Part 2 out of 3
Swallows flew by, and said, "Quirre-vit! My husband is come!" but it was not
the Fir Tree that they meant.
"Now, then, I shall really enjoy life," said he exultingly, and spread out his
branches; but, alas, they were all withered and yellow! It was in a corner
that he lay, among weeds and nettles. The golden star of tinsel was still on
the top of the Tree, and glittered in the sunshine.
In the court-yard some of the merry children were playing who had danced at
Christmas round the Fir Tree, and were so glad at the sight of him. One of the
youngest ran and tore off the golden star.
"Only look what is still on the ugly old Christmas tree!" said he, trampling
on the branches, so that they all cracked beneath his feet.
And the Tree beheld all the beauty of the flowers, and the freshness in the
garden; he beheld himself, and wished he had remained in his dark corner in
the loft; he thought of his first youth in the wood, of the merry
Christmas-eve, and of the little Mice who had listened with so much pleasure
to the story of Humpy-Dumpy.
"'Tis over--'tis past!" said the poor Tree. "Had I but rejoiced when I had
reason to do so! But now 'tis past, 'tis past!"
And the gardener's boy chopped the Tree into small pieces; there was a whole
heap lying there. The wood flamed up splendidly under the large brewing
copper, and it sighed so deeply! Each sigh was like a shot.
The boys played about in the court, and the youngest wore the gold star on his
breast which the Tree had had on the happiest evening of his life. However,
that was over now--the Tree gone, the story at an end. All, all was
over--every tale must end at last.
THE SNOW QUEEN
FIRST STORY. Which Treats of a Mirror and of the Splinters
Now then, let us begin. When we are at the end of the story, we shall know
more than we know now: but to begin.
Once upon a time there was a wicked sprite, indeed he was the most mischievous
of all sprites. One day he was in a very good humor, for he had made a mirror
with the power of causing all that was good and beautiful when it was
reflected therein, to look poor and mean; but that which was good-for-nothing
and looked ugly was shown magnified and increased in ugliness. In this mirror
the most beautiful landscapes looked like boiled spinach, and the best persons
were turned into frights, or appeared to stand on their heads; their faces
were so distorted that they were not to be recognised; and if anyone had a
mole, you might be sure that it would be magnified and spread over both nose
"That's glorious fun!" said the sprite. If a good thought passed through a
man's mind, then a grin was seen in the mirror, and the sprite laughed
heartily at his clever discovery. All the little sprites who went to his
school--for he kept a sprite school--told each other that a miracle had
happened; and that now only, as they thought, it would be possible to see how
the world really looked. They ran about with the mirror; and at last there was
not a land or a person who was not represented distorted in the mirror. So
then they thought they would fly up to the sky, and have a joke there. The
higher they flew with the mirror, the more terribly it grinned: they could
hardly hold it fast. Higher and higher still they flew, nearer and nearer to
the stars, when suddenly the mirror shook so terribly with grinning, that it
flew out of their hands and fell to the earth, where it was dashed in a
hundred million and more pieces. And now it worked much more evil than before;
for some of these pieces were hardly so large as a grain of sand, and they
flew about in the wide world, and when they got into people's eyes, there they
stayed; and then people saw everything perverted, or only had an eye for that
which was evil. This happened because the very smallest bit had the same power
which the whole mirror had possessed. Some persons even got a splinter in
their heart, and then it made one shudder, for their heart became like a lump
of ice. Some of the broken pieces were so large that they were used for
windowpanes, through which one could not see one's friends. Other pieces were
put in spectacles; and that was a sad affair when people put on their glasses
to see well and rightly. Then the wicked sprite laughed till he almost choked,
for all this tickled his fancy. The fine splinters still flew about in the
air: and now we shall hear what happened next.
SECOND STORY. A Little Boy and a Little Girl
In a large town, where there are so many houses, and so many people, that
there is no roof left for everybody to have a little garden; and where, on
this account, most persons are obliged to content themselves with flowers in
pots; there lived two little children, who had a garden somewhat larger than a
flower-pot. They were not brother and sister; but they cared for each other as
much as if they were. Their parents lived exactly opposite. They inhabited two
garrets; and where the roof of the one house joined that of the other, and the
gutter ran along the extreme end of it, there was to each house a small
window: one needed only to step over the gutter to get from one window to the
The children's parents had large wooden boxes there, in which vegetables for
the kitchen were planted, and little rosetrees besides: there was a rose in
each box, and they grew splendidly. They now thought of placing the boxes
across the gutter, so that they nearly reached from one window to the other,
and looked just like two walls of flowers. The tendrils of the peas hung down
over the boxes; and the rose-trees shot up long branches, twined round the
windows, and then bent towards each other: it was almost like a triumphant
arch of foliage and flowers. The boxes were very high, and the children knew
that they must not creep over them; so they often obtained permission to get
out of the windows to each other, and to sit on their little stools among the
roses, where they could play delightfully. In winter there was an end of this
pleasure. The windows were often frozen over; but then they heated copper
farthings on the stove, and laid the hot farthing on the windowpane, and then
they had a capital peep-hole, quite nicely rounded; and out of each peeped a
gentle friendly eye--it was the little boy and the little girl who were
looking out. His name was Kay, hers was Gerda. In summer, with one jump, they
could get to each other; but in winter they were obliged first to go down the
long stairs, and then up the long stairs again: and out-of-doors there was
quite a snow-storm.
"It is the white bees that are swarming," said Kay's old grandmother.
"Do the white bees choose a queen?" asked the little boy; for he knew that the
honey-bees always have one.
"Yes," said the grandmother, "she flies where the swarm hangs in the thickest
clusters. She is the largest of all; and she can never remain quietly on the
earth, but goes up again into the black clouds. Many a winter's night she
flies through the streets of the town, and peeps in at the windows; and they
then freeze in so wondrous a manner that they look like flowers."
"Yes, I have seen it," said both the children; and so they knew that it was
"Can the Snow Queen come in?" said the little girl.
"Only let her come in!" said the little boy. "Then I'd put her on the stove,
and she'd melt."
And then his grandmother patted his head and told him other stories.
In the evening, when little Kay was at home, and half undressed, he climbed up
on the chair by the window, and peeped out of the little hole. A few
snow-flakes were falling, and one, the largest of all, remained lying on the
edge of a flower-pot.
The flake of snow grew larger and larger; and at last it was like a young
lady, dressed in the finest white gauze, made of a million little flakes like
stars. She was so beautiful and delicate, but she was of ice, of dazzling,
sparkling ice; yet she lived; her eyes gazed fixedly, like two stars; but
there was neither quiet nor repose in them. She nodded towards the window, and
beckoned with her hand. The little boy was frightened, and jumped down from
the chair; it seemed to him as if, at the same moment, a large bird flew past
The next day it was a sharp frost--and then the spring came; the sun shone,
the green leaves appeared, the swallows built their nests, the windows were
opened, and the little children again sat in their pretty garden, high up on
the leads at the top of the house.
That summer the roses flowered in unwonted beauty. The little girl had learned
a hymn, in which there was something about roses; and then she thought of her
own flowers; and she sang the verse to the little boy, who then sang it with
"The rose in the valley is blooming so sweet,
And angels descend there the children to greet."
And the children held each other by the hand, kissed the roses, looked up at
the clear sunshine, and spoke as though they really saw angels there. What
lovely summer-days those were! How delightful to be out in the air, near the
fresh rose-bushes, that seem as if they would never finish blossoming!
Kay and Gerda looked at the picture-book full of beasts and of birds; and it
was then--the clock in the church-tower was just striking five--that Kay said,
"Oh! I feel such a sharp pain in my heart; and now something has got into my
The little girl put her arms around his neck. He winked his eves; now there
was nothing to be seen.
"I think it is out now," said he; but it was not. It was just one of those
pieces of glass from the magic mirror that had got into his eye; and poor Kay
had got another piece right in his heart. It will soon become like ice. It did
not hurt any longer, but there it was.
"What are you crying for?" asked he. "You look so ugly! There's nothing the
matter with me. Ah," said he at once, "that rose is cankered! And look, this
one is quite crooked! After all, these roses are very ugly! They are just like
the box they are planted in!" And then he gave the box a good kick with his
foot, and pulled both the roses up.
"What are you doing?" cried the little girl; and as he perceived her fright,
he pulled up another rose, got in at the window, and hastened off from dear
Afterwards, when she brought her picture-book, he asked, "What horrid beasts
have you there?" And if his grandmother told them stories, he always
interrupted her; besides, if he could manage it, he would get behind her, put
on her spectacles, and imitate her way of speaking; he copied all her ways,
and then everybody laughed at him. He was soon able to imitate the gait and
manner of everyone in the street. Everything that was peculiar and displeasing
in them--that Kay knew how to imitate: and at such times all the people said,
"The boy is certainly very clever!" But it was the glass he had got in his
eye; the glass that was sticking in his heart, which made him tease even
little Gerda, whose whole soul was devoted to him.
His games now were quite different to what they had formerly been, they were
so very knowing. One winter's day, when the flakes of snow were flying about,
he spread the skirts of his blue coat, and caught the snow as it fell.
"Look through this glass, Gerda," said he. And every flake seemed larger, and
appeared like a magnificent flower, or beautiful star; it was splendid to look
"Look, how clever!" said Kay. "That's much more interesting than real flowers!
They are as exact as possible; there is not a fault in them, if they did not
It was not long after this, that Kay came one day with large gloves on, and
his little sledge at his back, and bawled right into Gerda's ears, "I have
permission to go out into the square where the others are playing"; and off he
was in a moment.
There, in the market-place, some of the boldest of the boys used to tie their
sledges to the carts as they passed by, and so they were pulled along, and got
a good ride. It was so capital! Just as they were in the very height of their
amusement, a large sledge passed by: it was painted quite white, and there was
someone in it wrapped up in a rough white mantle of fur, with a rough white
fur cap on his head. The sledge drove round the square twice, and Kay tied on
his sledge as quickly as he could, and off he drove with it. On they went
quicker and quicker into the next street; and the person who drove turned
round to Kay, and nodded to him in a friendly manner, just as if they knew
each other. Every time he was going to untie his sledge, the person nodded to
him, and then Kay sat quiet; and so on they went till they came outside the
gates of the town. Then the snow began to fall so thickly that the little boy
could not see an arm's length before him, but still on he went: when suddenly
he let go the string he held in his hand in order to get loose from the
sledge, but it was of no use; still the little vehicle rushed on with the
quickness of the wind. He then cried as loud as he could, but no one beard
him; the snow drifted and the sledge flew on, and sometimes it gave a jerk as
though they were driving over hedges and ditches. He was quite frightened, and
he tried to repeat the Lord's Prayer; but all he could do, he was only able to
remember the multiplication table.
The snow-flakes grew larger and larger, till at last they looked just like
great white fowls. Suddenly they flew on one side; the large sledge stopped,
and the person who drove rose up. It was a lady; her cloak and cap were of
snow. She was tall and of slender figure, and of a dazzling whiteness. It was
the Snow Queen.
"We have travelled fast," said she; "but it is freezingly cold. Come under my
bearskin." And she put him in the sledge beside her, wrapped the fur round
him, and he felt as though he were sinking in a snow-wreath.
"Are you still cold?" asked she; and then she kissed his forehead. Ah! it was
colder than ice; it penetrated to his very heart, which was already almost a
frozen lump; it seemed to him as if he were about to die--but a moment more
and it was quite congenial to him, and he did not remark the cold that was
"My sledge! Do not forget my sledge!" It was the first thing he thought of. It
was there tied to one of the white chickens, who flew along with it on his
back behind the large sledge. The Snow Queen kissed Kay once more, and then he
forgot little Gerda, grandmother, and all whom he had left at his home.
