Stories from Hans Andersen
by Hans Christian Andersen
THE SNOW QUEEN
THE REAL PRINCESS
THE GARDEN OF PARADISE
THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES
THE WIND'S TALE
THE SNOW QUEEN
A TALE IN SEVEN STORIES
WHICH DEALS WITH A MIRROR AND ITS FRAGMENTS
One day he was in a high state of delight because he had invented a
mirror with this peculiarity, that every good and pretty thing reflected
in it shrank away to almost nothing.
Now we are about to begin, and you must attend; and when we get to the
end of the story, you will know more than you do now about a very wicked
hobgoblin. He was one of the worst kind; in fact he was a real demon.
One day he was in a high state of delight because he had invented a
mirror with this peculiarity, that every good and pretty thing reflected
in it shrank away to almost nothing. On the other hand, every bad and
good-for-nothing thing stood out and looked its worst. The most
beautiful landscapes reflected in it looked like boiled spinach, and the
best people became hideous, or else they were upside down and had no
bodies. Their faces were distorted beyond recognition, and if they had
even one freckle it appeared to spread all over the nose and mouth. The
demon thought this immensely amusing. If a good thought passed through
any one's mind, it turned to a grin in the mirror, and this caused real
delight to the demon. All the scholars in the demon's school, for he
kept a school, reported that a miracle had taken place: now for the
first time it had become possible to see what the world and mankind were
really like. They ran about all over with the mirror, till at last there
was not a country or a person which had not been seen in this distorting
mirror. They even wanted to fly up to heaven with it to mock the angels;
but the higher they flew, the more it grinned, so much so that they
could hardly hold it, and at last it slipped out of their hands and fell
to the earth, shivered into hundreds of millions and billions of bits.
Even then it did more harm than ever. Some of these bits were not as big
as a grain of sand, and these flew about all over the world, getting
into people's eyes, and, once in, they stuck there, and distorted
everything they looked at, or made them see everything that was amiss.
Each tiniest grain of glass kept the same power as that possessed by the
whole mirror. Some people even got a bit of the glass into their hearts,
and that was terrible, for the heart became like a lump of ice. Some of
the fragments were so big that they were used for window panes, but it
was not advisable to look at one's friends through these panes. Other
bits were made into spectacles, and it was a bad business when people
put on these spectacles meaning to
be just. The bad demon laughed
till he split his sides; it tickled him to see the mischief he had done.
But some of these fragments were still left floating about the world,
and you shall hear what happened to them.
ABOUT A LITTLE BOY AND A LITTLE GIRL
Many a winter's night she flies through the streets and peeps in at the
windows, and then the ice freezes on the panes into wonderful patterns
In a big town crowded with houses and people, where there is no room for
gardens, people have to be content with flowers in pots instead. In one
of these towns lived two children who managed to have something bigger
than a flower pot for a garden. They were not brother and sister, but
they were just as fond of each other as if they had been. Their parents
lived opposite each other in two attic rooms. The roof of one house just
touched the roof of the next one, with only a rain-water gutter between
them. They each had a little dormer window, and one only had to step
over the gutter to get from one house to the other. Each of the parents
had a large window-box, in which they grew pot herbs and a little
rose-tree. There was one in each box, and they both grew splendidly.
Then it occurred to the parents to put the boxes across the gutter, from
house to house, and they looked just like two banks of flowers. The pea
vines hung down over the edges of the
boxes, and the roses threw out
long creepers which twined round the windows. It was almost like a green
triumphal arch. The boxes were high, and the children knew they must not
climb up on to them, but they were often allowed to have their little
stools out under the rose-trees, and there they had delightful games. Of
course in the winter there was an end to these amusements. The windows
were often covered with hoar-frost; then they would warm coppers on the
stove and stick them on the frozen panes, where they made lovely
peep-holes, as round as possible. Then a bright eye would peep through
these holes, one from each window. The little boy's name was Kay, and
the little girl's Gerda.
In the summer they could reach each other with one bound, but in the
winter they had to go down all the stairs in one house and up all the
stairs in the other, and outside there were snowdrifts.
'Look! the white bees are swarming,' said the old grandmother.
'Have they a queen bee, too?' asked the little boy, for he knew that
there was a queen among the real bees.
'Yes, indeed they have,' said the grandmother. 'She flies where the
swarm is thickest. She is biggest of them all, and she never remains on
the ground. She always flies up again to the sky. Many a winter's night
she flies through the streets and peeps in at the windows, and then the
ice freezes on the panes into wonderful patterns like flowers.'
'Oh yes, we have seen that,' said both children, and then they knew
it was true.
'Can the Snow Queen come in here?' asked the little girl.
'Just let her come,' said the boy, 'and I will put her on the stove,
where she will melt.'
But the grandmother smoothed his hair and told him more stories.
In the evening when little Kay was at home and half undressed, he crept
up on to the chair by the window, and peeped out of the little hole. A
few snow-flakes were falling, and one of these, the biggest, remained on
the edge of the window-box. It grew bigger and bigger, till it became
the figure of a woman, dressed in the finest white gauze, which appeared
to be made of millions of starry flakes. She was delicately lovely, but
all ice, glittering, dazzling ice. Still she was alive, her eyes shone
like two bright stars, but there was no rest or peace in them. She
nodded to the window and waved her hand. The little boy was frightened
and jumped down off the chair, and then he fancied that a big bird flew
past the window.
The next day was bright and frosty, and then came the thaw—and after
that the spring. The sun shone, green buds began to appear, the swallows
built their nests, and people began to open their windows. The little
children began to play in their garden on the roof again. The roses were
in splendid bloom that summer;
the little girl had learnt a hymn, and
there was something in it about roses, and that made her think of her
own. She sang it to the little boy, and then he sang it with her—
'Where roses deck the flowery vale,
There, Infant Jesus, we thee hail!'
The children took each other by the hands, kissed the roses, and
rejoiced in God's bright sunshine, and spoke to it as if the Child Jesus
were there. What lovely summer days they were, and how delightful it was
to sit out under the fresh rose-trees, which seemed never tired of
Kay and Gerda were looking at a picture book of birds and animals one
day—it had just struck five by the church clock—when Kay said, 'Oh,
something struck my heart, and I have got something in my eye!'
The little girl put her arms round his neck, he blinked his eye; there
was nothing to be seen.
'I believe it is gone,' he said; but it was not gone. It was one of
those very grains of glass from the mirror, the magic mirror. You
remember that horrid mirror, in which all good and great things
reflected in it became small and mean, while the bad things were
magnified, and every flaw became very apparent.
Poor Kay! a grain of it had gone straight to his heart, and
turn it to a lump of ice. He did not feel it any more, but it was still
'Why do you cry?' he asked; 'it makes you look ugly; there's nothing the
matter with me. How horrid!' he suddenly cried; 'there's a worm in that
rose, and that one is quite crooked; after all, they are nasty roses,
and so are the boxes they are growing in!' He kicked the box and broke
off two of the roses.
'What are you doing, Kay?' cried the little girl. When he saw her alarm,
he broke off another rose, and then ran in by his own window, and left
dear little Gerda alone.
When she next got out the picture book he said it was only fit for
babies in long clothes. When his grandmother told them stories he always
had a but—, and if he could manage it, he liked to get behind her
chair, put on her spectacles and imitate her. He did it very well and
people laughed at him. He was soon able to imitate every one in the
street; he could make fun of all their peculiarities and failings. 'He
will turn out a clever fellow,' said people. But it was all that bit of
glass in his heart, that bit of glass in his eye, and it made him tease
little Gerda who was so devoted to him. He played quite different games
now; he seemed to have grown older. One winter's day, when the snow was
falling fast, he brought in a big magnifying glass; he held out the tail
of his blue coat, and let the snow flakes fall upon it.
'Now look through the glass, Gerda!' he said; every snowflake was
magnified, and looked like a lovely flower, or a sharply pointed star.
'Do you see how cleverly they are made?' said Kay. 'Much more
interesting than looking at real flowers. And there is not a single flaw
in them; they are perfect, if only they would not melt.'
Shortly after, he appeared in his thick gloves, with his sledge on his
back. He shouted right into Gerda's ear, 'I have got leave to drive in
the big square where the other boys play!' and away he went.
In the big square the bolder boys used to tie their little sledges to
the farm carts and go a long way in this fashion. They had no end of fun
over it. Just in the middle of their games a big sledge came along; it
was painted white, and the occupant wore a white fur coat and cap. The
sledge drove twice round the square, and Kay quickly tied his sledge on
behind. Then off they went, faster, and faster, into the next street.
The driver turned round and nodded to Kay in the most friendly way, just
as if they knew each other. Every time Kay wanted to loose his sledge
the person nodded again, and Kay stayed where he was, and they drove
right out through the town gates. Then the snow began to fall so heavily
that the little boy could not see a hand before him as they rushed
along. He undid the cords and tried to get away from the big sledge, but
it was no use, his little sledge stuck fast, and on they rushed, faster
than the wind. He shouted aloud, but nobody
heard him, and the sledge
tore on through the snow-drifts. Every now and then it gave a bound, as
if they were jumping over hedges and ditches. He was very frightened,
and he wanted to say his prayers, but he could only remember the
The snow-flakes grew bigger and bigger, till at last they looked like
big white chickens. All at once they sprang on one side, the big sledge
stopped and the person who drove got up, coat and cap smothered in snow.
It was a tall and upright lady all shining white, the Snow Queen
'We have come along at a good pace,' she said; 'but it's cold enough to
kill one; creep inside my bearskin coat.'
She took him into the sledge by her, wrapped him in her furs, and he
felt as if he were sinking into a snowdrift.
'Are you still cold?' she asked, and she kissed him on the forehead.
Ugh! it was colder than ice, it went to his very heart, which was
already more than half ice; he felt as if he were dying, but only for a
moment, and then it seemed to have done him good; he no longer felt the
'My sledge! don't forget my sledge!' He only remembered it now; it was
tied to one of the white chickens which flew along behind them. The Snow
Queen kissed Kay again, and then he forgot all about little Gerda,
Grandmother, and all the others at home.
'Now I mustn't kiss you any more,' she said, 'or I should kiss you to
Kay looked at her, she was so pretty; a cleverer, more beautiful face
could hardly be imagined. She did not seem to be made of ice now, as she
was outside the window when she waved her hand to him. In his eyes she
was quite perfect, and he was not a bit afraid of her; he told her that
he could do mental arithmetic, as far as fractions, and that he knew the
number of square miles and the number of inhabitants of the country. She
always smiled at him, and he then thought that he surely did not know
enough, and he looked up into the wide expanse of heaven, into which
they rose higher and higher as she flew with him on a dark cloud, while
the storm surged around them, the wind ringing in their ears like
well-known old songs.
They flew over woods and lakes, over oceans and islands; the cold wind
whistled down below them, the wolves howled, the black crows flew
screaming over the sparkling snow, but up above, the moon shone bright
and clear—and Kay looked at it all the long, long winter nights; in the
day he slept at the Snow Queen's feet.
THE GARDEN OF THE WOMAN LEARNED IN MAGIC
Then an old, old woman came out of the house; she was leaning upon a
big, hooked stick, and she wore a big sun hat, which was covered with
beautiful painted flowers.|
But how was little Gerda getting on all this long time since Kay left
her? Where could he be? Nobody knew, nobody could say anything about
him. All that the other boys
knew was, that they had seen him tie his
little sledge to a splendid big one which drove away down the street and
out of the town gates. Nobody knew where he was, and many tears were
shed; little Gerda cried long and bitterly. At last, people said he was
dead; he must have fallen into the river which ran close by the town.
Oh, what long, dark, winter days those were!
At last the spring came and the sunshine.
'Kay is dead and gone,' said little Gerda.
'I don't believe it,' said the sunshine.
'He is dead and gone,' she said to the swallows.
'We don't believe it,' said the swallows; and at last little Gerda did
not believe it either.
'I will put on my new red shoes,' she said one morning; 'those Kay never
saw; and then I will go down to the river and ask it about him!'
It was very early in the morning; she kissed the old grandmother, who
was still asleep, put on the red shoes, and went quite alone, out by the
gate to the river.
'Is it true that you have taken my little playfellow? I will give you my
red shoes if you will bring him back to me again.'
She thought the little ripples nodded in such a curious way, so she took
off her red shoes, her most cherished possessions, and threw them both
into the river. They fell close by the shore, and were carried straight
back to her by the little wavelets; it seemed
as if the river would not
accept her offering, as it had not taken little Kay.
She only thought she had not thrown them far enough; so she climbed into
a boat which lay among the rushes, then she went right out to the
further end of it, and threw the shoes into the water again. But the
boat was loose, and her movements started it off, and it floated away
from the shore: she felt it moving and tried to get out, but before she
reached the other end the boat was more than a yard from the shore, and
was floating away quite quickly.
Little Gerda was terribly frightened, and began to cry, but nobody heard
her except the sparrows, and they could not carry her ashore, but they
flew alongside twittering, as if to cheer her, 'We are here, we are
here.' The boat floated rapidly away with the current; little Gerda sat
quite still with only her stockings on; her little red shoes floated
behind, but they could not catch up the boat, which drifted away faster
The banks on both sides were very pretty with beautiful flowers, fine
old trees, and slopes dotted with sheep and cattle, but not a single
'Perhaps the river is taking me to little Kay,' thought Gerda, and that
cheered her; she sat up and looked at the beautiful green banks for
Then they came to a big cherry garden; there was a little
it, with curious blue and red windows, it had a thatched roof, and two
wooden soldiers stood outside, who presented arms as she sailed past.
Gerda called out to them; she thought they were alive, but of course
they did not answer; she was quite close to them, for the current drove
the boat close to the bank. Gerda called out again, louder than before,
and then an old, old woman came out of the house; she was leaning upon a
big, hooked stick, and she wore a big sun hat, which was covered with
beautiful painted flowers.
'You poor little child,' said the old woman, 'how ever were you driven
out on this big, strong river into the wide, wide world alone?' Then she
walked right into the water, and caught hold of the boat with her hooked
stick; she drew it ashore, and lifted little Gerda out.
Gerda was delighted to be on dry land again, but she was a little bit
frightened of the strange old woman.
'Come, tell me who you are, and how you got here,' said she.
When Gerda had told her the whole story and asked her if she had seen
Kay, the woman said she had not seen him, but that she expected him.
Gerda must not be sad, she was to come and taste her cherries and see
her flowers, which were more beautiful than any picture-book; each one
had a story to tell. Then she took Gerda by the hand, they went into the
little house, and the old woman locked the door.
The windows were very high up, and they were red, blue, and yellow;
they threw a very curious light into the room. On the table were
quantities of the most delicious cherries, of which Gerda had leave to
eat as many as ever she liked. While she was eating, the old woman
combed her hair with a golden comb, so that the hair curled, and shone
like gold round the pretty little face, which was as sweet as a rose.
'I have long wanted a little girl like you!' said the old woman. 'You
will see how well we shall get on together.' While she combed her hair
Gerda had forgotten all about Kay, for the old woman was learned in the
magic art; but she was not a bad witch, she only cast spells over people
for a little amusement, and she wanted to keep Gerda. She therefore went
into the garden and waved her hooked stick over all the rose-bushes, and
however beautifully they were flowering, all sank down into the rich
black earth without leaving a trace behind them. The old woman was
afraid that if Gerda saw the roses she would be reminded of Kay, and
would want to run away. Then she took Gerda into the flower garden. What
a delicious scent there was! and every imaginable flower for every
season was in that lovely garden; no picture-book could be brighter or
more beautiful. Gerda jumped for joy and played till the sun went down
behind the tall cherry trees. Then she was put into a lovely bed with
rose-coloured silken coverings stuffed with violets; she
dreamt as lovely dreams as any queen on her wedding day.
The next day she played with the flowers in the garden again—and many
days passed in the same way. Gerda knew every flower, but however many
there were, she always thought there was one missing, but which it was
she did not know.
One day she was sitting looking at the old woman's sun hat with its
painted flowers, and the very prettiest one of them all was a rose. The
old woman had forgotten her hat when she charmed the others away. This
is the consequence of being absent-minded.
'What!' said Gerda, 'are there no roses here?' and she sprang in among
the flower-beds and sought, but in vain! Her hot tears fell on the very
places where the roses used to be; when the warm drops moistened the
earth the rose-trees shot up again, just as full of bloom as when they
sank. Gerda embraced the roses and kissed them, and then she thought of
the lovely roses at home, and this brought the thought of little Kay.
'Oh, how I have been delayed,' said the little girl, 'I ought to have
been looking for Kay! Don't you know where he is?' she asked the roses.
'Do you think he is dead and gone?'
'He is not dead,' said the roses. 'For we have been down underground,
you know, and all the dead people are there, but Kay is not among them.'
'Oh, thank you!' said little Gerda, and then she went to the
flowers and looked into their cups and said, 'Do you know where Kay is?'
But each flower stood in the sun and dreamt its own dreams. Little Gerda
heard many of these, but never anything about Kay.
And what said the Tiger lilies?
'Do you hear the drum? rub-a-dub, it has only two notes, rub-a-dub,
always the same. The wailing of women and the cry of the preacher. The
Hindu woman in her long red garment stands on the pile, while the flames
surround her and her dead husband. But the woman is only thinking of the
living man in the circle round, whose eyes burn with a fiercer fire than
that of the flames which consume the body. Do the flames of the heart
die in the fire?'
'I understand nothing about that,' said little Gerda.
'That is my story,' said the Tiger lily.
'What does the convolvulus say?'
'An old castle is perched high over a narrow mountain path, it is
closely covered with ivy, almost hiding the old red walls, and creeping
up leaf upon leaf right round the balcony where stands a beautiful
maiden. She bends over the balustrade and looks eagerly up the road. No
rose on its stem is fresher than she; no apple blossom wafted by the
wind moves more lightly. Her silken robes rustle softly as she bends
over and says, 'Will he never come?''
'Is it Kay you mean?' asked Gerda.
'I am only talking about my own story, my dream,' answered the
What said the little snowdrop?
'Between two trees a rope with a board is hanging; it is a swing. Two
pretty little girls in snowy frocks and green ribbons fluttering on
their hats are seated on it. Their brother, who is bigger than they are,
stands up behind them; he has his arms round the ropes for supports, and
holds in one hand a little bowl and in the other a clay pipe. He is
blowing soap-bubbles. As the swing moves the bubbles fly upwards in all
their changing colours, the last one still hangs from the pipe swayed by
the wind, and the swing goes on. A little black dog runs up, he is
almost as light as the bubbles, he stands up on his hind legs and wants
to be taken into the swing, but it does not stop. The little dog falls
with an angry bark; they jeer at it; the bubble bursts. A swinging
plank, a fluttering foam picture—that is my story!'
'I daresay what you tell me is very pretty, but you speak so sadly and
you never mention little Kay.'
What says the hyacinth?
'They were three beautiful sisters, all most delicate, and quite
transparent. One wore a crimson robe, the other a blue, and the third
was pure white. These three danced hand-in-hand, by the edge of the lake
in the moonlight. They were human beings, not fairies of the wood. The
fragrant air attracted them, and they
vanished into the wood; here the
fragrance was stronger still. Three coffins glide out of the wood
towards the lake, and in them lie the maidens. The fire-flies flutter
lightly round them with their little flickering torches. Do these
dancing maidens sleep, or are they dead? The scent of the flower says
that they are corpses. The evening bell tolls their knell.'
'You make me quite sad,' said little Gerda; 'your perfume is so strong
it makes me think of those dead maidens. Oh, is little Kay really dead?
The roses have been down underground, and they say no.'
'Ding, dong,' tolled the hyacinth bells; 'we are not tolling for little
Kay; we know nothing about him. We sing our song, the only one we know.'
And Gerda went on to the buttercups shining among their dark green
'You are a bright little sun,' said Gerda. 'Tell me if you know where I
shall find my playfellow.'
The buttercup shone brightly and returned Gerda's glance. What song
could the buttercup sing? It would not be about Kay.
