Part 2 out of 8
longer, but a golden statue!
Yes, there she was, with the questioning look of love, grief, and pity
hardened into her face. It was the prettiest and most woeful sight that
ever mortal saw. All the features and tokens of Marygold were there;
even the beloved little dimple remained in her golden chin. But, the
more perfect was this resemblance, the greater was the father's agony at
beholding this golden image, which was all that was left him of a
daughter. It had been a favorite phrase of Midas, whenever he felt
particularly fond of the child, to say that she was worth her weight in
gold. And now the phrase had become literally true. And now at last,
when it was too late, he felt how infinitely a warm and tender heart
that loved him exceeded in value all the wealth that could be piled up
betwixt the earth and sky.
It would be too sad a story if I were to tell you how Midas, in the
fullness of all his gratified desires, began to wring his hands and
bemoan himself, and how he could neither bear to look at Marygold, nor
yet to look away from her. Except when his eyes were fixed on the image,
he could not possibly believe that she was changed to gold. But,
stealing another glance, there was the precious little figure, with a
yellow tear-drop on its yellow cheek, and a look so piteous and tender
that it seemed as if that very expression must needs soften the gold and
make it flesh again. This, however, could not be. So Midas had only to
wring his hands and to wish that he were the poorest man in the wide
world if the loss of all his wealth might bring back the faintest rose-
color to his dear child's face.
While he was in this tumult of despair he suddenly beheld a stranger
standing near the door. Midas bent down his head without speaking, for
he recognized the same figure which had appeared to him the day before
in the treasure-room and had bestowed on him this disastrous faculty of
the Golden Touch.
The stranger's countenance still wore a smile which seemed to shed a
yellow luster all about the room, and gleamed on little Marygold's image
and on the other objects that had been transmuted by the touch of Midas.
"Well, friend Midas," said the stranger, "pray how do you succeed with
the Golden Touch?"
Midas shook his head.
"I am very miserable," said he.
"Very miserable, indeed!" exclaimed the stranger. "And how happens that?
Have I not faithfully kept my promise with you? Have you not everything
that your heart desired?"
"Gold is not everything," answered Midas, "and I have lost all that my
heart really cared for."
"Ah! so you have made a discovery since yesterday?" observed the
stranger. "Let us see, then. Which of these two things do you think is,
really worth the most--the gift of the Golden Touch, or one cup of
clear, cold water?"
"Oh, blessed water!" exclaimed Midas. "It will never moisten my parched
"The Golden Touch," continued the stranger, "or a crust of bread?"
"A piece of bread," answered Midas, "is worth all the gold on earth."
"The Golden Touch," asked the stranger, "or your own little Marygold,
warm, soft, and loving, as she was an hour ago?"
[Illustration: MARYGOLD WAS A GOLDEN STATUE!]
"Oh, my child, my dear child!" cried poor Midas, wringing his hands. "I
would not have given that one small dimple in her chin for the power of
changing this whole big earth into a solid lump of gold!"
"You are wiser than you were, King Midas," said the stranger, looking
seriously at him. "Your own heart, I perceive, has not been entirely
changed from flesh to gold. Were it so, your case would indeed be
desperate. But you appear to be still capable of understanding that the
commonest things, such as lie within everybody's grasp, are more
valuable than the riches which so many mortals sigh and struggle after.
Tell me now, do you sincerely desire to rid yourself of this Golden
"It is hateful to me!" replied Midas.
A fly settled on his nose, but immediately fell to the floor, for it,
too, had become gold. Midas shuddered.
"Go, then," said the stranger, "and plunge into the river that glides
past the bottom of your garden. Take likewise a vase of the same water,
and sprinkle it over any object that you may desire to change back again
from gold into its former substance. If you do this in earnestness and
sincerity, it may possibly repair the mischief which your avarice has
King Midas bowed low, and when he lifted his head the lustrous stranger
You will easily believe that Midas lost no time in snatching up a great
earthen pitcher (but alas me! it was no longer earthen after he touched
it) and hastening to the riverside. As he scampered along and forced his
way through the shrubbery, it was positively marvelous to see how the
foliage turned yellow behind him, as if the autumn had been there and
On reaching the river's brink he plunged headlong in, without waiting so
much as to pull off his shoes.
"Poof! poof! poof!" snorted King Midas, as his head emerged out of the
water. "Well, this is really a refreshing bath, and I think it must have
washed away the Golden Touch. And now for filling my pitcher."
As he dipped the pitcher into the water it gladdened his very heart to
see it change from gold into the same good, honest earthen vessel which
it had been before he touched it. He was conscious also of a change
within himself. A cold, hard, and heavy weight seemed to have gone out
of his bosom. No doubt his heart had been gradually losing its human
substance and transmuting itself into insensible metal, but had now
softened back again into flesh. Perceiving a violet that grew on the
bank of the river, Midas touched it with his finger, and was overjoyed
to find that the delicate flower retained its purple hue, instead of
undergoing a yellow blight. The curse of the Golden Touch had therefore
really been removed from him.
King Midas hastened back to the palace, and I suppose the servants knew
not what to make of it when they saw their royal master so carefully
bringing home an earthen pitcher of water. But that water, which was to
undo all the mischief that his folly had wrought, was more precious to
Midas than an ocean of molten gold could have been. The first thing he
did, as you need hardly be told, was to sprinkle it by handfuls over the
golden figure of little Marygold.
No sooner did it fall on her than you would have laughed to see how the
rosy color came back to the dear child's cheek, and how she began to
sneeze and sputter, and how astonished she was to find herself dripping
wet and her father still throwing more water over her.
"Pray do not, dear father!" cried she. "See how you have wet my nice
frock, which I put on only this morning."
For Marygold did not know that she had been a little golden statue, nor
could she remember anything that had happened since the moment when she
ran with outstretched arms to comfort poor King Midas.
Her father did not think it necessary to tell his beloved child how very
foolish he had been, but contented himself with showing how much wiser
he had now grown. For this purpose he led little Marygold into the
garden, where he sprinkled all the remainder of the water over the rose-
bushes, and with such good effect that above five thousand roses
recovered their beautiful bloom. There were two circumstances, however,
which, as long as he lived, used to put King Midas in mind of the Golden
One was that the sands of the river sparkled like gold; the other, that
little Marygold's hair had now a golden tinge which he had never
observed in it before she had been transmuted by the effect of his kiss.
The change of hue was really an improvement, and made Marygold's hair
richer than in her babyhood.
When King Midas had grown quite an old man and used to trot Marygold's
children on his knee, he was fond of telling them this marvelous story,
pretty much as I have told it to you. And then he would stroke their
glossy ringlets and tell them that their hair likewise had a rich shade
of gold, which they had inherited from their mother.
"And to tell you the truth, my precious little folks," quoth King Midas,
diligently trotting the children all the while, "ever since that morning
I have hated the very sight of all other gold save this."
Hawthorne was by no means the first man who ever told about King Midas,
nor are the children who have lived since his time the first who ever
heard this story; for hundreds and hundreds of years ago, in a country
very different from ours, the little Greek children heard it told in a
language that would seem very strange to us. However, Hawthorne has by
no means told the story just as the Greek mothers or Greek nurses might
have told it to their children; he has added much which makes the story
seem more real and the characters more human.
For instance, as he says, the old myth told nothing about any daughter
of Midas's, and yet I think we are all ready to admit that we should not
love the story half so well without dear little Marygold.
Then too, the talk about Midas's spectacles and about his trotting his
grandchildren on his knee is but a little pleasant fooling on the part
of Hawthorne, for spectacles were not even thought of for centuries
after the time of old King Midas, and it is much more than unlikely that
any old Greek ever trotted children on his knee.
Hawthorne had a perfect right to make these changes in the story; for
the old myths have come down to us from so long ago that they seem to
belong to everybody, and every one forms his own ideas of them.
Thus you will see that while the author of this story thought of
Marygold as a little child who climbed up onto her father's knee, the
artists in dealing with the subject have thought of her as almost a
young woman. Which of these two ideas do you like better?
THE CHILD'S WORLD
By W. B. Rands
Great, wide, beautiful, wonderful World,
With the wonderful water round you curled,
And the wonderful grass upon your breast--
World, you are beautifully dressed.
The wonderful air is over me,
And the wonderful wind is shaking the tree;
It walks on the water, and whirls the mills,
And talks to itself on the tops of the hills.
You, friendly Earth! how far do you go
With the wheat-fields that nod and the rivers that flow,
With cities and gardens, and cliffs, and isles,
And people upon you for thousands of miles?
Ah, you are so great, and I am so small,
I tremble to think of you, World, at all;
And yet, when I said my prayers to-day,
A whisper inside me seemed to say:
"You are more than the Earth, though you are such a dot--
You can love and think, and the Earth cannot!"
THE FIR TREE
By Hans Christian Andersen
Out in the forest stood a pretty little Fir Tree. It had a good place;
it could have sunlight, air there was in plenty, and all around grew
many larger comrades--pines as well as firs. But the little Fir Tree
wished ardently to become greater. It did not care for the warm sun and
the fresh air; it took no notice of the peasant children, who went about
talking together, when they had come out to look for strawberries and
raspberries. The children often came with a whole basketful, or with a
string of berries which they had strung on a straw. Then they would sit
down by the little Fir Tree and say, "How pretty and small this one is!"
The Fir Tree did not like that at all.
Next year he had grown bigger, and the following year he was taller
"Oh, if I were only as tall as the others!" sighed the little Fir. "Then
I would spread my branches far around and look out from my crown into
the wide world. The birds would then build nests in my boughs, and when
the wind blew I would nod grandly."
It took no pleasure in the sunshine, in the birds, or in the red clouds
that went sailing over it morning and evening.
[Illustration: THE SWALLOWS AND THE STORK CAME]
When it was winter, and the snow lay all around, white and sparkling, a
hare would often come jumping along and spring right over the little Fir
Tree. O, that made him so angry! But two winters went by, and when the
third came, the little Tree had grown so tall that the hare was obliged
to run around it.