"Now you will have no more kisses," said she, "or else I should kiss you to
Kay looked at her. She was very beautiful; a more clever, or a more lovely
countenance he could not fancy to himself; and she no longer appeared of ice
as before, when she sat outside the window, and beckoned to him; in his eyes
she was perfect, he did not fear her at all, and told her that he could
calculate in his head and with fractions, even; that he knew the number of
square miles there were in the different countries, and how many inhabitants
they contained; and she smiled while he spoke. It then seemed to him as if
what he knew was not enough, and he looked upwards in the large huge empty
space above him, and on she flew with him; flew high over the black clouds,
while the storm moaned and whistled as though it were singing some old tune.
On they flew over woods and lakes, over seas, and many lands; and beneath them
the chilling storm rushed fast, the wolves howled, the snow crackled; above
them flew large screaming crows, but higher up appeared the moon, quite large
and bright; and it was on it that Kay gazed during the long long winter's
night; while by day he slept at the feet of the Snow Queen.
THIRD STORY. Of the Flower-Garden At the Old Woman's Who Understood Witchcraft
But what became of little Gerda when Kay did not return? Where could he be?
Nobody knew; nobody could give any intelligence. All the boys knew was, that
they had seen him tie his sledge to another large and splendid one, which
drove down the street and out of the town. Nobody knew where he was; many sad
tears were shed, and little Gerda wept long and bitterly; at last she said he
must be dead; that he had been drowned in the river which flowed close to the
town. Oh! those were very long and dismal winter evenings!
At last spring came, with its warm sunshine.
"Kay is dead and gone!" said little Gerda.
"That I don't believe," said the Sunshine.
"Kay is dead and gone!" said she to the Swallows.
"That I don't believe," said they: and at last little Gerda did not think so
any longer either.
"I'll put on my red shoes," said she, one morning; "Kay has never seen them,
and then I'll go down to the river and ask there."
It was quite early; she kissed her old grandmother, who was still asleep, put
on her red shoes, and went alone to the river.
"Is it true that you have taken my little playfellow? I will make you a
present of my red shoes, if you will give him back to me."
And, as it seemed to her, the blue waves nodded in a strange manner; then she
took off her red shoes, the most precious things she possessed, and threw them
both into the river. But they fell close to the bank, and the little waves
bore them immediately to land; it was as if the stream would not take what was
dearest to her; for in reality it had not got little Kay; but Gerda thought
that she had not thrown the shoes out far enough, so she clambered into a boat
which lay among the rushes, went to the farthest end, and threw out the shoes.
But the boat was not fastened, and the motion which she occasioned, made it
drift from the shore. She observed this, and hastened to get back; but before
she could do so, the boat was more than a yard from the land, and was gliding
Little Gerda was very frightened, and began to cry; but no one heard her
except the sparrows, and they could not carry her to land; but they flew along
the bank, and sang as if to comfort her, "Here we are! Here we are!" The boat
drifted with the stream, little Gerda sat quite still without shoes, for they
were swimming behind the boat, but she could not reach them, because the boat
went much faster than they did.
The banks on both sides were beautiful; lovely flowers, venerable trees, and
slopes with sheep and cows, but not a human being was to be seen.
"Perhaps the river will carry me to little Kay," said she; and then she grew
less sad. She rose, and looked for many hours at the beautiful green banks.
Presently she sailed by a large cherry-orchard, where was a little cottage
with curious red and blue windows; it was thatched, and before it two wooden
soldiers stood sentry, and presented arms when anyone went past.
Gerda called to them, for she thought they were alive; but they, of course,
did not answer. She came close to them, for the stream drifted the boat quite
near the land.
Gerda called still louder, and an old woman then came out of the cottage,
leaning upon a crooked stick. She had a large broad-brimmed hat on, painted
with the most splendid flowers.
"Poor little child!" said the old woman. "How did you get upon the large rapid
river, to be driven about so in the wide world!" And then the old woman went
into the water, caught hold of the boat with her crooked stick, drew it to the
bank, and lifted little Gerda out.
And Gerda was so glad to be on dry land again; but she was rather afraid of
the strange old woman.
"But come and tell me who you are, and how you came here," said she.
And Gerda told her all; and the old woman shook her head and said, "A-hem!
a-hem!" and when Gerda had told her everything, and asked her if she had not
seen little Kay, the woman answered that he had not passed there, but he no
doubt would come; and she told her not to be cast down, but taste her
cherries, and look at her flowers, which were finer than any in a
picture-book, each of which could tell a whole story. She then took Gerda by
the hand, led her into the little cottage, and locked the door.
The windows were very high up; the glass was red, blue, and green, and the
sunlight shone through quite wondrously in all sorts of colors. On the table
stood the most exquisite cherries, and Gerda ate as many as she chose, for she
had permission to do so. While she was eating, the old woman combed her hair
with a golden comb, and her hair curled and shone with a lovely golden color
around that sweet little face, which was so round and so like a rose.
"I have often longed for such a dear little girl," said the old woman. "Now
you shall see how well we agree together"; and while she combed little Gerda's
hair, the child forgot her foster-brother Kay more and more, for the old woman
understood magic; but she was no evil being, she only practised witchcraft a
little for her own private amusement, and now she wanted very much to keep
little Gerda. She therefore went out in the garden, stretched out her crooked
stick towards the rose-bushes, which, beautifully as they were blowing, all
sank into the earth and no one could tell where they had stood. The old woman
feared that if Gerda should see the roses, she would then think of her own,
would remember little Kay, and run away from her.
She now led Gerda into the flower-garden. Oh, what odour and what loveliness
was there! Every flower that one could think of, and of every season, stood
there in fullest bloom; no picture-book could be gayer or more beautiful.
Gerda jumped for joy, and played till the sun set behind the tall cherry-tree;
she then had a pretty bed, with a red silken coverlet filled with blue
violets. She fell asleep, and had as pleasant dreams as ever a queen on her
The next morning she went to play with the flowers in the warm sunshine, and
thus passed away a day. Gerda knew every flower; and, numerous as they were,
it still seemed to Gerda that one was wanting, though she did not know which.
One day while she was looking at the hat of the old woman painted with
flowers, the most beautiful of them all seemed to her to be a rose. The old
woman had forgotten to take it from her hat when she made the others vanish in
the earth. But so it is when one's thoughts are not collected. "What!" said
Gerda. "Are there no roses here?" and she ran about amongst the flowerbeds,
and looked, and looked, but there was not one to be found. She then sat down
and wept; but her hot tears fell just where a rose-bush had sunk; and when her
warm tears watered the ground, the tree shot up suddenly as fresh and blooming
as when it had been swallowed up. Gerda kissed the roses, thought of her own
dear roses at home, and with them of little Kay.
"Oh, how long I have stayed!" said the little girl. "I intended to look for
Kay! Don't you know where he is?" she asked of the roses. "Do you think he is
dead and gone?"
"Dead he certainly is not," said the Roses. "We have been in the earth where
all the dead are, but Kay was not there."
"Many thanks!" said little Gerda; and she went to the other flowers, looked
into their cups, and asked, "Don't you know where little Kay is?"
But every flower stood in the sunshine, and dreamed its own fairy tale or its
own story: and they all told her very many things, but not one knew anything
Well, what did the Tiger-Lily say?
"Hearest thou not the drum? Bum! Bum! Those are the only two tones. Always
bum! Bum! Hark to the plaintive song of the old woman, to the call of the
priests! The Hindoo woman in her long robe stands upon the funeral pile; the
flames rise around her and her dead husband, but the Hindoo woman thinks on
the living one in the surrounding circle; on him whose eyes burn hotter than
the flames--on him, the fire of whose eyes pierces her heart more than the
flames which soon will burn her body to ashes. Can the heart's flame die in
the flame of the funeral pile?"
"I don't understand that at all," said little Gerda.
"That is my story," said the Lily.
What did the Convolvulus say?
"Projecting over a narrow mountain-path there hangs an old feudal castle.
Thick evergreens grow on the dilapidated walls, and around the altar, where a
lovely maiden is standing: she bends over the railing and looks out upon the
rose. No fresher rose hangs on the branches than she; no appleblossom carried
away by the wind is more buoyant! How her silken robe is rustling!
"'Is he not yet come?'"
"Is it Kay that you mean?" asked little Gerda.
"I am speaking about my story--about my dream," answered the Convolvulus.
What did the Snowdrops say?
"Between the trees a long board is hanging--it is a swing. Two little girls
are sitting in it, and swing themselves backwards and forwards; their frocks
are as white as snow, and long green silk ribands flutter from their bonnets.
Their brother, who is older than they are, stands up in the swing; he twines
his arms round the cords to hold himself fast, for in one hand he has a little
cup, and in the other a clay-pipe. He is blowing soap-bubbles. The swing
moves, and the bubbles float in charming changing colors: the last is still
hanging to the end of the pipe, and rocks in the breeze. The swing moves. The
little black dog, as light as a soap-bubble, jumps up on his hind legs to try
to get into the swing. It moves, the dog falls down, barks, and is angry. They
tease him; the bubble bursts! A swing, a bursting bubble--such is my song!"
"What you relate may be very pretty, but you tell it in so melancholy a
manner, and do not mention Kay."
What do the Hyacinths say?
"There were once upon a time three sisters, quite transparent, and very
beautiful. The robe of the one was red, that of the second blue, and that of
the third white. They danced hand in hand beside the calm lake in the clear
moonshine. They were not elfin maidens, but mortal children. A sweet fragrance
was smelt, and the maidens vanished in the wood; the fragrance grew
stronger--three coffins, and in them three lovely maidens, glided out of the
forest and across the lake: the shining glow-worms flew around like little
floating lights. Do the dancing maidens sleep, or are they dead? The odour of
the flowers says they are corpses; the evening bell tolls for the dead!"
"You make me quite sad," said little Gerda. "I cannot help thinking of the
dead maidens. Oh! is little Kay really dead? The Roses have been in the earth,
and they say no."
"Ding, dong!" sounded the Hyacinth bells. "We do not toll for little Kay; we
do not know him. That is our way of singing, the only one we have."
And Gerda went to the Ranunculuses, that looked forth from among the shining
"You are a little bright sun!" said Gerda. "Tell me if you know where I can
find my playfellow."
And the Ranunculus shone brightly, and looked again at Gerda. What song could
the Ranunculus sing? It was one that said nothing about Kay either.
"In a small court the bright sun was shining in the first days of spring. The
beams glided down the white walls of a neighbor's house, and close by the
fresh yellow flowers were growing, shining like gold in the warm sun-rays. An
old grandmother was sitting in the air; her grand-daughter, the poor and
lovely servant just come for a short visit. She knows her grandmother. There
was gold, pure virgin gold in that blessed kiss. There, that is my little
story," said the Ranunculus.
"My poor old grandmother!" sighed Gerda. "Yes, she is longing for me, no
doubt: she is sorrowing for me, as she did for little Kay. But I will soon
come home, and then I will bring Kay with me. It is of no use asking the
flowers; they only know their own old rhymes, and can tell me nothing." And
she tucked up her frock, to enable her to run quicker; but the Narcissus gave
her a knock on the leg, just as she was going to jump over it. So she stood
still, looked at the long yellow flower, and asked, "You perhaps know
something?" and she bent down to the Narcissus. And what did it say?