'God's bright sun shone into a little court on the first day of spring.
The sunbeams stole down the neighbouring white wall, close to which
bloomed the first yellow flower of the season; it shone like burnished
gold in the sun. An old woman had brought her arm-chair out into the
sun; her granddaughter, a poor and
pretty little maid-servant, had come
to pay her a short visit, and she kissed her. There was gold, heart's
gold, in the kiss. Gold on the lips, gold on the ground, and gold above,
in the early morning beams! Now that is my little story,' said the
'Oh, my poor old grandmother!' sighed Gerda. 'She will be longing to see
me, and grieving about me, as she did about Kay. But I shall soon go
home again and take Kay with me. It is useless for me to ask the flowers
about him. They only know their own stories, and have no information to
Then she tucked up her little dress, so that she might run the faster;
but the narcissus blossoms struck her on the legs as she jumped over
them, so she stopped and said, 'Perhaps you can tell me something.'
She stooped down close to the flower and listened. What did it say?
'I can see myself, I can see myself,' said the narcissus. 'Oh, how sweet
is my scent. Up there in an attic window stands a little dancing girl
half dressed; first she stands on one leg, then on the other, and looks
as if she would tread the whole world under her feet. She is only a
delusion. She pours some water out of a teapot on to a bit of stuff that
she is holding; it is her bodice. "Cleanliness is a good thing," she
says. Her white dress hangs on a peg; it has been washed in the teapot,
too, and dried on the roof. She puts it on, and wraps a saffron-coloured
scarf round her neck, which makes the dress look whiter. See how high
she carries her head, and all upon one stem. I see myself, I see
'I don't care a bit about all that,' said Gerda; 'it's no use telling me
And then she ran to the end of the garden. The door was fastened, but
she pressed the rusty latch, and it gave way. The door sprang open, and
little Gerda ran out with bare feet into the wide world. She looked back
three times, but nobody came after her. At last she could run no
further, and she sat down on a big stone. When she looked round she saw
that the summer was over; it was quite late autumn. She would never have
known it inside the beautiful garden, where the sun always shone, and
the flowers of every season were always in bloom.
'Oh, how I have wasted my time,' said little Gerda. 'It is autumn. I
must not rest any longer,' and she got up to go on.
Oh, how weary and sore were her little feet, and everything round looked
so cold and dreary. The long willow leaves were quite yellow. The damp
mist fell off the trees like rain, one leaf dropped after another from
the trees, and only the sloe-thorn still bore its fruit; but the sloes
were sour and set one's teeth on edge. Oh, how grey and sad it looked,
out in the wide world.
PRINCE AND PRINCESS
She has read all the newspapers in the world, and forgotten them again,
so clever is she.|
Gerda was soon obliged to rest again. A big crow hopped on to the snow,
just in front of her. It had been sitting looking at her for a long time
and wagging its head. Now it said, 'Caw, caw; good-day, good-day,' as
well as it could; it meant to be kind to the little girl, and asked her
where she was going, alone in the wide world.
Gerda understood the word 'alone' and knew how much there was in it, and
she told the crow the whole story of her life and adventures, and asked
if it had seen Kay.
The crow nodded its head gravely and said, 'May be I have, may be I
'What, do you really think you have?' cried the little girl, nearly
smothering him with her kisses.
'Gently, gently!' said the crow. 'I believe it may have been Kay, but he
has forgotten you by this time, I expect, for the Princess.'
'Does he live with a Princess?' asked Gerda.
'Yes, listen,' said the crow; 'but it is so difficult to speak
language. If you understand "crow's language,"1 I can tell you about
it much better.'
'No, I have never learnt it,' said Gerda; 'but grandmother knew it, and
used to speak it. If only I had learnt it!'
'It doesn't matter,' said the crow. 'I will tell you as well as I can,
although I may do it rather badly.'
Then he told her what he had heard.
'In this kingdom where we are now,' said he, 'there lives a Princess who
is very clever. She has read all the newspapers in the world, and
forgotten them again, so clever is she. One day she was sitting on her
throne, which is not such an amusing thing to do either, they say; and
she began humming a tune, which happened to be
"Why should I not be married, oh why?"
"Why not indeed?" said she. And she made up her mind to marry, if she
could find a husband who had an answer ready when a question was put to
him. She called all the court ladies together, and when they heard what
she wanted they were delighted.
'"I like that now," they said. "I was thinking the same thing myself the
'Every word I say is true,' said the crow, 'for I have a tame
sweetheart who goes about the palace whenever she likes. She told me the
Of course his sweetheart was a crow, for 'birds of a feather flock
together,' and one crow always chooses another. The newspapers all came
out immediately with borders of hearts and the Princess's initials. They
gave notice that any young man who was handsome enough might go up to
the Palace to speak to the Princess. The one who spoke as if he were
quite at home, and spoke well, would be chosen by the Princess as her
husband. Yes, yes, you may believe me, it's as true as I sit here,' said
the crow. 'The people came crowding in; there was such running, and
crushing, but no one was fortunate enough to be chosen, either on the
first day, or on the second. They could all of them talk well enough in
the street, but when they entered the castle gates, and saw the guard in
silver uniforms, and when they went up the stairs through rows of
lackeys in gold embroidered liveries, their courage forsook them. When
they reached the brilliantly lighted reception-rooms, and stood in front
of the throne where the Princess was seated, they could think of nothing
to say, they only echoed her last words, and of course that was not what
'It was just as if they had all taken some kind of sleeping-powder,
which made them lethargic; they did not recover themselves until they
got out into the street again, and then they had
plenty to say. There
was quite a long line of them, reaching from the town gates up to the
'I went to see them myself,' said the crow. 'They were hungry and
thirsty, but they got nothing at the Palace, not even as much as a glass
of tepid water. Some of the wise ones had taken sandwiches with them,
but they did not share them with their neighbours; they thought if the
others went in to the Princess looking hungry, that there would be more
chance for themselves.'
'But Kay, little Kay!' asked Gerda; 'when did he come? was he amongst
'Give me time, give me time! we are just coming to him. It was on the
third day that a little personage came marching cheerfully along,
without either carriage or horse. His eyes sparkled like yours, and he
had beautiful long hair, but his clothes were very shabby.'
'Oh, that was Kay!' said Gerda gleefully; 'then I have found him!' and
she clapped her hands.
'He had a little knapsack on his back!' said the crow.
'No, it must have been his sledge; he had it with him when he went
away!' said Gerda.
'It may be so,' said the crow; 'I did not look very particularly; but I
know from my sweetheart, that when he entered the Palace gates, and saw
the life-guards in their silver
uniforms, and the lackeys on the stairs
in their gold-laced liveries, he was not the least bit abashed. He just
nodded to them and said, "It must be very tiresome to stand upon the
stairs. I am going inside!" The rooms were blazing with lights. Privy
councillors and excellencies without number were walking about barefoot
carrying golden vessels; it was enough to make you solemn! His boots
creaked fearfully too, but he wasn't a bit upset.'
'Oh, I am sure that was Kay!' said Gerda; 'I know he had a pair of new
boots, I heard them creaking in grandmother's room.'
'Yes, indeed they did creak!' said the crow. 'But nothing daunted, he
went straight up to the Princess, who was sitting on a pearl as big as a
spinning-wheel. Poor, simple boy! all the court ladies and their
attendants; the courtiers, and their gentlemen, each attended by a page,
were standing round. The nearer the door they stood, so much the greater
was their haughtiness; till the footman's boy, who always wore slippers
and stood in the doorway, was almost too proud even to be looked at.'
'It must be awful!' said little Gerda, 'and yet Kay has won the
'If I had not been a crow, I should have taken her myself,
notwithstanding that I am engaged. They say he spoke as well as I could
have done myself, when I speak crow-language; at least
so my sweetheart
says. He was a picture of good looks and gallantry, and then, he had not
come with any idea of wooing the Princess, but simply to hear her
wisdom. He admired her just as much as she admired him!'
'Indeed it was Kay then,' said Gerda; 'he was so clever he could do
mental arithmetic up to fractions. Oh, won't you take me to the Palace?'
'It's easy enough to talk,' said the crow; 'but how are we to manage it?
I will talk to my tame sweetheart about it; she will have some advice to
give us I daresay, but I am bound to tell you that a little girl like
you will never be admitted!'
'Oh, indeed I shall,' said Gerda; 'when Kay hears that I am here, he
will come out at once to fetch me.'
'Wait here for me by the stile,' said the crow, then he wagged his head
and flew off.
The evening had darkened in before he came back. 'Caw, caw,' he said,
'she sends you greeting. And here is a little roll for you; she got it
out of the kitchen where there is bread enough, and I daresay you are
hungry! It is not possible for you to get into the Palace; you have bare
feet; the guards in silver and the lackeys in gold would never allow you
to pass. But don't cry, we shall get you in somehow; my sweetheart knows
a little back staircase which leads up to the bedroom, and she knows
where the key is kept.'
Then they went into the garden, into the great avenue where the leaves
were dropping, softly one by one; and when the Palace lights went out,
one after the other, the crow led little Gerda to the back door, which
Oh, how Gerda's heart beat with fear and longing! It was just as if she
was about to do something wrong, and yet she only wanted to know if this
really was little Kay. Oh, it must be him, she thought, picturing to
herself his clever eyes and his long hair. She could see his very smile
when they used to sit under the rose-trees at home. She thought he would
be very glad to see her, and to hear what a long way she had come to
find him, and to hear how sad they had all been at home when he did not
come back. Oh, it was joy mingled with fear.
They had now reached the stairs, where a little lamp was burning on a
shelf. There stood the tame sweetheart, twisting and turning her head to
look at Gerda, who made a curtsy, as grandmother had taught her.
'My betrothed has spoken so charmingly to me about you, my little miss!'
she said; 'your life, "Vita," as it is called, is most touching! If
you will take the lamp, I will go on in front. We shall take the
straight road here, and we shall meet no one.'
'It seems to me that some one is coming behind us,' said Gerda, as she
fancied something rushed past her, throwing a shadow
on the walls;
horses with flowing manes and slender legs; huntsmen, ladies and
gentlemen on horseback.
'Oh, those are only the dreams!' said the crow; 'they come to take the
thoughts of the noble ladies and gentlemen out hunting. That's a good
thing, for you will be able to see them all the better in bed. But don't
forget, when you are taken into favour, to show a grateful spirit.'
'Now, there's no need to talk about that,' said the crow from the woods.
They came now into the first apartment; it was hung with rose-coloured
satin embroidered with flowers. Here again the dreams overtook them, but
they flitted by so quickly that Gerda could not distinguish them. The
apartments became one more beautiful than the other; they were enough to
bewilder anybody. They now reached the bedroom. The ceiling was like a
great palm with crystal leaves, and in the middle of the room two beds,
each like a lily hung from a golden stem. One was white, and in it lay
the Princess; the other was red, and there lay he whom Gerda had come to
seek—little Kay! She bent aside one of the crimson leaves, and she saw
a little brown neck. It was Kay. She called his name aloud, and held the
lamp close to him. Again the dreams rushed through the room on
horseback—he awoke, turned his head—and it was not little Kay.
It was only the Prince's neck which was like his; but he was
handsome. The Princess peeped out of her lily-white bed, and asked what
was the matter. Then little Gerda cried and told them all her story, and
what the crows had done to help her.
'You poor little thing!' said the Prince and Princess. And they praised
the crows, and said that they were not at all angry with them, but they
must not do it again. Then they gave them a reward.
'Would you like your liberty?' said the Princess, 'or would you prefer
permanent posts about the court as court crows, with perquisites from
Both crows curtsied and begged for the permanent posts, for they thought
of their old age, and said 'it was so good to have something for the old
man,' as they called it.
The Prince got up and allowed Gerda to sleep in his bed, and he could
not have done more. She folded her little hands, and thought 'how good
the people and the animals are'; then she shut her eyes and fell fast
asleep. All the dreams came flying back again; this time they looked
like angels, and they were dragging a little sledge with Kay sitting on
it, and he nodded. But it was only a dream; so it all vanished when she
Next day she was dressed in silk and velvet from head to foot; they
asked her to stay at the Palace and have a good time, but she only
begged them to give her a little carriage and horse, and a
of boots, so that she might drive out into the wide world to look for
They gave her a pair of boots and a muff. She was beautifully dressed,
and when she was ready to start, there before the door stood a new
chariot of pure gold. The Prince's and Princess's coat of arms were
emblazoned on it, and shone like a star. Coachman, footman, and
outrider, for there was even an outrider, all wore golden crowns. The
Prince and Princess themselves helped her into the carriage and wished
her joy. The wood crow, who was now married, accompanied her for the
first three miles; he sat beside Gerda, for he could not ride with his
back to the horses. The other crow stood at the door and flapped her
wings; she did not go with them, for she suffered from headache since
she had become a kitchen pensioner—the consequence of eating too much.
The chariot was stored with sugar biscuits, and there were fruit and
ginger nuts under the seat. 'Good-bye, good-bye,' cried the Prince and
Princess; little Gerda wept, and the crow wept too. At the end of the
first few miles the crow said good-bye, and this was the hardest parting
of all. It flew up into a tree and flapped its big black wings as long
as it could see the chariot, which shone like the brightest sunshine.
THE LITTLE ROBBER GIRL
'It is gold, it is gold!' they cried.|
They drove on through a dark wood, where the chariot lighted up the way
and blinded the robbers by its glare; it was more than they could bear.
'It is gold, it is gold!' they cried, and darting forward, seized the
horses, and killed the postilions, the coachman, and footman. They then
dragged little Gerda out of the carriage.
'She is fat, and she is pretty; she has been fattened on nuts!' said the
old robber woman, who had a long beard, and eyebrows that hung down over
her eyes. 'She is as good as a fat lamb, and how nice she will taste!'
She drew out her sharp knife as she said this; it glittered horribly.
'Oh!' screamed the old woman at the same moment, for her little daughter
had come up behind her, and she was biting her ear. She hung on her
back, as wild and as savage a little animal as you could wish to find.
'You bad, wicked child!' said her mother, but she was prevented from
killing Gerda on this occasion.
'She shall play with me,' said the little robber girl; 'she shall give
me her muff, and her pretty dress, and she shall sleep in
my bed.' Then
she bit her mother again and made her dance. All the robbers laughed and
said, 'Look at her dancing with her cub!'
'I want to get into the carriage,' said the little robber girl, and she
always had her own way because she was so spoilt and stubborn. She and
Gerda got into the carriage, and then they drove over stubble and stones
further and further into the wood. The little robber girl was as big as
Gerda, but much stronger; she had broader shoulders, and darker skin,
her eyes were quite black, with almost a melancholy expression. She put
her arm round Gerda's waist and said—
'They shan't kill you as long as I don't get angry with you; you must
surely be a Princess!'
'No,' said little Gerda, and then she told her all her adventures, and
how fond she was of Kay.
The robber girl looked earnestly at her, gave a little nod, and said,
'They shan't kill you even if I am angry with you. I will do it myself.'
Then she dried Gerda's eyes, and stuck her own hands into the pretty
muff, which was so soft and warm.
At last the chariot stopped: they were in the courtyard of a robber's
castle, the walls of which were cracked from top to bottom. Ravens and
crows flew in and out of every hole, and big bulldogs, which each looked
ready to devour somebody, jumped about as high as they could, but they
did not bark, for it
was not allowed. A big fire was burning in the
middle of the stone floor of the smoky old hall. The smoke all went up
to the ceiling, where it had to find a way out for itself. Soup was
boiling in a big caldron over the fire, and hares and rabbits were
roasting on the spits.
'You shall sleep with me and all my little pets to-night,' said the
When they had something to eat and drink they went along to one corner
which was spread with straw and rugs. There were nearly a hundred
pigeons roosting overhead on the rafters and beams. They seemed to be
asleep, but they fluttered about a little when the children came in.
'They are all mine,' said the little robber girl, seizing one of the
nearest. She held it by the legs and shook it till it flapped its wings.
'Kiss it,' she cried, dashing it at Gerda's face. 'Those are the wood
pigeons,' she added, pointing to some laths fixed across a big hole high
up on the walls; 'they are a regular rabble; they would fly away
directly if they were not locked in. And here is my old sweetheart Be,'
dragging forward a reindeer by the horn; it was tied up, and it had a
bright copper ring round its neck. 'We have to keep him close too, or he
would run off. Every single night I tickle his neck with my bright
knife, he is so frightened of it.' The little girl produced a long knife
out of a hole in the wall and drew it across the reindeer's neck. The
poor animal laughed and kicked, and the robber girl laughed and pulled
Gerda down into the bed with her.
'Do you have that knife by you while you are asleep?' asked Gerda,
looking rather frightened.
'I always sleep with a knife,' said the little robber girl. 'You never
know what will happen. But now tell me again what you told me before
about little Kay, and why you went out into the world.' So Gerda told
her all about it again, and the wood pigeons cooed up in their cage
above them; the other pigeons were asleep. The little robber girl put
her arm round Gerda's neck and went to sleep with the knife in her other
hand, and she was soon snoring. But Gerda would not close her eyes; she
did not know whether she was to live or to die. The robbers sat round
the fire, eating and drinking, and the old woman was turning
somersaults. This sight terrified the poor little girl. Then the wood
pigeons said, 'Coo, coo, we have seen little Kay; his sledge was drawn
by a white chicken, and he was sitting in the Snow Queen's sledge; it
was floating low down over the trees, while we were in our nests. She
blew upon us young ones, and they all died except we two; coo, coo.'
'What are you saying up there?' asked Gerda. 'Where was the Snow Queen
going? Do you know anything about it?'
'She was most likely going to Lapland, because there is
always snow and
ice there! Ask the reindeer who is tied up there.'
'There is ice and snow, and it's a splendid place,' said the reindeer.
'You can run and jump about where you like on those big glittering
plains. The Snow Queen has her summer tent there, but her permanent
castle is up at the North Pole, on the island which is called
'Oh Kay, little Kay!' sighed Gerda.
'Lie still, or I shall stick the knife into you!' said the robber girl.
In the morning Gerda told her all that the wood pigeons had said, and
the little robber girl looked quite solemn, but she nodded her head and
said, 'No matter, no matter! Do you know where Lapland is?' she asked
'Who should know better than I,' said the animal, its eyes dancing. 'I
was born and brought up there, and I used to leap about on the
'Listen,' said the robber girl. 'You see that all our men folks are
away, but mother is still here, and she will stay; but later on in the
morning she will take a drink out of the big bottle there, and after
that she will have a nap—then I will do something for you.' Then she
jumped out of bed, ran along to her mother and pulled her beard, and
said, 'Good morning, my own dear nanny-goat!' And her mother filliped
her nose till it was red and blue; but it was all affection.
As soon as her mother had had her draught from the bottle and had
dropped asleep, the little robber girl went along to the reindeer, and
said, 'I should have the greatest pleasure in the world in keeping you
here, to tickle you with my knife, because you are such fun then;
however, it does not matter. I will untie your halter and help you
outside so that you may run away to Lapland, but you must put your best
foot foremost, and take this little girl for me to the Snow Queen's
palace, where her playfellow is. I have no doubt you heard what she was
telling me, for she spoke loud enough, and you are generally
The reindeer jumped into the air for joy. The robber girl lifted little
Gerda up, and had the forethought to tie her on, nay, even to give her a
little cushion to sit upon. 'Here, after all, I will give you your fur
boots back, for it will be very cold, but I will keep your muff, it is
too pretty to part with. Still you shan't be cold. Here are my mother's
big mittens for you, they will reach up to your elbows; here, stick your
hands in! Now your hands look just like my nasty mother's!'
Gerda shed tears of joy.
'I don't like you to whimper!' said the little robber girl. 'You ought
to be looking delighted; and here are two loaves and a ham for you, so
that you shan't starve.'
These things were tied on to the back of the reindeer; the little robber
girl opened the door, called in all the big dogs, and then
she cut the
halter with her knife, and said to the reindeer, 'Now run, but take care
of my little girl!'