"Oh, to grow, to grow, and become old; that's the only fine thing in the
world," thought the Tree.
In the autumn the woodcutters always came and felled a few of the
largest trees; that was done this year, too, and the little Fir Tree,
that was now quite well grown, shuddered with fear, for the stately
trees fell to the ground with a crash, and their branches were cut off,
so that the trees looked quite naked, long and slender, and could hardly
he recognized. Then they were laid upon wagons, and the horses dragged
them away out of the wood. Where were they going? What destiny awaited
In the spring, when the Swallows and the Stork came, the Tree asked
them, "Do you know where the big firs were taken? Did you meet them?"
The Swallows knew nothing about it, but the Stork looked thoughtful,
nodded his head and said: "Yes, I think so. I met many new ships when I
flew out of Egypt; on the ships were tall masts; I fancy these were the
trees. They smelt like fir. I can assure you they're stately--very
"Oh, that I were big enough to go over the sea. What kind of a thing is
this sea, and how does it look?"
"It would take long to explain all that," said the Stork, and he went
"Rejoice in thy youth," said the Sunbeams; "rejoice in thy fresh growth,
and in the young life that is within thee."
And the wind kissed the Tree, and the Dew wept tears upon it; but the
Fir Tree did not understand.
When Christmas time approached, quite young trees were felled, sometimes
trees which were neither so old nor so large as this Fir Tree, that
never rested, but always wanted to go away. These beautiful young trees
kept all their branches; they were put upon wagons, and horses dragged
them away out of the wood.
"Where are they all going?" asked the Fir Tree. "They are not greater
than I--indeed, one of them was much smaller. Why do they keep all their
branches? Whither are they taken?"
"We know that! We know that!" chirped the Sparrows. "Yonder in the town
we looked in at the windows. We know where the fir trees go. We have
looked in at the windows and have seen that they are planted in the
middle of a warm room and dressed up in the greatest splendor with the
most beautiful things--gilt apples, honey-cakes, playthings, and many
hundreds of candles."
"And then?" asked the Fir Tree, trembling through all its branches. "And
then? what happens then?" "Why, we have not seen anything more. But it
"Perhaps I may be destined to this glorious end one day!" cried the Fir
Tree, rejoicing. "That is even better than traveling across the sea. How
I long for it! If it were only Christmas! Now I am great and grown up
like the rest who were led away last year. Oh, if I were only on the
wagon! If I were only in the warm room amidst all the pomp and splendor!
And then? Yes, then something even better will come, something far more
charming, else why should they adorn me so? There must be something
grander, something greater still to come; but what? Oh! I'm suffering,
I'm longing! I don't know myself what is the matter with me!"
"Rejoice in us," said Air and Sunshine. "Rejoice in thy fresh youth here
in the woodland."
The Fir Tree did not rejoice at all, but it grew and grew; winter and
summer it stood there, green, dark green. The people who saw it said,
"That's a handsome tree!" and at Christmas time it was felled before any
of the others. The axe cut deep into its marrow, and the tree fell to
the ground with a sigh; it felt a pain, a sensation of faintness, and
could not think at all of happiness, for it was sad at parting from its
home, from the place where it had grown up; it knew that it should never
again see the dear old companions, the little bushes and the flowers all
around, perhaps not even the birds. The Tree came to itself only when it
was unloaded in a yard, with other trees, and heard a man say:
"This one is famous; we want only this one!"
Now two servants came in gay liveries, and carried the Fir Tree into a
large, beautiful room. All around the walls hung pictures, and by the
great stove stood large Chinese vases with lions on the covers; there
were rocking chairs, silken sofas, great tables covered with picture
books, and toys worth a hundred times a hundred dollars; at least, the
children said so. And the Fir Tree was put into a great tub filled with
sand; but no one could see that it was a tub, for it was hung round with
green cloth, and stood on a large, many-colored carpet. Oh, how the Tree
trembled! What was to happen now? The servants, and the young ladies
also, decked it out. On one branch they hung little bags cut out of
colored paper, and every bag was filled with sweetmeats. Golden apples
and walnuts hung down as if they grew there, and more than a hundred
little candles, red, white, and blue, were fastened to the different
boughs. Dolls that looked exactly like real people--the Tree had never
seen such before--swung among the foliage, and high on the summit of the
Tree was fixed a tinsel star. It was splendid.
"This evening," said all, "this evening it will shine."
"Oh," thought the Tree, "that it were evening already! Oh that the
lights may be soon lit! When will that be done? I wonder if trees will
come out of the forest to look at me? Will the Sparrows fly against the
panes? Shall I grow fast here, and stand adorned in summer and winter?"
But the Tree had a backache from mere longing, and the backache is just
as bad for a tree as the headache for a person.
At last the candles were lighted. What a brilliance, what splendor! The
Tree trembled so in all its branches that one of the candles set fire to
a green twig, and it was scorched, but one of the young ladies hastily
put the fire out.
Now the Tree might not even tremble. Oh, that was terrible! It was so
afraid of setting fire to some of its ornaments, and it was quite
bewildered with all the brilliance. And now the folding doors were
thrown open, and a number of children rushed in as if they would have
overturned the whole Tree, while the older people followed more
deliberately. The little ones stood quite silent, but only for a minute;
then they shouted till the room rang; they danced gleefully round the
Tree; and one present after another was plucked from it.
"What are they about?" thought the Tree. "What's going to be done?"
And the candles burned down to the twigs, and as they burned down they
were extinguished, and then the children were given permission to
plunder the Tree. They rushed in upon it, so that every branch cracked
again; if it had not been fastened by the top and by the golden star to
the ceiling, the Tree certainly would have fallen down.
The children danced about with their pretty toys. No one looked at the
Tree except one old man, who came up and peeped among the branches, but
only to see if a fig or an apple had not been forgotten.
"A story! A story!" shouted the children, as they drew a little fat man
toward the Tree. He sat down just beneath it--"for then we shall be in
the green wood," said he, "and the Tree may have the advantage of
listening to my tale. But I can tell only one. Will you hear the story
of Ivede-Avede, or of Klumpey-Dumpey, who fell downstairs, and still was
raised up to honor and married the princess?"
"Ivede-Avede," cried some; "Klumpey-Dumpey," cried others, and there was
a great crying and shouting. Only the Fir Tree was silent, and thought,
"Shall I not be in it? Shall I have nothing to do in it?" But he had
been in the evening's amusement and had done what was required of him.
And the fat man told about Klumpey-Dumpey, who fell downstairs, and yet
was raised to honor and married the princess. And the children clapped
their hands, and cried, "Tell another, tell another!" for they wanted to
hear about Ivede-Avede; but they got only the story of Klumpey-Dumpey.
The Fir Tree stood quite silent and thoughtful; never had the birds in
the wood told such a story as that. Klumpey-Dumpey fell downstairs, and
yet came to honor and married the princess!
"Yes, so it happens in the world!" thought the Fir Tree, and believed it
must be true, because that was such a nice man who told it. "Well, who
can know? Perhaps I shall fall downstairs, too, and marry a princess!"
And it looked forward with pleasure to being adorned again, the next
evening, with candles and toys, gold and fruit. "To-morrow I shall not
tremble," it thought. "I shall rejoice in all my splendor. To-morrow I
shall hear the story of Klumpey-Dumpey again, and perhaps that of Ivede-
And the Tree stood all night quiet and thoughtful.
In the morning the servants and the chambermaid came in.
"Now my splendor will begin afresh," thought the Tree.
But they dragged him out of the room and up-stairs to the garret, and
there they put him in a dark corner where no daylight shone.
"What's the meaning of this?" thought the Tree. "What am I to do here?
What is to happen?"
And he leaned against the wall, and thought, and thought. And he had
time enough, for days and nights went by, and nobody came up; and when
at length some one came, it was only to put some great boxes in a
corner. Now the Tree stood quite hidden away, and the supposition is
that it was quite forgotten.
[Illustration: THE FAT MAN TOLD ABOUT KLUMPEY-DUMPEY]
"Now it's winter outside," thought the Tree. "The earth is hard and
covered with snow, and people cannot plant me; therefore I suppose I'm
to be sheltered here until spring comes. How considerate that is! How
good people are! If it were only not so dark here, and so terribly
solitary! Not even a little hare! It was pretty out there in the wood,
when the snow lay thick and the hare sprang past; yes, even when he
jumped over me; but then I did not like it. It is terribly lonely up
"Piep! Piep!" said a little Mouse, and crept forward, and then came
another little one. They smelt at the Fir Tree, and then slipped among
"It's horribly cold," said the two little Mice, "or else it would be
comfortable here. Don't you think so, you old Fir Tree?"
"I'm not old at all," said the Fir Tree. "There are many much older than
"Where do you come from?" asked the Mice. "And what do you know?" They
were dreadfully inquisitive.
"Tell us about the most beautiful spot on the earth. Have you been
there? Have you been in the storeroom, where cheeses lie on the shelves,
and hams hang from the ceiling; where one dances on tallow candles, and
goes in thin and comes out fat?"
"I don't know that," replied the Tree; "but I know the wood, where the
sun shines and the birds sing." And then it told all about its youth.
And the little Mice had never heard anything of the kind; and they
listened, and said:
"What a number of things you have seen! How happy you must have been!"
"I?" replied the Fir Tree; and it thought about what it had told. "Yes,
those were really quite happy times." But then he told of the Christmas
Eve, when he had been hung with sweatmeats and candles.
"Oh!" said the little Mice, "how happy you have been, you old Fir Tree!"
"I'm not old at all," said the Tree. "I came out of the wood only this
winter. I'm only rather backward in my growth."
"What splendid stories you can tell!" said the little Mice.
And next night they came with four other little Mice, to hear what the
Tree had to relate; and the more it said, the more clearly did it
remember everything, and thought, "Those were quite merry days. But they
may come again. Klumpey-Dumpey fell downstairs, and yet he married the
princess. Perhaps I may marry a princess, too!" And then the Fir Tree
thought of a pretty little Birch Tree that grew out in the forest; for
the Fir Tree, that Birch was a real princess.
