but she could not
get into the right time because the tune was so slow, so she stood
first on one foot and then on the other and bent her head very low, but
it would not suit the music. You all stood looking grave, although it
was very difficult to do so, but I laughed so to myself that I fell
down from the table and got a bruise, which is still there. I know it
was not right to laugh. So all this, and everything else that I have
seen, keeps running in my head, and these must be the old recollections
that bring so many thoughts with them. Tell me whether you still sing
on Sundays, and tell me about your little sister Maria, and how my old
comrade is, the other tin soldier. Ah, really he must be very happy. I
cannot endure this life.
You are given away, said the little boy; you must stay. Don't you
see that? Then the old man came in with a box containing many curious
things to show him. Rouge-pots, scent-boxes, and old cards so large and
so richly gilded that none are ever seen like them in these days. And
there were smaller boxes to look at, and the piano was opened, and
inside the lid were painted landscapes. But when the old man played,
the piano sounded quite out of tune. Then he looked at the picture he
had bought at the broker's, and his eyes sparkled brightly as he nodded
at it and said, Ah, she could sing that tune.
I will go to the wars! I will go to the wars! cried the tin
soldier as loud as he could, and threw himself down on the floor. Where
could he have fallen? The old man searched, and the little boy
searched, but he was gone and could not be found. I shall find him
again, said the old man. But he did not find him; the tin soldier had
fallen through a crack between the boards and lay there now as in an
The day went by, and the little boy returned home; the week passed,
and many more weeks. It was winter, and the windows were quite frozen,
so that the little boy was obliged to breathe on the panes and rub a
hole to peep through at the old house. Snowdrifts were lying in all the
scrolls and on the inscriptions, and the steps were covered with snow
as if no one were at home. And indeed nobody was at home, for the old
man was dead.
In the evening the old man was to be taken to the country to be
buried there in his own grave; so they carried him away. No one
followed him, for all his friends were dead, and the little boy kissed
his hand to his old friend as he saw him borne away.
A few days after, there was an auction at the old house, and from
his window the little boy saw the people carrying away the pictures of
old knights and ladies, the flowerpots with the long ears, the old
chairs, and the cupboards. Some were taken one way, some another.
Her portrait, which had been bought at the picture dealer's, went
back again to his shop, and there it remained, for no one seemed to
know her or to care for the old picture.
In the spring they began to pull the house itself down; people
called it complete rubbish. From the street could be seen the room in
which the walls were covered with leather, ragged and torn, and the
green in the balcony hung straggling over the beams; they pulled it
down quickly, for it looked ready to fall, and at last it was cleared
away altogether. What a good riddance, said the neighbors' houses.
Afterward a fine new house was built, farther back from the road. It
had lofty windows and smooth walls, but in front, on the spot where the
old house really stood, a little garden was planted, and wild vines
grew up over the neighboring walls. In front of the garden were large
iron railings and a great gate which looked very stately. People used
to stop and peep through the railings. The sparrows assembled in dozens
upon the wild vines and chattered all together as loud as they could,
but not about the old house. None of them could remember it, for many
years had passed by; so many, indeed, that the little boy was now a
man, and a really good man too, and his parents were very proud of him.
He had just married and had come with his young wife to reside in the
new house with the garden in front of it, and now he stood there by her
side while she planted a field flower that she thought very pretty. She
was planting it herself with her little hands and pressing down the
earth with her fingers. Oh, dear, what was that? she exclaimed as
something pricked her. Out of the soft earth something was sticking up.
It wasonly think!it was really the tin soldier, the very same
which had been lost up in the old man's room and had been hidden among
old wood and rubbish for a long time till it sank into the earth, where
it must have been for many years. And the young wife wiped the soldier,
first with a green leaf and then with her fine pocket handkerchief,
that smelt of a beautiful perfume. And the tin soldier felt as if he
were recovering from a fainting fit.
Let me see him, said the young man, and then he smiled and shook
his head and said, It can scarcely be the same, but it reminds me of
something that happened to one of my tin soldiers when I was a little
boy. And then he told his wife about the old house and the old man and
of the tin soldier which he had sent across because he thought the old
man was lonely. And he related the story so clearly that tears came
into the eyes of the young wife for the old house and the old man.
It is very likely that this is really the same soldier, said she,
and I will take care of him and always remember what you have told me;
but some day you must show me the old man's grave.
I don't know where it is, he replied; no one knows. All his
friends are dead. No one took care of him or tended his grave, and I
was only a little boy.
Oh, how dreadfully lonely he must have been, said she.
Yes, terribly lonely, cried the tin soldier; still it is
delightful not to be forgotten.
Delightful indeed! cried a voice quite near to them. No one but
the tin soldier saw that it came from a rag of the leather which hung
in tatters. It had lost all its gilding and looked like wet earth, but
it had an opinion, and it spoke it thus:
Gilding wears out with time and bad weather,
But leather endures; there's nothing like leather.
But the tin soldier did not believe any such thing.
THE CONCEITED APPLE BRANCH
IT WAS the month of May. The wind still blew cold, but from bush and
tree, field and flower, came the welcome sound, Spring is come.
Wild flowers in profusion covered the hedges. Under the little apple
tree Spring seemed busy, and he told his tale from one of the branches,
which hung fresh and blooming and covered with delicate pink blossoms
that were just ready to open.