Gerda stretched out her hands in the big mittens to the robber girl and
said good-bye; and then the reindeer darted off over briars and bushes,
through the big wood, over swamps and plains, as fast as it could go.
The wolves howled and the ravens screamed, while the red lights quivered
up in the sky.
'There are my old northern lights,' said the reindeer; 'see how they
flash!' and on it rushed faster than ever, day and night. The loaves
were eaten, and the ham too, and then they were in Lapland.
THE LAPP WOMAN AND THE FINN WOMAN
The reindeer did not dare to stop. It ran on till it came to the bush
with the red berries. There it put Gerda down, and kissed her on the
mouth, while big shining tears trickled down its face.|
They stopped by a little hut, a very poverty-stricken one; the roof
sloped right down to the ground, and the door was so low that the people
had to creep on hands and knees when they wanted to go in or out. There
was nobody at home here but an old Lapp woman, who was frying fish over
a train-oil lamp. The reindeer told her all Gerda's story, but it told
its own first; for it thought it was much the most important. Gerda was
so overcome by the cold that she could not speak at all.
'Oh, you poor creatures!' said the Lapp woman; 'you've got a long way
to go yet; you will have to go hundreds of miles into Finmark, for the
Snow Queen is paying a country visit there, and she burns blue lights
every night. I will write a few words on a dried stock-fish, for I have
no paper. I will give it to you to take to the Finn woman up there. She
will be better able to direct you than I can.'
So when Gerda was warmed, and had eaten and drunk something, the Lapp
woman wrote a few words on a dried stock-fish and gave it to her,
bidding her take good care of it. Then she tied her on to the reindeer
again, and off they flew. Flicker, flicker, went the beautiful blue
northern lights up in the sky all night long;—at last they came to
Finmark, and knocked on the Finn woman's chimney, for she had no door at
There was such a heat inside that the Finn woman went about almost
naked; she was little and very grubby. She at once loosened Gerda's
things, and took off the mittens and the boots, or she would have been
too hot. Then she put a piece of ice on the reindeer's head, and after
that she read what was written on the stock-fish. She read it three
times, and then she knew it by heart, and put the fish into the pot for
dinner; there was no reason why it should not be eaten, and she never
Again the reindeer told his own story first, and then little Gerda's.
The Finn woman blinked with her wise eyes, but she said nothing.
'You are so clever,' said the reindeer, 'I know you can bind all the
winds of the world with a bit of sewing cotton. When a skipper unties
one knot he gets a good wind, when he unties two it blows hard, and if
he undoes the third and the fourth he brings a storm about his head wild
enough to blow down the forest trees. Won't you give the little girl a
drink, so that she may have the strength of twelve men to overcome the
'The strength of twelve men,' said the Finn woman. 'Yes, that will be
She went along to a shelf and took down a big folded skin, which she
unrolled. There were curious characters written on it, and the Finn
woman read till the perspiration poured down her forehead.
But the reindeer again implored her to give Gerda something, and Gerda
looked at her with such beseeching eyes, full of tears, that the Finn
woman began blinking again, and drew the reindeer along into a corner,
where she whispered to it, at the same time putting fresh ice on its
'Little Kay is certainly with the Snow Queen, and he is delighted with
everything there. He thinks it is the best place in the world, but that
is because he has got a splinter of glass in his
heart and a grain of
glass in his eye. They will have to come out first, or he will never be
human again, and the Snow Queen will keep him in her power!'
'But can't you give little Gerda something to take which will give her
power to conquer it all?'
'I can't give her greater power than she already has. Don't you see how
great it is? Don't you see how both man and beast have to serve her? How
she has got on as well as she has on her bare feet? We must not tell her
what power she has; it is in her heart, because she is such a sweet
innocent child. If she can't reach the Snow Queen herself, then we can't
help her. The Snow Queen's gardens begin just two miles from here; you
can carry the little girl as far as that. Put her down by the big bush
standing there in the snow covered with red berries. Don't stand
gossiping, but hurry back to me!' Then the Finn woman lifted Gerda on
the reindeer's back, and it rushed off as hard as it could.
'Oh, I have not got my boots, and I have not got my mittens!' cried
She soon felt the want of them in that cutting wind, but the reindeer
did not dare to stop. It ran on till it came to the bush with the red
berries. There it put Gerda down, and kissed her on the mouth, while big
shining tears trickled down its face. Then it ran back again as fast as
ever it could. There stood poor little
Gerda, without shoes or
gloves, in the middle of freezing icebound Finmark.
She ran forward as quickly as she could. A whole regiment of snow-flakes
came towards her; they did not fall from the sky, for it was quite
clear, with the northern lights shining brightly. No; these snow-flakes
ran along the ground, and the nearer they came the bigger they grew.
Gerda remembered well how big and ingenious they looked under the
magnifying glass. But the size of these was monstrous. They were alive;
they were the Snow Queen's advanced guard, and they took the most
curious shapes. Some looked like big, horrid porcupines, some like
bundles of knotted snakes with their heads sticking out. Others, again,
were like fat little bears with bristling hair, but all were dazzling
white and living snow-flakes.
Then little Gerda said the Lord's Prayer, and the cold was so great that
her breath froze as it came out of her mouth, and she could see it like
a cloud of smoke in front of her. It grew thicker and thicker, till it
formed itself into bright little angels, who grew bigger and bigger when
they touched the ground. They all wore helmets, and carried shields and
spears in their hands. More and more of them appeared, and when Gerda
had finished her prayer she was surrounded by a whole legion. They
pierced the snow-flakes with their spears and shivered them into a
hundred pieces, and little Gerda walked fearlessly and undauntedly
through them. The angels touched her hands and her feet, and then she
hardly felt how cold it was, but walked quickly on towards the Palace of
the Snow Queen.
Now we must see what Kay was about. He was not thinking about Gerda at
all, least of all that she was just outside the Palace.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE SNOW QUEEN'S PALACE AND AFTERWARDS
The Snow Queen sat in the very middle of it when she sat at home.|
The Palace walls were made of drifted snow, and the windows and doors of
the biting winds. There were over a hundred rooms in it, shaped just as
the snow had drifted. The biggest one stretched for many miles. They
were all lighted by the strongest northern lights. All the rooms were
immensely big and empty, and glittering in their iciness. There was
never any gaiety in them; not even so much as a ball for the little
bears, when the storms might have turned up as the orchestra, and the
polar bears might have walked about on their hind legs and shown off
their grand manners. There was never even a little game-playing party,
for such games as 'touch last' or 'the biter bit'—no, not even a little
gossip over the coffee cups for the white fox misses. Immense, vast,
and cold were the Snow Queen's halls. The northern lights came and went
with such regularity that you could count the seconds between their
coming and going. In the midst of these never-ending snow-halls was a
frozen lake. It was broken up on the surface into a thousand bits, but
each piece was so exactly like the others that the whole formed a
perfect work of art. The Snow Queen sat in the very middle of it when
she sat at home. She then said that she was sitting on 'The Mirror of
Reason,' and that it was the best and only one in the world.
Little Kay was blue with cold, nay, almost black; but he did not know
it, for the Snow Queen had kissed away the icy shiverings, and his heart
was little better than a lump of ice. He went about dragging some sharp,
flat pieces of ice, which he placed in all sorts of patterns, trying to
make something out of them; just as when we at home have little tablets
of wood, with which we make patterns, and call them a 'Chinese puzzle.'
Kay's patterns were most ingenious, because they were the 'Ice Puzzles
of Reason.' In his eyes they were first-rate and of the greatest
importance: this was because of the grain of glass still in his eye. He
made many patterns forming words, but he never could find out the right
way to place them for one particular word, a word he was most anxious to
make. It was 'Eternity.' The Snow Queen had said to him that if he could
find out this word he should
be his own master, and she would give him
the whole world and a new pair of skates. But he could not discover it.
'Now I am going to fly away to the warm countries,' said the Snow Queen.
'I want to go and peep into the black caldrons!' She meant the volcanoes
Etna and Vesuvius by this. 'I must whiten them a little; it does them
good, and the lemons and the grapes too!' And away she flew.
Kay sat quite alone in all those many miles of empty ice halls. He
looked at his bits of ice, and thought and thought, till something gave
way within him. He sat so stiff and immovable that one might have
thought he was frozen to death.
Then it was that little Gerda walked into the Palace, through the great
gates in a biting wind. She said her evening prayer, and the wind
dropped as if lulled to sleep, and she walked on into the big empty
hall. She saw Kay, and knew him at once; she flung her arms round his
neck, held him fast, and cried, 'Kay, little Kay, have I found you at
But he sat still, rigid and cold.
Then little Gerda shed hot tears; they fell upon his breast and
penetrated to his heart. Here they thawed the lump of ice, and melted
the little bit of the mirror which was in it. He looked at her, and she
'Where roses deck the flowery vale,
There, Infant Jesus, we thee hail!'
Then Kay burst into tears; he cried so much that the grain of glass
was washed out of his eye. He knew her, and shouted with joy, 'Gerda,
dear little Gerda! where have you been for such a long time? And where
have I been?' He looked round and said, 'How cold it is here; how empty
and vast!' He kept tight hold of Gerda, who laughed and cried for joy.
Their happiness was so heavenly that even the bits of ice danced for joy
around them; and when they settled down, there they lay! just in the
very position the Snow Queen had told Kay he must find out, if he was to
become his own master and have the whole world and a new pair of skates.
Gerda kissed his cheeks and they grew rosy, she kissed his eyes and they
shone like hers, she kissed his hands and his feet, and he became well
and strong. The Snow Queen might come home whenever she liked, his order
of release was written there in shining letters of ice.
They took hold of each other's hands and wandered out of the big Palace.
They talked about grandmother, and about the roses upon the roof.
Wherever they went the winds lay still and the sun broke through the
clouds. When they reached the bush with the red berries they found the
reindeer waiting for them, and he had brought another young reindeer
with him, whose udders were full. The children drank her warm milk and
kissed her on the mouth. Then they carried Kay and Gerda, first to the
Finn woman, in whose heated hut they warmed themselves and received
directions about the homeward journey. Then they went on to the Lapp
woman; she had made new clothes for them and prepared her sledge. Both
the reindeer ran by their side, to the boundaries of the country; here
the first green buds appeared, and they said 'Good-bye' to the reindeer
and the Lapp woman. They heard the first little birds twittering and saw
the buds in the forest. Out of it came riding a young girl on a
beautiful horse, which Gerda knew, for it had drawn the golden chariot.
She had a scarlet cap on her head and pistols in her belt; it was the
little robber girl, who was tired of being at home. She was riding
northwards to see how she liked it before she tried some other part of
the world. She knew them again, and Gerda recognised her with delight.
'You are a nice fellow to go tramping off!' she said to little Kay. 'I
should like to know if you deserve to have somebody running to the end
of the world for your sake!'
But Gerda patted her cheek, and asked about the Prince and Princess.
'They are travelling in foreign countries,' said the robber girl.
'But the crow?' asked Gerda.
'Oh, the crow is dead!' she answered. 'The tame sweetheart is a widow,
and goes about with a bit of black wool tied
round her leg. She pities
herself bitterly, but it's all nonsense! But tell me how you got on
yourself, and where you found him.'
Gerda and Kay both told her all about it.
'Snip, snap, snurre, it's all right at last then!' she said, and she
took hold of their hands and promised that if she ever passed through
their town she would pay them a visit. Then she rode off into the wide
world. But Kay and Gerda walked on, hand in hand, and wherever they went
they found the most delightful spring and blooming flowers. Soon they
recognised the big town where they lived, with its tall towers, in which
the bells still rang their merry peals. They went straight on to
grandmother's door, up the stairs and into her room. Everything was just
as they had left it, and the old clock ticked in the corner, and the
hands pointed to the time. As they went through the door into the room
they perceived that they were grown up. The roses clustered round the
open window, and there stood their two little chairs. Kay and Gerda sat
down upon them, still holding each other by the hand. All the cold empty
grandeur of the Snow Queen's palace had passed from their memory like a
bad dream. Grandmother sat in God's warm sunshine reading from her
'Without ye become as little children ye cannot enter into the Kingdom
Kay and Gerda looked into each other's eyes, and then all at once the
meaning of the old hymn came to them.
'Where roses deck the flowery vale,
There, Infant Jesus, we thee hail!'
And there they both sat, grown up and yet children, children at heart;
and it was summer—warm, beautiful summer.
Among these trees lived a nightingale, which sang so deliciously, that
even the poor fisherman, who had plenty of other things to do, lay still
to listen to it, when he was out at night drawing in his nets.|
In China, as you know, the Emperor is a Chinaman, and all the people
around him are Chinamen too. It is many years since the story I am going
to tell you happened, but that is all the more reason for telling it,
lest it should be forgotten. The emperor's palace was the most beautiful
thing in the world; it was made entirely of the finest porcelain, very
costly, but at the same time so fragile that it could only be touched
with the very greatest care. There were the most extraordinary flowers
to be seen in the garden; the most beautiful ones had little silver
bells tied to them, which tinkled perpetually, so that one should not
pass the flowers without looking at them. Every little detail in the
garden had been most carefully thought out, and it was so big, that even
the gardener himself did not know where it ended. If one went on
walking, one came to beautiful woods with lofty trees and deep lakes.
The wood extended to the sea, which was deep and blue, deep enough for
large ships to sail up right under the branches of
the trees. Among
these trees lived a nightingale, which sang so deliciously, that even
the poor fisherman, who had plenty of other things to do, lay still to
listen to it, when he was out at night drawing in his nets. 'Heavens,
how beautiful it is!' he said, but then he had to attend to his business
and forgot it. The next night when he heard it again he would again
exclaim, 'Heavens, how beautiful it is!'
Travellers came to the emperor's capital, from every country in the
world; they admired everything very much, especially the palace and the
gardens, but when they heard the nightingale they all said, 'This is
better than anything!'
When they got home they described it, and the learned ones wrote many
books about the town, the palace and the garden; but nobody forgot the
nightingale, it was always put above everything else. Those among them
who were poets wrote the most beautiful poems, all about the nightingale
in the woods by the deep blue sea. These books went all over the world,
and in course of time some of them reached the emperor. He sat in his
golden chair reading and reading, and nodding his head, well pleased to
hear such beautiful descriptions of the town, the palace and the garden.
'But the nightingale is the best of all,' he read.
'What is this?' said the emperor. 'The nightingale? Why, I know nothing
about it. Is there such a bird in my kingdom, and in my own garden into
the bargain, and I have never
heard of it? Imagine my having to
discover this from a book?'
Then he called his gentleman-in-waiting, who was so grand that when any
one of a lower rank dared to speak to him, or to ask him a question, he
would only answer 'P,' which means nothing at all.
'There is said to be a very wonderful bird called a nightingale here,'
said the emperor. 'They say that it is better than anything else in all
my great kingdom! Why have I never been told anything about it?'
'I have never heard it mentioned,' said the gentleman-in-waiting. 'It
has never been presented at court.'
'I wish it to appear here this evening to sing to me,' said the emperor.
'The whole world knows what I am possessed of, and I know nothing about
'I have never heard it mentioned before,' said the gentleman-in-waiting.
'I will seek it, and I will find it!' But where was it to be found? The
gentleman-in-waiting ran upstairs and downstairs and in and out of all
the rooms and corridors. No one of all those he met had ever heard
anything about the nightingale; so the gentleman-in-waiting ran back to
the emperor, and said that it must be a myth, invented by the writers of
the books. 'Your imperial majesty must not believe everything that is
written; books are often mere inventions, even if they do not belong to
what we call the black art!'
'But the book in which I read it is sent to me by the powerful Emperor
of Japan, so it can't be untrue. I will hear this nightingale; I insist
upon its being here to-night. I extend my most gracious protection to
it, and if it is not forthcoming, I will have the whole court trampled
upon after supper!'
'Tsing-pe!' said the gentleman-in-waiting, and away he ran again, up and
down all the stairs, in and out of all the rooms and corridors; half the
court ran with him, for they none of them wished to be trampled on.
There was much questioning about this nightingale, which was known to
all the outside world, but to no one at court. At last they found a poor
little maid in the kitchen. She said, 'Oh heavens, the nightingale? I
know it very well. Yes, indeed it can sing. Every evening I am allowed
to take broken meat to my poor sick mother: she lives down by the shore.
On my way back, when I am tired, I rest awhile in the wood, and then I
hear the nightingale. Its song brings the tears into my eyes; I feel as
if my mother were kissing me!'
'Little kitchen-maid,' said the gentleman-in-waiting, 'I will procure
you a permanent position in the kitchen, and permission to see the
emperor dining, if you will take us to the nightingale. It is commanded
to appear at court to-night.'
Then they all went out into the wood where the nightingale usually sang.
Half the court was there. As they were going along at their best pace a
cow began to bellow.
'Oh!' said a young courtier, 'there we have it. What wonderful power
for such a little creature; I have certainly heard it before.'
'No, those are the cows bellowing; we are a long way yet from the
place.' Then the frogs began to croak in the marsh.
'Beautiful!' said the Chinese chaplain, 'it is just like the tinkling of
'No, those are the frogs!' said the little kitchen-maid. 'But I think we
shall soon hear it now!'
Then the nightingale began to sing.
'There it is!' said the little girl. 'Listen, listen, there it sits!'
and she pointed to a little grey bird up among the branches.
'Is it possible?' said the gentleman-in-waiting. 'I should never have
thought it was like that. How common it looks! Seeing so many grand
people must have frightened all its colours away.'
'Little nightingale!' called the kitchen-maid quite loud, 'our gracious
emperor wishes you to sing to him!'
'With the greatest of pleasure!' said the nightingale, warbling away in
the most delightful fashion.
'It is just like crystal bells,' said the gentleman-in-waiting. 'Look at
its little throat, how active it is. It is extraordinary that we have
never heard it before! I am sure it will be a great success at court!'
'Shall I sing again to the emperor?' said the nightingale, who thought
he was present.
'My precious little nightingale,' said the gentleman-in-waiting, 'I have
the honour to command your attendance at a court festival to-night,
where you will charm his gracious majesty the emperor with your
'It sounds best among the trees,' said the nightingale, but it went with
them willingly when it heard that the emperor wished it.
'Is it possible?' said the gentleman-in-waiting. 'I should never have
thought it was like that. How common it looks. Seeing so many grand
people must have frightened all its colours away.'
The palace had been brightened up for the occasion. The walls and the
floors, which were all of china, shone by the light of many thousand
golden lamps. The most beautiful flowers, all of the tinkling kind, were
arranged in the corridors; there was hurrying to and fro, and a great
draught, but this was just what made the bells ring; one's ears were
full of the tinkling. In the middle of the large reception-room where
the emperor sat a golden rod had been fixed, on which the nightingale
was to perch. The whole court was assembled, and the little kitchen-maid
had been permitted to stand behind the door, as she now had the actual
title of cook. They were all dressed in their best; everybody's eyes
were turned towards the little grey bird at which the emperor was
nodding. The nightingale sang delightfully, and the tears came into the
emperor's eyes, nay, they rolled down his cheeks; and then the
nightingale sang more beautifully than ever, its notes touched all
hearts. The emperor was charmed, and said the
have his gold slipper to wear round its neck. But the nightingale
declined with thanks; it had already been sufficiently rewarded.
'I have seen tears in the eyes of the emperor; that is my richest
reward. The tears of an emperor have a wonderful power! God knows I am
sufficiently recompensed!' and then it again burst into its sweet
'That is the most delightful coquetting I have ever seen!' said the
ladies, and they took some water into their mouths to try and make the
same gurgling when any one spoke to them, thinking so to equal the
nightingale. Even the lackeys and the chambermaids announced that they
were satisfied, and that is saying a great deal; they are always the
most difficult people to please. Yes, indeed, the nightingale had made a
sensation. It was to stay at court now, and to have its own cage, as
well as liberty to walk out twice a day, and once in the night. It
always had twelve footmen, with each one holding a ribbon which was tied
round its leg. There was not much pleasure in an outing of that sort.