"I can see myself--I can see myself! Oh, how odorous I am! Up in the little
garret there stands, half-dressed, a little Dancer. She stands now on one leg,
now on both; she despises the whole world; yet she lives only in imagination.
She pours water out of the teapot over a piece of stuff which she holds in her
hand; it is the bodice; cleanliness is a fine thing. The white dress is
hanging on the hook; it was washed in the teapot, and dried on the roof. She
puts it on, ties a saffron-colored kerchief round her neck, and then the gown
looks whiter. I can see myself--I can see myself!"
"That's nothing to me," said little Gerda. "That does not concern me." And
then off she ran to the further end of the garden.
The gate was locked, but she shook the rusted bolt till it was loosened, and
the gate opened; and little Gerda ran off barefooted into the wide world. She
looked round her thrice, but no one followed her. At last she could run no
longer; she sat down on a large stone, and when she looked about her, she saw
that the summer had passed; it was late in the autumn, but that one could not
remark in the beautiful garden, where there was always sunshine, and where
there were flowers the whole year round.
"Dear me, how long I have staid!" said Gerda. "Autumn is come. I must not rest
any longer." And she got up to go further.
Oh, how tender and wearied her little feet were! All around it looked so cold
and raw: the long willow-leaves were quite yellow, and the fog dripped from
them like water; one leaf fell after the other: the sloes only stood full of
fruit, which set one's teeth on edge. Oh, how dark and comfortless it was in
the dreary world!
FOURTH STORY. The Prince and Princess
Gerda was obliged to rest herself again, when, exactly opposite to her, a
large Raven came hopping over the white snow. He had long been looking at
Gerda and shaking his head; and now he said, "Caw! Caw!" Good day! Good day!
He could not say it better; but he felt a sympathy for the little girl, and
asked her where she was going all alone. The word "alone" Gerda understood
quite well, and felt how much was expressed by it; so she told the Raven her
whole history, and asked if he had not seen Kay.
The Raven nodded very gravely, and said, "It may be--it may be!"
"What, do you really think so?" cried the little girl; and she nearly squeezed
the Raven to death, so much did she kiss him.
"Gently, gently," said the Raven. "I think I know; I think that it may be
little Kay. But now he has forgotten you for the Princess."
"Does he live with a Princess?" asked Gerda.
"Yes--listen," said the Raven; "but it will be difficult for me to speak your
language. If you understand the Raven language I can tell you better."
"No, I have not learnt it," said Gerda; "but my grandmother understands it,
and she can speak gibberish too. I wish I had learnt it."
"No matter," said the Raven; "I will tell you as well as I can; however, it
will be bad enough." And then he told all he knew.
"In the kingdom where we now are there lives a Princess, who is
extraordinarily clever; for she has read all the newspapers in the whole
world, and has forgotten them again--so clever is she. She was lately, it is
said, sitting on her throne--which is not very amusing after all--when she
began humming an old tune, and it was just, 'Oh, why should I not be married?'
'That song is not without its meaning,' said she, and so then she was
determined to marry; but she would have a husband who knew how to give an
answer when he was spoken to--not one who looked only as if he were a great
personage, for that is so tiresome. She then had all the ladies of the court
drummed together; and when they heard her intention, all were very pleased,
and said, 'We are very glad to hear it; it is the very thing we were thinking
of.' You may believe every word I say," said the Raven; "for I have a tame
sweetheart that hops about in the palace quite free, and it was she who told
me all this.
"The newspapers appeared forthwith with a border of hearts and the initials of
the Princess; and therein you might read that every good-looking young man was
at liberty to come to the palace and speak to the Princess; and he who spoke
in such wise as showed he felt himself at home there, that one the Princess
would choose for her husband.
"Yes, Yes," said the Raven, "you may believe it; it is as true as I am sitting
here. People came in crowds; there was a crush and a hurry, but no one was
successful either on the first or second day. They could all talk well enough
when they were out in the street; but as soon as they came inside the
palace gates, and saw the guard richly dressed in silver, and the lackeys in
gold on the staircase, and the large illuminated saloons, then they were
abashed; and when they stood before the throne on which the Princess was
sitting, all they could do was to repeat the last word they had uttered, and
to hear it again did not interest her very much. It was just as if the people
within were under a charm, and had fallen into a trance till they came out
again into the street; for then--oh, then--they could chatter enough. There
was a whole row of them standing from the town-gates to the palace. I was
there myself to look," said the Raven. "They grew hungry and thirsty; but from
the palace they got nothing whatever, not even a glass of water. Some of the
cleverest, it is true, had taken bread and butter with them: but none shared
it with his neighbor, for each thought, 'Let him look hungry, and then the
Princess won't have him."'
"But Kay--little Kay," said Gerda, "when did he come? Was he among the
"Patience, patience; we are just come to him. It was on the third day when a
little personage without horse or equipage, came marching right boldly up to
the palace; his eyes shone like yours, he had beautiful long hair, but his
clothes were very shabby."
"That was Kay," cried Gerda, with a voice of delight. "Oh, now I've found
him!" and she clapped her hands for joy.
"He had a little knapsack at his back," said the Raven.
"No, that was certainly his sledge," said Gerda; "for when he went away he
took his sledge with him."
"That may be," said the Raven; "I did not examine him so minutely; but I know
from my tame sweetheart, that when he came into the court-yard of the palace,
and saw the body-guard in silver, the lackeys on the staircase, he was not the
least abashed; he nodded, and said to them, 'It must be very tiresome to stand
on the stairs; for my part, I shall go in.' The saloons were gleaming with
lustres--privy councillors and excellencies were walking about barefooted, and
wore gold keys; it was enough to make any one feel uncomfortable. His boots
creaked, too, so loudly, but still he was not at all afraid."
"That's Kay for certain," said Gerda. "I know he had on new boots; I have
heard them creaking in grandmama's room."
"Yes, they creaked," said the Raven. "And on he went boldly up to the
Princess, who was sitting on a pearl as large as a spinning-wheel. All the
ladies of the court, with their attendants and attendants' attendants, and all
the cavaliers, with their gentlemen and gentlemen's gentlemen, stood round;
and the nearer they stood to the door, the prouder they looked. It was hardly
possible to look at the gentleman's gentleman, so very haughtily did he stand
in the doorway."
"It must have been terrible," said little Gerda. "And did Kay get the
"Were I not a Raven, I should have taken the Princess myself, although I am
promised. It is said he spoke as well as I speak when I talk Raven language;
this I learned from my tame sweetheart. He was bold and nicely behaved; he had
not come to woo the Princess, but only to hear her wisdom. She pleased him,
and he pleased her."
"Yes, yes; for certain that was Kay," said Gerda. "He was so clever; he could
reckon fractions in his head. Oh, won't you take me to the palace?"
"That is very easily said," answered the Raven. "But how are we to manage it?
I'll speak to my tame sweetheart about it: she must advise us; for so much I
must tell you, such a little girl as you are will never get permission to
"Oh, yes I shall," said Gerda; "when Kay hears that I am here, he will come
out directly to fetch me."
"Wait for me here on these steps," said the Raven. He moved his head backwards
and forwards and flew away.
The evening was closing in when the Raven returned. "Caw--caw!" said he. "She
sends you her compliments; and here is a roll for you. She took it out of the
kitchen, where there is bread enough. You are hungry, no doubt. It is not
possible for you to enter the palace, for you are barefooted: the guards in
silver, and the lackeys in gold, would not allow it; but do not cry, you shall
come in still. My sweetheart knows a little back stair that leads to the
bedchamber, and she knows where she can get the key of it."
And they went into the garden in the large avenue, where one leaf was falling
after the other; and when the lights in the palace had all gradually
disappeared, the Raven led little Gerda to the back door, which stood half
Oh, how Gerda's heart beat with anxiety and longing! It was just as if she had
been about to do something wrong; and yet she only wanted to know if little
Kay was there. Yes, he must be there. She called to mind his intelligent eyes,
and his long hair, so vividly, she could quite see him as he used to laugh
when they were sitting under the roses at home. "He will, no doubt, be glad to
see you--to hear what a long way you have come for his sake; to know how
unhappy all at home were when he did not come back."
Oh, what a fright and a joy it was!
They were now on the stairs. A single lamp was burning there; and on the floor
stood the tame Raven, turning her head on every side and looking at Gerda, who
bowed as her grandmother had taught her to do.
"My intended has told me so much good of you, my dear young lady," said the
tame Raven. "Your tale is very affecting. If you will take the lamp, I will go
before. We will go straight on, for we shall meet no one."
"I think there is somebody just behind us," said Gerda; and something rushed
past: it was like shadowy figures on the wall; horses with flowing manes and
thin legs, huntsmen, ladies and gentlemen on horseback.
"They are only dreams," said the Raven. "They come to fetch the thoughts of
the high personages to the chase; 'tis well, for now you can observe them in
bed all the better. But let me find, when you enjoy honor and distinction,
that you possess a grateful heart."
"Tut! That's not worth talking about," said the Raven of the woods.
They now entered the first saloon, which was of rose-colored satin, with
artificial flowers on the wall. Here the dreams were rushing past, but they
hastened by so quickly that Gerda could not see the high personages. One hall
was more magnificent than the other; one might indeed well be abashed; and at
last they came into the bedchamber. The ceiling of the room resembled a large
palm-tree with leaves of glass, of costly glass; and in the middle, from a
thick golden stem, hung two beds, each of which resembled a lily. One was
white, and in this lay the Princess; the other was red, and it was here that
Gerda was to look for little Kay. She bent back one of the red leaves, and saw
a brown neck. Oh! that was Kay! She called him quite loud by name, held the
lamp towards him--the dreams rushed back again into the chamber--he awoke,
turned his head, and--it was not little Kay!
The Prince was only like him about the neck; but he was young and handsome.
And out of the white lily leaves the Princess peeped, too, and asked what was
the matter. Then little Gerda cried, and told her her whole history, and all
that the Ravens had done for her.
"Poor little thing!" said the Prince and the Princess. They praised the Ravens
very much, and told them they were not at all angry with them, but they were
not to do so again. However, they should have a reward. "Will you fly about
here at liberty," asked the Princess; "or would you like to have a fixed
appointment as court ravens, with all the broken bits from the kitchen?"
And both the Ravens nodded, and begged for a fixed appointment; for they
thought of their old age, and said, "It is a good thing to have a provision
for our old days."
And the Prince got up and let Gerda sleep in his bed, and more than this he
could not do. She folded her little hands and thought, "How good men and
animals are!" and she then fell asleep and slept soundly. All the dreams flew
in again, and they now looked like the angels; they drew a little sledge, in
which little Kay sat and nodded his head; but the whole was only a dream, and
therefore it all vanished as soon as she awoke.
The next day she was dressed from head to foot in silk and velvet. They
offered to let her stay at the palace, and lead a happy life; but she begged
to have a little carriage with a horse in front, and for a small pair of
shoes; then, she said, she would again go forth in the wide world and look for
Shoes and a muff were given her; she was, too, dressed very nicely; and when
she was about to set off, a new carriage stopped before the door. It was of
pure gold, and the arms of the Prince and Princess shone like a star upon it;
the coachman, the footmen, and the outriders, for outriders were there, too,
all wore golden crowns. The Prince and the Princess assisted her into the
carriage themselves, and wished her all success. The Raven of the woods, who
was now married, accompanied her for the first three miles. He sat beside
Gerda, for he could not bear riding backwards; the other Raven stood in the
doorway, and flapped her wings; she could not accompany Gerda, because she
suffered from headache since she had had a fixed appointment and ate so much.