"Who's Klumpey-Dumpey?" asked the little Mice.
And then the Fir Tree told the whole story. It could remember every
single word; and the little Mice were ready to leap to the very top of
the tree with pleasure. Next night a great many more Mice came, and on
Sunday two Rats even appeared; but these thought the story was not
pretty, and the little Mice were sorry for that, for now they also did
not like it so much as before.
"Do you know only one story?" asked the Rats.
"Only that one," replied the Tree. "I heard that on the happiest evening
of my life; I did not think then how happy I was."
"That's a very miserable story. Don't you know any about bacon and
tallow candles--a storeroom story?"
"No," said the Tree.
"Then we'd rather not hear you," said the Rats. And they went back to
their own people. The little Mice at last also stayed away; and then the
Tree sighed and said, "It was very nice when they sat around me, the
merry little Mice, and listened when I spoke to them. Now that's past,
too. But I shall remember to be pleased when they take me out."
But when did that happen? Why, it was one morning that people came and
rummaged in the garret; the boxes were put away, and the Tree was
brought out; they certainly threw him rather roughly on the floor, but a
servant dragged him away at once to the stairs, where the daylight
"Now life is beginning again," thought the Tree.
It felt the fresh air and the first sunbeams, and then it was out in the
courtyard. Everything passed so quickly that the Tree quite forgot to
look at itself, there was so much to look at all around. The courtyard
was close to a garden, and there everything was blooming; the roses hung
fresh and fragrant over the little paling, the linden trees were in
blossom, and the swallows cried, "Quinze-wit! quinze-wit! my husband's
come!" But it was not the Fir Tree that they meant.
"Now I shall live!" cried the Tree, rejoicingly, and spread its branches
far out; but, alas! they were all withered and yellow, and it lay in the
corner among nettles and weeds. The tinsel star was still upon it, and
shone in the bright sunshine.
In the courtyard a couple of the merry children were playing who had
danced round the Tree at Christmas time, and had rejoiced over it. One
of the youngest ran up and tore off the golden star.
"Look what is sticking to the ugly old Fir Tree!" said the child, and he
trod on the branches till they cracked under his boots.
And the Tree looked at all the blooming flowers and the splendor of the
garden, then looked at itself, and wished it had remained in the dark
corner of the garret; it thought of its fresh youth in the wood, of the
merry Christmas Eve, and of the little Mice which had listened so
pleasantly to the story of Klumpey-Dumpey.
"Past! past!" said the old Tree. "Had I but rejoiced when I could have
done so! Past! past!"
And the servant came and chopped the Tree into little pieces; a whole
bundle lay there; it blazed brightly under the great brewing copper, and
it sighed deeply, and each sigh was like a little shot; and the
children, who were at play there, ran up, seated themselves by the fire,
looked into it, and cried "Puff! puff!" But at each explosion, which was
a deep sigh, the Tree thought of a summer day in the woods, or of a
winter night there, when the stars beamed; he thought of Christmas Eve
and of Klumpey-Dumpey, the only story he had ever heard or knew how to
tell; and thus the Tree was burned.
The boys played in the garden, and the youngest had on his breast a
golden star, which the Tree had worn on its happiest evening. Now that
was past, and the Tree's life was past, and the story is past, too:
past! past!--and that's the way with all stories.
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN
When a man writes as beautiful and as interesting stories as Hans
Christian Andersen has written for children, we like to know something
about him; and we find that nothing that he ever wrote was much more
interesting than his own life. Certainly no one who knew him while he
was a child could have thought that he would ever have much chance of
becoming a famous man.
He was born on April 2nd, 1805, in the city of Odense, in Denmark. The
room in which he was born was kitchen, parlor, bedroom and workshop for
the whole family, for the family of Andersen had little to do with, and
little knowledge of how to make the best of what they had. The father
was a cobbler, but a cobbler who was much more interested in other
things than he was in his trade, into which he had been forced quite
contrary to his own wishes. The mother was a careless, easy-going
person, who was kind to her child, but had not the slightest idea of
training him, or of restraining any of his odd tastes. These tastes were
determined more or less by his father, who was a great reader,
particularly of plays; and we see the results of this early introduction
to the drama in Hans Christian Andersen throughout his life.
Little Hans Christian was a most extraordinary child. He was ugly, as he
remained all his life; for his body and neck were too long and too thin,
his feet and his hands were too large and too bony, his nose was large
and hooked, and his eyes were small and set like a Chinaman's. However,
it was not his looks, but his oddity, which cut him off from other
children. He would sit all day and make doll clothes, or cut dolls and
animals out of paper; and these were not things which would be likely to
make other boys like him and admire him. He had little schooling, and
even when he was a grown man he knew none too much of the grammar of his
After his father's death, when he himself was about eleven, little Hans
Christian was more solitary than before, and shut himself up still more
with his doll's clothes, his toy theaters, and his books, for he was,
like his father, very fond of reading. Especially did he like those
books which had anything about ghosts or witches or fairies in them.
While he was but a child, he wrote a play of his own, in which most of
the characters were kings and queens and princesses; and because he felt
that it could not be possible that such lofty personages would talk the
same language as ordinary people, he picked out from a dictionary, which
he managed somehow to get hold of, French words, German words, English
words, and high-sounding Danish words, and strung them all together to
make up the conversation of his characters.
It was no more than natural that such a strange, unattractive-looking
child should be made fun of by the prosaic, commonplace people of his
neighborhood, and this was untold pain to the sensitive boy. There were,
however, in the town, people of a higher class, who perceived in the boy
something beyond the ordinary, and who interested themselves in his
behalf. They had him sent to school, but he preferred to dream away his
time rather than to study, and his short period of schooling really
taught him nothing.
His mother, careless as she was, began to see that matters must change--
that the boy could not go on all his life in this aimless fashion; but
since he steadily declined to be a tailor or a cobbler, or indeed to
take up any trade, it seemed no easy question to settle. However, in
1818, there came to Odense a troupe of actors who gave plays and operas.
Young Andersen, who by making acquaintance with the billposter was
allowed to witness the performances from behind the scenes, decided at
once that he was cut out to be an actor. There was no demand for actors
in his native town, and he therefore decided to go to Copenhagen, the
capital of Denmark, there to seek his fortune.
With about five dollars in his pocket, Andersen reached Copenhagen in
September, 1819, but he found that a fortune was by no means as easily
made as he had fancied. He himself felt convinced that he should be a
famous actor, but how was he to convince any one else of this fact? From
one actor to another, from one theater manager to another he went, but
all told him that for one reason or another he was not fitted for the
stage. Particularly did Andersen resent the excuse of one manager, who
told him that he was too thin. This fault Andersen assured him that he
was only too willing to remedy, if he would only give him a chance and a
salary; but still the manager refused.
Finally the boy was destitute of money and knew not where to turn for
more, for he was too proud to go back to his native town. However, an
Italian singing teacher, Siboni, into whose home Andersen had almost
forced himself while a dinner party was in progress, became interested
in him, and with some friends provided him with enough to live on. He
also gave him singing lessons until the boy's voice gave out. Other
influential people gradually became interested in the strange creature,
who certainly did appear to have some talent, but who had even more
obvious defects; and so he lived on, supported in the most meager
Determined to write plays if he could not play them, Andersen composed
drama after drama. He would rush into the house of a total stranger, of
whom perhaps he had heard as a patron of genius, declaim some scenes
from his plays, and then rush out, leaving his auditor in gasping
amazement. Finally he made the acquaintance of one of the directors of
the Royal Theatre, Jonas Collin, who was ever afterward his best friend.
Through the influence of this kindly man, Anderson was sent to school at
Slagelse, and as he said later, the days of his degradation were over
once and for all.
Andersen did not have an entirely pleasant time at school. He loved
systematic study no more than he had early in his life, and he did not
fall in very readily with his young companions. However, he persisted,
for he was ashamed to disappoint his patron, Collin, and by the time he
left school in 1827, he had an education of which he needed not to be
ashamed. After his return to Copenhagen, he was able to pass his
[Illustration: HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN 1805-1875]
From this time on, Andersen's life was in the main happy, although he
was so sensitive and so sentimental that he was constantly fancying
grievances where none existed, and making himself miserable over
imaginary snubs. It is true that his dramatic works were not well
received, but this was because there was no real merit in them, and not,
as Andersen persisted in believing, because the critics to whom they
were submitted had grudges against him. His first works that made a
distinctly favorable impression were travel sketches, for Andersen was
all his life a great traveler, and knew how to write most charmingly and
humorously of all that he saw. His trips to other countries were all
treated most delightfully, and every book that appeared increased the
author's fame. His visit to Italy, the country which all his life he
loved above any other, also resulted in a novel, THE IMPROVISATORE,
which became immensely popular and caused Andersen to be hailed as a
future great novelist.
However, it was neither for travel sketches nor for novels that he was
to be best known, but for something entirely different, which he himself
was inclined at first to look down upon, and which many of his critics
at the outset regarded as mere child's play. These were the fairy tales
which he began in 1835, and which he published at intervals from that
time until his death. The children loved The Ugly Duckling, The Fir Tree
and The Snow Queen; but it was not only the children who loved them.
Gradually people all over the world began to realize that here was a man
who knew how to tell tales to children in so masterly a manner that even
grown folks would do well to listen to him.
Now that Andersen was at the height of his fame, he had no lack of
friends; for whether he was in Germany, or Spain, or England, he was
everywhere given ovations that were fit for a king, and was everywhere
entertained by the best people in the most sumptuous manner. At one time
he stayed for five weeks with Charles Dickens in his home at Gad's Hill,
and the two were ever afterward firm friends. All of these people loved
Andersen, not because of his fame, but because of the stories which had
brought him fame, and because he was distinctly lovable in spite of his
oddity; for Andersen was still odd. He was ugly and ungainly, and, owing
to his fondness for decoration, often dressed in the most peculiar
fashion. Then, too, he was so childishly vain of the fame which had come
to him that he was at any time quite likely to stop in a crowded street
and call across to a friend on the other side about some favorable
notice which he had just received. After people became accustomed to
this trait, however, they saw that it was but another phase of the
childlikeness which made Andersen so charming and so unlike many other
Despite his intimate knowledge of children, Andersen was never really
fond of them. They worried him, and he, for some reason or other, never
seemed very attractive to them. But if he could be induced to tell them
or read them one of his stories, illustrating it with the queer antics
and faces which he alone knew how to make, he was certain of an
intensely interested audience.