The whole town talked about the marvellous bird, and if two people met,
one said to the other 'Night,' and the other answered 'Gale,' and then
they sighed, perfectly understanding each other. Eleven cheesemongers'
children were called after it, but they had not got a voice among them.
One day a large parcel came for the emperor; outside was written the
'Here we have another new book about this celebrated bird,' said the
emperor. But it was no book; it was a little work of art in a box, an
artificial nightingale, exactly like the living one, but it was studded
all over with diamonds, rubies and sapphires.
When the bird was wound up it could sing one of the songs the real one
sang, and it wagged its tail, which glittered with silver and gold. A
ribbon was tied round its neck on which was written, 'The Emperor of
Japan's nightingale is very poor compared to the Emperor of China's.'
Everybody said, 'Oh, how beautiful!' And the person who brought the
artificial bird immediately received the title of Imperial
Nightingale-Carrier in Chief.
'Now, they must sing together; what a duet that will be.'
Then they had to sing together, but they did not get on very well, for
the real nightingale sang in its own way, and the artificial one could
only sing waltzes.
'There is no fault in that,' said the music-master; 'it is perfectly in
time and correct in every way!'
Then the artificial bird had to sing alone. It was just as great a
success as the real one, and then it was so much prettier to look at; it
glittered like bracelets and breast-pins.
Then it again burst into its sweet heavenly song.|
'That is the most delightful coquetting I have ever seen!' said the
ladies, and they took some water into their mouths to try and make the
same gurgling, thinking so to equal the nightingale.
It sang the same tune three and thirty times over, and yet it
not tired; people would willingly have heard it from the beginning
again, but the emperor said that the real one must have a turn now—but
where was it? No one had noticed that it had flown out of the open
window, back to its own green woods.
'But what is the meaning of this?' said the emperor.
All the courtiers railed at it, and said it was a most ungrateful bird.
'We have got the best bird though,' said they, and then the artificial
bird had to sing again, and this was the thirty-fourth time that they
heard the same tune, but they did not know it thoroughly even yet,
because it was so difficult.
The music-master praised the bird tremendously, and insisted that it was
much better than the real nightingale, not only as regarded the outside
with all the diamonds, but the inside too.
'Because you see, my ladies and gentlemen, and the emperor before all,
in the real nightingale you never know what you will hear, but in the
artificial one everything is decided beforehand! So it is, and so it
must remain, it can't be otherwise. You can account for things, you can
open it and show the human ingenuity in arranging the waltzes, how they
go, and how one note follows upon another!'
'Those are exactly my opinions,' they all said, and the music-master got
leave to show the bird to the public next Sunday. They were also to hear
it sing, said the emperor. So they heard it,
and all became as
enthusiastic over it as if they had drunk themselves merry on tea,
because that is a thoroughly Chinese habit.
Then they all said 'Oh,' and stuck their forefingers in the air and
nodded their heads; but the poor fishermen who had heard the real
nightingale said, 'It sounds very nice, and it is very like the real
one, but there is something wanting, we don't know what.' The real
nightingale was banished from the kingdom.
The artificial bird had its place on a silken cushion, close to the
emperor's bed: all the presents it had received of gold and precious
jewels were scattered round it. Its title had risen to be 'Chief
Imperial Singer of the Bed-Chamber,' in rank number one, on the left
side; for the emperor reckoned that side the important one, where the
heart was seated. And even an emperor's heart is on the left side. The
music-master wrote five-and-twenty volumes about the artificial bird;
the treatise was very long and written in all the most difficult Chinese
characters. Everybody said they had read and understood it, for
otherwise they would have been reckoned stupid, and then their bodies
would have been trampled upon.
The music-master wrote five-and-twenty volumes about the artificial
bird; the treatise was very long and written in all the most difficult
Things went on in this way for a whole year. The emperor, the court, and
all the other Chinamen knew every little gurgle in the song of the
artificial bird by heart; but they liked it all the better for this, and
they could all join in the song themselves.
Even the street boys
sang 'zizizi' and 'cluck, cluck, cluck,' and the emperor sang it too.
But one evening when the bird was singing its best, and the emperor was
lying in bed listening to it, something gave way inside the bird with a
'whizz.' Then a spring burst, 'whirr' went all the wheels, and the music
stopped. The emperor jumped out of bed and sent for his private
physicians, but what good could they do? Then they sent for the
watchmaker, and after a good deal of talk and examination he got the
works to go again somehow; but he said it would have to be saved as much
as possible, because it was so worn out, and he could not renew the
works so as to be sure of the tune. This was a great blow! They only
dared to let the artificial bird sing once a year, and hardly that; but
then the music-master made a little speech, using all the most difficult
words. He said it was just as good as ever, and his saying it made it
Five years now passed, and then a great grief came upon the nation, for
they were all very fond of their emperor, and he was ill and could not
live, it was said. A new emperor was already chosen, and people stood
about in the street, and asked the gentleman-in-waiting how their
emperor was going on.
'P,' answered he, shaking his head.
The emperor lay pale and cold in his gorgeous bed, the courtiers thought
he was dead, and they all went off to pay their respects to their new
emperor. The lackeys ran off to talk matters
over, and the chambermaids
gave a great coffee-party. Cloth had been laid down in all the rooms and
corridors so as to deaden the sound of footsteps, so it was very, very
quiet. But the emperor was not dead yet. He lay stiff and pale in the
gorgeous bed with its velvet hangings and heavy golden tassels. There
was an open window high above him, and the moon streamed in upon the
emperor, and the artificial bird beside him.
The poor emperor could hardly breathe, he seemed to have a weight on his
chest, he opened his eyes, and then he saw that it was Death sitting
upon his chest, wearing his golden crown. In one hand he held the
emperor's golden sword, and in the other his imperial banner. Round
about, from among the folds of the velvet hangings peered many curious
faces: some were hideous, others gentle and pleasant. They were all the
emperor's good and bad deeds, which now looked him in the face when
Death was weighing him down.
'Do you remember that?' whispered one after the other; 'Do you remember
this?' and they told him so many things that the perspiration poured
down his face.
'I never knew that,' said the emperor. 'Music, music, sound the great
Chinese drums!' he cried, 'that I may not hear what they are saying.'
But they went on and on, and Death sat nodding his head, just like a
Chinaman, at everything that was said.
'Music, music!' shrieked the emperor. 'You precious little
sing, sing! I have loaded you with precious stones, and even hung my own
golden slipper round your neck; sing, I tell you, sing!'
But the bird stood silent; there was nobody to wind it up, so of course
it could not go. Death continued to fix the great empty sockets of his
eyes upon him, and all was silent, so terribly silent.
Suddenly, close to the window, there was a burst of lovely song; it was
the living nightingale, perched on a branch outside. It had heard of the
emperor's need, and had come to bring comfort and hope to him. As it
sang the faces round became fainter and fainter, and the blood coursed
with fresh vigour in the emperor's veins and through his feeble limbs.
Even Death himself listened to the song and said, 'Go on, little
nightingale, go on!'
'Yes, if you give me the gorgeous golden sword; yes, if you give me the
imperial banner; yes, if you give me the emperor's crown.'
And Death gave back each of these treasures for a song, and the
nightingale went on singing. It sang about the quiet churchyard, when
the roses bloom, where the elder flower scents the air, and where the
fresh grass is ever moistened anew by the tears of the mourner. This
song brought to Death a longing for his own garden, and, like a cold
grey mist, he passed out of the window.
'Thanks, thanks!' said the emperor; 'you heavenly little bird, I know
you! I banished you from my kingdom, and yet you
have charmed the evil
visions away from my bed by your song, and even Death away from my
heart! How can I ever repay you?'
'You have rewarded me,' said the nightingale. 'I brought the tears to
your eyes, the very first time I ever sang to you, and I shall never
forget it! Those are the jewels which gladden the heart of a
singer;—but sleep now, and wake up fresh and strong! I will sing to
Then it sang again, and the emperor fell into a sweet refreshing sleep.
The sun shone in at his window, when he woke refreshed and well; none of
his attendants had yet come back to him, for they thought he was dead,
but the nightingale still sat there singing.
'You must always stay with me!' said the emperor. 'You shall only sing
when you like, and I will break the artificial bird into a thousand
Even Death himself listened to the song and said, 'Go on, little
nightingale, go on!'|
'Don't do that!' said the nightingale, 'it did all the good it could!
keep it as you have always done! I can't build my nest and live in this
palace, but let me come whenever I like, then I will sit on the branch
in the evening, and sing to you. I will sing to cheer you and to make
you thoughtful too; I will sing to you of the happy ones, and of those
that suffer too. I will sing about the good and the evil, which are kept
hidden from you. The little singing bird flies far and wide, to the poor
fisherman, and the peasant's home, to numbers who are far from you and
your court. I love your heart more than your crown, and yet there is an
odour of sanctity round the crown too!—I will come, and I will
sing to you!—But you must promise me one thing!—
'Everything!' said the emperor, who stood there in his imperial robes
which he had just put on, and he held the sword heavy with gold upon his
'One thing I ask you! Tell no one that you have a little bird who tells
you everything; it will be better so!'
Then the nightingale flew away. The attendants came in to see after
their dead emperor, and there he stood, bidding them 'Good morning!'
THE REAL PRINCESS
There was once a prince, and he wanted a princess, but then she must be
a real Princess. He travelled right round the world to find one, but
there was always something wrong. There were plenty of princesses, but
whether they were real princesses he had great difficulty in
discovering; there was always something which was not quite right about
them. So at last he had to come home again, and he was very sad because
he wanted a real princess so badly.
One evening there was a terrible storm; it thundered and lightened and
the rain poured down in torrents; indeed it was a fearful night.
In the middle of the storm somebody knocked at the town gate, and the
old King himself went to open it.
It was a princess who stood outside, but she was in a terrible state
from the rain and the storm. The water streamed out of her
hair and her
clothes; it ran in at the top of her shoes and out at the heel, but she
said that she was a real princess.
'Well we shall soon see if that is true,' thought the old Queen, but she
said nothing. She went into the bedroom, took all the bedclothes off and
laid a pea on the bedstead: then she took twenty mattresses and piled
them on the top of the pea, and then twenty feather beds on the top of
the mattresses. This was where the princess was to sleep that night. In
the morning they asked her how she had slept.
'Oh terribly badly!' said the princess. 'I have hardly closed my eyes
the whole night! Heaven knows what was in the bed. I seemed to be lying
upon some hard thing, and my whole body is black and blue this morning.
It is terrible!'
They saw at once that she must be a real princess when she had felt the
pea through twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. Nobody but a real
princess could have such a delicate skin.
So the prince took her to be his wife, for now he was sure that he had
found a real princess, and the pea was put into the Museum, where it may
still be seen if no one has stolen it.
Now this is a true story.
THE GARDEN OF PARADISE
There was once a king's son; nobody had so many or such beautiful books
as he had. He could read about everything which had ever happened in
this world, and see it all represented in the most beautiful pictures.
He could get information about every nation and every country; but as to
where the Garden of Paradise was to be found, not a word could he
discover, and this was the very thing he thought most about. His
grandmother had told him, when he was quite a little fellow and was
about to begin his school life, that every flower in the Garden of
Paradise was a delicious cake, and that the pistils were full of wine.
In one flower history was written, in another geography or tables; you
had only to eat the cake and you knew the lesson. The more you ate, the
more history, geography and tables you knew. All this he believed then;
but as he grew older and wiser and learnt more, he easily perceived that
the delights of the Garden of Paradise must be far beyond all this.
His grandmother had told him, when he was quite a little fellow and
was about to begin his school life, that every flower in the Garden of
Paradise was a delicious cake, and that the pistils were full of wine.|
'Oh, why did Eve take of the tree of knowledge? Why did Adam eat the
forbidden fruit? If it had only been I it would not have happened! never
would sin have entered the world!'
This is what he said then, and he still said it when he was seventeen;
his thoughts were full of the Garden of Paradise.
He walked into the wood one day; he was alone, for that was his greatest
pleasure. Evening came on, the clouds drew up and it rained as if the
whole heaven had become a sluice from which the water poured in sheets;
it was as dark as it is otherwise in the deepest well. Now he slipped on
the wet grass, and then he fell on the bare stones which jutted out of
the rocky ground. Everything was dripping, and at last the poor Prince
hadn't got a dry thread on him. He had to climb over huge rocks where
the water oozed out of the thick moss. He was almost fainting; just then
he heard a curious murmuring and saw in front of him a big lighted cave.
A fire was burning in the middle, big enough to roast a stag, which was
in fact being done; a splendid stag with its huge antlers was stuck on a
spit, being slowly turned round between the hewn trunks of two fir
trees. An oldish woman, tall and strong enough to be a man dressed up,
sat by the fire throwing on logs from time to time.
'Come in, by all means!' she said; 'sit down by the fire so that your
clothes may dry!'
'There is a shocking draught here,' said the Prince, as he sat down on
'It will be worse than this when my sons come home!' said the woman.
'You are in the cavern of the winds; my sons are the four winds of the
world! Do you understand?'
'Who are your sons?' asked the Prince.
'Well that's not so easy to answer when the question is stupidly put,'
said the woman. 'My sons do as they like; they are playing rounders now
with the clouds up there in the great hall,' and she pointed up into the
'Oh indeed!' said the Prince. 'You seem to speak very harshly, and you
are not so gentle as the women I generally see about me!'
'Oh, I daresay they have nothing else to do! I have to be harsh if I am
to keep my boys under control! But I can do it, although they are a
stiff-necked lot! Do you see those four sacks hanging on the wall? They
are just as frightened of them as you used to be of the cane behind the
looking-glass. I can double the boys up, I can tell you, and then they
have to go into the bag; we don't stand upon ceremony, and there they
have to stay; they can't get out to play their tricks till it suits me
to let them. But here we have one of them.' It was the Northwind who
came in with an icy blast; great hailstones peppered about the floor and
snow-flakes drifted in. He was dressed in bearskin trousers and jacket,
and he had a sealskin cap drawn over his ears. Long icicles were
hanging from his beard, and one hailstone after another dropped down
from the collar of his jacket.
'Don't go straight to the fire,' said the Prince. 'You might easily get
'Chilblains!' said the Northwind with a loud laugh. 'Chilblains! they
are my greatest delight! What sort of a feeble creature are you? How did
you get into the cave of the winds?'
'He is my guest,' said the old woman, 'and if you are not pleased with
that explanation you may go into the bag! Now you know my opinion!'
This had its effect, and the Northwind told them where he came from, and
where he had been for the last month.
'I come from the Arctic seas,' he said. 'I have been on Behring Island
with the Russian walrus-hunters. I sat at the helm and slept when they
sailed from the north cape, and when I woke now and then the stormy
petrels were flying about my legs. They are queer birds; they give a
brisk flap with their wings and then keep them stretched out and
motionless, and even then they have speed enough.'
'Pray don't be too long-winded,' said the mother of the winds. 'So at
last you got to Behring Island!'
'It's perfectly splendid! There you have a floor to dance upon, as flat
as a pancake, half-thawed snow, with moss. There were
bones of whales
and Polar bears lying about; they looked like the legs and arms of
giants covered with green mould. One would think that the sun had never
shone on them. I gave a little puff to the fog so that one could see the
shed. It was a house built of wreckage and covered with the skins of
whales; the flesh side was turned outwards; it was all red and green; a
living Polar bear sat on the roof growling. I went to the shore and
looked at the birds' nests, looked at the unfledged young ones screaming
and gaping; then I blew down thousands of their throats and they learnt
to shut their mouths. Lower down the walruses were rolling about like
monster maggots with pigs' heads and teeth a yard long!'
'You're a good story-teller, my boy!' said his mother. 'It makes my
mouth water to hear you!'
'Then there was a hunt! The harpoons were plunged into the walruses'
breasts, and the steaming blood spurted out of them like fountains over
the ice. Then I remembered my part of the game! I blew up and made my
ships, the mountain-high icebergs, nip the boats; whew! how they
whistled and how they screamed, but I whistled louder. They were obliged
to throw the dead walruses, chests and ropes out upon the ice! I shook
the snow-flakes over them and let them drift southwards to taste the
salt water. They will never come back to Behring Island!'
'Then you've been doing evil!' said the mother of the winds.
'What good I did, the others may tell you,' said he. 'But here we have
my brother from the west; I like him best of all; he smells of the sea
and brings a splendid cool breeze with him!'
'Is that the little Zephyr?' asked the Prince.
'Yes, certainly it is Zephyr, but he is not so little as all that. He
used to be a pretty boy once, but that's gone by!'
He looked like a wild man of the woods, but he had a padded hat on so as
not to come to any harm. He carried a mahogany club cut in the American
mahogany forests. It could not be anything less than that.
'Where do you come from?' asked his mother.
'From the forest wildernesses!' he said, 'where the thorny creepers make
a fence between every tree, where the water-snake lies in the wet grass,
and where human beings seem to be superfluous!'
'What did you do there?'
'I looked at the mighty river, saw where it dashed over the rocks in
dust and flew with the clouds to carry the rainbow. I saw the wild
buffalo swimming in the river, but the stream carried him away; he
floated with the wild duck, which soared into the sky at the rapids; but
the buffalo was carried over with the water. I liked that and blew a
storm, so that the primæval trees had to sail too, and they were whirled
about like shavings.'
'And you have done nothing else?' asked the old woman.
'I have been turning somersaults in the Savannahs, patting the wild
horse, and shaking down cocoanuts! Oh yes, I have plenty of stories to
tell! But one need not tell everything. You know that very well, old
woman!' and then he kissed his mother so heartily that she nearly fell
backwards; he was indeed a wild boy.
The Southwind appeared now in a turban and a flowing bedouin's cloak.
'It is fearfully cold in here,' he said, throwing wood on the fire; 'it
is easy to see that the Northwind got here first!'
'It is hot enough here to roast a polar bear,' said the Northwind.
'You are a polar bear yourself!' said the Southwind.
'Do you want to go into the bag?' asked the old woman. 'Sit down on that
stone and tell us where you have been.'
'In Africa, mother!' he answered. 'I have been chasing the lion with the
Hottentots in Kaffirland! What grass there is on those plains! as green
as an olive. The gnu was dancing about, and the ostriches ran races with
me, but I am still the fastest. I went to the desert with its yellow
sand. It looks like the bottom of the sea. I met a caravan! They were
killing their last camel to get water to drink, but it wasn't much they
got. The sun was blazing above, and the sand burning below. There were
no limits to the outstretched desert. Then I burrowed into the fine
loose sand and whirled it up in great columns—that was a dance! You
should have seen how despondently the dromedaries stood, and the
merchant drew his caftan over his head. He threw himself down before me
as if I had been Allah, his god. Now they are buried, and there is a
pyramid of sand over them all; when I blow it away, sometime the sun
will bleach their bones, and then travellers will see that people have
been there before, otherwise you would hardly believe it in the desert!'
'Then you have only been doing harm!' said the mother. 'Into the bag you
go!' And before he knew where he was she had the Southwind by the waist
and in the bag; it rolled about on the ground, but she sat down upon it
and then it had to be quiet.
'Your sons are lively fellows!' said the Prince.
'Yes, indeed,' she said; 'but I can master them! Here comes the fourth.'
It was the Eastwind, and he was dressed like a Chinaman.
'Oh, have you come from that quarter?' said the mother. 'I thought you
had been in the Garden of Paradise.'
'I am only going there to-morrow!' said the Eastwind. 'It will be a
hundred years to-morrow since I have been there. I have just come from
China, where I danced round the porcelain tower till all the bells
jingled. The officials were flogged in the streets, the bamboo canes
were broken over their shoulders, and they were all people ranging from
the first to the ninth rank. They shrieked "Many thanks, Father and
benefactor," but they didn't mean what they said, and I went on ringing
the bells and singing "Tsing, tsang, tsu!"'