The carriage was lined inside with sugar-plums, and in the seats were fruits
"Farewell! Farewell!" cried Prince and Princess; and Gerda wept, and the Raven
wept. Thus passed the first miles; and then the Raven bade her farewell, and
this was the most painful separation of all. He flew into a tree, and beat his
black wings as long as he could see the carriage, that shone from afar like a
FIFTH STORY. The Little Robber Maiden
They drove through the dark wood; but the carriage shone like a torch, and it
dazzled the eyes of the robbers, so that they could not bear to look at it.
"'Tis gold! 'Tis gold!" they cried; and they rushed forward, seized the
horses, knocked down the little postilion, the coachman, and the servants, and
pulled little Gerda out of the carriage.
"How plump, how beautiful she is! She must have been fed on nut-kernels," said
the old female robber, who had a long, scrubby beard, and bushy eyebrows that
hung down over her eyes. "She is as good as a fatted lamb! How nice she will
be!" And then she drew out a knife, the blade of which shone so that it was
quite dreadful to behold.
"Oh!" cried the woman at the same moment. She had been bitten in the ear by
her own little daughter, who hung at her back; and who was so wild and
unmanageable, that it was quite amusing to see her. "You naughty child!" said
the mother: and now she had not time to kill Gerda.
"She shall play with me," said the little robber child. "She shall give me her
muff, and her pretty frock; she shall sleep in my bed!" And then she gave her
mother another bite, so that she jumped, and ran round with the pain; and the
Robbers laughed, and said, "Look, how she is dancing with the little one!"
"I will go into the carriage," said the little robber maiden; and she would
have her will, for she was very spoiled and very headstrong. She and Gerda got
in; and then away they drove over the stumps of felled trees, deeper and
deeper into the woods. The little robber maiden was as tall as Gerda, but
stronger, broader-shouldered, and of dark complexion; her eyes were quite
black; they looked almost melancholy. She embraced little Gerda, and said,
"They shall not kill you as long as I am not displeased with you. You are,
doubtless, a Princess?"
"No," said little Gerda; who then related all that had happened to her, and
how much she cared about little Kay.
The little robber maiden looked at her with a serious air, nodded her head
slightly, and said, "They shall not kill you, even if I am angry with you:
then I will do it myself"; and she dried Gerda's eyes, and put both her hands
in the handsome muff, which was so soft and warm.
At length the carriage stopped. They were in the midst of the court-yard of a
robber's castle. It was full of cracks from top to bottom; and out of the
openings magpies and rooks were flying; and the great bull-dogs, each of which
looked as if he could swallow a man, jumped up, but they did not bark, for
that was forbidden.
In the midst of the large, old, smoking hall burnt a great fire on the stone
floor. The smoke disappeared under the stones, and had to seek its own egress.
In an immense caldron soup was boiling; and rabbits and hares were being
roasted on a spit.
"You shall sleep with me to-night, with all my animals," said the little
robber maiden. They had something to eat and drink; and then went into a
corner, where straw and carpets were lying. Beside them, on laths and perches,
sat nearly a hundred pigeons, all asleep, seemingly; but yet they moved a
little when the robber maiden came. "They are all mine," said she, at the
same time seizing one that was next to her by the legs and shaking it so that
its wings fluttered. "Kiss it," cried the little girl, and flung the pigeon in
Gerda's face. "Up there is the rabble of the wood," continued she, pointing to
several laths which were fastened before a hole high up in the wall; "that's
the rabble; they would all fly away immediately, if they were not well
fastened in. And here is my dear old Bac"; and she laid hold of the horns of a
reindeer, that had a bright copper ring round its neck, and was tethered to
the spot. "We are obliged to lock this fellow in too, or he would make his
escape. Every evening I tickle his neck with my sharp knife; he is so
frightened at it!" and the little girl drew forth a long knife, from a crack
in the wall, and let it glide over the Reindeer's neck. The poor animal
kicked; the girl laughed, and pulled Gerda into bed with her.
"Do you intend to keep your knife while you sleep?" asked Gerda; looking at it
"I always sleep with the knife," said the little robber maiden. "There is no
knowing what may happen. But tell me now, once more, all about little Kay; and
why you have started off in the wide world alone." And Gerda related all, from
the very beginning: the Wood-pigeons cooed above in their cage, and the others
slept. The little robber maiden wound her arm round Gerda's neck, held the
knife in the other hand, and snored so loud that everybody could hear her; but
Gerda could not close her eyes, for she did not know whether she was to live
or die. The robbers sat round the fire, sang and drank; and the old female
robber jumped about so, that it was quite dreadful for Gerda to see her.
Then the Wood-pigeons said, "Coo! Coo! We have seen little Kay! A white hen
carries his sledge; he himself sat in the carriage of the Snow Queen, who
passed here, down just over the wood, as we lay in our nest. She blew upon us
young ones; and all died except we two. Coo! Coo!"
"What is that you say up there?" cried little Gerda. "Where did the Snow Queen
go to? Do you know anything about it?"
"She is no doubt gone to Lapland; for there is always snow and ice there. Only
ask the Reindeer, who is tethered there."
"Ice and snow is there! There it is, glorious and beautiful!" said the
Reindeer. "One can spring about in the large shining valleys! The Snow Queen
has her summer-tent there; but her fixed abode is high up towards the North
Pole, on the Island called Spitzbergen."
"Oh, Kay! Poor little Kay!" sighed Gerda.
"Do you choose to be quiet?" said the robber maiden. "If you don't, I shall
In the morning Gerda told her all that the Wood-pigeons had said; and the
little maiden looked very serious, but she nodded her head, and said, "That's
no matter--that's no matter. Do you know where Lapland lies!" she asked of the
"Who should know better than I?" said the animal; and his eyes rolled in his
head. "I was born and bred there--there I leapt about on the fields of snow.
"Listen," said the robber maiden to Gerda. "You see that the men are gone;
but my mother is still here, and will remain. However, towards morning she
takes a draught out of the large flask, and then she sleeps a little: then I
will do something for you." She now jumped out of bed, flew to her mother;
with her arms round her neck, and pulling her by the beard, said, "Good
morrow, my own sweet nanny-goat of a mother." And her mother took hold of her
nose, and pinched it till it was red and blue; but this was all done out of
When the mother had taken a sup at her flask, and was having a nap, the little
robber maiden went to the Reindeer, and said, "I should very much like to give
you still many a tickling with the sharp knife, for then you are so amusing;
however, I will untether you, and help you out, so that you may go back to
Lapland. But you must make good use of your legs; and take this little girl
for me to the palace of the Snow Queen, where her playfellow is. You have
heard, I suppose, all she said; for she spoke loud enough, and you were
The Reindeer gave a bound for joy. The robber maiden lifted up little Gerda,
and took the precaution to bind her fast on the Reindeer's back; she even gave
her a small cushion to sit on. "Here are your worsted leggins, for it will be
cold; but the muff I shall keep for myself, for it is so very pretty. But I
do not wish you to be cold. Here is a pair of lined gloves of my mother's;
they just reach up to your elbow. On with them! Now you look about the hands
just like my ugly old mother!"
And Gerda wept for joy.
"I can't bear to see you fretting," said the little robber maiden. "This is
just the time when you ought to look pleased. Here are two loaves and a ham
for you, so that you won't starve." The bread and the meat were fastened to
the Reindeer's back; the little maiden opened the door, called in all the
dogs, and then with her knife cut the rope that fastened the animal, and said
to him, "Now, off with you; but take good care of the little girl!"
And Gerda stretched out her hands with the large wadded gloves towards the
robber maiden, and said, "Farewell!" and the Reindeer flew on over bush and
bramble through the great wood, over moor and heath, as fast as he could go.
"Ddsa! Ddsa!" was heard in the sky. It was just as if somebody was sneezing.
"These are my old northern-lights," said the Reindeer, "look how they gleam!"
And on he now sped still quicker--day and night on he went: the loaves were
consumed, and the ham too; and now they were in Lapland.
SIXTH STORY. The Lapland Woman and the Finland Woman
Suddenly they stopped before a little house, which looked very miserable. The
roof reached to the ground; and the door was so low, that the family were
obliged to creep upon their stomachs when they went in or out. Nobody was at
home except an old Lapland woman, who was dressing fish by the light of an oil
lamp. And the Reindeer told her the whole of Gerda's history, but first of all
his own; for that seemed to him of much greater importance. Gerda was so
chilled that she could not speak.
"Poor thing," said the Lapland woman, "you have far to run still. You have
more than a hundred miles to go before you get to Finland; there the Snow
Queen has her country-house, and burns blue lights every evening. I will give
you a few words from me, which I will write on a dried haberdine, for paper I
have none; this you can take with you to the Finland woman, and she will be
able to give you more information than I can."
When Gerda had warmed herself, and had eaten and drunk, the Lapland woman
wrote a few words on a dried haberdine, begged Gerda to take care of them, put
her on the Reindeer, bound her fast, and away sprang the animal. "Ddsa! Ddsa!"
was again heard in the air; the most charming blue lights burned the whole
night in the sky, and at last they came to Finland. They knocked at the
chimney of the Finland woman; for as to a door, she had none.
There was such a heat inside that the Finland woman herself went about
almost naked. She was diminutive and dirty. She immediately loosened little
Gerda's clothes, pulled off her thick gloves and boots; for otherwise the heat
would have been too great--and after laying a piece of ice on the Reindeer's
head, read what was written on the fish-skin. She read it three times: she
then knew it by heart; so she put the fish into the cupboard--for it might
very well be eaten, and she never threw anything away.
Then the Reindeer related his own story first, and afterwards that of little
Gerda; and the Finland woman winked her eyes, but said nothing.
"You are so clever," said the Reindeer; "you can, I know, twist all the winds
of the world together in a knot. If the seaman loosens one knot, then he has a
good wind; if a second, then it blows pretty stiffly; if he undoes the third
and fourth, then it rages so that the forests are upturned. Will you give the
little maiden a potion, that she may possess the strength of twelve men, and
vanquish the Snow Queen?"
"The strength of twelve men!" said the Finland woman. "Much good that would
be!" Then she went to a cupboard, and drew out a large skin rolled up. When
she had unrolled it, strange characters were to be seen written thereon; and
the Finland woman read at such a rate that the perspiration trickled down her
But the Reindeer begged so hard for little Gerda, and Gerda looked so
imploringly with tearful eyes at the Finland woman, that she winked, and drew
the Reindeer aside into a corner, where they whispered together, while the
animal got some fresh ice put on his head.
"'Tis true little Kay is at the Snow Queen's, and finds everything there quite
to his taste; and he thinks it the very best place in the world; but the
reason of that is, he has a splinter of glass in his eye, and in his heart.
These must be got out first; otherwise he will never go back to mankind, and
the Snow Queen will retain her power over him."
"But can you give little Gerda nothing to take which will endue her with power
over the whole?"
"I can give her no more power than what she has already. Don't you see how
great it is? Don't you see how men and animals are forced to serve her; how
well she gets through the world barefooted? She must not hear of her power
from us; that power lies in her heart, because she is a sweet and innocent
child! If she cannot get to the Snow Queen by herself, and rid little Kay of
the glass, we cannot help her. Two miles hence the garden of the Snow Queen
begins; thither you may carry the little girl. Set her down by the large bush
with red berries, standing in the snow; don't stay talking, but hasten back as
fast as possible." And now the Finland woman placed little Gerda on the
Reindeer's back, and off he ran with all imaginable speed.