Andersen's fame and the love felt for him at home and abroad grew with
his every year, and when he died, in 1875, his death was looked upon as
a more than national calamity. The highest people in Denmark, including
the king and queen, who had come to look upon Andersen's friendship as a
great honor, followed him to his grave; and children all over the world
sorrowed when they were told that the author of the beloved Fairy Tales
would never write them another story.
PICTURE-BOOKS IN WINTER
By Robert Louis Stevenson
Summer fading, winter comes--
Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs,
Window robins, winter rooks,
And the picture story-books.
Water now is turned to stone
Nurse and I can walk upon;
Still we find the flowing brooks
In the picture story-books.
All the pretty things put by
Wait upon the children's eye--
Sheep and shepherds, trees and crooks,
In the picture story-books.
We may see now all things are--
Seas and cities, near and far,
And the flying fairies' looks--
In the picture story-books.
How am I to sing your praise,
Happy chimney-corner days,
Sitting safe in nursery nooks,
Reading picture story-books!
What we like about so fine a little poem as this is that it sets our
thoughts to flying. As we read it, we see autumn coming on, with the red
and the gold and the orange tinting the leaves. We can hear the last
notes of the birds as they wing their way through the soft blue sky to
gayer places in the warm southland. The cold comes fast, and in the
morning, as we try to play ball or gather the ripe nuts from the hazel
bushes, our thumbs tingle with the frost.
The little Scotch boy sees his robin, a little bird with a reddish-
yellow breast, come to his window, and hears the cawing of the rooks. We
in the United States can hear the rough voice of the blue-jay, or
perhaps see the busy downy woodpecker tapping industriously at the suet
we have hung in the tree for him.
A few days later the water in the pond becomes hard as stone, and we can
walk over its smooth, glittering surface, or, if we are old enough, can
make our way back and forth in widening circles to the music of our
ringing skates. When the cold grows too severe and our cheeks burn in
the wind, we can run inside, curl up in a big chair where it is warm and
cheery, and, burying our faces in our favorite books, can see once more
the little waves dancing on the pebbly shore of the pond, and hear the
babble of the brook.
What can we find in the books? Everything that makes life merry, and
everything that helps us to be true and manly. Out in the pasture the
sheep are grazing, and among them walk the shepherds, singing gaily to
the wide sky and the bright sun. When, perchance, a frisking lamb strays
near the woods where perils lie, the shepherd follows, and with the
crook at the end of his staff draws the wanderer back to safety.
These wonderful books of ours will carry us across the seas, even. We,
for instance, might go to Scotland and play with the boy Stevenson. What
a delight it would be; for the man who can write so charmingly about
children must have been a wonderfully interesting boy to play with. And
the cities we should see--quaint old Edinburgh, with its big, frowning
castle on the top of that high rugged hill, and in the castle yard, old
Mons Meg, the big cannon that every Scotch lad feels that he must crawl
If that is too far away from us, we will come back to Boston, and walk
through the Common, and hear again the Yankee boys bravely complaining
to General Gage because the British soldiers have trampled down the snow
fort the youngsters have built.
But those are only real things; the more wonderful things are the flying
fairies whose deeds we may read in this very book.
But how can we write in prose the praise of the picture story-books when
Stevenson thinks he cannot do it in his pretty rhymes? Moreover, we have
just found out that the poet's chimney corner is filled with the little
ones who can read only the simplest things, and need big, fine pictures
and easy words. He was not writing for us at all--but that does not
matter. His little poem pleases us just the same.
Let us turn back and read it again--I suspect that, after all, we are
all of us small enough to sit in a chimney corner; and perhaps every
book is but a picture story-book to the man or woman who is old enough
and big enough to read it rightly.
HOW THE WOLF WAS BOUND
Adapted by Anna McCaleb
It seems strange that any one who might have lived with the gods in
their beautiful city of Asgard [Footnote: The Norse peoples believed
that their gods lived above the earth in a wonderful city named Asgard.
From this city they crossed to the earth on a bridge, which by people on
earth was known as the rainbow.] and have shared in their joys and their
good works should have preferred to associate with the ugly, wicked
giants. But that was the case with Loki--Red Loki, as he was called,
because of his red hair. He was handsome like a god; he was wise and
clever like a god--more clever than any of the other gods. In one way,
however, he differed from the others; he had a bad heart, and liked much
better to use his cleverness in getting gods and men into trouble than
in making them happy. Besides this, he was very proud, and could not
bear to submit even to Odin, the king of the gods.
"Who is Odin," [Footnote: Odin, chief of the Norse gods, had been
induced to part with one eye in exchange for wisdom.] he muttered, "that
he should be set over me? Is he more clever than I am? Is he more
handsome, with his one eye and his gray beard?" And Loki held his
handsome head high.
Proud as he was, however, he was not too proud to do a disgraceful
thing. He went off to the home of the giants and married the ugliest and
fiercest of all the giantesses. Just why he did it does not seem very
clear, for he certainly could not have loved her. Perhaps he did it just
to spite the other gods and to show them that he cared nothing for what
But he must have repented of his act when he saw the children which the
giantess bore him, for they were certainly the most hideous and
frightful children that were ever born into the world. The daughter,
Hela, was the least awful, but even she was by no means a person one
would care to meet. She was half white and half blue, and she had such
gloomy, angry eyes that any one who looked at her sank into
unconquerable sadness and finally into death. But the other two! One was
a huge, glistening, scaly serpent, with a mouth that dripped poison, and
glaring, beady eyes; and the other was a white-fanged, red-eyed wolf.
These two monsters grew so rapidly that the king of the gods, looking
down from his throne in the heavens, was struck with fear.
"The gods themselves will not be safe if those monsters are allowed to
go unchecked," he said. "Down there in the home of the giants they will
be taught to hate the gods, and at the rate they're growing, they'll
soon be strong enough to shake our very palaces."
He sent, therefore, the strongest of his sons to fetch the children of
Loki before him. Well was it for those gathered about Odin's throne that
they were gods and goddesses, else would the eyes of Hela have sent them
to their death. Upon her, Odin looked more in pity than in anger--she
was not all bad.
"You, Hela," he said, "although it is not safe to allow you to remain
above ground, where you may do great harm to men, are not all wicked.
Honor, therefore, shall be yours, and ease; but happiness shall be far
from you. I shall make you queen over the regions of the dead--that
kingdom which is as large as nine worlds."
Then it was believed that the only honorable form of death was death in
battle; and the bravest of the heroes who died in battle were brought by
Odin's messengers, the Valkyries, who always hovered on their cloud-
horses above battlefields, to the great palace of Valhalla. Therefore
only the cowards or the weak, who died in their beds, went to the
underground realm, and Hela knew that they were not subjects of whom she
could be proud. Nevertheless, she went without a word.
Odin, then, without speaking, suddenly stooped and seized in his strong
arms the wriggling, slippery serpent. Over the wall of the city he threw
it, and the gods watched it as it fell down, down, down, until at last
it sank from sight into the sea. This was by no means the last of the
serpent, however; under the water it grew and grew until it was so large
that it formed a girdle about the whole earth, and could hold its tail
in its mouth.
The question as to what should be done with the great wolf, Fenris, was
not so easily answered. It seemed to all the gods that he had grown
larger and fiercer in the brief time he had stood before them, and none
of them dared touch him. At length some one whispered, "Let us kill
him," and the wolf turned and showed his teeth at the speaker; for as he
was the son of Loki, he could understand and speak the language of the
"That cannot be," said Odin. "Have we not sworn that the streets of our
city shall never be stained with blood? Let us leave the matter until
So the wolf was permitted to roam about Asgard, and the gods all tried
to be kind to him, for they thought that by their kindness they might
tame him. However, he grew stronger and stronger and more and more
vicious, until only Tyr, [Footnote: Tyr was the Norse war-god.] the
bravest of all the gods, dared go near him to give him food. One day, as
the gods sat in their council hall, they heard the wolf howling through
"How long," said Odin, "is our city to be made hideous by such noises?
We must bind Fenris the wolf."
Silence followed his words, for all knew what a serious thing it was
that Odin proposed. Fenris must be bound--that was true; but who would
dare attempt the task? And what chain could ever hold him? At length
Thor [Footnote: Thor, god of thunder, was the strongest of all the gods]
arose, and all sighed with relief; for if any one could bind the wolf,
it was Thor. "I will make a chain," he said, "stronger than ever chain
was before, and then we shall find some way to fasten it upon him."
Thor strode to his smithy, and heaped his fire high. All night he worked
at his anvil; whenever any of the gods awakened they could hear the
clank! clank! clank! of his great hammer, and could see from their
windows the sparks from his smithy shining through the gloom. In the
morning the chain was finished, and all wondered at its strength, Then
Thor called to the huge wolf and said:
"Fenris, you are stronger than any of the gods. We cannot break this
chain, but for you it will be mere child's play. Let yourself be bound
with it, that we may see how great your strength really is."
Now the wolf knew his might better than any of them did, and he suffered
himself to be bound fast. Then he arose, stretched himself as if he were
just waking from a nap, and calmly walked off, leaving the fragments of
the chain on the ground. The amazed gods looked at each other with
fright in their eyes--what could they do?
"I will make a stronger chain," said Thor, undiscouraged. And again he
went to his smithy, where he worked all day and all night.
"This is the strongest chain that can ever be made," he said, when he
presented it to the gods. "If this will not hold him, nothing can."