'You're quite uproarious about it!' said the old woman. 'It's a good
thing you are going to the Garden of Paradise to-morrow; it always has a
good effect on your behaviour. Mind you drink deep of the well of
wisdom, and bring a little bottleful home to me.'
'That I will,' said the Eastwind, 'But why have you put my brother from
the south into the bag? Out with him. He must tell me about the
phœnix; the Princess always wants to hear about that bird when I call
every hundred years. Open the bag! then you'll be my sweetest mother,
and I'll give you two pockets full of tea as green and fresh as when I
'Well, for the sake of the tea, and because you are my darling, I will
open my bag!'
She did open it and the Southwind crept out, but he was quite
crestfallen because the strange Prince had seen his disgrace.
'Here is a palm leaf for the Princess!' said the Southwind. 'The old
phœnix, the only one in the world, gave it to me. He has scratched
his whole history on it with his bill, for the hundred years of his
life, and she can read it for herself. I saw how the phœnix set fire
to his nest himself and sat on it while it burnt, like the widow of a
Hindoo. Oh, how the dry branches crackled, how
it smoked, and what a
smell there was! At last it all burst into flame; the old bird was burnt
to ashes, but his egg lay glowing in the fire; it broke with a loud bang
and the young one flew out. Now it rules over all the birds, and it is
the only phœnix in the world. He bit a hole in the leaf I gave you;
that is his greeting to the Princess.'
'Let us have something to eat now!' said the mother of the winds; and
they all sat down to eat the roast stag, and the Prince sat by the side
of the Eastwind, so they soon became good friends.
'I say,' said the Prince, 'just tell me who is this Princess, and where
is the Garden of Paradise?'
'Oh ho!' said the Eastwind, 'if that is where you want to go you must
fly with me to-morrow. But I may as well tell you that no human being
has been there since Adam and Eve's time. You know all about them I
suppose from your Bible stories?'
'Of course,' said the Prince.
'When they were driven away the Garden of Eden sank into the ground, but
it kept its warm sunshine, its mild air, and all its charms. The queen
of the fairies lives there. The Island of Bliss, where death never
enters, and where living is a delight, is there. Get on my back
to-morrow and I will take you with me; I think I can manage it! But you
mustn't talk now, I want to go to sleep.'
When the Prince woke up in the early morning, he was not a little
surprised to find that he was already high above the clouds. He was
sitting on the back of the Eastwind, who was holding him carefully; they
were so high up that woods and fields, rivers and lakes, looked like a
large coloured map.
'Good morning,' said the Eastwind. 'You may as well sleep a little
longer, for there is not much to be seen in this flat country below us,
unless you want to count the churches. They look like chalk dots on the
He called the fields and meadows 'the green board.'
'It was very rude of me to leave without saying good-bye to your mother
and brothers,' said the Prince.
'One is excused when one is asleep!' said the Eastwind, and they flew on
faster than ever. You could mark their flight by the rustling of the
trees as they passed over the woods; and whenever they crossed a lake,
or the sea, the waves rose and the great ships dipped low down in the
water, like floating swans. Towards evening the large towns were amusing
as it grew dark, with all their lights twinkling now here, now there,
just as when one burns a piece of paper and sees all the little sparks
like children coming home from school. The Prince clapped his hands, but
the Eastwind told him he had better leave off and hold tight, or he
might fall and find himself hanging on to a church steeple.
The eagle in the great forest flew swiftly, but the Eastwind flew more
swiftly still. The Kossack on his little horse sped fast over the
plains, but the Prince sped faster still.
The eagle in the great forest flew swiftly, but the Eastwind flew more
'Now you can see the Himalayas!' said the Eastwind. 'They are the
highest mountains in Asia; we shall soon reach the Garden of Paradise.'
They took a more southerly direction, and the air became scented with
spices and flowers. Figs and pomegranates grew wild, and the wild vines
were covered with blue and green grapes. They both descended here and
stretched themselves on the soft grass, where the flowers nodded to the
wind, as much as to say, 'Welcome back.'
'Are we in the Garden of Paradise now?' asked the Prince.
'No, certainly not!' answered the Eastwind. 'But we shall soon be there.
Do you see that wall of rock and the great cavern where the wild vine
hangs like a big curtain? We have to go through there! Wrap yourself up
in your cloak, the sun is burning here, but a step further on it is icy
cold. The bird which flies past the cavern has one wing out here in the
heat of summer, and the other is there in the cold of winter.'
'So that is the way to the Garden of Paradise!' said the Prince.
Now they entered the cavern. Oh, how icily cold it was; but it did not
last long. The Eastwind spread his wings, and they shone like the
brightest flame; but what a cave it was! Large blocks of stone, from
which the water dripped, hung over them in the most extraordinary
shapes; at one moment it was so low and
narrow that they had to crawl
on hands and knees, the next it was as wide and lofty as if they were in
the open air. It looked like a chapel of the dead, with mute organ pipes
and petrified banners.
'We seem to be journeying along Death's road to the Garden of Paradise!'
said the Prince, but the Eastwind never answered a word, he only pointed
before them where a beautiful blue light was shining. The blocks of
stone above them grew dimmer and dimmer, and at last they became as
transparent as a white cloud in the moonshine. The air was also
deliciously soft, as fresh as on the mountain-tops and as scented as
down among the roses in the valley.
A river ran there as clear as the air itself, and the fish in it were
like gold and silver. Purple eels, which gave out blue sparks with every
curve, gambolled about in the water; and the broad leaves of the
water-lilies were tinged with the hues of the rainbow, while the flower
itself was like a fiery orange flame, nourished by the water, just as
oil keeps a lamp constantly burning. A firm bridge of marble, as
delicately and skilfully carved as if it were lace and glass beads, led
over the water to the Island of Bliss, where the Garden of Paradise
The Eastwind took the Prince in his arms and bore him over. The flowers
and leaves there sang all the beautiful old songs of his childhood, but
sang them more wonderfully than any human voice could sing them.
Were these palm trees or giant water plants growing here? The Prince
had never seen such rich and mighty trees. The most wonderful climbing
plants hung in wreaths, such as are only to be found pictured in gold
and colours on the margins of old books of the Saints or entwined among
their initial letters. It was the most extraordinary combination of
birds, flowers and scrolls.
Close by on the grass stood a flock of peacocks with their brilliant
tails outspread. Yes, indeed, it seemed so, but when the Prince touched
them he saw that they were not birds but plants. They were big dock
leaves, which shone like peacocks' tails. Lions and tigers sprang like
agile cats among the green hedges, which were scented with the blossom
of the olive, and the lion and the tiger were tame. The wild dove,
glistening like a pearl, beat the lion's mane with his wings; and the
antelope, otherwise so shy, stood by nodding, just as if he wanted to
join the game.
The Fairy of the Garden now advanced to meet them; her garments shone
like the sun, and her face beamed like that of a happy mother rejoicing
over her child. She was young and very beautiful, and was surrounded by
a band of lovely girls, each with a gleaming star in her hair.
When the Eastwind gave her the inscribed leaf from the Phœnix her
eyes sparkled with delight. She took the Prince's hand and led him into
her palace, where the walls were the colour
of the brightest tulips in
the sunlight. The ceiling was one great shining flower, and the longer
one gazed into it the deeper the calyx seemed to be. The Prince went to
the window, and looking through one of the panes saw the Tree of
Knowledge, with the Serpent, and Adam and Eve standing by.
'Are they not driven out?' he asked, and the Fairy smiled, and explained
that Time had burned a picture into each pane, but not of the kind one
usually sees; they were alive, the leaves on the trees moved, and people
came and went like the reflections in a mirror.
Then he looked through another pane, and he saw Jacob's dream, with the
ladder going straight up into heaven, and angels with great wings were
fluttering up and down. All that had ever happened in this world lived
and moved on these window panes; only Time could imprint such wonderful
The Fairy of the Garden now advanced to meet them; her garments shone
like the sun, and her face beamed like that of a happy mother rejoicing
over her child.|
The Fairy smiled and led him into a large, lofty room, the walls of
which were like transparent paintings of faces, one more beautiful than
the other. These were millions of the Blessed who smiled and sang, and
all their songs melted into one perfect melody. The highest ones were so
tiny that they seemed smaller than the very smallest rosebud, no bigger
than a pinpoint in a drawing. In the middle of the room stood a large
tree, with handsome drooping branches; golden apples, large and small,
hung like oranges among its green leaves. It was the Tree of
Knowledge, of whose fruit Adam and Eve had eaten. From every leaf
hung a shining red drop of dew; it was as if the tree wept tears of
'Now let us get into the boat,' said the Fairy. 'We shall find
refreshment on the swelling waters. The boat rocks, but it does not move
from the spot; all the countries of the world will pass before our
It was a curious sight to see the whole coast move. Here came lofty
snow-clad Alps, with their clouds and dark fir trees. The horn echoed
sadly among them, and the shepherd yodelled sweetly in the valleys. Then
banian trees bent their long drooping branches over the boat, black
swans floated on the water, and the strangest animals and flowers
appeared on the shore. This was New Holland, the fifth portion of the
world, which glided past them with a view of its blue mountains. They
heard the song of priests, and saw the dances of the savages to the
sound of drums and pipes of bone. The pyramids of Egypt reaching to the
clouds, with fallen columns, and Sphynxes half buried in sand, next
sailed past them. Then came the Aurora Borealis blazing over the peaks
of the north; they were fireworks which could not be imitated. The
Prince was so happy, and he saw a hundred times more than we have
'Can I stay here always?' he asked.
'That depends upon yourself,' answered the Fairy. 'If you
do not, like
Adam, allow yourself to be tempted to do what is forbidden, you can stay
'I will not touch the apples on the Tree of Knowledge,' said the Prince.
'There are thousands of other fruits here as beautiful.'
'Test yourself, and if you are not strong enough, go back with the
Eastwind who brought you. He is going away now, and will not come back
for a hundred years; the time will fly in this place like a hundred
hours, but that is a long time for temptation and sin. Every evening
when I leave you I must say, "Come with me," and I must beckon to you,
but stay behind. Do not come with me, for with every step you take your
longing will grow stronger. You will reach the hall where grows the Tree
of Knowledge; I sleep beneath its fragrant drooping branches. You will
bend over me and I must smile, but if you press a kiss upon my lips
Paradise will sink deep down into the earth, and it will be lost to you.
The sharp winds of the wilderness will whistle round you, the cold rain
will drop from your hair. Sorrow and labour will be your lot.'
'I will remain here!' said the Prince.
And the Eastwind kissed him on the mouth and said: 'Be strong, then we
shall meet again in a hundred years. Farewell! Farewell!' And the
Eastwind spread his great wings; they shone like poppies at the harvest
time, or the Northern Lights in a cold winter.
'Good-bye! good-bye!' whispered the flowers. Storks and pelicans flew
in a line like waving ribbons, conducting him to the boundaries of the
'Now we begin our dancing!' said the Fairy; 'at the end when I dance
with you, as the sun goes down you will see me beckon to you and cry,
"Come with me", but do not come. I have to repeat it every night for a
hundred years. Every time you resist, you will grow stronger, and at
last you will not even think of following. To-night is the first time.
Remember my warning!'
And the Fairy led him into a large hall of white transparent lilies, the
yellow stamens in each formed a little golden harp which echoed the
sound of strings and flutes. Lovely girls, slender and lissom, dressed
in floating gauze, which revealed their exquisite limbs, glided in the
dance, and sang of the joy of living—that they would never die—and
that the Garden of Paradise would bloom for ever.
The sun went down and the sky was bathed in golden light which gave the
lilies the effect of roses; and the Prince drank of the foaming wine
handed to him by the maidens. He felt such joy as he had never known
before; he saw the background of the hall opening where the Tree of
Knowledge stood in a radiancy which blinded him. The song proceeding
from it was soft and lovely, like his mother's voice, and she seemed to
say, 'My child, my beloved child!'
Then the Fairy beckoned to him and said so tenderly, 'Come with me,'
that he rushed towards her, forgetting his promise, forgetting
everything on the very first evening that she smiled and beckoned to
The fragrance in the scented air around grew stronger, the harps sounded
sweeter than ever, and it seemed as if the millions of smiling heads in
the hall where the Tree grew nodded and sang, 'One must know everything.
Man is lord of the earth.' They were no longer tears of blood which fell
from the Tree; it seemed to him that they were red shining stars.
'Come with me, come with me,' spoke those trembling tones, and at every
step the Prince's cheeks burnt hotter and hotter and his blood coursed
'I must go,' he said, 'it is no sin; I must see her asleep; nothing will
be lost if I do not kiss her, and that I will not do. My will is
The Fairy dropped her shimmering garment, drew back the branches, and a
moment after was hidden within their depths.
'I have not sinned yet!' said the Prince, 'nor will I'; then he drew
back the branches. There she lay asleep already, beautiful as only the
Fairy in the Garden of Paradise can be. She smiled in her dreams; he
bent over her and saw the tears welling up under her eyelashes.
The Fairy dropped her shimmering garment, drew back the branches, and a
moment after was hidden within their depths.|
'Do you weep for me?' he whispered. 'Weep not, beautiful
only now understand the full bliss of Paradise; it surges through my
blood and through my thoughts. I feel the strength of the angels and of
everlasting life in my mortal limbs! If it were to be everlasting night
to me, a moment like this were worth it!' and he kissed away the tears
from her eyes; his mouth touched hers.
Then came a sound like thunder, louder and more awful than any he had
ever heard before, and everything around collapsed. The beautiful Fairy,
the flowery Paradise sank deeper and deeper. The Prince saw it sink into
the darkness of night; it shone far off like a little tiny twinkling
star. The chill of death crept over his limbs; he closed his eyes and
lay long as if dead.
The cold rain fell on his face, and the sharp wind blew around his head,
and at last his memory came back. 'What have I done?' he sighed. 'I have
sinned like Adam, sinned so heavily that Paradise has sunk low beneath
the earth!' And he opened his eyes; he could still see the star, the
far-away star, which twinkled like Paradise; it was the morning star in
the sky. He got up and found himself in the wood near the cave of the
winds, and the mother of the winds sat by his side. She looked angry and
raised her hand.
'So soon as the first evening!' she said. 'I thought as much; if you
were my boy, you should go into the bag!'
'Ah, he shall soon go there!' said Death. He was a strong
old man, with
a scythe in his hand and great black wings. 'He shall be laid in a
coffin, but not now; I only mark him and then leave him for a time to
wander about on the earth to expiate his sin and to grow better. I will
come some time. When he least expects me, I shall come back, lay him in
a black coffin, put it on my head, and fly to the skies. The Garden of
Paradise blooms there too, and if he is good and holy he shall enter
into it; but if his thoughts are wicked and his heart still full of sin,
he will sink deeper in his coffin than Paradise sank, and I shall only
go once in every thousand years to see if he is to sink deeper or to
rise to the stars, the twinkling stars up there.'
Far out at sea the water is as blue as the bluest cornflower, and as
clear as the clearest crystal; but it is very deep, too deep for any
cable to fathom, and if many steeples were piled on the top of one
another they would not reach from the bed of the sea to the surface of
the water. It is down there that the Mermen live.
Now don't imagine that there are only bare white sands at the bottom; oh
no! the most wonderful trees and plants grow there, with such flexible
stalks and leaves, that at the slightest motion of the water they move
just as if they were alive. All the fish, big and little, glide among
the branches just as, up here, birds glide through the air. The palace
of the Merman King lies in the very deepest part; its walls are of coral
and the long pointed windows of the clearest amber, but the roof is made
of mussel shells which open and shut with the lapping of the water. This
has a lovely effect, for there are gleaming pearls in every shell, any
one of which would be the pride of a queen's crown.
The Merman King had been for many years a widower, but his old mother
kept house for him; she was a clever woman, but so proud of her noble
birth that she wore twelve oysters on her tail, while the other grandees
were only allowed six. Otherwise she was worthy of all praise,
especially because she was so fond of the little mermaid princesses, her
grandchildren. They were six beautiful children, but the youngest was
the prettiest of all; her skin was as soft and delicate as a roseleaf,
her eyes as blue as the deepest sea, but like all the others she had no
feet, and instead of legs she had a fish's tail.
All the livelong day they used to play in the palace in the great halls,
where living flowers grew out of the walls. When the great amber windows
were thrown open the fish swam in, just as the swallows fly into our
rooms when we open the windows, but the fish swam right up to the little
princesses, ate out of their hands, and allowed themselves to be patted.
The Merman King had been for many years a widower, but his old mother
kept house for him; she was a clever woman, but so proud of her noble
birth that she wore twelve oysters on her tail, while the other grandees
were only allowed six.|
Outside the palace was a large garden, with fiery red and deep blue
trees, the fruit of which shone like gold, while the flowers glowed like
fire on their ceaselessly waving stalks. The ground was of the finest
sand, but it was of a blue phosphorescent tint. Everything was bathed in
a wondrous blue light down there; you might more readily have supposed
yourself to be high up in the air, with only the sky above and below
you, than that you were at the bottom of the ocean. In a dead calm you
could just catch a glimpse of the sun like a purple flower with a
stream of light radiating from its calyx.
Each little princess had her own little plot of garden, where she could
dig and plant just as she liked. One made her flower-bed in the shape of
a whale; another thought it nice to have hers like a little mermaid; but
the youngest made hers quite round like the sun, and she would only have
flowers of a rosy hue like its beams. She was a curious child, quiet and
thoughtful, and while the other sisters decked out their gardens with
all kinds of extraordinary objects which they got from wrecks, she would
have nothing besides the rosy flowers like the sun up above, except a
statue of a beautiful boy. It was hewn out of the purest white marble
and had gone to the bottom from some wreck. By the statue she planted a
rosy red weeping willow which grew splendidly, and the fresh delicate
branches hung round and over it, till they almost touched the blue sand
where the shadows showed violet, and were ever moving like the branches.
It looked as if the leaves and the roots were playfully interchanging
Nothing gave her greater pleasure than to hear about the world of human
beings up above; she made her old grandmother tell her all that she knew
about ships and towns, people and animals. But above all it seemed
strangely beautiful to her that up on the earth the flowers were
scented, for they were not so at the bottom of the sea; also that the
woods were green, and that
the fish which were to be seen among the
branches could sing so loudly and sweetly that it was a delight to
listen to them. You see the grandmother called little birds fish, or the
mermaids would not have understood her, as they had never seen a bird.
'When you are fifteen,' said the grandmother, 'you will be allowed to
rise up from the sea and sit on the rocks in the moonlight, and look at
the big ships sailing by, and you will also see woods and towns.'
One of the sisters would be fifteen in the following year, but the
others,—well, they were each one year younger than the other, so that
the youngest had five whole years to wait before she would be allowed to
come up from the bottom, to see what things were like on earth. But each
one promised the others to give a full account of all that she had seen,
and found most wonderful on the first day. Their grandmother could never
tell them enough, for there were so many things about which they wanted
None of them was so full of longings as the youngest, the very one who
had the longest time to wait, and who was so quiet and dreamy. Many a
night she stood by the open windows and looked up through the dark blue
water which the fish were lashing with their tails and fins. She could
see the moon and the stars, it is true; their light was pale, but they
looked much bigger through the water than they do to our eyes. When she
saw a dark shadow glide between her and them, she knew that it was
either a whale swimming above her, or else a ship laden with human
beings. I am certain they never dreamt that a lovely little mermaid was
standing down below, stretching up her white hands towards the keel.
The eldest princess had now reached her fifteenth birthday, and was to
venture above the water. When she came back she had hundreds of things
to tell them, but the most delightful of all, she said, was to lie in
the moonlight, on a sandbank in a calm sea, and to gaze at the large
town close to the shore, where the lights twinkled like hundreds of
stars; to listen to music and the noise and bustle of carriages and
people, to see the many church towers and spires, and to hear the bells
ringing; and just because she could not go on shore she longed for that
most of all.
Oh, how eagerly the youngest sister listened! and when, later in the
evening she stood at the open window and looked up through the dark blue
water, she thought of the big town with all its noise and bustle, and
fancied that she could even hear the church bells ringing.