"Oh! I have not got my boots! I have not brought my gloves!" cried little
Gerda. She remarked she was without them from the cutting frost; but the
Reindeer dared not stand still; on he ran till he came to the great bush with
the red berries, and there he set Gerda down, kissed her mouth, while large
bright tears flowed from the animal's eyes, and then back he went as fast as
possible. There stood poor Gerda now, without shoes or gloves, in the very
middle of dreadful icy Finland.
She ran on as fast as she could. There then came a whole regiment of
snow-flakes, but they did not fall from above, and they were quite bright and
shining from the Aurora Borealis. The flakes ran along the ground, and the
nearer they came the larger they grew. Gerda well remembered how large and
strange the snow-flakes appeared when she once saw them through a
magnifying-glass; but now they were large and terrific in another
manner--they were all alive. They were the outposts of the Snow Queen. They
had the most wondrous shapes; some looked like large ugly porcupines; others
like snakes knotted together, with their heads sticking out; and others,
again, like small fat bears, with the hair standing on end: all were of
dazzling whiteness--all were living snow-flakes.
Little Gerda repeated the Lord's Prayer. The cold was so intense that she
could see her own breath, which came like smoke out of her mouth. It grew
thicker and thicker, and took the form of little angels, that grew more and
more when they touched the earth. All had helms on their heads, and lances
and shields in their hands; they increased in numbers; and when Gerda had
finished the Lord's Prayer, she was surrounded by a whole legion. They thrust
at the horrid snow-flakes with their spears, so that they flew into a thousand
pieces; and little Gerda walked on bravely and in security. The angels patted
her hands and feet; and then she felt the cold less, and went on quickly
towards the palace of the Snow Queen.
But now we shall see how Kay fared. He never thought of Gerda, and least of
all that she was standing before the palace.
SEVENTH STORY. What Took Place in the Palace of the Snow Queen, and what
The walls of the palace were of driving snow, and the windows and doors of
cutting winds. There were more than a hundred halls there, according as the
snow was driven by the winds. The largest was many miles in extent; all were
lighted up by the powerful Aurora Borealis, and all were so large, so empty,
so icy cold, and so resplendent! Mirth never reigned there; there was never
even a little bear-ball, with the storm for music, while the polar bears went
on their hind legs and showed off their steps. Never a little tea-party of
white young lady foxes; vast, cold, and empty were the halls of the Snow
Queen. The northern-lights shone with such precision that one could tell
exactly when they were at their highest or lowest degree of brightness. In the
middle of the empty, endless hall of snow, was a frozen lake; it was cracked
in a thousand pieces, but each piece was so like the other, that it seemed the
work of a cunning artificer. In the middle of this lake sat the Snow Queen
when she was at home; and then she said she was sitting in the Mirror of
Understanding, and that this was the only one and the best thing in the world.
Little Kay was quite blue, yes nearly black with cold; but he did not observe
it, for she had kissed away all feeling of cold from his body, and his heart
was a lump of ice. He was dragging along some pointed flat pieces of ice,
which he laid together in all possible ways, for he wanted to make something
with them; just as we have little flat pieces of wood to make geometrical
figures with, called the Chinese Puzzle. Kay made all sorts of figures, the
most complicated, for it was an ice-puzzle for the understanding. In his eyes
the figures were extraordinarily beautiful, and of the utmost importance; for
the bit of glass which was in his eye caused this. He found whole figures
which represented a written word; but he never could manage to represent just
the word he wanted--that word was "eternity"; and the Snow Queen had said, "If
you can discover that figure, you shall be your own master, and I will make
you a present of the whole world and a pair of new skates." But he could not
find it out.
"I am going now to warm lands," said the Snow Queen. "I must have a look down
into the black caldrons." It was the volcanoes Vesuvius and Etna that she
meant. "I will just give them a coating of white, for that is as it ought to
be; besides, it is good for the oranges and the grapes." And then away she
flew, and Kay sat quite alone in the empty halls of ice that were miles long,
and looked at the blocks of ice, and thought and thought till his skull was
almost cracked. There he sat quite benumbed and motionless; one would have
imagined he was frozen to death.
Suddenly little Gerda stepped through the great portal into the palace. The
gate was formed of cutting winds; but Gerda repeated her evening prayer, and
the winds were laid as though they slept; and the little maiden entered the
vast, empty, cold halls. There she beheld Kay: she recognised him, flew to
embrace him, and cried out, her arms firmly holding him the while, "Kay, sweet
little Kay! Have I then found you at last?"
But he sat quite still, benumbed and cold. Then little Gerda shed burning
tears; and they fell on his bosom, they penetrated to his heart, they thawed
the lumps of ice, and consumed the splinters of the looking-glass; he looked
at her, and she sang the hymn:
"The rose in the valley is blooming so sweet,
And angels descend there the children to greet."
Hereupon Kay burst into tears; he wept so much that the splinter rolled out of
his eye, and he recognised her, and shouted, "Gerda, sweet little Gerda! Where
have you been so long? And where have I been?" He looked round him. "How cold
it is here!" said he. "How empty and cold!" And he held fast by Gerda, who
laughed and wept for joy. It was so beautiful, that even the blocks of ice
danced about for joy; and when they were tired and laid themselves down, they
formed exactly the letters which the Snow Queen had told him to find out; so
now he was his own master, and he would have the whole world and a pair of new
skates into the bargain.
Gerda kissed his cheeks, and they grew quite blooming; she kissed his eyes,
and they shone like her own; she kissed his hands and feet, and he was again
well and merry. The Snow Queen might come back as soon as she liked; there
stood his discharge written in resplendent masses of ice.
They took each other by the hand, and wandered forth out of the large hall;
they talked of their old grandmother, and of the roses upon the roof; and
wherever they went, the winds ceased raging, and the sun burst forth. And when
they reached the bush with the red berries, they found the Reindeer waiting
for them. He had brought another, a young one, with him, whose udder was
filled with milk, which he gave to the little ones, and kissed their lips.
They then carried Kay and Gerda--first to the Finland woman, where they
warmed themselves in the warm room, and learned what they were to do on their
journey home; and they went to the Lapland woman, who made some new
clothes for them and repaired their sledges.
The Reindeer and the young hind leaped along beside them, and accompanied them
to the boundary of the country. Here the first vegetation peeped forth; here
Kay and Gerda took leave of the Lapland woman. "Farewell! Farewell!" they all
said. And the first green buds appeared, the first little birds began to
chirrup; and out of the wood came, riding on a magnificent horse, which Gerda
knew (it was one of the leaders in the golden carriage), a young damsel with a
bright-red cap on her head, and armed with pistols. It was the little robber
maiden, who, tired of being at home, had determined to make a journey to the
north; and afterwards in another direction, if that did not please her. She
recognised Gerda immediately, and Gerda knew her too. It was a joyful meeting.
"You are a fine fellow for tramping about," said she to little Kay; "I should
like to know, faith, if you deserve that one should run from one end of the
world to the other for your sake?"
But Gerda patted her cheeks, and inquired for the Prince and Princess.
"They are gone abroad," said the other.
"But the Raven?" asked little Gerda.
"Oh! The Raven is dead," she answered. "His tame sweetheart is a widow, and
wears a bit of black worsted round her leg; she laments most piteously, but
it's all mere talk and stuff! Now tell me what you've been doing and how you
managed to catch him."
And Gerda and Kay both told their story.
And "Schnipp-schnapp-schnurre-basselurre," said the robber maiden; and she
took the hands of each, and promised that if she should some day pass through
the town where they lived, she would come and visit them; and then away she
rode. Kay and Gerda took each other's hand: it was lovely spring weather, with
abundance of flowers and of verdure. The church-bells rang, and the children
recognised the high towers, and the large town; it was that in which they
dwelt. They entered and hastened up to their grandmother's room, where
everything was standing as formerly. The clock said "tick! tack!" and the
finger moved round; but as they entered, they remarked that they were now
grown up. The roses on the leads hung blooming in at the open window; there
stood the little children's chairs, and Kay and Gerda sat down on them,
holding each other by the hand; they both had forgotten the cold empty
splendor of the Snow Queen, as though it had been a dream. The grandmother sat
in the bright sunshine, and read aloud from the Bible: "Unless ye become as
little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven."
And Kay and Gerda looked in each other's eyes, and all at once they understood
the old hymn:
"The rose in the valley is blooming so sweet,
And angels descend there the children to greet."
There sat the two grown-up persons; grown-up, and yet children; children at
least in heart; and it was summer-time; summer, glorious summer!
A Flea, a Grasshopper, and a Leap-frog once wanted to see which could jump
highest; and they invited the whole world, and everybody else besides who
chose to come to see the festival. Three famous jumpers were they, as
everyone would say, when they all met together in the room.
"I will give my daughter to him who jumps highest," exclaimed the King; "for
it is not so amusing where there is no prize to jump for."
The Flea was the first to step forward. He had exquisite manners, and bowed to
the company on all sides; for he had noble blood, and was, moreover,
accustomed to the society of man alone; and that makes a great difference.
Then came the Grasshopper. He was considerably heavier, but he was
well-mannered, and wore a green uniform, which he had by right of birth; he
said, moreover, that he belonged to a very ancient Egyptian family, and that
in the house where he then was, he was thought much of. The fact was, he had
been just brought out of the fields, and put in a pasteboard house, three
stories high, all made of court-cards, with the colored side inwards; and
doors and windows cut out of the body of the Queen of Hearts. "I sing so
well," said he, "that sixteen native grasshoppers who have chirped from
infancy, and yet got no house built of cards to live in, grew thinner than
they were before for sheer vexation when they heard me."
It was thus that the Flea and the Grasshopper gave an account of themselves,
and thought they were quite good enough to marry a Princess.
The Leap-frog said nothing; but people gave it as their opinion, that he
therefore thought the more; and when the housedog snuffed at him with his
nose, he confessed the Leap-frog was of good family. The old councillor, who
had had three orders given him to make him hold his tongue, asserted that the
Leap-frog was a prophet; for that one could see on his back, if there would be
a severe or mild winter, and that was what one could not see even on the back
of the man who writes the almanac.
"I say nothing, it is true," exclaimed the King; "but I have my own opinion,
Now the trial was to take place. The Flea jumped so high that nobody could see
where he went to; so they all asserted he had not jumped at all; and that was
The Grasshopper jumped only half as high; but he leaped into the King's face,
who said that was ill-mannered.
The Leap-frog stood still for a long time lost in thought; it was believed at
last he would not jump at all.
"I only hope he is not unwell," said the house-dog; when, pop! he made a jump
all on one side into the lap of the Princess, who was sitting on a little
golden stool close by.
Hereupon the King said, "There is nothing above my daughter; therefore to
bound up to her is the highest jump that can be made; but for this, one must
possess understanding, and the Leap-frog has shown that he has understanding.
He is brave and intellectual."
And so he won the Princess.
"It's all the same to me," said the Flea. "She may have the old Leap-frog, for
all I care. I jumped the highest; but in this world merit seldom meets its
reward. A fine exterior is what people look at now-a-days."
The Flea then went into foreign service, where, it is said, he was killed.
The Grasshopper sat without on a green bank, and reflected on worldly things;
and he said too, "Yes, a fine exterior is everything--a fine exterior is what
people care about." And then he began chirping his peculiar melancholy song,
from which we have taken this history; and which may, very possibly, be all
untrue, although it does stand here printed in black and white.
