A CHRISTMAS GREETING:
A Series of
BY HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN
(Successor to C.S. Francis & Co.)
Published by James Miller,
CHARLES DICKENS, Esq.
I am again in my quiet Danish home, but my thoughts are daily in
dear England, where, a few months ago, my many friends transformed
for me reality into a charming story.
Whilst occupied with a greater work, there sprung forth—as the
flowers spring forth in the forest—seven short stories.* I feel a
desire, a longing, to transplant in England the first produce of my
poetic garden, as a Christmas greeting: and I send it to you, my
dear, noble, Charles Dickens, who by your works had been previously
dear to me, and since our meeting have taken root for ever in my
Your hand was the last that pressed mine on England's coast: it
was you who from her shores wafted me the last farewell. It is
therefore natural that I should send to you, from Denmark, my first
greeting again, as sincerely as an affectionate heart can convey
Hans Christian Andersen.
Copenhagen. 6th December, 1847.
* The first seven in this volume.
THE OLD HOUSE.
In the street, up there, was an old, a very old house,—it was
almost three hundred years old, for that might be known by reading
the great beam on which the date of the year was carved: together
with tulips and hop-binds there were whole verses spelled as in
former times, and over every window was a distorted face cut out in
the beam. The one story stood forward a great way over the
other; and directly under the eaves was a leaden spout with a
dragon's head; the rain-water should have run out of the mouth, but
it ran out of the belly, for there was a hole in the spout.
All the other houses in the street were so new and so neat, with
large window-panes and smooth walls, one could easily see that they
would have nothing to do with the old house: they certainly thought,
"How long is that old decayed thing to stand here as a spectacle in
the street? And then the protecting windows stand so far out, that no
one can see from our windows what happens in that direction! The
steps are as broad as those of a palace, and as high as to a church
tower. The iron railings look just like the door to an old family
vault, and then they have brass tops,—that's so stupid!"
On the other side of the street were also new and neat houses, and
they thought just as the others did; but at the window opposite the
old house there sat a little boy with fresh rosy cheeks and bright
beaming eyes: he certainly liked the old house best, and that
both in sunshine and moonshine. And when he looked across at the wall
where the mortar had fallen out, he could sit and find out there the
strangest figures imaginable; exactly as the street had appeared
before, with steps, projecting windows, and pointed gables; he could
see soldiers with halberds, and spouts where the water ran, like
dragons and serpents. That was a house to look
at; and there lived an old man, who wore plush breeches; and he had a
coat with large brass buttons, and a wig that one could see was a
real wig. Every morning there came an old fellow to him who put his
rooms in order, and went on errands; otherwise, the old man in the
plush breeches was quite alone in the old house. Now and then he came
to the window and looked out, and the little boy nodded to him, and
the old man nodded again, and so they became acquaintances, and then
they were friends, although they had never spoken to each other,—but
that made no difference. The little boy heard his parents say, "The
old man opposite is very well off, but he is so very, very
The Sunday following, the little boy took something, and wrapped
it up in a piece of paper, went down stairs, and stood in the
doorway; and when the man who went on errands came past, he said to
"I say, master! will you give this to the old man over the way
from me? I have two pewter soldiers—this is one of them, and he shall
have it, for I know he is so very, very lonely."
And the old errand man looked quite pleased, nodded, and took the
pewter soldier over to the old house. Afterwards there came a
message; it was to ask if the little boy himself had not a wish to
come over and pay a visit; and so he got permission of his parents,
and then went over to the old house.
And the brass balls on the iron railings shone much brighter than
ever; one would have thought they were polished on account of the
visit; and it was as if the carved-out trumpeters—for there were
trumpeters, who stood in tulips, carved out on the door—blew with all
their might, their cheeks appeared so much rounder than before. Yes,
they blew—"Trateratra! the little boy comes trateratra!"—and then the
The whole passage was hung with portraits of knights in armor, and
ladies in silken gowns; and the armor rattled, and the silken gowns
rustled! And then there was a flight of stairs which went a good way
upwards, and a little way downwards, and then one came on a balcony
which was in a very dilapidated state, sure enough, with large holes
and long crevices, but grass grew there and leaves out of them
altogether, for the whole balcony outside, the yard, and the walls,
were overgrown with so much green stuff, that it looked like a
garden; but it was only a balcony. Here stood old flower-pots with
faces and asses' ears, and the flowers grew just as they liked. One
of the pots was quite overrun on all sides with pinks, that is to
say, with the green part; shoot stood by shoot, and it said quite
distinctly, "The air has cherished me, the sun has kissed me, and
promised me a little flower on Sunday!—a little flower on
And then they entered a chamber where the walls were covered, with
hog's leather, and printed with gold flowers.
"The gilding decays, But hog's
said the walls.
And there stood easy chairs, with such high backs, and so carved
out, and with arms on both sides. "Sit down! sit down!" said they.
"Ugh! how I creak; now I shall certainly get the gout, like the old
And then the little boy came into the room where the projecting
windows were, and where the old man sat.
"I thank you for the pewter soldier, my little friend!" said the
old man, "and I thank you because you come over to me."
"Thankee! thankee!" or "cranky! cranky!" sounded from all the
furniture; there was so much of it, that each article stood in the
other's way, to get a look at the little boy.
In the middle of the wall hung a picture representing a beautiful
lady, so young, so glad, but dressed quite as in former times, with
clothes that stood quite stiff, and with powder in her hair; she
neither said "thankee, thankee!" nor "cranky, cranky!" but looked
with her mild eyes at the little boy, who directly asked the old
man, "Where did you get her?"