Calling the wolf, they flattered him and praised his strength, and
finally persuaded him to let himself be bound with this chain, "just for
a joke." You may be sure, however, that they said nothing about its
being the strongest chain that could ever be made.
Fenris pretended to lie helpless for a time; then he struggled to his
feet, shook his mighty limbs, tossed his hideous head--and the chain
snapped, and fell into a hundred pieces! Then indeed there was
consternation among the gods; but Odin, the all-wise, had a sudden
helpful thought. Calling his swiftest messenger, he said:
"Go to the dwarfs in their underground smithy. Tell them to forge for us
a chain which cannot be broken; and do you make all haste, for the wolf
grows stronger each moment."
[Illustration: THE GODS WERE AMAZED]
Off hastened the messenger, and in less time than it takes to tell it he
was with the dwarfs, giving them the message from Odin. The little men
bustled about here and there, gathering up the materials of which the
chain was to be made; and when these were all collected and piled in a
heap, you might have looked and looked, and you would have seen nothing!
For this extraordinary chain was made of such things as the roots of
mountains, the sound of a cat's footsteps, a woman's beard, the spittle
of birds and the voice of fishes. When it was finished the messenger
hurried back to Asgard and displayed it proudly to the anxious gods. It
was as fine and soft as a silken string, but the gods knew the
workmanship of the dwarfs, and had no fear.
"It will be easy," they said, "to persuade Fenris to let himself be
bound with this."
But they were mistaken. The wolf looked at the soft, shining cord
suspiciously, and said:
"If that is what it looks to be, I shall gain no honor from breaking it;
if it has been made by magic, I shall never free myself."
"But we will free you," cried the gods. "This is but a game to test your
"Not you," growled the wolf. "I've lived here long enough to know that
if I don't look out for myself, no one else will look out for me."
"All right, if you are afraid," said Thor, with a shrug of his
shoulders. And the wolf replied, "To show that I am no more cowardly
than the gods, I will suffer myself to be bound if one of you will put
his hand into my mouth."
To refuse to do this was, as the gods knew, to admit that they had meant
trickery, and thus to make Fenris hate them worse than ever. But what
one of them was willing to sacrifice his hand? Thor was no coward, but
he knew that he was the chief defender of the gods, and he could not let
himself be maimed. However, they did not have to wait long, for Tyr came
forward, and thrust his hand into the wolf's mouth.
The wolf, his suspicions quieted, let himself be wrapped and bound with
the cord; and then, as he had done with the other chains, he stretched
himself--or tried to. For the magic rope but drew tighter and tighter
for all his struggling, until it cut into his very skin. Enraged, he
brought his great teeth sharply together, and bit off Tyr's hand at the
wrist. Then he howled and snapped and growled, until the gods, unwilling
to have their peace disturbed, thrust a sword into his mouth, so that
the hilt rested upon his lower jaw and the point pierced the roof of his
mouth. They next fastened the cord to a rock, and left the wolf to
writhe and struggle and shake the earth. So they were freed for a time
from their enemy, but at the cost of Tyr's hand.
THE DEATH OF BALDER
Adapted by Anna McCaleb
Of all the gods in Asgard, Balder was most beloved; for no one had ever
seen him frown, and his smile and the light of his eyes made all happy
who looked at him. And of all who dwelt in Asgard or ever gained
admission there, Loki was most hated. Clever as he was, he used his
cleverness to harass the other gods and to make them wretched, and often
he attempted real crimes against them. It was natural enough that Loki,
slighted and frowned upon, should hate Balder the beautiful, even though
Balder himself had never spoken an unkind word to him.
"I cannot bear the sight of his shining hair and happy eyes," muttered
Loki to himself. "If I could just blot them out of Asgard I should be
revenging myself upon the gods for their bitterness toward me, for harm
to Balder would hurt them more than harm to themselves."
One morning the assembled gods noticed that when Balder came among them
he looked less radiant than usual, and they gathered about him, begging
that he tell them what was wrong.
"It's nothing! It's nothing!" said Balder; and he forced a smile, but it
was not his old smile. It reminded them all of the faint light the sun
sheds when a thin cloud has drifted before it.
All day long, as they went about their tasks and their pleasures, the
gods were conscious of a feeling of gloom; and when they stopped and
questioned themselves, they found that the cause lay in the diminished
brightness of Balder's smile. When, the next morning, Balder again came
slowly to the great hall of the gods and showed a careworn face, Odin
and Frigga, his father and mother, drew him apart and implored him to
tell them the cause of his grief.
"My son," spoke Odin, "it is not well that this gloom should rest on all
the gods, and they not know the cause. Perhaps we, your father and your
mother, may help you."
At last Balder told them that for two nights he had had strange,
haunting dreams; what they were he could not remember clearly when he
awoke, but he could not shake off their depressing effect.
"I only know," he said, "that there was ever a thick cloud, which
drifted between me and the sun, and there were confused sounds of woe,
and travelings in dark, difficult places."
Now the gods knew well that their dreams were messages given them by the
Norns, or Fates, and not for a moment did Odin and Frigga venture to
laugh at Balder's fears. They soothed him, however, by promising to find
some means of warding off any danger that might be threatening him.
Somewhat cheered, Balder went home to his palace to comfort his
distressed wife, Nanna, while Odin and Frigga discussed measures for
their son's safety.
"I," said Odin, "shall ride to the domains of Hela, queen of the dead,
and question the great prophetess who lies buried there, as to what
Balder's dream may mean." And mounting Sleipnir, his eight-footed steed,
he rode away.
Across the rainbow bridge he passed, out of the light, and down, down,
down into the dark, hopeless realm of Hela. As he rode by the gate he
saw that preparations for a feast were being made within. A gloomy feast
it would have to be in those drear regions, but evidently it was being
spread for some honored guest, for rich tapestries and rings of gold
covered the couches, and vessels of gold graced the tables. Past the
gate rode Odin, to a grave without the wall, where for ages long the
greatest of all prophetesses had lain buried. Here, in this dark, chill
place, was to be spoken the fate of Balder, bringer of light.
Solemnly Odin chanted the awful charms that had power to raise the dead,
and king of gods as he was, he started when the grave opened, and the
prophetess, veiled in mist, rose before him.
"Who art thou?" she demanded in hollow, ghost-like tones. "And what
canst thou wish to know so weighty that only I, long dead, can answer
Knowing that she would refuse to answer him should she know who he
really was, Odin concealed his identity, and simply asked for whom the
feast was preparing in Hela's realm.
"For Balder, light of gods and men," replied the prophetess.
"And who shall dare to strike him down?" cried Odin.
"By the hand of his blind brother Hoder shall he fall. And now let me
rest." And the prophetess sank again into her tomb, leaving Odin with a
heart more heavy and chill than the darkness which closed round him.
Meanwhile Frigga had busied herself with a plan which her mother love
had suggested. First to all the gods in Asgard, then through all the
earth did she go, saying, "Promise me--swear to me--that you will never
hurt Balder." Every bird, every beast, every creeping thing; all plants,
stones and metals; all diseases and poisons known to gods and men; fire,
water, earth, air--all things gladly took oath to do Balder no harm.
"For do not we," they cried to Frigga, "love him even as you do? And why
then should we harm him?"
Gladly Frigga took her way toward home, feeling certain that she had
saved Balder forever. As she was about to enter Odin's palace, Valhalla,
she noticed on a branch of an oak that grew there, a tiny, weak-looking
shrub. "That mistletoe is too young to promise, and too weak to do any
harm," said Frigga; and she passed it by.
All the gods rejoiced with her when she told of her success; even Odin
partially shook off his fears, as he told the younger gods and the
heroes who dwelt with him in his palace to go and seek enjoyment after
their period of gloom. To the great playground of the gods they
hastened, and there they invented a new game. Balder, smiling as of old,
took his stand in the midst, and all the others hurled at him weapons,
stones and sticks, and even hit at him with their battle-axes. They grew
very merry over this pastime, for do what they would, none of them could
harm Balder; the missiles either fell short, or dropped to his feet
Loki, passing by, was at first amazed when he saw Balder being used as a
target; then, when he saw that Balder remained unhurt through all, he
became angry--he could not bear this proof of the fact that all things
loved Balder. Hastening away, he disguised himself as an old woman and
hobbled off to Fensalir, the mansion of Frigga.
"Do you know," said this old woman, entering the room where Frigga sat
spinning, "that the gods and heroes are playing a very dangerous game?
They are hurling all sorts of things at your son Balder, who stands in
"That is not a dangerous game," replied Frigga, smiling serenely. "Last
year it might have been, but now all things have given me their solemn
oath not to harm Balder."
"Well, well, well," said the old woman, "isn't that wonderful? To think
that any being should be so much beloved that everything should promise
not to hurt him! You said EVERYTHING, did you not?"
"Yes," replied Frigga. "That is, it really amounts to everything. There
is one tiny parasite, the mistletoe, which grows on the Valhalla oak,
which I did not bother with."
Once out of sight of Frigga, Loki moved rapidly enough; and shortly he
appeared, in his own form, among the gods, who were still shouting with
joy over their game. In his hand he carried a dart; but who could have
guessed, to look at it, that it had been fashioned from the mistletoe on
the Valhalla oak?
Outside of the circle of the gods stood Hoder, Balder's blind brother,
and there was no smile on his face. Loki approached him and asked
"Why do you not join in the game? Are you not afraid that Balder will
think you are jealous of his good fortune if you take no part in this
sport they have invented in his honor?"
[Illustration: HODER HURLED THE DART]
"Alas!" said poor Hoder, "I am left out of all the sports of the gods.
How can I, with my sightless eyes, tell where Balder is? And you see
that I have nothing in my hand. What, then, could I throw?"
"I have here a little dart that I will give you," replied Loki. "And
since you cannot direct your aim, I will guide your arm."
Joyfully Hoder thanked him, and when Loki indicated the direction in
which he was to throw, he hurled the dart with all his might.
Unswervingly flew the mistletoe dart, and instead of falling at Balder's
feet, it lodged in his heart, so that he fell dead on the grass.