The year after, the second sister was allowed to mount up through the
water and swim about wherever she liked. The sun was just going down
when she reached the surface, the most beautiful sight, she thought,
that she had ever seen. The whole sky had looked like gold, she said,
and as for the clouds! well, their beauty was beyond description; they
floated in red and violet splendour over her head, and, far faster than
they went, a flock of
wild swans flew like a long white veil over the
water towards the setting sun; she swam towards it, but it sank and all
the rosy light on clouds and water faded away.
The year after that the third sister went up, and, being much the most
venturesome of them all, swam up a broad river which ran into the sea.
She saw beautiful green, vine-clad hills; palaces and country seats
peeping through splendid woods. She heard the birds singing, and the sun
was so hot that she was often obliged to dive, to cool her burning face.
In a tiny bay she found a troop of little children running about naked
and paddling in the water; she wanted to play with them, but they were
frightened and ran away. Then a little black animal came up; it was a
dog, but she had never seen one before; it barked so furiously at her
that she was frightened and made for the open sea. She could never
forget the beautiful woods, the green hills and the lovely children who
could swim in the water although they had no fishes' tails.
The fourth sister was not so brave; she stayed in the remotest part of
the ocean, and, according to her account, that was the most beautiful
spot. You could see for miles and miles around you, and the sky above
was like a great glass dome. She had seen ships, but only far away, so
that they looked like sea-gulls. There were grotesque dolphins turning
somersaults, and gigantic whales squirting water through their nostrils
like hundreds of fountains on every side.
Now the fifth sister's turn came. Her birthday fell in the winter, so
that she saw sights that the others had not seen on their first trips.
The sea looked quite green, and large icebergs were floating about, each
one of which looked like a pearl, she said, but was much bigger than the
church towers built by men. They took the most wonderful shapes, and
sparkled like diamonds. She had seated herself on one of the largest,
and all the passing ships sheered off in alarm when they saw her sitting
there with her long hair streaming loose in the wind.
In the evening the sky became overcast with dark clouds; it thundered
and lightened, and the huge icebergs glittering in the bright lightning,
were lifted high into the air by the black waves. All the ships
shortened sail, and there was fear and trembling on every side, but she
sat quietly on her floating iceberg watching the blue lightning flash in
zigzags down on to the shining sea.
The first time any of the sisters rose above the water she was delighted
by the novelties and beauties she saw; but once grown up, and at liberty
to go where she liked, she became indifferent and longed for her home;
in the course of a month or so they all said that after all their own
home in the deep was best, it was so cosy there.
Many an evening the five sisters interlacing their arms would rise above
the water together. They had lovely voices, much clearer than any
mortal, and when a storm was rising, and they
expected ships to be
wrecked, they would sing in the most seductive strains of the wonders of
the deep, bidding the seafarers have no fear of them. But the sailors
could not understand the words, they thought it was the voice of the
storm; nor could it be theirs to see this Elysium of the deep, for when
the ship sank they were drowned, and only reached the Merman's palace in
death. When the elder sisters rose up in this manner, arm-in-arm, in the
evening, the youngest remained behind quite alone, looking after them as
if she must weep; but mermaids have no tears, and so they suffer all the
'Oh! if I were only fifteen!' she said, 'I know how fond I shall be of
the world above, and of the mortals who dwell there.'
At last her fifteenth birthday came.
'Now we shall have you off our hands,' said her grandmother, the old
queen-dowager. 'Come now, let me adorn you like your other sisters!' and
she put a wreath of white lilies round her hair, but every petal of the
flowers was half a pearl; then the old queen had eight oysters fixed on
to the princess's tail to show her high rank.
'But it hurts so!' said the little mermaid.
'You must endure the pain for the sake of the finery!' said her
But oh! how gladly would she have shaken off all this splendour, and
laid aside the heavy wreath. Her red flowers in
her garden suited her
much better, but she did not dare to make any alteration. 'Good-bye,'
she said, and mounted as lightly and airily as a bubble through the
The sun had just set when her head rose above the water, but the clouds
were still lighted up with a rosy and golden splendour, and the evening
star sparkled in the soft pink sky, the air was mild and fresh, and the
sea as calm as a millpond. A big three-masted ship lay close by with
only a single sail set, for there was not a breath of wind, and the
sailors were sitting about the rigging, on the cross-trees, and at the
mast-heads. There was music and singing on board, and as the evening
closed in hundreds of gaily coloured lanterns were lighted—they looked
like the flags of all nations waving in the air. The little mermaid swam
right up to the cabin windows, and every time she was lifted by the
swell she could see through the transparent panes crowds of gaily
dressed people. The handsomest of them all was the young prince with
large dark eyes; he could not be much more than sixteen, and all these
festivities were in honour of his birthday. The sailors danced on deck,
and when the prince appeared among them hundreds of rockets were let off
making it as light as day, and frightening the little mermaid so much
that she had to dive under the water. She soon ventured up again, and it
was just as if all the stars of heaven were falling in showers round
about her. She had never seen such magic fires. Great suns whirled
round, gorgeous fire-fish hung in the blue air, and all was reflected
in the calm and glassy sea. It was so light on board the ship that every
little rope could be seen, and the people still better. Oh, how handsome
the prince was! how he laughed and smiled as he greeted his guests,
while the music rang out in the quiet night.
It got quite late, but the little mermaid could not take her eyes off
the ship and the beautiful prince. The coloured lanterns were put out,
no more rockets were sent up, and the cannon had ceased its thunder, but
deep down in the sea there was a dull murmuring and moaning sound.
Meanwhile she was rocked up and down on the waves, so that she could
look into the cabin; but the ship got more and more way on, sail after
sail was filled by the wind, the waves grew stronger, great clouds
gathered, and it lightened in the distance. Oh, there was going to be a
fearful storm! and soon the sailors had to shorten sail. The great ship
rocked and rolled as she dashed over the angry sea, the black waves rose
like mountains, high enough to overwhelm her, but she dived like a swan
through them and rose again and again on their towering crests. The
little mermaid thought it a most amusing race, but not so the sailors.
The ship creaked and groaned; the mighty timbers bulged and bent under
the heavy blows; the water broke over the decks, snapping the main mast
like a reed; she heeled over on her side, and the water rushed into the
Now the little mermaid saw that they were in danger, and she
her own sake to beware of the floating beams and wreckage. One moment it
was so pitch dark that she could not see at all, but when the lightning
flashed it became so light that she could see all on board. Every man
was looking out for his own safety as best he could; but she more
particularly followed the young prince with her eyes, and when the ship
went down she saw him sink in the deep sea. At first she was quite
delighted, for now he was coming to be with her, but then she remembered
that human beings could not live under water, and that only if he were
dead could he go to her father's palace. No! he must not die; so she
swam towards him all among the drifting beams and planks, quite
forgetting that they might crush her. She dived deep down under the
water, and came up again through the waves, and at last reached the
young prince just as he was becoming unable to swim any further in the
stormy sea. His limbs were numbed, his beautiful eyes were closing, and
he must have died if the little mermaid had not come to the rescue. She
held his head above the water and let the waves drive them whithersoever
By daybreak all the storm was over, of the ship not a trace was to be
seen; the sun rose from the water in radiant brilliance, and his rosy
beams seemed to cast a glow of life into the prince's cheeks, but his
eyes remained closed. The mermaid kissed his fair and lofty brow, and
stroked back the dripping hair; it seemed
to her that he was like the
marble statue in her little garden; she kissed him again and longed that
he might live.
At last she saw dry land before her, high blue mountains on whose
summits the white snow glistened as if a flock of swans had settled
there; down by the shore were beautiful green woods, and in the
foreground a church or temple, she did not quite know which, but it was
a building of some sort. Lemon and orange trees grew in the garden, and
lofty palms stood by the gate. At this point the sea formed a little bay
where the water was quite calm, but very deep, right up to the cliffs;
at their foot was a strip of fine white sand to which she swam with the
beautiful prince, and laid him down on it, taking great care that his
head should rest high up in the warm sunshine.
The bells now began to ring in the great white building, and a number of
young maidens came into the garden. Then the little mermaid swam further
off behind some high rocks and covered her hair and breast with foam, so
that no one should see her little face, and then she watched to see who
would discover the poor prince.
His limbs were numbed, his beautiful eyes were closing, and he must
have died if the little mermaid had not come to the rescue.|
It was not long before one of the maidens came up to him. At first she
seemed quite frightened, but only for a moment, and then she fetched
several others, and the mermaid saw that the prince was coming to life,
and that he smiled at all those around him, but he never smiled at her.
You see he did not know that she
had saved him. She felt so sad
that when he was led away into the great building she dived sorrowfully
into the water and made her way home to her father's palace.
Always silent and thoughtful, she became more so now than ever. Her
sisters often asked her what she had seen on her first visit to the
surface, but she never would tell them anything.
Many an evening and many a morning she would rise to the place where she
had left the prince. She saw the fruit in the garden ripen, and then
gathered, she saw the snow melt on the mountain-tops, but she never saw
the prince, so she always went home still sadder than before. At home
her only consolation was to sit in her little garden with her arms
twined round the handsome marble statue which reminded her of the
prince. It was all in gloomy shade now, as she had ceased to tend her
flowers, and the garden had become a neglected wilderness of long stalks
and leaves entangled with the branches of the tree.
At last she could not bear it any longer, so she told one of her
sisters, and from her it soon spread to the others, but to no one else
except to one or two other mermaids who only told their dearest friends.
One of these knew all about the prince; she had also seen the
festivities on the ship; she knew where he came from and where his
kingdom was situated.
'Come, little sister!' said the other princesses, and, throwing
arms round each other's shoulders, they rose from the water in a long
line, just in front of the prince's palace.
It was built of light yellow glistening stone, with great marble
staircases, one of which led into the garden. Magnificent gilded cupolas
rose above the roof, and the spaces between the columns which encircled
the building were filled with life-like marble statues. Through the
clear glass of the lofty windows you could see gorgeous halls adorned
with costly silken hangings, and the pictures on the walls were a sight
worth seeing. In the midst of the central hall a large fountain played,
throwing its jets of spray upwards to a glass dome in the roof, through
which the sunbeams lighted up the water and the beautiful plants which
grew in the great basin.
She knew now where he lived, and often used to go there in the evenings
and by night over the water. She swam much nearer the land than any of
the others dared; she even ventured right up the narrow channel under
the splendid marble terrace which threw a long shadow over the water.
She used to sit here looking at the young prince, who thought he was
quite alone in the clear moonlight.
She saw him many an evening sailing about in his beautiful boat, with
flags waving and music playing; she used to peep through the green
rushes, and if the wind happened to catch her long silvery veil and any
one saw it, they only thought it was a swan flapping its wings.
Many a night she heard the fishermen, who were fishing by torchlight,
talking over the good deeds of the young prince; and she was happy to
think that she had saved his life when he was drifting about on the
waves, half dead, and she could not forget how closely his head had
pressed her breast, and how passionately she had kissed him; but he knew
nothing of all this, and never saw her even in his dreams.
She became fonder and fonder of mankind, and longed more and more to be
able to live among them; their world seemed so infinitely bigger than
hers; with their ships they could scour the ocean, they could ascend the
mountains high above the clouds, and their wooded, grass-grown lands
extended further than her eye could reach. There was so much that she
wanted to know, but her sisters could not give an answer to all her
questions, so she asked her old grandmother, who knew the upper world
well, and rightly called it the country above the sea.
'If men are not drowned,' asked the little mermaid, 'do they live for
ever? Do they not die as we do down here in the sea?'
'Yes,' said the old lady, 'they have to die too, and their lifetime is
even shorter than ours. We may live here for three hundred years, but
when we cease to exist we become mere foam on the water and do not have
so much as a grave among our dear ones. We have no immortal souls; we
have no future life; we are just like the green sea-weed, which, once
cut down, can never revive
again! Men, on the other hand, have a soul
which lives for ever, lives after the body has become dust; it rises
through the clear air, up to the shining stars! Just as we rise from the
water to see the land of mortals, so they rise up to unknown beautiful
regions which we shall never see.'
'Why have we no immortal souls?' asked the little mermaid sadly. 'I
would give all my three hundred years to be a human being for one day,
and afterwards to have a share in the heavenly kingdom.'
'You must not be thinking about that,' said the grandmother; 'we are
much better off and happier than human beings.'
'Then I shall have to die and to float as foam on the water, and never
hear the music of the waves or see the beautiful flowers or the red sun!
Is there nothing I can do to gain an immortal soul?'
'No,' said the grandmother; 'only if a human being so loved you that you
were more to him than father or mother, if all his thoughts and all his
love were so centred in you that he would let the priest join your hands
and would vow to be faithful to you here, and to all eternity; then your
body would become infused with his soul. Thus, and only thus, could you
gain a share in the felicity of mankind. He would give you a soul while
yet keeping his own. But that can never happen! That which is your
greatest beauty in the sea, your fish's tail, is thought hideous up on
earth, so little do they understand about it; to be pretty there you
must have two clumsy supports which they call legs!'
Then the little mermaid sighed and looked sadly at her fish's tail.
'Let us be happy,' said the grandmother; 'we will hop and skip during
our three hundred years of life; it is surely a long enough time; and
after it is over we shall rest all the better in our graves. There is to
be a court ball to-night.'
This was a much more splendid affair than we ever see on earth. The
walls and the ceiling of the great ballroom were of thick but
transparent glass. Several hundreds of colossal mussel shells, rose red
and grass green, were ranged in order round the sides holding blue
lights, which illuminated the whole room and shone through the walls, so
that the sea outside was quite lit up. You could see countless fish,
great and small, swimming towards the glass walls, some with shining
scales of crimson hue, while others were golden and silvery. In the
middle of the room was a broad stream of running water, and on this the
mermaids and mermen danced to their own beautiful singing. No earthly
beings have such lovely voices. The little mermaid sang more sweetly
than any of them, and they all applauded her. For a moment she felt glad
at heart, for she knew that she had the finest voice either in the sea
or on land. But she soon began to think again about the upper world, she
could not forget the handsome prince and
her sorrow in not possessing,
like him, an immortal soul. Therefore she stole out of her father's
palace, and while all within was joy and merriment, she sat sadly in her
little garden. Suddenly she heard the sound of a horn through the water,
and she thought, 'Now he is out sailing up there; he whom I love more
than father or mother, he to whom my thoughts cling and to whose hands I
am ready to commit the happiness of my life. I will dare anything to win
him and to gain an immortal soul! While my sisters are dancing in my
father's palace I will go to the sea-witch, of whom I have always been
very much afraid; she will perhaps be able to advise and help me!'
Thereupon the little mermaid left the garden and went towards the
roaring whirlpools at the back of which the witch lived. She had never
been that way before; no flowers grew there, no seaweed, only the bare
grey sands, stretched towards the whirlpools, which like rushing
mill-wheels swirled round, dragging everything that came within reach
down to the depths. She had to pass between these boiling eddies to
reach the witch's domain, and for a long way the only path led over warm
bubbling mud, which the witch called her 'peat bog.' Her house stood
behind this in the midst of a weird forest. All the trees and bushes
were polyps, half animal and half plant; they looked like hundred-headed
snakes growing out of the sand, the branches were long slimy arms, with
tentacles like wriggling worms, every joint of
which, from the root to
the outermost tip, was in constant motion. They wound themselves tightly
round whatever they could lay hold of and never let it escape. The
little mermaid standing outside was quite frightened, her heart beat
fast with terror and she nearly turned back, but then she remembered the
prince and the immortal soul of mankind and took courage. She bound her
long flowing hair tightly round her head, so that the polyps should not
seize her by it, folded her hands over her breast, and darted like a
fish through the water, in between the hideous polyps, which stretched
out their sensitive arms and tentacles towards her. She could see that
every one of them had something or other, which they had grasped with
their hundred arms, and which they held as if in iron bands. The
bleached bones of men who had perished at sea and sunk below peeped
forth from the arms of some, while others clutched rudders and
sea-chests, or the skeleton of some land animal; and most horrible of
all, a little mermaid whom they had caught and suffocated. Then she came
to a large opening in the wood where the ground was all slimy, and where
some huge fat water snakes were gambolling about. In the middle of this
opening was a house built of the bones of the wrecked; there sat the
witch, letting a toad eat out of her mouth, just as mortals let a little
canary eat sugar. She called the hideous water snakes her little
chickens, and allowed them to crawl about on her unsightly bosom.
'I know very well what you have come here for,' said the witch. 'It is
very foolish of you! all the same you shall have your way, because it
will lead you into misfortune, my fine princess. You want to get rid of
your fish's tail, and instead to have two stumps to walk about upon like
human beings, so that the young prince may fall in love with you, and
that you may win him and an immortal soul.' Saying this, she gave such a
loud hideous laugh that the toad and the snakes fell to the ground and
wriggled about there.
'You are just in the nick of time,' said the witch; 'after sunrise
to-morrow I should not be able to help you until another year had run
its course. I will make you a potion, and before sunrise you must swim
ashore with it, seat yourself on the beach and drink it; then your tail
will divide and shrivel up to what men call beautiful legs. But it
hurts; it is as if a sharp sword were running through you. All who see
you will say that you are the most beautiful child of man they have ever
seen. You will keep your gliding gait, no dancer will rival you, but
every step you take will be as if you were treading upon sharp knives,
so sharp as to draw blood. If you are willing to suffer all this I am
ready to help you!'
'Yes!' said the little princess with a trembling voice, thinking of the
prince and of winning an undying soul.
'But remember,' said the witch, 'when once you have received a human
form, you can never be a mermaid again; you will
never again be able to
dive down through the water to your sisters and to your father's palace.
And if you do not succeed in winning the prince's love, so that for your
sake he will forget father and mother, cleave to you with his whole
heart, let the priest join your hands and make you man and wife, you
will gain no immortal soul! The first morning after his marriage with
another your heart will break, and you will turn into foam of the sea.'
'I will do it,' said the little mermaid as pale as death.
'But you will have to pay me, too,' said the witch, 'and it is no trifle
that I demand. You have the most beautiful voice of any at the bottom of
the sea, and I daresay that you think you will fascinate him with it;
but you must give me that voice; I will have the best you possess in
return for my precious potion! I have to mingle my own blood with it so
as to make it as sharp as a two-edged sword.'
'But if you take my voice,' said the little mermaid, 'what have I left?'
'Your beautiful form,' said the witch, 'your gliding gait, and your
speaking eyes; with these you ought surely to be able to bewitch a human
heart. Well! have you lost courage? Put out your little tongue, and I
will cut it off in payment for the powerful draught.'
'Let it be done,' said the little mermaid, and the witch put on her
caldron to brew the magic potion. 'There is nothing like
said she, as she scoured the pot with a bundle of snakes; then she
punctured her breast and let the black blood drop into the caldron, and
the steam took the most weird shapes, enough to frighten any one. Every
moment the witch threw new ingredients into the pot, and when it boiled
the bubbling was like the sound of crocodiles weeping. At last the
potion was ready and it looked like the clearest water.
'There it is,' said the witch, and thereupon she cut off the tongue of
the little mermaid, who was dumb now and could neither sing nor speak.
'If the polyps should seize you, when you go back through my wood,' said
the witch, 'just drop a single drop of this liquid on them, and their
arms and fingers will burst into a thousand pieces.' But the little
mermaid had no need to do this, for at the mere sight of the bright
liquid, which sparkled in her hand like a shining star, they drew back
in terror. So she soon got past the wood, the bog, and the eddying
She saw her father's palace; the lights were all out in the great
ballroom, and no doubt all the household was asleep, but she did not
dare to go in now that she was dumb and about to leave her home for
ever. She felt as if her heart would break with grief. She stole into
the garden and plucked a flower from each of her sisters' plots, wafted
with her hand countless kisses towards the palace, and then rose up
through the dark blue water.