Once upon a time there was a little boy who had taken cold. He had gone
out and got his feet wet; though nobody could imagine how it had happened, for
it was quite dry weather. So his mother undressed him, put him to bed, and
had the tea-pot brought in, to make him a good cup of Elderflower tea.
Just at that moment the merry old man came in who lived up a-top of the house
all alone; for he had neither wife nor children--but he liked children very
much, and knew so many fairy tales, that it was quite delightful.
"Now drink your tea," said the boy's mother; "then, perhaps, you may hear a
"If I had but something new to tell," said the old man. "But how did the child
get his feet wet?"
"That is the very thing that nobody can make out," said his mother.
"Am I to hear a fairy tale?" asked the little boy.
"Yes, if you can tell me exactly--for I must know that first--how deep the
gutter is in the little street opposite, that you pass through in going to
"Just up to the middle of my boot," said the child; "but then I must go into
the deep hole."
"Ah, ah! That's where the wet feet came from," said the old man. "I ought now
to tell you a story; but I don't know any more."
"You can make one in a moment," said the little boy. "My mother says that all
you look at can be turned into a fairy tale: and that you can find a story in
"Yes, but such tales and stories are good for nothing. The right sort come of
themselves; they tap at my forehead and say, 'Here we are.'"
"Won't there be a tap soon?" asked the little boy. And his mother laughed, put
some Elder-flowers in the tea-pot, and poured boiling water upon them.
"Do tell me something! Pray do!"
"Yes, if a fairy tale would come of its own accord; but they are proud and
haughty, and come only when they choose. Stop!" said he, all on a sudden. "I
have it! Pay attention! There is one in the tea-pot!"
And the little boy looked at the tea-pot. The cover rose more and more; and
the Elder-flowers came forth so fresh and white, and shot up long branches.
Out of the spout even did they spread themselves on all sides, and grew larger
and larger; it was a splendid Elderbush, a whole tree; and it reached into the
very bed, and pushed the curtains aside. How it bloomed! And what an odour! In
the middle of the bush sat a friendly-looking old woman in a most strange
dress. It was quite green, like the leaves of the elder, and was trimmed with
large white Elder-flowers; so that at first one could not tell whether it was
a stuff, or a natural green and real flowers.
"What's that woman's name?" asked the little boy.
"The Greeks and Romans," said the old man, "called her a Dryad; but that we do
not understand. The people who live in the New Booths* have a much better name
for her; they call her 'old Granny'--and she it is to whom you are to pay
attention. Now listen, and look at the beautiful Elderbush.
* A row of buildings for seamen in Copenhagen.
"Just such another large blooming Elder Tree stands near the New Booths. It
grew there in the corner of a little miserable court-yard; and under it sat,
of an afternoon, in the most splendid sunshine, two old people; an old, old
seaman, and his old, old wife. They had great-grand-children, and were soon to
celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of their marriage; but they could not
exactly recollect the date: and old Granny sat in the tree, and looked as
pleased as now. 'I know the date,' said she; but those below did not hear her,
for they were talking about old times.
"'Yes, can't you remember when we were very little,' said the old seaman, 'and
ran and played about? It was the very same court-yard where we now are, and we
stuck slips in the ground, and made a garden.'
"'I remember it well,' said the old woman; 'I remember it quite well. We
watered the slips, and one of them was an Elderbush. It took root, put forth
green shoots, and grew up to be the large tree under which we old folks are
"'To be sure,' said he. 'And there in the corner stood a waterpail, where I
used to swim my boats.'
"'True; but first we went to school to learn somewhat,' said she; 'and then we
were confirmed. We both cried; but in the afternoon we went up the Round
Tower, and looked down on Copenhagen, and far, far away over the water; then
we went to Friedericksberg, where the King and the Queen were sailing about in
their splendid barges.'
"'But I had a different sort of sailing to that, later; and that, too, for
many a year; a long way off, on great voyages.'
"'Yes, many a time have I wept for your sake,' said she. 'I thought you
were dead and gone, and lying down in the deep waters. Many a night have I got
up to see if the wind had not changed: and changed it had, sure enough; but
you never came. I remember so well one day, when the rain was pouring down in
torrents, the scavengers were before the house where I was in service, and I
had come up with the dust, and remained standing at the door--it was dreadful
weather--when just as I was there, the postman came and gave me a letter. It
was from you! What a tour that letter had made! I opened it instantly and
read: I laughed and wept. I was so happy. In it I read that you were in warm
lands where the coffee-tree grows. What a blessed land that must be! You
related so much, and I saw it all the while the rain was pouring down, and I
standing there with the dust-box. At the same moment came someone who embraced
"'Yes; but you gave him a good box on his ear that made it tingle!'
"'But I did not know it was you. You arrived as soon as your letter, and you
were so handsome--that you still are--and had a long yellow silk handkerchief
round your neck, and a bran new hat on; oh, you were so dashing! Good heavens!
What weather it was, and what a state the street was in!'
"'And then we married,' said he. 'Don't you remember? And then we had our
first little boy, and then Mary, and Nicholas, and Peter, and Christian.'
"'Yes, and how they all grew up to be honest people, and were beloved by
"'And their children also have children,' said the old sailor; 'yes, those
are our grand-children, full of strength and vigor. It was, methinks about
this season that we had our wedding.'
"'Yes, this very day is the fiftieth anniversary of the marriage,' said old
Granny, sticking her head between the two old people; who thought it was their
neighbor who nodded to them. They looked at each other and held one another by
the hand. Soon after came their children, and their grand-children; for they
knew well enough that it was the day of the fiftieth anniversary, and had come
with their gratulations that very morning; but the old people had forgotten
it, although they were able to remember all that had happened many years ago.
And the Elderbush sent forth a strong odour in the sun, that was just about to
set, and shone right in the old people's faces. They both looked so
rosy-cheeked; and the youngest of the grandchildren danced around them, and
called out quite delighted, that there was to be something very splendid that
evening--they were all to have hot potatoes. And old Nanny nodded in the bush,
and shouted 'hurrah!' with the rest."
"But that is no fairy tale," said the little boy, who was listening to the
"The thing is, you must understand it," said the narrator; "let us ask old
"That was no fairy tale, 'tis true," said old Nanny; "but now it's coming. The
most wonderful fairy tales grow out of that which is reality; were that not
the case, you know, my magnificent Elderbush could not have grown out of the
tea-pot." And then she took the little boy out of bed, laid him on her bosom,
and the branches of the Elder Tree, full of flowers, closed around her. They
sat in an aerial dwelling, and it flew with them through the air. Oh, it was
wondrous beautiful! Old Nanny had grown all of a sudden a young and pretty
maiden; but her robe was still the same green stuff with white flowers, which
she had worn before. On her bosom she had a real Elderflower, and in her
yellow waving hair a wreath of the flowers; her eyes were so large and blue
that it was a pleasure to look at them; she kissed the boy, and now they were
of the same age and felt alike.
Hand in hand they went out of the bower, and they were standing in the
beautiful garden of their home. Near the green lawn papa's walking-stick was
tied, and for the little ones it seemed to be endowed with life; for as soon
as they got astride it, the round polished knob was turned into a magnificent
neighing head, a long black mane fluttered in the breeze, and four slender yet
strong legs shot out. The animal was strong and handsome, and away they went
at full gallop round the lawn.
"Huzza! Now we are riding miles off," said the boy. "We are riding away to
the castle where we were last year!"
And on they rode round the grass-plot; and the little maiden, who, we know,
was no one else but old Nanny, kept on crying out, "Now we are in the country!
Don't you see the farm-house yonder? And there is an Elder Tree standing
beside it; and the cock is scraping away the earth for the hens, look, how he
struts! And now we are close to the church. It lies high upon the hill,
between the large oak-trees, one of which is half decayed. And now we are by
the smithy, where the fire is blazing, and where the half-naked men are
banging with their hammers till the sparks fly about. Away! away! To the
And all that the little maiden, who sat behind on the stick, spoke of, flew by
in reality. The boy saw it all, and yet they were only going round the
grass-plot. Then they played in a side avenue, and marked out a little garden
on the earth; and they took Elder-blossoms from their hair, planted them, and
they grew just like those the old people planted when they were children, as
related before. They went hand in hand, as the old people had done when they
were children; but not to the Round Tower, or to Friedericksberg; no, the
little damsel wound her arms round the boy, and then they flew far away
through all Denmark. And spring came, and summer; and then it was autumn, and
then winter; and a thousand pictures were reflected in the eye and in the
heart of the boy; and the little girl always sang to him, "This you will never
forget." And during their whole flight the Elder Tree smelt so sweet and
odorous; he remarked the roses and the fresh beeches, but the Elder Tree had a
more wondrous fragrance, for its flowers hung on the breast of the little
maiden; and there, too, did he often lay his head during the flight.
"It is lovely here in spring!" said the young maiden. And they stood in a
beech-wood that had just put on its first green, where the woodroof* at their
feet sent forth its fragrance, and the pale-red anemony looked so pretty among
the verdure. "Oh, would it were always spring in the sweetly-smelling Danish
* Asperula odorata.
"It is lovely here in summer!" said she. And she flew past old castles of
by-gone days of chivalry, where the red walls and the embattled gables were
mirrored in the canal, where the swans were swimming, and peered up into the
old cool avenues. In the fields the corn was waving like the sea; in the
ditches red and yellow flowers were growing; while wild-drone flowers, and
blooming convolvuluses were creeping in the hedges; and towards evening the
moon rose round and large, and the haycocks in the meadows smelt so sweetly.
"This one never forgets!"
"It is lovely here in autumn!" said the little maiden. And suddenly the
atmosphere grew as blue again as before; the forest grew red, and green, and
yellow-colored. The dogs came leaping along, and whole flocks of wild-fowl
flew over the cairn, where blackberry-bushes were hanging round the old
stones. The sea was dark blue, covered with ships full of white sails; and in
the barn old women, maidens, and children were sitting picking hops into a
large cask; the young sang songs, but the old told fairy tales of
mountain-sprites and soothsayers. Nothing could be more charming.
"It is delightful here in winter!" said the little maiden. And all the trees
were covered with hoar-frost; they looked like white corals; the snow crackled
under foot, as if one had new boots on; and one falling star after the other
was seen in the sky. The Christmas-tree was lighted in the room; presents were
there, and good-humor reigned. In the country the violin sounded in the room
of the peasant; the newly-baked cakes were attacked; even the poorest child
said, "It is really delightful here in winter!"
Yes, it was delightful; and the little maiden showed the boy everything; and
the Elder Tree still was fragrant, and the red flag, with the white cross, was
still waving: the flag under which the old seaman in the New Booths had
sailed. And the boy grew up to be a lad, and was to go forth in the wide
world-far, far away to warm lands, where the coffee-tree grows; but at his
departure the little maiden took an Elder-blossom from her bosom, and
gave it him to keep; and it was placed between the leaves of his Prayer-Book;
and when in foreign lands he opened the book, it was always at the place where
the keepsake-flower lay; and the more he looked at it, the fresher it became;
he felt as it were, the fragrance of the Danish groves; and from among the
leaves of the flowers he could distinctly see the little maiden, peeping forth
with her bright blue eyes--and then she whispered, "It is delightful here in
Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter"; and a hundred visions glided before his
Thus passed many years, and he was now an old man, and sat with his old wife
under the blooming tree. They held each other by the hand, as the old
grand-father and grand-mother yonder in the New Booths did, and they talked
exactly like them of old times, and of the fiftieth anniversary of their
wedding. The little maiden, with the blue eyes, and with Elder-blossoms in her
hair, sat in the tree, nodded to both of them, and said, "To-day is the
fiftieth anniversary!" And then she took two flowers out of her hair, and
kissed them. First, they shone like silver, then like gold; and when they laid
them on the heads of the old people, each flower became a golden crown. So
there they both sat, like a king and a queen, under the fragrant tree, that
looked exactly like an elder: the old man told his wife the story of "Old
Nanny," as it had been told him when a boy. And it seemed to both of them it
contained much that resembled their own history; and those parts that were
like it pleased them best.