Then, instead of the laughter which Hoder waited to hear, there went up
a shuddering wail of terror; and angry hands seized Hoder and angry
voices were in his ear.
"What have I done?" he pleaded. "I but wished to show honor to Balder as
the rest have done."
"And you have killed him!" they cried. "You shall die yourself."
"Peace! Peace!" said Heimdal. "Such a deed of violence must not stain
the home of the gods. Moreover, Hoder did it all unwittingly. It was
Loki who directed his aim, and we are all to blame that we allowed him
to set foot on our playground."
Bitter indeed was Hoder's grief, and he implored his heart-broken
mother, Frigga, that he might be allowed to take Balder's place in dark
"Not you alone," she replied, "but any of the gods, would willingly die
for Balder. But not in that way can he be brought back to Asgard. There
is one chance--speak to Hermod, fleetest of the gods; tell him to take
Odin's horse, Sleipnir, and ride to Hela's abode. Perchance, if he
entreat her, she may give Balder up." Hermod, at the word of the
despairing Hoder, mounted the eight-footed steed, and set off on the
Meanwhile, the other gods prepared the funeral pyre for Balder,
determined that it should be worthy of the beloved and honored god.
Great pine trees were felled and piled upon the deck of Ringhorn,
Balder's ship; tapestry hangings, garlands of flowers and ornaments of
gold and silver were heaped upon the pyre.
And finally, in sad procession, came the gods, bearing Balder's body,
which they placed upon the flowers. His horse and his dogs were killed
and placed beside him, that they might be with him to serve him in the
underworld. Then one after one of the gods stepped forward and chanted
their farewells; but when Nanna's turn came, she was unable to speak.
Her heart broke, and her spirit fled to join that of her husband. The
gods could not sorrow for her death; they knew that the abode of the
dead would have less terrors for the loving pair if they could be
together there, so without tears they laid her beside her husband.
Last of all, Odin advanced and cast upon the pyre his treasured ring,
Draupnir, gift of the dwarfs, as an offering to his dead son. Then Thor,
with a touch of his hammer, which caused the lightning, set fire to the
pile, and the ship, with sails set, was launched.
In solemn silence the gods watched the ship float out upon the sea.
"And wreathed in smoke, the ship stood out to sea.
Soon with a roaring rose the mighty fire,
And the pile crackled; and between the logs
Sharp quivering tongues of flame shot out, and leapt,
Curling and darting, higher, till they lick'd
The summit of the pile, the dead, the mast,
And ate the shriveling sails; but still the ship
Drove on, ablaze above her hull with fire.
And the gods stood upon the beach and gazed,
And while they gazed, the sun went lurid down
Into the smoke-wrapt sea, and night came on.
Then the wind fell, with night, and there was calm;
But through the night they watched the burning ship
Still carried o'er the distant waters on,
Farther and farther, like an eye of fire.
And long, in the far dark, blazed Balder's pile;
But fainter, as the stars rose high, it flared;
The bodies were consumed, ash choked the pile.
And as, in a decaying winter fire,
A charr'd log, falling, makes a shower of sparks--
So with a shower of sparks the pile fell in,
Reddening the sea around; and all was dark."
[Footnote: The poetic quotations in this story are from
Matthew Arnold's Balder Dead.]
Then, when all was over, the gods went mournfully back to their homes,
there to await the return of Hermod. Their palaces were brightly
illuminated, but no lights shone from the windows of Breidablik,
Balder's palace; and as long as that was dark, the gods cared little for
the brilliance of their own dwellings.
Hermod, in the meantime, had journeyed across the rainbow bridge, and on
and on toward the north until he reached the Giall river, which runs
between the regions of Hela and the upper world. Well the guard of the
bridge knew, when she heard on the bridge the noise of the horse's feet,
that it was no shade who was crossing; but when Hermod told his errand,
he was allowed to go on. And now his way led over trackless, slippery
ice, on which scarce any other horse could have kept his footing; and
surely no other horse could have leapt, as did Sleipnir, the gate to
Hela's own realm. Once within, Hermod came rapidly into the presence of
the queen, and on his knees before her implored her to allow Balder to
return to the light and the upper air.
"'For Heaven was Balder born, the city of gods
And heroes, where they live in light and joy.
Thither restore him, for his place is there!'"
Hela remained unmoved by his pleadings; and what wonder? For she was
Loki's daughter, and knew by whose act Balder had been sent below.
Finally she said:
"Hermod, I shall try whether the protestations that all things lament
Balder are indeed true. Return to Asgard; and if, through all the earth,
all things, living and dead, weep for Balder, he shall return. But if
one thing in all the world refuses to shed tears, here he shall stay."
Cheered by this promise, Hermod turned to depart, but before he left he
talked with Balder and with Nanna, his wife. They told him that all
honor which could be paid to any one in the realms of the dead was paid
to them; that Balder was made the judge in disputes between the shades.
But despite that, the days were weary, hopeless; no joy was there,
nothing substantial--just days and nights of unvarying twilight, with
never a gleam of real brightness. Nor would Balder admit that there was
cause for rejoicing in the promise of Hela. "Well we know the family of
Loki. Were there not some trick, Hela would never have spoken that
Nevertheless, it was with a heart lighter than at his coming that Hermod
set out on his return journey. And when he reached Asgard there was
rejoicing among the gods. For the first time since Balder's death, there
were the sounds of cheerful hurryings to and fro and of gods calling
each to each as they set out upon their tasks; for all the gods wanted a
part in the work of bringing Balder back to life.
In twos and threes they rode throughout all the world, and soon "all
that lived, and all without life, wept." Trees, stones, flowers, metals
joined willingly in grief for Balder the beautiful; and most of the gods
speedily returned in joy. But Hermod, as he rode, came to the mouth of a
dark cave where sat an old hag named Thok. Years long she had sat there,
and the gods knew her well, for she always cried out mockingly to all
who passed by; but Hermod could not know that to-day Loki had changed
forms with the old hag, and that it was really that enemy of the gods
who sat before him. Dismounting, he besought the old woman to weep for
Balder, as all things in heaven and earth had promised to do. But in a
shrill voice she cried:
"With dry tears will Thok weep for Balder. Let Hela keep her prey."
And as she fled, with harsh laughter, to the cave's depth, Hermod knew
that it was Loki who had this second time stolen life from Balder.
Sadly he rode back to Asgard, and in silent grief the gods heard his
tale; for they knew that brightness was gone forever from the abode of
the gods--that Balder the beautiful should return no more.
This story of Balder is one of those myths which were invented to
explain natural happenings. The ancient peoples, knowing nothing about
science, could not account for such things as the rising and setting of
the sun and the change from summer to winter; and they made up
explanations which in time grew into interesting stories.
Some students believe that in this story the death of Balder (the sun)
by the hand of Hoder (darkness) represents the going down of the sun at
each day's close.
Another explanation, and a more probable one, is that the death of
Balder represents the close of the short northern summer and the coming
on of the long winter. That is, the dreary winter, with its darkness, is
represented by Hoder, who had strength, but could not make use of it to
aid men or gods; who could, however, with his blind strength, slay
Balder, who stood for the blessed, life-giving qualities of the summer
Loki represented fire. He had in him elements of good, but because of
the fact that he had used his power often to harm, as does fire, instead
of to bless, he was feared and hated and avoided; and thus he became
jealous of Balder.
For a myth which the Greeks and Romans invented about the sun, see the
story of Phaethon, in this volume.
[Illustration: STRANGE OPAL LIGHTS FILTERED THROUGH THE WATER]
THE PUNISHMENT OF LOKI
Adapted by Anna McCaleb
After Balder's death the gods felt that they had little to make them
happy. Their thoughts dwelt always on their loss, or on their desire to
punish Loki; and in neither of these thoughts was there any joy, for to
the pure minds of the gods, the thought of violence could bring nothing
One day the sea-god Aegir sent to the dwellers in Asgard an invitation
to a banquet in his sea caverns, and all accepted except Thor, who had
business that called him elsewhere. On the appointed morning they
appeared at Aegir's palace, and while at first they forced themselves to
smile and appear cheerful, in compliment to their host, they soon found
themselves, because of the novelty of all about them, becoming genuinely
interested. The palace was of coral, pink and white--rough on the
outside, but smooth and polished within; and the floors were strewn with
sand so fine and white that it looked like marble. Draperies of bright-
colored seaweed hung everywhere, and the gay sea flowers met their eyes
at every turn, while the dishes and cups in which the feast was served
were the most delicate pearl-tinted shells. Strange opal lights filtered
through the water and into the banqueting hall, and great whales and sea
snakes looked in through the windows on the gods as they sat at table.
All was cheerfulness and merriment, but suddenly the gods felt a chill
come over them, as if a wind from Hela's ice-bound realm had rushed
past. Turning, they saw Loki on the threshold. With a muttered excuse
for his lateness he slipped into his seat; and then, since none except
his host greeted him, and since the merry talk was not resumed, he
glanced about the table and said:
"Pretty manners are these! Does no one pledge me in wine? Does no one
have a word for me?"
Painfully the gods forced themselves to take up their conversation,
though all avoided talking directly to Loki, whose expression became
more lowering every moment. At length Odin turned to his host.
"This servant, Funfeng, is deft and skilful. Even in my palace I have
not his superior."
Aegir bowed. "Since the king of the gods is pleased with Funfeng,
Funfeng is no longer my servant, but the servant of Odin. He shall wait
upon the heroes in Valhalla."
With a cry of jealous rage Loki sprang to his feet. "Never!" he cried,
and he struck Funfeng so violently that he fell dead.
All the gods leaped up, and they drove Loki from the palace, commanding
him never to appear in their presence again; but scarcely had they
seated themselves to resume their interrupted feast, when the crafty god
again entered the room. Not waiting for them to speak, he began to
revile them. His words came in a rapid stream; he stopped not to draw
breath. Beginning with Odin, he attacked the gods in turn, mocking their
physical peculiarities, recounting every deed which they had done that
was not to their credit, shaming them because he had always been able to
elude them easily, and because only he could help them out of their
difficulties. Finally he came to Sif, Thor's golden-haired wife, whom
long before he had robbed of her tresses.