But the little mermaid had no need to do this, for at the mere sight
of the bright liquid which sparkled in her hand like a shining star,
they drew back in terror.|
The sun had not risen when she came in sight of the prince's palace
and landed at the beautiful marble steps. The moon was shining bright
and clear. The little mermaid drank the burning, stinging draught, and
it was like a sharp, two-edged sword running through her tender frame;
she fainted away and lay as if she were dead. When the sun rose on the
sea she woke up and became conscious of a sharp pang, but just in front
of her stood the handsome young prince, fixing his coal black eyes on
her; she cast hers down and saw that her fish's tail was gone, and that
she had the prettiest little white legs any maiden could desire; but she
was quite naked, so she wrapped her long thick hair around her. The
prince asked who she was and how she came there. She looked at him
tenderly and with a sad expression in her dark blue eyes, but could not
speak. Then he took her by the hand and led her into the palace. Every
step she took was, as the witch had warned her beforehand, as if she
were treading on sharp knives and spikes, but she bore it gladly; led by
the prince, she moved as lightly as a bubble, and he and every one else
marvelled at her graceful gliding gait.
Clothed in the costliest silks and muslins she was the greatest beauty
in the palace, but she was dumb, and could neither sing nor speak.
Beautiful slaves clad in silks and gold came forward and sang to the
prince and his royal parents; one of them sang better than all the
others, and the prince clapped his hands and smiled at
her; that made
the little mermaid very sad, for she knew that she used to sing far
better herself. She thought, 'Oh! if he only knew that for the sake of
being with him I had given up my voice for ever!' Now the slaves began
to dance, graceful undulating dances to enchanting music; thereupon the
little mermaid, lifting her beautiful white arms and raising herself on
tiptoe, glided on the floor with a grace which none of the other dancers
had yet attained. With every motion her grace and beauty became more
apparent, and her eyes appealed more deeply to the heart than the songs
of the slaves. Every one was delighted with it, especially the prince,
who called her his little foundling; and she danced on and on,
notwithstanding that every time her foot touched the ground it was like
treading on sharp knives. The prince said that she should always be near
him, and she was allowed to sleep outside his door on a velvet cushion.
He had a man's dress made for her, so that she could ride about with
him. They used to ride through scented woods, where the green branches
brushed her shoulders, and little birds sang among the fresh leaves. She
climbed up the highest mountains with the prince, and although her
delicate feet bled so that others saw it, she only laughed and followed
him until they saw the clouds sailing below them like a flock of birds,
taking flight to distant lands.
The prince asked who she was and how she came there; she looked at him
tenderly and with a sad expression in her dark blue eyes, but could not
At home in the prince's palace, when at night the others were
asleep, she used to go out on to the marble steps; it cooled her
burning feet to stand in the cold sea-water, and at such times she used
to think of those she had left in the deep.
One night her sisters came arm in arm; they sang so sorrowfully as they
swam on the water that she beckoned to them, and they recognised her,
and told her how she had grieved them all. After that they visited her
every night, and one night she saw, a long way out, her old grandmother
(who for many years had not been above the water), and the Merman King
with his crown on his head; they stretched out their hands towards her,
but did not venture so close to land as her sisters.
Day by day she became dearer to the prince; he loved her as one loves a
good sweet child, but it never entered his head to make her his queen;
yet unless she became his wife she would never win an everlasting soul,
but on his wedding morning would turn to sea-foam.
'Am I not dearer to you than any of them?' the little mermaid's eyes
seemed to say when he took her in his arms and kissed her beautiful
'Yes, you are the dearest one to me,' said the prince, 'for you have the
best heart of them all, and you are fondest of me; you are also like a
young girl I once saw, but whom I never expect to see again. I was on
board a ship which was wrecked; I was driven on shore by the waves close
to a holy Temple where several
young girls were ministering at a
service; the youngest of them found me on the beach and saved my life; I
saw her but twice. She was the only person I could love in this world,
but you are like her, you almost drive her image out of my heart. She
belongs to the holy Temple, and therefore by good fortune you have been
sent to me; we will never part!'
'Alas! he does not know that it was I who saved his life,' thought the
little mermaid. 'I bore him over the sea to the wood where the Temple
stands. I sat behind the foam and watched to see if any one would come.
I saw the pretty girl he loves better than me.' And the mermaid heaved a
bitter sigh, for she could not weep.
'The girl belongs to the holy Temple, he has said; she will never return
to the world, they will never meet again. I am here with him; I see him
every day. Yes! I will tend him, love him, and give up my life to him.'
But now the rumour ran that the prince was to be married to the
beautiful daughter of a neighbouring king, and for that reason was
fitting out a splendid ship. It was given out that the prince was going
on a voyage to see the adjoining countries, but it was without doubt to
see the king's daughter; he was to have a great suite with him. But the
little mermaid shook her head and laughed; she knew the prince's
intentions much better than any of the others. 'I must take this
voyage,' he had said to her; 'I must go and see the beautiful princess;
my parents demand that, but they will never force me to bring her home
as my bride; I can never love her! She will not be like the lovely girl
in the Temple whom you resemble. If ever I had to choose a bride it
would sooner be you with your speaking eyes, my sweet, dumb foundling!'
And he kissed her rosy mouth, played with her long hair, and laid his
head upon her heart, which already dreamt of human joys and an immortal
'You are not frightened of the sea, I suppose, my dumb child?' he said,
as they stood on the proud ship which was to carry them to the country
of the neighbouring king; and he told her about storms and calms, about
curious fish in the deep, and the marvels seen by divers; and she smiled
at his tales, for she knew all about the bottom of the sea much better
than any one else.
At night, in the moonlight, when all were asleep, except the steersman
who stood at the helm, she sat at the side of the ship trying to pierce
the clear water with her eyes, and fancied she saw her father's palace,
and above it her old grandmother with her silver crown on her head,
looking up through the cross currents towards the keel of the ship. Then
her sisters rose above the water; they gazed sadly at her, wringing
their white hands. She beckoned to them, smiled, and was about to tell
them that all was going well and happily with her, when the cabin-boy
approached, and the
sisters dived down, but he supposed that the white
objects he had seen were nothing but flakes of foam.
The next morning the ship entered the harbour of the neighbouring king's
magnificent city. The church bells rang and trumpets were sounded from
every lofty tower, while the soldiers paraded with flags flying and
glittering bayonets. There was a fête every day, there was a
succession of balls, and receptions followed one after the other, but
the princess was not yet present; she was being brought up a long way
off, in a holy Temple they said, and was learning all the royal virtues.
At last she came. The little mermaid stood eager to see her beauty, and
she was obliged to confess that a lovelier creature she had never
beheld. Her complexion was exquisitely pure and delicate, and her
trustful eyes of the deepest blue shone through their dark lashes.
'It is you,' said the prince, 'you who saved me when I lay almost
lifeless on the beach?' and he clasped his blushing bride to his heart.
'Oh! I am too happy!' he exclaimed to the little mermaid.
'A greater joy than I had dared to hope for has come to pass. You will
rejoice at my joy, for you love me better than any one.' Then the little
mermaid kissed his hand, and felt as if her heart were broken already.
His wedding morn would bring death to her and change her to foam.
All the church bells pealed and heralds rode through the town
proclaiming the nuptials. Upon every altar throughout the land fragrant
oil was burnt in costly silver lamps. Amidst the swinging of censers by
the priests the bride and bridegroom joined hands and received the
bishop's blessing. The little mermaid dressed in silk and gold stood
holding the bride's train, but her ears were deaf to the festal strains,
her eyes saw nothing of the sacred ceremony; she was thinking of her
coming death and of all that she had lost in this world.
That same evening the bride and bridegroom embarked, amidst the roar of
cannon and the waving of banners. A royal tent of purple and gold softly
cushioned was raised amidships where the bridal pair were to repose
during the calm cool night.
The sails swelled in the wind and the ship skimmed lightly and almost
without motion over the transparent sea.
At dusk lanterns of many colours were lighted and the sailors danced
merrily on deck. The little mermaid could not help thinking of the first
time she came up from the sea and saw the same splendour and gaiety; and
she now threw herself among the dancers, whirling, as a swallow skims
through the air when pursued. The onlookers cheered her in amazement,
never had she danced so divinely; her delicate feet pained her as if
they were cut with knives, but she did not feel it, for the pain at her
heart was much sharper. She knew that it was the last night that she
would breathe the same air as he, and would look upon the mighty deep,
and the blue starry heavens; an endless night without thought and
without dreams awaited her, who neither had a soul, nor could win one.
The joy and revelry on board lasted till long past midnight; she went on
laughing and dancing with the thought of death all the time in her
heart. The prince caressed his lovely bride and she played with his
raven locks, and with their arms entwined they retired to the gorgeous
tent. All became hushed and still on board the ship, only the steersman
stood at the helm; the little mermaid laid her white arms on the gunwale
and looked eastwards for the pink-tinted dawn; the first sunbeam, she
knew, would be her death. Then she saw her sisters rise from the water;
they were as pale as she was; their beautiful long hair no longer
floated on the breeze, for it had been cut off.
Once more she looked at the prince, with her eyes already dimmed by
death, then dashed overboard and fell, her body dissolving into foam.|
'We have given it to the witch to obtain her help, so that you may not
die to-night! She has given us a knife; here it is, look how sharp it
is! Before the sun rises, you must plunge it into the prince's heart,
and when his warm blood sprinkles your feet they will join together and
grow into a tail, and you will once more be a mermaid; you will be able
to come down into the water to us, and to live out your three hundred
years before you are turned into dead, salt sea-foam. Make haste! you or
he must die before sunrise! Our old grandmother is so full of grief that
her white hair has fallen off as ours fell under the witch's scissors.
Slay the prince and come back to us! Quick! Quick! do you not see
the rosy streak in the sky? In a few minutes the sun will rise and then
you must die!' saying this they heaved a wondrous deep sigh and sank
among the waves.
The little mermaid drew aside the purple curtain from the tent and
looked at the beautiful bride asleep with her head on the prince's
breast. She bent over him and kissed his fair brow, looked at the sky
where the dawn was spreading fast, looked at the sharp knife, and again
fixed her eyes on the prince, who, in his dream called his bride by
name. Yes! she alone was in his thoughts! For a moment the knife
quivered in her grasp, then she threw it far out among the waves, now
rosy in the morning light, and where it fell the water bubbled up like
drops of blood.
Once more she looked at the prince, with her eyes already dimmed by
death, then dashed overboard and fell, her body dissolving into foam.
Now the sun rose from the sea and with its kindly beams warmed the
deadly cold foam, so that the little mermaid did not feel the chill of
death. She saw the bright sun, and above her floated hundreds of
beauteous ethereal beings, through which she could see the white ship
and the rosy heavens; their voices were melodious, but so spirit-like
that no human ear could hear them, any more than earthly eye could see
their forms. Light as bubbles they floated through the air without the
aid of wings. The little
mermaid perceived that she had a form like
theirs; it gradually took shape out of the foam. 'To whom am I coming?'
said she, and her voice sounded like that of the other beings, so
unearthly in its beauty that no music of ours could reproduce it.
'To the daughters of the air!' answered the others; 'a mermaid has no
undying soul, and can never gain one without winning the love of a human
being. Her eternal life must depend upon an unknown power. Nor have the
daughters of the air an everlasting soul, but by their own good deeds
they may create one for themselves. We fly to the tropics where mankind
is the victim of hot and pestilent winds; there we bring cooling
breezes. We diffuse the scent of flowers all around, and bring
refreshment and healing in our train. When, for three hundred years, we
have laboured to do all the good in our power, we gain an undying soul
and take a part in the everlasting joys of mankind. You, poor little
mermaid, have with your whole heart struggled for the same thing as we
have struggled for. You have suffered and endured, raised yourself to
the spirit-world of the air, and now, by your own good deeds you may, in
the course of three hundred years, work out for yourself an undying
Then the little mermaid lifted her transparent arms towards God's sun,
and for the first time shed tears.
On board ship all was again life and bustle. She saw the prince with his
lovely bride searching for her; they looked sadly at the
as if they knew that she had thrown herself into the waves. Unseen she
kissed the bride on her brow, smiled at the prince, and rose aloft with
the other spirits of the air to the rosy clouds which sailed above.
'In three hundred years we shall thus float into Paradise.'
'We might reach it sooner,' whispered one. 'Unseen we flit into those
homes of men where there are children, and for every day that we find a
good child who gives pleasure to its parents and deserves their love God
shortens our time of probation. The child does not know when we fly
through the room, and when we smile with pleasure at it one year of our
three hundred is taken away. But if we see a naughty or badly disposed
child, we cannot help shedding tears of sorrow, and every tear adds a
day to the time of our probation.'
THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES
Many years ago there was an Emperor, who was so excessively fond of new
clothes that he spent all his money on them. He cared nothing about his
soldiers, nor for the theatre, nor for driving in the woods except for
the sake of showing off his new clothes. He had a costume for every hour
in the day, and instead of saying, as one does about any other king or
emperor, 'He is in his council chamber,' here one always said, 'The
Emperor is in his dressing-room.'
Life was very gay in the great town where he lived; hosts of strangers
came to visit it every day, and among them one day two swindlers. They
gave themselves out as weavers, and said that they knew how to weave the
most beautiful stuffs imaginable. Not only were the colours and patterns
unusually fine, but the clothes that were made of the stuffs had the
peculiar quality of becoming invisible to every person who was not fit
for the office he held, or if he was impossibly dull.
'Those must be splendid clothes,' thought the Emperor. 'By wearing them
I should be able to discover which men in my kingdom are unfitted for
their posts. I shall distinguish the wise men from the fools. Yes, I
certainly must order some of that stuff to be woven for me.'
He paid the two swindlers a lot of money in advance so that they might
begin their work at once.
They did put up two looms and pretended to weave, but they had nothing
whatever upon their shuttles. At the outset they asked for a quantity of
the finest silk and the purest gold thread, all of which they put into
their own bags, while they worked away at the empty looms far into the
'I should like to know how those weavers are getting on with the stuff,'
thought the Emperor; but he felt a little queer when he reflected that
any one who was stupid or unfit for his post would not be able to see
it. He certainly thought that he need have no fears for himself, but
still he thought he would send somebody else first to see how it was
getting on. Everybody in the town knew what wonderful power the stuff
possessed, and every one was anxious to see how stupid his neighbour
'I will send my faithful old minister to the weavers,' thought the
Emperor. 'He will be best able to see how the stuff looks, for he is a
clever man, and no one fulfils his duties better than he does!'
So the good old minister went into the room where the two swindlers sat
working at the empty loom.
'Heaven preserve us!' thought the old minister, opening his eyes very
wide. 'Why, I can't see a thing!' But he took care not to say so.
Both the swindlers begged him to be good enough to step a little nearer,
and asked if he did not think it a good pattern and beautiful colouring.
They pointed to the empty loom, and the poor old minister stared as hard
as he could, but he could not see anything, for of course there was
nothing to see.
'Good heavens!' thought he, 'is it possible that I am a fool. I have
never thought so, and nobody must know it. Am I not fit for my post? It
will never do to say that I cannot see the stuffs.'
'Well, sir, you don't say anything about the stuff,' said the one who
was pretending to weave.
'Oh, it is beautiful! quite charming!' said the old minister, looking
through his spectacles; 'this pattern and these colours! I will
certainly tell the Emperor that the stuff pleases me very much.'
'We are delighted to hear you say so,' said the swindlers, and then they
named all the colours and described the peculiar pattern. The old
minister paid great attention to what they said, so as to be able to
repeat it when he got home to the Emperor.
They pointed to the empty loom, and the poor old minister stared as
hard as he could, but he could not see anything, for of course there was
nothing to see.|
Then the swindlers went on to demand more money, more
more gold, to be able to proceed with the weaving; but they put it all
into their own pockets—not a single strand was ever put into the loom,
but they went on as before weaving at the empty loom.
The Emperor soon sent another faithful official to see how the stuff was
getting on, and if it would soon be ready. The same thing happened to
him as to the minister; he looked and looked, but as there was only the
empty loom, he could see nothing at all.
'Is not this a beautiful piece of stuff?' said both the swindlers,
showing and explaining the beautiful pattern and colours which were not
there to be seen.
'I know I am not a fool!' thought the man, 'so it must be that I am
unfit for my good post! It is very strange, though! However, one must
not let it appear!' So he praised the stuff he did not see, and assured
them of his delight in the beautiful colours and the originality of the
design. 'It is absolutely charming!' he said to the Emperor. Everybody
in the town was talking about this splendid stuff.
Now the Emperor thought he would like to see it while it was still on
the loom. So, accompanied by a number of selected courtiers, among whom
were the two faithful officials who had already seen the imaginary
stuff, he went to visit the crafty impostors, who were working away as
hard as ever they could at the empty loom.
'It is magnificent!' said both the honest officials. 'Only see, your
Majesty, what a design! What colours!' And they pointed to the empty
loom, for they thought no doubt the others could see the stuff.
'What!' thought the Emperor; 'I see nothing at all! This is terrible! Am
I a fool? Am I not fit to be Emperor? Why, nothing worse could happen to
'Oh, it is beautiful!' said the Emperor. 'It has my highest approval!'
and he nodded his satisfaction as he gazed at the empty loom. Nothing
would induce him to say that he could not see anything.
The whole suite gazed and gazed, but saw nothing more than all the
others. However, they all exclaimed with his Majesty, 'It is very
beautiful!' and they advised him to wear a suit made of this wonderful
cloth on the occasion of a great procession which was just about to take
place. 'It is magnificent! gorgeous! excellent!' went from mouth to
mouth; they were all equally delighted with it. The Emperor gave each of
the rogues an order of knighthood to be worn in their buttonholes and
the title of 'Gentlemen weavers.'
Then the emperor walked along in the procession under the gorgeous
canopy, and everybody in the streets and at the windows exclaimed, 'How
beautiful the Emperor's new clothes are!'|
The swindlers sat up the whole night, before the day on which the
procession was to take place, burning sixteen candles; so that people
might see how anxious they were to get the Emperor's new clothes ready.
They pretended to take the stuff off the loom. They cut it out in the
air with a huge pair of scissors, and they
stitched away with
needles without any thread in them. At last they said: 'Now the
Emperor's new clothes are ready!'
The Emperor, with his grandest courtiers, went to them himself, and both
the swindlers raised one arm in the air, as if they were holding
something, and said: 'See, these are the trousers, this is the coat,
here is the mantle!' and so on. 'It is as light as a spider's web. One
might think one had nothing on, but that is the very beauty of it!'
'Yes!' said all the courtiers, but they could not see anything, for
there was nothing to see.
'Will your imperial majesty be graciously pleased to take off your
clothes,' said, the impostors, 'so that we may put on the new ones,
along here before the great mirror?'
The Emperor took off all his clothes, and the impostors pretended to
give him one article of dress after the other of the new ones which they
had pretended to make. They pretended to fasten something round his
waist and to tie on something; this was the train, and the Emperor
turned round and round in front of the mirror.
'How well his majesty looks in the new clothes! How becoming they are!'
cried all the people round. 'What a design, and what colours! They are
most gorgeous robes!'
'The canopy is waiting outside which is to be carried over your majesty
in the procession,' said the master of the ceremonies.
'Well, I am quite ready,' said the Emperor. 'Don't the clothes fit
well?' and then he turned round again in front of the mirror, so that he
should seem to be looking at his grand things.
The chamberlains who were to carry the train stooped and pretended to
lift it from the ground with both hands, and they walked along with
their hands in the air. They dared not let it appear that they could not
Then the Emperor walked along in the procession under the gorgeous
canopy, and everybody in the streets and at the windows exclaimed, 'How
beautiful the Emperor's new clothes are! What a splendid train! And they
fit to perfection!' Nobody would let it appear that he could see
nothing, for then he would not be fit for his post, or else he was a
None of the Emperor's clothes had been so successful before.
'But he has got nothing on,' said a little child.
'Oh, listen to the innocent,' said its father; and one person whispered
to the other what the child had said. 'He has nothing on; a child says
he has nothing on!'