The branch well knew how beautiful it was; this knowledge exists as
much in the leaf as in the blood. I was therefore not surprised when a
nobleman's carriage, in which sat the young countess, stopped in the
road just by. The apple branch, she said, was a most lovely object, an
emblem of spring in its most charming aspect. The branch was broken off
for her, and she held it in her delicate hand and sheltered it with her
Then they drove to the castle, in which were lofty halls and
splendid drawing-rooms. Pure white curtains fluttered before the open
windows, and beautiful flowers stood in transparent vases. In one of
them, which looked as if it had been cut out of newly fallen snow, the
apple branch was placed among some fresh light twigs of beech. It was a
charming sight. And the branch became proud, which was very much like
People of every description entered the room, and according to their
position in society so dared they to express their admiration. Some few
said nothing, others expressed too much, and the apple branch very soon
got to understand that there was as much difference in the characters
of human beings as in those of plants and flowers. Some are all for
pomp and parade, others have a great deal to do to maintain their own
importance, while the rest might be spared without much loss to
society. So thought the apple branch as he stood before the open
window, from which he could see out over gardens and fields, where
there were flowers and plants enough for him to think and reflect
uponsome rich and beautiful, some poor and humble indeed.
Poor despised herbs, said the apple branch; there is really a
difference between them and such as I am. How unhappy they must be if
they can feel as those in my position do! There is a difference indeed,
and so there ought to be, or we should all be equals.
And the apple branch looked with a sort of pity upon them,
especially on a certain little flower that is found in fields and in
ditches. No one bound these flowers together in a nosegay, they were
too common,they were even known to grow between the paving stones,
shooting up everywhere like bad weeds,and they bore the very ugly
name of dog flowers, or dandelions.
Poor despised plants, said the apple bough, it is not your fault
that you are so ugly and that you have such an ugly name, but it is
with plants as with menthere must be a difference.
A difference! cried the sunbeam as he kissed the blooming apple
branch and then kissed the yellow dandelion out in the fields. All were
brothers, and the sunbeam kissed themthe poor flowers as well as the
The apple bough had never thought of the boundless love of God which
extends over all the works of creation, over everything which lives and
moves and has its being in Him. He had never thought of the good and
beautiful which are so often hidden, but can never remain forgotten by
Him, not only among the lower creation, but also among men. The
sunbeam, the ray of light, knew better.
You do not see very far nor very clearly, he said to the apple
branch. Which is the despised plant you so specially pity?
The dandelion, he replied. No one ever places it in a nosegay; it
is trodden under foot, there are so many of them; and when they run to
seed they have flowers like wool, which fly away in little pieces over
the roads and cling to the dresses of the people; they are only
weedsbut of course there must be weeds. Oh, I am really very thankful
that I was not made like one of these flowers.
There came presently across the fields a whole group of children,
the youngest of whom was so small that he had to be carried by the
others; and when he was seated on the grass, among the yellow flowers,
he laughed aloud with joy, kicked out his little legs, rolled about,
plucked the yellow flowers and kissed them in childlike innocence.
The elder children broke off the flowers with long stems, bent the
stalks one round the other to form links, and made first a chain for
the neck, then one to go across the shoulders and hang down to the
waist, and at last a wreath to wear about the head; so that they looked
quite splendid in their garlands of green stems and golden flowers. But
the eldest among them gathered carefully the faded flowers, on the stem
of which were grouped together the seeds, in the form of a white,
These loose, airy wool-flowers are very beautiful, and look like
fine, snowy feathers or down. The children held them to their mouths
and tried to blow away the whole coronal with one puff of the breath.
They had been told by their grandmothers that whoever did so would be
sure to have new clothes before the end of the year. The despised
flower was by this raised to the position of a prophet, or foreteller
Do you see, said the sunbeam, do you see the beauty of these
flowers? Do you see their powers of giving pleasure?
Yes, to children, said the apple bough.
By and by an old woman came into the field and, with a blunt knife
without a handle, began to dig round the roots of some of the dandelion
plants and pull them up. With some she intended to make tea for
herself, but the rest she was going to sell to the chemist and obtain
But beauty is of higher value than all this, said the apple-tree
branch; only the chosen ones can be admitted into the realms of the
beautiful. There is a difference between plants, just as there is a
difference between men.
Then the sunbeam spoke of the boundless love of God as seen in
creation and over all that lives, and of the equal distribution of His
gifts, both in time and in eternity.
That is your opinion, said the apple bough.
Then some people came into the room and among them the young
countessthe lady who had placed the apple bough in the transparent
vase, so pleasantly beneath the rays of sunlight. She carried in her
hand something that seemed like a flower. The object was hidden by two
or three great leaves which covered it like a shield so that no draft
or gust of wind could injure it, and it was carried more carefully than
the apple branch had ever been.
Very cautiously the large leaves were removed, and there appeared
the feathery seed crown of the despised yellow dandelion. This was what
the lady had so carefully plucked and carried home so safely covered,
so that not one of the delicate feathery arrows of which its mistlike
shape was so lightly formed should flutter away. She now drew it forth
quite uninjured and wondered at its beautiful form, its airy lightness
and singular construction so soon to be blown away by the wind.
See, she exclaimed, how wonderfully God has made this little
flower. I will paint it in a picture with the apple branch. Every one
admires the beauty of the apple bough, but this humble flower has been
endowed by Heaven with another kind of loveliness, and although they
differ in appearance both are children of the realms of beauty.
Then the sunbeam kissed both the lowly flower and the blooming apple
branch, upon whose leaves appeared a rosy blush.