"Thus it is," said the little maiden in the tree, "some call me 'Old Nanny,'
others a 'Dryad,' but, in reality, my name is 'Remembrance'; 'tis I who sit in
the tree that grows and grows! I can remember; I can tell things! Let me see
if you have my flower still?"
And the old man opened his Prayer-Book. There lay the Elder-blossom, as fresh
as if it had been placed there but a short time before; and Remembrance
nodded, and the old people, decked with crowns of gold, sat in the flush of
the evening sun. They closed their eyes, and--and--! Yes, that's the end of
The little boy lay in his bed; he did not know if he had dreamed or not, or if
he had been listening while someone told him the story. The tea-pot was
standing on the table, but no Elder Tree was growing out of it! And the old
man, who had been talking, was just on the point of going out at the door, and
he did go.
"How splendid that was!" said the little boy. "Mother, I have been to warm
"So I should think," said his mother. "When one has drunk two good cupfuls of
Elder-flower tea, 'tis likely enough one goes into warm climates"; and she
tucked him up nicely, least he should take cold. "You have had a good sleep
while I have been sitting here, and arguing with him whether it was a story or
a fairy tale."
"And where is old Nanny?" asked the little boy.
"In the tea-pot," said his mother; "and there she may remain."
People said "The Evening Bell is sounding, the sun is setting." For a strange
wondrous tone was heard in the narrow streets of a large town. It was like the
sound of a church-bell: but it was only heard for a moment, for the rolling of
the carriages and the voices of the multitude made too great a noise.
Those persons who were walking outside the town, where the houses were farther
apart, with gardens or little fields between them, could see the evening sky
still better, and heard the sound of the bell much more distinctly. It was as
if the tones came from a church in the still forest; people looked
thitherward, and felt their minds attuned most solemnly.
A long time passed, and people said to each other--"I wonder if there is a
church out in the wood? The bell has a tone that is wondrous sweet; let us
stroll thither, and examine the matter nearer." And the rich people drove out,
and the poor walked, but the way seemed strangely long to them; and when they
came to a clump of willows which grew on the skirts of the forest, they sat
down, and looked up at the long branches, and fancied they were now in the
depth of the green wood. The confectioner of the town came out, and set up his
booth there; and soon after came another confectioner, who hung a bell over
his stand, as a sign or ornament, but it had no clapper, and it was tarred
over to preserve it from the rain. When all the people returned home, they
said it had been very romantic, and that it was quite a different sort of
thing to a pic-nic or tea-party. There were three persons who asserted they
had penetrated to the end of the forest, and that they had always heard the
wonderful sounds of the bell, but it had seemed to them as if it had come from
the town. One wrote a whole poem about it, and said the bell sounded like the
voice of a mother to a good dear child, and that no melody was sweeter than
the tones of the bell. The king of the country was also observant of it, and
vowed that he who could discover whence the sounds proceeded, should have the
title of "Universal Bell-ringer," even if it were not really a bell.
Many persons now went to the wood, for the sake of getting the place, but one
only returned with a sort of explanation; for nobody went far enough, that one
not further than the others. However, he said that the sound proceeded from a
very large owl, in a hollow tree; a sort of learned owl, that continually
knocked its head against the branches. But whether the sound came from
his head or from the hollow tree, that no one could say with certainty. So now
he got the place of "Universal Bell-ringer," and wrote yearly a short treatise
"On the Owl"; but everybody was just as wise as before.
It was the day of confirmation. The clergyman had spoken so touchingly, the
children who were confirmed had been greatly moved; it was an eventful day for
them; from children they become all at once grown-up-persons; it was as if
their infant souls were now to fly all at once into persons with more
understanding. The sun was shining gloriously; the children that had been
confirmed went out of the town; and from the wood was borne towards them the
sounds of the unknown bell with wonderful distinctness. They all immediately
felt a wish to go thither; all except three. One of them had to go home to try
on a ball-dress; for it was just the dress and the ball which had caused her
to be confirmed this time, for otherwise she would not have come; the other
was a poor boy, who had borrowed his coat and boots to be confirmed in from
the innkeeper's son, and he was to give them back by a certain hour; the third
said that he never went to a strange place if his parents were not with
him--that he had always been a good boy hitherto, and would still be so now
that he was confirmed, and that one ought not to laugh at him for it: the
others, however, did make fun of him, after all.
There were three, therefore, that did not go; the others hastened on. The sun
shone, the birds sang, and the children sang too, and each held the other by
the hand; for as yet they had none of them any high office, and were all of
equal rank in the eye of God.
But two of the youngest soon grew tired, and both returned to town; two little
girls sat down, and twined garlands, so they did not go either; and when the
others reached the willow-tree, where the confectioner was, they said, "Now we
are there! In reality the bell does not exist; it is only a fancy that people
have taken into their heads!"
At the same moment the bell sounded deep in the wood, so clear and solemnly
that five or six determined to penetrate somewhat further. It was so thick,
and the foliage so dense, that it was quite fatiguing to proceed. Woodroof and
anemonies grew almost too high; blooming convolvuluses and blackberry-bushes
hung in long garlands from tree to tree, where the nightingale sang and the
sunbeams were playing: it was very beautiful, but it was no place for girls to
go; their clothes would get so torn. Large blocks of stone lay there,
overgrown with moss of every color; the fresh spring bubbled forth, and made a
strange gurgling sound.
"That surely cannot be the bell," said one of the children, lying down and
listening. "This must be looked to." So he remained, and let the others go on
They afterwards came to a little house, made of branches and the bark of
trees; a large wild apple-tree bent over it, as if it would shower down all
its blessings on the roof, where roses were blooming. The long stems twined
round the gable, on which there hung a small bell.
Was it that which people had heard? Yes, everybody was unanimous on the
subject, except one, who said that the bell was too small and too fine to be
heard at so great a distance, and besides it was very different tones to those
that could move a human heart in such a manner. It was a king's son who spoke;
whereon the others said, "Such people always want to be wiser than everybody
They now let him go on alone; and as he went, his breast was filled more and
more with the forest solitude; but he still heard the little bell with which
the others were so satisfied, and now and then, when the wind blew, he could
also hear the people singing who were sitting at tea where the confectioner
had his tent; but the deep sound of the bell rose louder; it was almost as if
an organ were accompanying it, and the tones came from the left hand, the side
where the heart is placed. A rustling was heard in the bushes, and a little
boy stood before the King's Son, a boy in wooden shoes, and with so short a
jacket that one could see what long wrists he had. Both knew each other: the
boy was that one among the children who could not come because he had to go
home and return his jacket and boots to the innkeeper's son. This he had done,
and was now going on in wooden shoes and in his humble dress, for the bell
sounded with so deep a tone, and with such strange power, that proceed he
"Why, then, we can go together," said the King's Son. But the poor child that
had been confirmed was quite ashamed; he looked at his wooden shoes, pulled at
the short sleeves of his jacket, and said that he was afraid he could not walk
so fast; besides, he thought that the bell must be looked for to the right;
for that was the place where all sorts of beautiful things were to be found.
"But there we shall not meet," said the King's Son, nodding at the same time
to the poor boy, who went into the darkest, thickest part of the wood, where
thorns tore his humble dress, and scratched his face and hands and feet till
they bled. The King's Son got some scratches too; but the sun shone on his
path, and it is him that we will follow, for he was an excellent and resolute
"I must and will find the bell," said he, "even if I am obliged to go to the
end of the world."
The ugly apes sat upon the trees, and grinned. "Shall we thrash him?" said
they. "Shall we thrash him? He is the son of a king!"
But on he went, without being disheartened, deeper and deeper into the wood,
where the most wonderful flowers were growing. There stood white lilies with
blood-red stamina, skyblue tulips, which shone as they waved in the winds, and
apple-trees, the apples of which looked exactly like large soapbubbles: so
only think how the trees must have sparkled in the sunshine! Around the nicest
green meads, where the deer were playing in the grass, grew magnificent oaks
and beeches; and if the bark of one of the trees was cracked, there grass and
long creeping plants grew in the crevices. And there were large calm lakes
there too, in which white swans were swimming, and beat the air with their
wings. The King's Son often stood still and listened. He thought the bell
sounded from the depths of these still lakes; but then he remarked again that
the tone proceeded not from there, but farther off, from out the depths of the
The sun now set: the atmosphere glowed like fire. It was still in the woods,
so very still; and he fell on his knees, sung his evening hymn, and said: "I
cannot find what I seek; the sun is going down, and night is coming--the dark,
dark night. Yet perhaps I may be able once more to see the round red sun
before he entirely disappears. I will climb up yonder rock."
And he seized hold of the creeping-plants, and the roots of trees--climbed up
the moist stones where the water-snakes were writhing and the toads were
croaking--and he gained the summit before the sun had quite gone down. How
magnificent was the sight from this height! The sea--the great, the glorious
sea, that dashed its long waves against the coast--was stretched out before
him. And yonder, where sea and sky meet, stood the sun, like a large shining
altar, all melted together in the most glowing colors. And the wood and the
sea sang a song of rejoicing, and his heart sang with the rest: all nature was
a vast holy church, in which the trees and the buoyant clouds were the
pillars, flowers and grass the velvet carpeting, and heaven itself the large
cupola. The red colors above faded away as the sun vanished, but a million
stars were lighted, a million lamps shone; and the King's Son spread out his
arms towards heaven, and wood, and sea; when at the same moment, coming by a
path to the right, appeared, in his wooden shoes and jacket, the poor boy who
had been confirmed with him. He had followed his own path, and had reached the
spot just as soon as the son of the king had done. They ran towards each
other, and stood together hand in hand in the vast church of nature and of
poetry, while over them sounded the invisible holy bell: blessed spirits
floated around them, and lifted up their voices in a rejoicing hallelujah!
THE OLD HOUSE
In the street, up there, was an old, a very old house--it was almost three
hundred years old, for that might be known by reading the great beam on which
the date of the year was carved: together with tulips and hop-binds there were
whole verses spelled as in former times, and over every window was a distorted
face cut out in the beam. The one story stood forward a great way over the
other; and directly under the eaves was a leaden spout with a dragon's head;
the rain-water should have run out of the mouth, but it ran out of the belly,
for there was a hole in the spout.
All the other houses in the street were so new and so neat, with large window
panes and smooth walls, one could easily see that they would have nothing to
do with the old house: they certainly thought, "How long is that old decayed
thing to stand here as a spectacle in the street? And then the projecting
windows stand so far out, that no one can see from our windows what happens in
that direction! The steps are as broad as those of a palace, and as high as to
a church tower. The iron railings look just like the door to an old family
vault, and then they have brass tops--that's so stupid!"