'But he has nothing on!' at last cried all the people.
The Emperor writhed, for he knew it was true, but he thought 'the
procession must go on now,' so held himself stiffer than ever, and the
chamberlains held up the invisible train.
THE WIND'S TALE
ABOUT WALDEMAR DAA AND HIS DAUGHTERS
When the wind sweeps across a field of grass it makes little ripples in
it like a lake; in a field of corn it makes great waves like the sea
itself: this is the wind's frolic. Then listen to the stories it tells;
it sings them aloud, one kind of song among the trees of the forest, and
a very different one when it is pent up within walls with all their
cracks and crannies. Do you see how the wind chases the white fleecy
clouds as if they were a flock of sheep? Do you hear the wind down
there, howling in the open doorway like a watchman winding his horn?
Then, too, how he whistles in the chimneys, making the fire crackle and
sparkle. How cosy it is to sit in the warm glow of the fire listening to
the tales it has to tell! Let the wind tell its own story! It can tell
you more adventures than all of us put together. Listen now:—
'Whew!—Whew!—Fare away!' That was the refrain of his song.
'Close to the Great Belt stands an old mansion with thick red walls,'
says the wind. 'I know every stone of it; I knew them before when they
formed part of Marsk Stig's Castle on the Ness. It had to come down. The
stones were used again, and made a new wall of a new castle in another
place—Borreby Hall as it now stands.
'I have watched the highborn men and women of all the various races who
have lived there, and now I am going to tell you about Waldemar Daa and
'He held his head very high, for he came of a royal stock! He knew more
than the mere chasing of a stag, or the emptying of a flagon; he knew
how to manage his affairs, he said himself.
'His lady wife walked proudly across the brightly polished floors, in
her gold brocaded kirtle; the tapestries in the rooms were gorgeous, and
the furniture of costly carved woods. She had brought much gold and
silver plate into the house with her, and the cellars were full of
German ale, when there was anything there at all. Fiery black horses
neighed in the stables; Borreby Hall was a very rich place when wealth
'Then there were the children, three dainty maidens, Ida, Johanna and
Anna Dorothea. I remember their names well.
'They were rich and aristocratic people, and they were born and bred in
wealth! Whew!—whew!—fare away!' roared the wind, then he went on with
'I did not see here, as in other old noble castles the highborn lady
sitting among her maidens in the great hall turning the spinning-wheel.
No, she played upon the ringing lute, and sang to its tones. Her songs
were not always the old Danish ditties, however, but songs in foreign
tongues. All was life and hospitality; noble guests came from far and
wide; there were sounds of music and the clanging of flagons, so loud
that I could not drown them!' said the wind. 'Here were arrogance and
ostentation enough and to spare; plenty of lords, but the Lord had no
'Then came the evening of May-day!' said the wind. 'I came from the
west; I had been watching ships being wrecked and broken up on the west
coast of Jutland. I tore over the heaths and the green wooded coasts,
across the island of Funen and over the Great Belt puffing and blowing.
I settled down to rest on the coast of Zealand close to Borreby Hall,
where the splendid forest of oaks still stood. The young bachelors of
the neighbourhood came out and collected faggots and branches, the
longest and driest they could find. These they took to the town, piled
them up in a heap, and set fire to them; then the men and maidens danced
and sang round the bonfire. I lay still,' said the wind, 'but I softly
moved a branch, the one laid by the handsomest young man, and his billet
blazed up highest of all. He was the chosen one, he had the name of
honour, he became 'Buck of the Street!' and he chose from
girls his little May-lamb. All was life and merriment, greater far than
within rich Borreby Hall.
'The great lady came driving towards the Hall, in her gilded chariot
drawn by six horses. She had her three dainty daughters with her; they
were indeed three lovely flowers. A rose, a lily and a pale hyacinth.
The mother herself was a gorgeous tulip; she took no notice whatever of
the crowd, who all stopped in their game to drop their curtsies and make
their bows; one might have thought that, like a tulip, she was rather
frail in the stalk and feared to bend her back. The rose, the lily, and
the pale hyacinth—yes, I saw them all three. Whose May-lambs were they
one day to become, thought I; their mates would be proud
knights—perhaps even princes!
'Whew!—whew!—fare away! Yes, the chariot bore them away, and the
peasants whirled on in their dance. They played at "Riding the Summer
into the village," to Borreby village, Tareby village, and many others.
'But that night when I rose,' said the wind, 'the noble lady laid
herself down to rise no more; that came to her which comes to every
one—there was nothing new about it. Waldemar Daa stood grave and silent
for a time; "The proudest tree may bend, but it does not break," said
something within him. The daughters wept, and every one else at the
Castle was wiping their eyes; but Madam Daa had fared away, and I fared
away too! Whew!—whew!' said the wind.
She played upon the ringing lute, and sang to its tones.|
'I came back again; I often came back across the island of Funen and
the waters of the Belt, and took up my place on Borreby shore close to
the great forest of oaks. The ospreys and the wood pigeons used to build
in it, the blue raven and even the black stork! It was early in the
year; some of the nests were full of eggs, while in others the young
ones were just hatched. What a flying and screaming was there! Then came
the sound of the axe, blow upon blow; the forest was to be felled.
Waldemar Daa was about to build a costly ship, a three-decked
man-of-war, which it was expected the king would buy. So the wood fell,
the ancient landmark of the seaman, the home of the birds. The shrike
was frightened away; its nest was torn down; the osprey and all the
other birds lost their nests too, and they flew about distractedly,
shrieking in their terror and anger. The crows and the jackdaws screamed
in mockery, Caw! caw! Waldemar Daa and his three daughters stood in the
middle of the wood among the workmen. They all laughed at the wild cries
of the birds, except Anna Dorothea, who was touched by their distress,
and when they were about to fell a tree which was half-dead, and on
whose naked branches a black stork had built its nest, out of which the
young ones were sticking their heads, she begged them with tears in her
eyes to spare it. So the tree with the black stork's nest was allowed to
stand. It was only a little thing.
'The chopping and the sawing went on—the three-decker
was built. The
master builder was a man of humble origin, but of noble loyalty; great
power lay in his eyes and on his forehead, and Waldemar Daa liked to
listen to him, and little Ida liked to listen too, the eldest
fifteen-year-old daughter. But whilst he built the ship for her father,
he built a castle in the air for himself, in which he and little Ida sat
side by side as man and wife. This might also have happened if his
castle had been built of solid stone, with moat and ramparts, wood and
gardens. But with all his wisdom the shipbuilder was only a poor bird,
and what business has a sparrow in a crane's nest? Whew! whew! I rushed
away, and he rushed away, for he dared not stay, and little Ida got over
it, as get over it she must.
'The fiery black horses stood neighing in the stables; they were worth
looking at, and they were looked at to some purpose too. An admiral was
sent from the King to look at the new man-of-war, with a view to
purchasing it. The admiral was loud in his admiration of the horses. I
heard all he said,' added the wind. 'I went through the open door with
the gentlemen and scattered the straw like gold before their feet.
Waldemar Daa wanted gold; the admiral wanted the black horses, and so he
praised them as he did; but his hints were not taken, therefore the ship
remained unsold. There it stood by the shore covered up with boards,
like a Noah's Ark which never reached the water. Whew! whew! get along!
get along! It was a miserable business. In the winter, when the fields
were covered with snow and the Belt was full of
ice-floes which I drove
up on to the coast,' said the wind, 'the ravens and crows came in
flocks, the one blacker than the other, and perched upon the desolate,
dead ship by the shore. They screamed themselves hoarse about the forest
which had disappeared, and the many precious birds' nests which had been
devastated, leaving old and young homeless; and all for the sake of this
old piece of lumber, the proud ship which was never to touch the water!
I whirled the snow about till it lay in great heaps round the ship. I
let it hear my voice, and all that a storm has to say, I know that I did
my best to give it an idea of the sea. Whew! whew!'
'The winter passed by; winter and summer passed away! They come and go
just as I do. The snow-flakes, the apple blossom, and the leaves fall,
each in their turn. Whew! whew! they pass away, as men pass too!
'The daughters were still young. Little Ida, the rose, as lovely to look
at as when the shipbuilder turned his gaze upon her. I often took hold
of her long brown hair when she stood lost in thought by the apple-tree
in the garden. She never noticed that I showered apple-blossom over her
loosened hair; she only gazed at the red sunset against the golden
background of the sky, and the dark trees and bushes of the garden. Her
sister Johanna was like a tall, stately lily; she held herself as
stiffly erect as her mother, and seemed to have the same dread of
bending her stem. She liked to walk in the long gallery where the family
portraits hung. The
ladies were painted in velvet and silk, with tiny
pearl embroidered caps on their braided tresses. Their husbands were all
clad in steel, or in costly cloaks lined with squirrel skins and stiff
blue ruffs; their swords hung loosely by their sides. Where would
Johanna's portrait one day hang on these walls? What would her noble
husband look like? These were her thoughts, and she even spoke them
aloud; I heard her as I swept through the long corridor into the
gallery, where I veered round again.
'Anna Dorothea, the pale hyacinth, was only a child of fourteen, quiet
and thoughtful. Her large blue eyes, as clear as water, were very
solemn, but childhood's smile still played upon her lips; I could not
blow it away, nor did I wish to do so. I used to meet her in the garden,
the ravine, and in the manor fields. She was always picking flowers and
herbs, those she knew her father could use for healing drinks and
potions. Waldemar Daa was proud and conceited, but he was also learned,
and he knew a great deal about many things. One could see that, and many
whispers went about as to his learning. The fire blazed in his stove
even in summer, and his chamber door was locked. This went on for days
and nights, but he did not talk much about it. One must deal silently
with the forces of nature. He would soon discover the best of
everything, the red, red gold!
'This was why his chimney flamed and smoked and sparkled. Yes, I was
there, too,' said the wind.
I used to meet her in the garden, the ravine, and in the manor fields.
She was always picking flowers and herbs, those she knew her father
could use for healing drinks and potions.|
'Away with you, away! I sang in the back of the chimney. Smoke smoke,
embers and ashes, that is all it will come to! You will burn yourself up
in it. Whew! whew! away with it! But Waldemar Daa could not let it go.
'The fiery steeds in the stable, where were they? The old gold and
silver plate in cupboard and chest, where was that? The cattle, the
land, the castle itself? Yes, they could all be melted down in the
crucible, but yet no gold would come.
'Barn and larder got emptier and emptier. Fewer servants; more mice. One
pane of glass got broken and another followed it. There was no need for
me to go in by the doors,' said the wind. 'A smoking chimney means a
cooking meal, but the only chimney which smoked here swallowed up all
the meals, all for the sake of the red gold.
'I blew through the castle gate like a watchman blowing his horn, but
there was no watchman,' said the wind. 'I twisted round the weather-cock
on the tower and it creaked as if the watchman up there was snoring,
only there was no watchman. Rats and mice were the only inhabitants.
Poverty laid the table; poverty lurked in wardrobe and larder. The doors
fell off their hinges, cracks and crannies appeared everywhere; I went
in and out,' said the wind, 'so I know all about it.
'The hair and the beard of Waldemar Daa grew grey, in the sorrow of his
sleepless nights, amid smoke and ashes. His skin
grew grimy and yellow,
and his eyes greedy for gold, the long expected gold.
'I whistled through the broken panes and fissures; I blew into the
daughters' chests where their clothes lay faded and threadbare; they had
to last for ever. A song like this had never been sung over the cradles
of these children. A lordly life became a woeful life! I was the only
one to sing in the castle now,' said the wind. 'I snowed them up, for
they said it gave warmth. They had no firewood, for the forest was cut
down where they should have got it. There was a biting frost. Even I had
to keep rushing through the crannies and passages to keep myself lively.
They stayed in bed to keep themselves warm, those noble ladies. Their
father crept about under a fur rug. Nothing to bite, and nothing to
burn! a lordly life indeed! Whew! whew! let it go! But this was what
Waldemar Daa could not do.
'"After winter comes the spring," said he; "a good time will come after
a time of need; but they make us wait their pleasure, wait! The castle
is mortgaged, we are in extremities—and yet the gold will come—at
'I heard him murmur to the spider's web.—"You clever little weaver! You
teach me to persevere! If your web is broken, you begin at the beginning
again and complete it! Broken again—and cheerfully you begin it over
again. That is what one must do, and one will be rewarded!"
'It was Easter morning, the bells were ringing, and the sun was at play
in the heavens. Waldemar Daa had watched through the night with his
blood at fever pitch; boiling and cooling, mixing and distilling. I
heard him sigh like a despairing soul; I heard him pray, and I felt that
he held his breath. The lamp had gone out, but he never noticed it; I
blew up the embers and they shone upon his ashen face, which took a
tinge of colour from their light; his eyes started in their sockets,
they grew larger and larger, as if they would leap out.
'Look at the alchemist's glass! something twinkles in it; it is glowing,
pure and heavy. He lifted it with a trembling hand and shouted with a
trembling voice: "Gold! gold!" He reeled, and I could easily have blown
him over,' said the wind, 'but I only blew upon the embers, and followed
him to the room where his daughters sat shivering. His coat was powdered
with ash, as well as his beard and his matted hair. He drew himself up
to his full height and held up his precious treasure, in the fragile
glass: "Found! won! gold!" he cried, stretching up his hand with the
glass which glittered in the sunbeams: his hand shook, and the
alchemist's glass fell to the ground shivered into a thousand atoms. The
last bubble of his welfare was shattered too. Whew! whew! fare away! and
away I rushed from the goldmaker's home.
He lifted it with a trembling hand and shouted with a trembling voice:
'Late in the year, when the days were short and dark up here, and the
fog envelops the red berries and bare branches with its
I came along in a lively mood clearing the sky and snapping off the dead
boughs. This is no great labour, it is true, yet it has to be done.
Borreby Hall, the home of Waldemar Daa, was having a clean sweep of a
different sort. The family enemy, Ové Ramel from Basness, appeared,
holding the mortgage of the Hall and all its contents. I drummed upon
the cracked window panes, beat against the decaying doors, and whistled
through all the cracks and crannies, whew! I did my best to prevent Herr
Ové taking a fancy to stay there. Ida and Anna Dorothea faced it
bravely, although they shed some tears; Johanna stood pale and erect and
bit her finger till it bled! Much that would help her! Ové Ramel offered
to let them stay on at the Castle for Waldemar Daa's lifetime, but he
got no thanks for his offer; I was listening. I saw the ruined gentleman
stiffen his neck and hold his head higher than ever. I beat against the
walls and the old linden trees with such force that the thickest branch
broke, although it was not a bit rotten. It fell across the gate like a
broom, as if some one was about to sweep; and a sweeping there was
indeed to be. I quite expected it. It was a grievous day and a hard time
for them, but their wills were as stubborn as their necks were stiff.
They had not a possession in the world but the clothes on their backs;
yes, one thing—an alchemist's glass which had been bought and filled
with the fragments scraped up from the floor. The treasure which
promised much and fulfilled nothing.
Waldemar Daa hid it in his
bosom, took his staff in his hand, and, with his three daughters, the
once wealthy gentleman walked out of Borreby Hall for the last time. I
blew a cold blast upon his burning cheeks, I fluttered his grey beard
and his long white hair; I sang such a tune as only I could sing. Whew!
whew! away with them! away with them! This was the end of all their
'Ida and Ana Dorothea walked one on each side of him: Johanna turned
round in the gateway, but what was the good of that? nothing could make
their luck turn. She looked at the red stones of what had once been
Marsk Stig's Castle. Was she thinking of his daughters?
'"The elder took the younger by the hand,
And out they roamed to a far-off land."
Was she thinking of that song? Here there were three and their father
was with them. They walked along the road where once they used to ride
in their chariot. They trod it now as vagrants, on their way to a
plastered cottage on Smidstrup Heath, which was rented at ten marks
yearly. This was their new country seat with its empty walls and its
empty vessels. The crows and the magpies wheeled screaming over their
heads with their mocking "Caw, caw! Out of the nest, Caw, caw!" just as
they screamed in Borreby Forest when the trees were felled.
'Herr Daa and his daughters must have noticed it. I blew
ears to try and deaden the cries, which after all were not worth
'So they took up their abode in the plastered cottage on Smidstrup
Heath, and I tore off over marshes and meadows, through naked hedges and
bare woods, to the open seas and other lands. Whew! whew! away, away!
and that for many years.'
What happened to Waldemar Daa? What happened to his daughters? This is
what the wind relates.
'The last of them I saw, yes, for the last time, was Anna Dorothea, the
pale hyacinth. She was old and bent now; it was half a century later.
She lived the longest, she had gone through everything.
'Across the heath, near the town of Viborg, stood the Dean's new,
handsome mansion, built of red stone with toothed gables. The smoke
curled thickly out of the chimneys. The gentle lady and her fair
daughters sat in the bay window looking into the garden at the drooping
thorns and out to the brown heath beyond. What were they looking at
there? They were looking at a stork's nest on a tumble-down cottage; the
roof was covered, as far as there was any roof to cover, with moss and
house-leek; but the stork's nest made the best covering. It was the only
part to which anything was done, for the stork kept it in repair.
Waldemar Daa hid it in his bosom, took his staff in his hand, and, with
his three daughters, the once wealthy gentleman walked out of Borreby
Hall for the last time.|
'This house was only fit to be looked at, not to be touched. I had to
mind what I was about,' said the wind. 'The cottage
was allowed to
stand for the sake of the stork's nest; in itself it was only a
scarecrow on the heath, but the dean did not want to frighten away the
stork, so the hovel was allowed to stand. The poor soul inside was
allowed to live in it; she had the Egyptian bird to thank for that; or
was it payment for once having pleaded for the nest of his wild black
brother in the Borreby Forest? Then, poor thing, she was a child, a
delicate, pale hyacinth in a noble flower-garden. Poor Anna Dorothea;
she remembered it all! Ah, human beings can sigh as well as the wind
when it soughs through the rushes and reeds.
'Oh dear! oh dear! No bells rang over the grave of Waldemar Daa. No
schoolboys sang when the former lord of Borreby Castle was laid in his
grave. Well, everything must have an end, even misery! Sister Ida became
the wife of a peasant, and this was her father's sorest trial. His
daughter's husband a miserable serf, who might at any moment be ordered
the punishment of the wooden horse by his lord. It is well that the sod
covers him now, and you too, Ida! Ah yes! ah yes! Poor me! poor me! I
still linger on. In Thy mercy release me, O Christ!'
'This was the prayer of Anna Dorothea, as she lay in the miserable hovel
which was only left standing for the sake of the stork.
'I took charge of the boldest of the sisters,' said the wind. 'She had
clothes made to suit her manly disposition, and took a
place as a lad
with a skipper. Her words were few and looks stubborn, but she was
willing enough at her work. But with all her will she could not climb
the rigging; so I blew her overboard before any one discovered that she
was a woman, and I fancy that was not a bad deed of mine!' said the
'On such an Easter morning as that on which Waldemar Daa thought he had
found the red gold, I heard from beneath the stork's nest a psalm
echoing through the miserable walls. It was Anna Dorothea's last song.
There was no window; only a hole in the wall. The sun rose in splendour
and poured in upon her; her eyes were glazed and her heart broken! This
would have been so this morning whether the sun had shone upon her or
not. The stork kept a roof over her head till her death! I sang at her
grave,' said the wind, 'and I sang at her father's grave. I know where
it is, and hers too, which is more than any one else knows.
'The old order changeth, giving place to the new. The old high-road now
only leads to cultivated fields, while peaceful graves are covered by
busy traffic on the new road. Soon comes Steam with its row of waggons
behind it, rushing over the graves, forgotten, like the names upon them.
Whew! whew! Let us be gone! This is the story of Waldemar Daa and his
daughters. Tell it better yourselves, if you can,' said the wind, as it
veered round. Then it was gone.
Printed in Great Britain
Text printed by T. and A. Constable, Printers to His Majesty, Edinburgh
Illustrations by Henry Stone and Son, Ltd., Banbury