"As for Sif," he began, "I could tell a tale of her that--"
But he went no further, for a peal of thunder drowned his words, and a
blinding flash of lightning made him cover his eyes with his hands. The
gods sighed in relief, for Thor stood among them, his eyes shooting
"Already," he cried, "has Aegir's palace been stained with blood to-day.
I will not, therefore, kill you here. But if ever you appear before my
eyes again, I shall smite you; and if ever you dare to speak Sif's name,
I shall hear it though I am in the uttermost parts of the earth, and I
shall have vengeance."
"Well spoken, son Thor," said Odin. "But I too have something to say to
Loki. We shall permit you to go unharmed to-day, but if you care for
your life, hide yourself. We shall seek you; and the gods have keen
eyes. And if we find you out, you shall die."
Sullen, frightened, Loki withdrew. He wandered about long in the most
barren, desolate parts of the earth, cursing the gods and hating
himself. At length he found a spot which he felt sure would be hidden
even from Odin's eyes. It was in a steep, rocky valley, where nothing
grew, and where no sound ever came except the weird noise of the wind as
it swept through the narrow passes, and the chatter of a mountain stream
as it leapt down the rocks.
Here, in this solitary place, Loki built himself a hut of piled-up
rocks. Four walls had the hut, and in each wall was a door, for Loki
wished to be able to see the gods, from whatever direction they
approached, and to make his escape. He had always been a famous
fisherman, and now the fish which he took from the stream formed his
Sometimes he changed himself into a salmon and floated about in the
quieter places of the stream. He never talked with the other fish who
lived in the stream, but somehow he felt less lonely with those living
things about him than he did in his solitary hut on the mountain side.
One day (for Loki was a very clever workman) he began to fashion
something, the like of which there had not been in the world before.
This was a net for fishing; and so interested did Loki become in
twisting and knotting the cords, that he almost forgot to keep watch for
his enemies, the gods. The net was almost finished, when one afternoon
Loki raised his head and saw through one of his doors three gods
approaching--Odin, Thor and Heimdal, wisest of the gods. With a curse he
tossed his net upon the fire--"THEY shall never have it!"--and slipped
from his hut. Splash! And there was a huge salmon deep down in the
stream, while Loki was nowhere to be seen.
The gods were greatly disappointed when they entered the hut; they had
been so sure that at last they had found the hiding place of the wicked
one, and it seemed they had missed him again. However, they knew his
power of disguising himself, and they were not utterly discouraged.
"He has not been gone long," said Heimdal, "for look--the fire still
burns. And what is this upon the fire?" And he drew out the partly
burned fish net.
"What can it be?" asked Odin. "It is too coarse for any sort of covering
for the body, and not strong enough to use in entangling an enemy."
"Wait!" said Heimdal. "I have it--I have it! It's a net for fishing--
Loki was always a fisherman. See," he exclaimed excitedly, "you take it
SO," thrusting one end into Thor's hand, "and you drag it through the
water SO. The water runs through and the fish are held. O, clever Loki!"
"But why," asked Thor, "should he burn it up, when he has spent so much
work upon it?"
"I don't know," said Heimdal musingly, "unless--unless. Where could he
hide except in that stream, and how could he conceal himself there
without changing himself to a fish? Mark my words. Loki is there, and he
feared we might catch him with his own net."
"That," said Odin, "would be a form of justice for which one would
scarcely dare hope. I fear the net is too badly burned for use."
"Not so," replied Heimdal. "Here is more flax, and we can easily repair
the damage the fire has done."
So the three gods sat upon the floor of the hut and mended the burned
net, keeping an eye always on the stream, that Loki might not make his
escape. And when the net was ready they went forth, and with it dragged
the stream. Not a fish did they catch, for Loki had frightened the real
fish away, and he himself was hiding between two big stones, so that the
net passed over him.
"The thing is too light," said Thor. "It does not touch the bottom."
"That we can soon change," replied Heimdal, and he set about fastening
stones to the lower edge of the net.
Again they began to drag the river, and this time Loki feared that he
could not escape. But just as the net almost touched him, he gave a
mighty leap and sprang clear of the net. The silvery flash, the sudden
splash, startled the gods, so that they almost dropped the net; but it
told them what they wanted to know--Loki WAS in the stream. Turning,
they dragged the net down the stream, driving Loki nearer and nearer to
the sheer drop of the waterfall, down which he dared not plunge.
Desperate, he made another leap, and again he almost escaped; but Thor's
quick eyes saw him, Thor's strong, iron-gloved hand gripped him. The
great salmon struggled, but Thor held it fast by the tail, and finally
flung it out upon the bank.
[Illustration: THOR'S HAND GRIPPED HIM]
Loki, within the fish, vowed to himself that he would not return to his
own shape; but the fish's body could not live long out of the water, and
soon he found himself growing weak and faint. At length, therefore, he
was obliged to assume his own form, and there he stood, handsome, but
evil-looking, before the waiting gods.
"It hurts us," said Odin, "that we should be forced to treat one of our
own kind in this way. Perhaps even now--tell us that you do regret your
past wickedness, that you are sorry for the trouble you have caused the
gods, that you grieve sometimes for Balder's death."
"I grieve," said Loki, "only that I have caused so little trouble among
the gods; I regret only that the days for pitting my cleverness against
your stupidity are at an end--for I ask for no mercy. As for Balder's
death, it has been my chief cause for rejoicing as I have dwelt here in
this solitary place."
Shocked by his hardness, the gods led him away to the punishment which
they had planned for him. The other gods met them by the way, and troops
of dwarfs and elves and human beings and animals sprang up on every
side, and followed them. And in the hearts of all these followers there
was joy, for Loki had never done them anything but harm; and besides,
had he not slain Balder, the beautiful, the beloved?
But in the hearts of the gods there was pain, for Loki was of their own
number, and far back in the beginnings of time, before he had become
wicked, he had been their great pride, by reason of his cleverness.
They passed, a noisy procession, to a dark, underground cavern, a damp,
slimy place, where snakes looked out from their holes, and toads sat
upon the stones. Here were three sharp-pointed rocks, which Thor pierced
with holes; and to these rocks they bound the wretched Loki with chains
"Here he shall stay," said Odin, "until the last great day shall come
for gods and men."
A giantess, whose son Loki had killed, came with a great serpent, which
she fastened directly over Loki's head; and from the serpent's mouth
dripped poison, which fell, drop by drop, upon Loki's upturned face. His
wife, Sigyn, could not bear to see her husband in such agony, so she
took her stand beside him, cup in hand, and caught the poison as it
fell. There through the ages on ages she stood, relieving Loki's pain,
and trying to cheer him, for whom there was no cheer. When the cup was
filled and she had to go to the cavern's mouth to empty it, then the
venom fell on Loki's face, and in his terrible pain he struggled and
writhed until the earth shook. And all the people, startled at their
work or from their sleep, cried, "Loki's earthquake!"
SEVEN TIMES ONE
By Jean Ingelow
There's no dew left on the daisies and clover,
There's no rain left in heaven;
I've said my "seven times" over and over--
Seven times one are seven.
I am so old, so old I can write a letter;
My birthday lessons are done;
The lambs play always, they know no better;
They are only one times one.
O moon! in the night I have seen you sailing
And shining so round and low;
You were bright! ah, bright! but your light is failing--
You are nothing now but a bow.
You moon, have you done something wrong in heaven,
That God has hidden your face?
I hope if you have you will soon be forgiven,
And shine again in your place.
O velvet bee, you're a dusty fellow,
You've powdered your legs with gold!
O brave marsh marybuds, rich and yellow,
Give me your money to hold!
O columbine, open your folded wrapper,
Where two twin turtledoves dwell!
O cuckoopint, toll me the purple clapper
That hangs in your clear green bell!
And show me your nest with the young ones in it;
I will not steal them away;
I am old! you may trust me, linnet, linnet--
I am seven times one to-day.
SHUFFLE-SHOON AND AMBER-LOCKS
[Footnote: From 'Love Songs of Childhood'. Copyright, 1894,
by Eugene Field, published by Charles Scribner's Sons.]
By Eugene Field
Shuffle-Shoon and Amber-Locks
Sit together, building blocks;
Shuffle-Shoon is old and gray,
Amber-Locks a little child.
But together at their play
Age and Youth are reconciled,
And with sympathetic glee
Build their castles fair to see.
"When I grow to be a man,"
(So the wee one's prattle ran),
"I shall build a castle so--
With a gateway broad and grand;
Here a pretty vine shall grow,
There a soldier guard shall stand;
And the tower shall be so high,
Folks will wonder, by and by!"
Shuffle-Shoon quoth: "Yes, I know;
Thus I builded long ago!
Here a gate and there a wall,
Here a window, there a door;
Here a steeple wondrous tall
Riseth ever more and more!
But the years have leveled low
What I builded long ago!"
So they gossip at their play,
Heedless of the fleeting day;
One speaks of the Long Ago
Where his dead hopes buried lie;
One with chubby cheeks aglow
Prattleth of the By-and-By;
Side by side, they build their blocks--
Shuffle-Shoon and Amber-Locks.
[Footnote: From the poem to Afterwhiles by James
Whitcomb Riley. Used by special permission of the
publishers--The Bobbs-Merrill Company.]
By James Whitcomb Riley
Afterwhile we have in view
The old home to journey to:
Where the Mother is, and where
Her sweet welcome waits us there.
How we'll click the latch that locks
In the pinks and hollyhocks,
And leap up the path once more
Where she waits us at the door;
How we'll greet the dear old smile
And the warm tears--afterwhile.
By ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
Whenever the moon and stars are set,
Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?
Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
And ships are tossed at sea,
By, on the highway, low and loud,
By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again.