On the other side of the street were also new and neat houses, and they
thought just as the others did; but at the window opposite the old house there
sat a little boy with fresh rosy cheeks and bright beaming eyes: he certainly
liked the old house best, and that both in sunshine and moonshine. And when he
looked across at the wall where the mortar had fallen out, he could sit and
find out there the strangest figures imaginable; exactly as the street had
appeared before, with steps, projecting windows, and pointed gables; he could
see soldiers with halberds, and spouts where the water ran, like dragons and
serpents. That was a house to look at; and there lived an old man, who wore
plush breeches; and he had a coat with large brass buttons, and a wig that one
could see was a real wig. Every morning there came an old fellow to him who
put his rooms in order, and went on errands; otherwise, the old man in the
plush breeches was quite alone in the old house. Now and then he came to the
window and looked out, and the little boy nodded to him, and the old man
nodded again, and so they became acquaintances, and then they were friends,
although they had never spoken to each other--but that made no difference. The
little boy heard his parents say, "The old man opposite is very well off, but
he is so very, very lonely!"
The Sunday following, the little boy took something, and wrapped it up in a
piece of paper, went downstairs, and stood in the doorway; and when the man
who went on errands came past, he said to him--
"I say, master! will you give this to the old man over the way from me? I have
two pewter soldiers--this is one of them, and he shall have it, for I know he
is so very, very lonely."
And the old errand man looked quite pleased, nodded, and took the pewter
soldier over to the old house. Afterwards there came a message; it was to ask
if the little boy himself had not a wish to come over and pay a visit; and so
he got permission of his parents, and then went over to the old house.
And the brass balls on the iron railings shone much brighter than ever; one
would have thought they were polished on account of the visit; and it was as
if the carved-out trumpeters--for there were trumpeters, who stood in tulips,
carved out on the door--blew with all their might, their cheeks appeared so
much rounder than before. Yes, they blew--"Trateratra! The little boy comes!
Trateratra!"--and then the door opened.
The whole passage was hung with portraits of knights in armor, and ladies in
silken gowns; and the armor rattled, and the silken gowns rustled! And then
there was a flight of stairs which went a good way upwards, and a little way
downwards, and then one came on a balcony which was in a very dilapidated
state, sure enough, with large holes and long crevices, but grass grew there
and leaves out of them altogether, for the whole balcony outside, the yard,
and the walls, were overgrown with so much green stuff, that it looked like a
garden; only a balcony. Here stood old flower-pots with faces and asses' ears,
and the flowers grew just as they liked. One of the pots was quite overrun on
all sides with pinks, that is to say, with the green part; shoot stood by
shoot, and it said quite distinctly, "The air has cherished me, the sun has
kissed me, and promised me a little flower on Sunday! a little flower on
And then they entered a chamber where the walls were covered with hog's
leather, and printed with gold flowers.
"The gilding decays,
But hog's leather stays!"
said the walls.
And there stood easy-chairs, with such high backs, and so carved out, and with
arms on both sides. "Sit down! sit down!" said they. "Ugh! how I creak; now I
shall certainly get the gout, like the old clothespress, ugh!"
And then the little boy came into the room where the projecting windows were,
and where the old man sat.
"I thank you for the pewter soldier, my little friend!" said the old man. "And
I thank you because you come over to me."
"Thankee! thankee!" or "cranky! cranky!" sounded from all the furniture; there
was so much of it, that each article stood in the other's way, to get a look
at the little boy.
In the middle of the wall hung a picture representing a beautiful lady, so
young, so glad, but dressed quite as in former times, with clothes that stood
quite stiff, and with powder in her hair; she neither said "thankee, thankee!"
nor "cranky, cranky!" but looked with her mild eyes at the little boy, who
directly asked the old man, "Where did you get her?"
"Yonder, at the broker's," said the old man, "where there are so many pictures
hanging. No one knows or cares about them, for they are all of them buried;
but I knew her in by-gone days, and now she has been dead and gone these fifty
Under the picture, in a glazed frame, there hung a bouquet of withered
flowers; they were almost fifty years old; they looked so very old!
The pendulum of the great clock went to and fro, and the hands turned, and
everything in the room became still older; but they did not observe it.
"They say at home," said the little boy, "that you are so very, very lonely!"
"Oh!" said he. "The old thoughts, with what they may bring with them, come and
visit me, and now you also come! I am very well off!"
Then he took a book with pictures in it down from the shelf; there were
whole long processions and pageants, with the strangest characters, which one
never sees now-a-days; soldiers like the knave of clubs, and citizens with
waving flags: the tailors had theirs, with a pair of shears held by two
lions--and the shoemakers theirs, without boots, but with an eagle that had
two heads, for the shoemakers must have everything so that they can say, it is
a pair! Yes, that was a picture book!
The old man now went into the other room to fetch preserves, apples, and
nuts--yes, it was delightful over there in the old house.
"I cannot bear it any longer!" said the pewter soldier, who sat on the
drawers. "It is so lonely and melancholy here! But when one has been in a
family circle one cannot accustom oneself to this life! I cannot bear it any
longer! The whole day is so long, and the evenings are still longer! Here it
is not at all as it is over the way at your home, where your father and
mother spoke so pleasantly, and where you and all your sweet children made
such a delightful noise. Nay, how lonely the old man is--do you think that he
gets kisses? Do you think he gets mild eyes, or a Christmas tree? He will get
nothing but a grave! I can bear it no longer!"
"You must not let it grieve you so much," said the little boy. "I find it so
very delightful here, and then all the old thoughts, with what they may bring
with them, they come and visit here."
"Yes, it's all very well, but I see nothing of them, and I don't know them!"
said the pewter soldier. "I cannot bear it!"
"But you must!" said the little boy.
Then in came the old man with the most pleased and happy face, the most
delicious preserves, apples, and nuts, and so the little boy thought no more
about the pewter soldier.
The little boy returned home happy and pleased, and weeks and days passed
away, and nods were made to the old house, and from the old house, and then
the little boy went over there again.
The carved trumpeters blew, "Trateratra! There is the little boy! Trateratra!"
and the swords and armor on the knights' portraits rattled, and the silk gowns
rustled; the hog's leather spoke, and the old chairs had the gout in their
legs and rheumatism in their backs: Ugh! it was exactly like the first time,
for over there one day and hour was just like another.
"I cannot bear it!" said the pewter soldier. "I have shed pewter tears! It is
too melancholy! Rather let me go to the wars and lose arms and legs! It would
at least be a change. I cannot bear it longer! Now, I know what it is to have
a visit from one's old thoughts, with what they may bring with them! I have
had a visit from mine, and you may be sure it is no pleasant thing in the end;
I was at last about to jump down from the drawers.
"I saw you all over there at home so distinctly, as if you really were here;
it was again that Sunday morning; all you children stood before the table and
sung your Psalms, as you do every morning. You stood devoutly with folded
hands; and father and mother were just as pious; and then the door was opened,
and little sister Mary, who is not two years old yet, and who always dances
when she hears music or singing, of whatever kind it may be, was put into the
room--though she ought not to have been there--and then she began to dance,
but could not keep time, because the tones were so long; and then she stood,
first on the one leg, and bent her head forwards, and then on the other leg,
and bent her head forwards--but all would not do. You stood very seriously all
together, although it was difficult enough; but I laughed to myself, and then
I fell off the table, and got a bump, which I have still--for it was not
right of me to laugh. But the whole now passes before me again in thought, and
everything that I have lived to see; and these are the old thoughts, with what
they may bring with them.
"Tell me if you still sing on Sundays? Tell me something about little Mary!
And how my comrade, the other pewter soldier, lives! Yes, he is happy enough,
that's sure! I cannot bear it any longer!"
"You are given away as a present!" said the little boy. "You must remain. Can
you not understand that?"
The old man now came with a drawer, in which there was much to be seen, both
"tin boxes" and "balsam boxes," old cards, so large and so gilded, such as one
never sees them now. And several drawers were opened, and the piano was
opened; it had landscapes on the inside of the lid, and it was so hoarse when
the old man played on it! and then he hummed a song.
"Yes, she could sing that!" said he, and nodded to the portrait, which he
had bought at the broker's, and the old man's eyes shone so bright!
"I will go to the wars! I will go to the wars!" shouted the pewter soldier as
loud as he could, and threw himself off the drawers right down on the floor.
What became of him? The old man sought, and the little boy sought; he was
away, and he stayed away.
"I shall find him!" said the old man; but he never found him. The floor was
too open--the pewter soldier had fallen through a crevice, and there he lay as
in an open tomb.
That day passed, and the little boy went home, and that week passed, and
several weeks too. The windows were quite frozen, the little boy was obliged
to sit and breathe on them to get a peep-hole over to the old house, and there
the snow had been blown into all the carved work and inscriptions; it lay
quite up over the steps, just as if there was no one at home--nor was there
any one at home--the old man was dead!
In the evening there was a hearse seen before the door, and he was borne into
it in his coffin: he was now to go out into the country, to lie in his grave.
He was driven out there, but no one followed; all his friends were dead, and
the little boy kissed his hand to the coffin as it was driven away.
Some days afterwards there was an auction at the old house, and the little boy
saw from his window how they carried the old knights and the old ladies away,
the flower-pots with the long ears, the old chairs, and the old
clothes-presses. Something came here, and something came there; the portrait
of her who had been found at the broker's came to the broker's again; and
there it hung, for no one knew her more--no one cared about the old picture.
In the spring they pulled the house down, for, as people said, it was a ruin.
One could see from the street right into the room with the hog's-leather
hanging, which was slashed and torn; and the green grass and leaves about the
balcony hung quite wild about the falling beams. And then it was put to
"That was a relief," said the neighboring houses.
A fine house was built there, with large windows, and smooth white walls; but
before it, where the old house had in fact stood, was a little garden laid
out, and a wild grapevine ran up the wall of the neighboring house. Before the
garden there was a large iron railing with an iron door, it looked quite
splendid, and people stood still and peeped in, and the sparrows hung by
scores in the vine, and chattered away at each other as well as they could,
but it was not about the old house, for they could not remember it, so many
years had passed--so many that the little boy had grown up to a whole man,
yes, a clever man, and a pleasure to his parents; and he had just been
married, and, together with his little wife, had come to live in the house
here, where the garden was; and he stood by her there whilst she planted a
field-flower that she found so pretty; she planted it with her little hand,
and pressed the earth around it with her fingers. Oh! what was that? She had
stuck herself. There sat something pointed, straight out of the soft mould.
It was--yes, guess! It was the pewter soldier, he that was lost up at the old
man's, and had tumbled and turned about amongst the timber and the rubbish,
and had at last laid for many years in the ground.
The young wife wiped the dirt off the soldier, first with a green leaf, and
then with her fine handkerchief--it had such a delightful smell, that it was
to the pewter soldier just as if he had awaked from a trance.
"Let me see him," said the young man. He laughed, and then shook his head.
"Nay, it cannot be he; but he reminds me of a story about a pewter soldier
which I had when I was a little boy!" And then he told his wife about the old
house, and the old man, and about the pewter soldier that he sent over to him
because he was so very, very lonely; and he told it as correctly as it had
really been, so that the tears came into the eyes of his young wife, on
account of the old house and the old man.
"It may possibly be, however, that it is the same pewter soldier!" said she.
"I will take care of it, and remember all that you have told me; but you must
show me the old man's grave!"
"But I do not know it," said he, "and no one knows it! All his friends were
dead, no one took care of it, and I was then a little boy!"
"How very, very lonely he must have been!" said she.
"Very, very lonely!" said the pewter soldier. "But it is delightful not to be
"Delightful!" shouted something close by; but no one, except the pewter
soldier, saw that it was a piece of the hog's-leather hangings; it had lost
all its gilding, it looked like a piece of wet clay, but it had an opinion,
and it gave it:
"The gilding decays,
But hog's leather stays!"