THE SNOW QUEEN
By Hans Christian Andersen
THE FIRST STORY
WHICH TREATS OF THE MIRROR AND FRAGMENTS
Look you, now we're going to begin. When we are at the end of the story
we shall know more than we do now, for he was a bad goblin. He was one
of the very worst, for he was a demon. One day he was in very good
spirits, for he had made a mirror which had this peculiarity, that
everything good and beautiful that was reflected in it shrank together
into almost nothing, but that whatever was worthless and looked ugly
became prominent and looked worse than ever. The most lovely landscapes
seen in this mirror looked like boiled spinach, and the best people
became hideous, or stood on their heads and had no bodies; their faces
were so distorted as to be unrecognizable, and a single freckle was
shown spread out over nose and mouth. That was very amusing, the demon
said. When good, pious thoughts passed through any person's mind these
were again shown in the mirror, so that the demon chuckled at his
Those who visited the goblin school--for he kept a goblin school--
declared everywhere that a wonder had been wrought. For now, they
asserted, one could see, for the first time, how the world and the
people in it really looked. Now they wanted to fly up to heaven, to
sneer and scoff at the angels themselves. The higher they flew with the
mirror, the more it grinned; they could scarcely hold it fast. They flew
higher and higher, and then the mirror trembled so terribly amid its
grinning that it fell down out of their hands to the earth, where it was
shattered into a hundred million million and more fragments.
And now this mirror occasioned much more unhappiness than before; for
some of the fragments were scarcely as large as a barleycorn, and these
flew about in the world, and whenever they flew into any one's eye they
stuck there, and that person saw everything wrongly, or had only eyes
for the bad side of a thing, for every little fragment of the mirror had
retained the power which the whole glass possessed. A few persons even
got a fragment of the mirror into their hearts, and that was terrible
indeed, for such a heart became a block of ice. A few fragments of the
mirror were so large that they were used as window panes, but it was a
bad thing to look at one's friends through these panes: other pieces
were made into spectacles, and then it went badly when people put on
these spectacles to see rightly, and to be just; and then the demon
laughed till his paunch shook, for it tickled him so. But without, some
little fragments of glass still floated about in the air--and now we
THE SECOND STORY
A LITTLE BOY AND A LITTLE GIRL
In the great town, where there are many houses, and so many people that
there is not room enough for every one to have a little garden, and
where consequently most persons are compelled to be content with flowers
in pots, were two poor children who possessed a garden somewhat larger
than a flowerpot. They were not brother and sister, but they loved each
other quite as much as if they had been. Their parents lived just
opposite each other in two garrets, there where the roof of one
neighbor's house joined that of another. And where the water pipe ran
between the two houses was a little window; one had only to step across
the pipe to get from one window to the other.
The parents of each child had a great box, in which grew kitchen herbs
that they used, and a little rosebush; there was one in each box, and
they grew famously. Now, it occurred to the parents to place the boxes
across the pipe, so that they reached from one window to another, and
looked quite like two embankments of flowers. Pea plants hung down over
the boxes, and the rosebushes shot forth long twigs, which clustered
round the windows and bent down toward each other; it was almost like a
triumphal arch of flowers and leaves. As the boxes were very high, and
the children knew that they might not creep upon them, they often
obtained permission to step out upon the roof behind the boxes, and to
sit upon their little stools under the roses, and there they could play
In the winter time there was an end of this amusement. The windows were
sometimes quite frozen over. But then they warmed copper shillings on
the stove, and held the warm coins against the frozen pane; and this
made a capital peep-hole, so round! so round! and behind it gleamed a
pretty mild eye at each window; and these eyes belonged to the little
boy and the little girl. His name was Kay and the little girl's was
In the summer they could get to one another at one bound; but in the
winter they had to go down and up the long staircase, while the snow was
"Those are the white bees swarming," said the old grandmother.
"Have they a queen bee?" asked the little boy. For he knew that there is
one among the real bees.
"Yes, they have one," replied grandmamma. "She always flies where they
swarm thickest. She is the largest of them all, and never remains quiet
upon the earth; she flies up again into the black cloud. Many a midnight
she is flying through the streets of the town, and looks in at the
windows, and then they freeze in such a strange way, and look like
"Yes, I've seen that!" cried both the children; and now they knew that
it was true.
[Illustration: THE SNOWFLAKE AT LAST BECAME A MAIDEN]
"Can the Snow Queen come in here?" asked the little girl.
"Only let her come," cried the boy; "I'll set her upon the warm stove,
and then she'll melt."
But grandmother smoothed his hair, and told some other tales. In the
evening, when little Kay was at home and half undressed, he clambered
upon the chair by the window, and looked through the little hole. A few
flakes of snow were falling outside, and one of them, the largest of
them all, remained lying on the edge of one of the flower boxes.
The snowflake grew larger and larger, and at last became a maiden
clothed in the finest white gauze, put together of millions of starry
flakes. She was beautiful and delicate, but of ice--of shining,
glittering ice. Yet she was alive; her eyes flashed like two clear
stars, but there was no peace or rest in them. She nodded toward the
window, and beckoned with her hand. The little boy was frightened, and
sprang down from the chair; then it seemed as if a great bird flew by
outside, in front of the window.
Next day there was a clear frost, and then the spring came; the sun
shone, the green sprouted forth, the swallows built nests, the windows
were opened, and the little children again sat in their garden high up
in the roof, over all the floors.
How splendidly the roses bloomed this summer! The little girl had
learned a psalm, in which mention was made of roses; and, in speaking of
roses, she thought of her own; and she sang it to the little boy, and he
"The roses will fade and pass away,
But we the Christ-child shall see one day."
And the little ones held each other by the hand, kissed the roses,
looked at God's bright sunshine, and spoke to it, as if the Christ-child
were there. What splendid summer days those were! How beautiful it was
without, among the fresh rosebushes!
Kay and Gerda sat and looked at the picture book of beasts and birds.
Then it was, while the clock was just striking twelve on the church
tower, that Kay said:
"Oh! something struck my heart and pricked me in the eye." The little
girl fell upon his neck; he blinked his eyes. No, there was nothing at
all to be seen.
"I think it is gone," said he; but it was not gone. It was just one of
those glass fragments which sprang from the mirror--the magic mirror
that we remember well, the ugly glass that made every great and good
thing which was mirrored in it to seem small and mean, but in which the
mean and the wicked things were brought out in relief, and every fault
was noticeable at once. Poor little Kay had also received a splinter
just in his heart, and that will now soon become like a lump of ice. It
did not hurt him now, but the splinter was still there.
"Why do you cry?" he asked. "You look ugly like that. There's nothing
the matter with me. Oh, fie!" he suddenly exclaimed, "that rose is worm-
eaten, and this one is quite crooked. After all, they're ugly roses.
They're like the box in they stand."
And then he kicked the box with his foot, and tore both the roses off.
"Kay, what are you about?" cried the little girl.
And when he noticed her fright he tore off another rose, and then sprang
in at his own window, away from pretty little Gerda.
When she afterward came with her picture book, he said it was only fit
for babies in arms; and when his grandmother told stories he always came
in with a BUT; and when he could manage it, he would get behind her, put
on a pair of spectacles, and talk just as she did; he could do that very
cleverly, and the people laughed at him. Soon he could mimic the speech
and the gait of everybody in the street. Everything that was peculiar or
ugly about people, Kay would imitate; and every one said, "That boy must
certainly have a remarkable genius." But it was the glass that struck
deep in his heart; so it happened that he even teased little Gerda, who
loved him with all her heart.
His games now became quite different from what they were before; they
became quite sensible. One winter's day when it snowed he came out with
a great burning glass, held up the blue tail of his coat, and let the
snowflakes fall upon it.
"Now look at the glass, Gerda," said he.
And every flake of snow was magnified, and looked like a splendid
flower, or a star with ten points--it was beautiful to behold.
"See how clever that is," said Kay. "That's much more interesting than
real flowers; and there's not a single fault in it--they're quite
regular until they begin to melt."
Soon after, Kay came in thick gloves, and with his sledge upon his back.
He called up to Gerda. "I've got leave to go into the great square,
where the other boys play;" and he was gone.
In the great square the boldest among the boys often tied their sledges
to the country people's carts, and thus rode with them a good way. They
went capitally. When they were in the midst of their playing there came
a great sledge. It was painted quite white, and in it sat somebody
wrapped in a rough, white fur, with a white, rough cap on his head. The
sledge drove twice round the square, and Kay bound his little sledge to
it, and so he drove on with it. It went faster and faster, straight into
the next street. The man who drove turned round and nodded in a familiar
way to Kay; it was as if they knew one another. Each time when Kay
wanted to cast loose his little sledge, the stranger nodded again, and
then Kay remained where he was, and thus they drove out at the town
gate. Then the snow began to fall so rapidly that the boy could not see
a hand's breadth before him; but still he drove on. Now he hastily
dropped the cord, so as to get loose from the great sledge; but that was
no use, for his sledge was fast bound to the other, and they went on
like the wind. Then he called out quite loudly, but nobody heard him;
and the snow beat down, and the sledge flew onward. Every now and then
it gave a jump, and they seemed to be flying over hedges and ditches.
The boy was quite frightened. He wanted to say his prayer, but could
remember nothing but the multiplication table.
The snowflakes became larger and larger; at last they looked like white
fowls. All at once they sprang aside, the great sledge stopped, and the
person who had driven it rose up. The fur and the cap were made
altogether of ice. It was A LADY, tall and slender, and brilliantly
white: it was the Snow Queen!
"We have driven well!" said she. "But why do you tremble with cold?
Creep into my fur."
And she seated him beside her in her own sledge, and wrapped the fur
round him, and he felt as if he sank into a snowdrift.
"Are you still cold?" asked she, and then she kissed him on the
Oh, that was colder than ice; it went quite through to his heart, half
of which was already a lump of ice. He felt as if he were going to die,
but only for a moment; for then he seemed quite well, and he did not
notice the cold all about him.
"My sledge! Don't forget my sledge."
That was the first thing he thought of; and it was bound fast to one of
the white chickens, and this chicken flew behind him with the sledge