"Yonder, at the broker's," said the old man, "where there are so
many pictures hanging. No one knows or cares about them, for they are
all of them buried; but I knew her in by-gone days, and now she has
been dead and gone these fifty years!"
Under the picture, in a glazed frame, there hung a bouquet of withered flowers; they were almost fifty years
old; they looked so very old!
The pendulum of the great clock went to and fro, and the hands
turned, and every thing in the room became still older; but they did
not observe it.
"They say at home," said the little boy, "that you are so very,
"Oh!" said he, "the old thoughts, with what they may bring with
them, come and visit me, and now you also come! I am very well
Then he took a book with pictures in it down from the shelf; there
were whole long processions and pageants, with the strangest
characters, which one never sees now-a-days; soldiers like the
knave of clubs, and citizens with waving flags: the tailors had
theirs, with a pair of shears held by two lions,—and the shoemakers
theirs, without boots, but with an eagle that had two heads, for the
shoemakers must have everything so that they can say, it is a
pair!—Yes, that was a picture book!
The old man now went into the other room to fetch preserves,
apples, and nuts;—yes, it was delightful over there in the old
"I cannot bear it any longer!" said the pewter soldier, who sat on
the drawers; "it is so lonely and melancholy here! but when one has
been in a family circle one cannot accustom oneself to this life! I
cannot bear it any longer! the whole day is so long, and the evenings
are still longer! here it is not at all as it is over the way at your
home, where your father and mother spoke so pleasantly, and where you
and all your sweet children made such a delightful noise. Nay, how
lonely the old man is!—do you think that he gets kisses? do you think
he gets mild eyes, or a Christmas tree?—He will get nothing but
a grave.—I can bear it no longer!"
"You must not let it grieve you so much," said the little boy; "I
find it so very delightful here, and then all the old thoughts, with
what they may bring with them, they come and visit here."
"Yes, it's all very well, but I see nothing of them, and I don't
know them!" said the pewter soldier, "I cannot bear it!"
"But you must!" said the little boy.
Then in came the old man with the most pleased and happy face, the
most delicious preserves, apples, and nuts, and so the little boy
thought no more about the pewter soldier.
The little boy returned home happy and pleased, and weeks and days
passed away, and nods were made to the old house, and from the old
house, and then the little boy went over there again.
The carved trumpeters blew, "trateratra! there is the little boy!
trateratra!" and the swords and armor on the knights' portraits
rattled, and the silk gowns rustled; the hog's-leather spoke, and the
old chairs had the gout in their legs and rheumatism in their
backs: Ugh!—it was exactly like the first time, for over there one
day and hour was just like another.
"I cannot bear it!" said the pewter soldier, "I have shed pewter
tears! it is too melancholy! rather let me go to the wars and lose
arms and legs! it would at least be a change. I cannot bear it
longer!—Now, I know what it is to have a visit from one's old
thoughts, with what they may bring with them! I have had a visit from
mine, and you may be sure it is no pleasant thing in the end; I was
at last about to jump down from the drawers.
"I saw you all over there at home so distinctly, as if you really
were here; it was again that Sunday morning; all you children stood
before the table and sung your Psalms, as you do every morning. You
stood devoutly with folded hands; and father and mother were just as
pious; and then the door was opened, and little sister Mary, who is
not two years old yet, and who always dances when she hears music or
singing, of whatever kind it may be, was put into the room—though she
ought not to have been there—and then she began to dance, but
could not keep time, because the tones were so long; and then she
stood, first on the one leg, and bent her head forwards, and then on
the other leg, and bent her head forwards—but all would not do. You
stood very seriously all together, although it was difficult enough;
but I laughed to myself, and then I fell off the table, and got a
bump, which I have still—for it was not right of me to laugh. But the
whole now passes before me again in thought, and everything that I
have lived to see; and these are the old thoughts, with what they may
bring with them.
"Tell me if you still sing on Sundays? Tell me something about
little Mary! and how my comrade, the other pewter soldier, lives!
Yes, he is happy enough, that's sure! I cannot bear it any
"You are given away as a present!" said the little boy; "you must
remain. Can you not understand that?"
The old man now came with a drawer, in which there was much to be
seen, both "tin boxes" and "balsam boxes," old cards, so large and so
gilded, such as one never sees them now. And several drawers
were opened, and the piano was opened; it had landscapes on the
inside of the lid, and it was so hoarse when the old man played on
it! and then he hummed a song.
"Yes, she could sing that!" said he, and nodded to the portrait,
which he had bought at the broker's, and the old man's eyes shone so
"I will go to the wars! I will go to the wars!" shouted the pewter
soldier as loud as he could, and threw himself off the drawers right
down on the floor.
What became of him? The old man sought, and the little boy sought;
he was away, and he stayed away.
"I shall find him!" said the old man; but he never found him. The
floor was too open—the pewter soldier had fallen through a crevice,
and there he lay as in an open tomb.
That day passed, and the little boy went home, and that week
passed, and several weeks too. The windows were quite frozen, the
little boy was obliged to sit and breathe on them to get a peep-hole
over to the old house, and there the snow had been blown into all the
carved work and inscriptions; it lay quite up over the steps, just as
if there was no one at home;—nor was there any one at home—the old
man was dead!
In the evening there was a hearse seen before the door, and he was
borne into it in his coffin: he was now to go out into the country,
to lie in his grave. He was driven out there, but no one followed;
all his friends were dead, and the little boy kissed his hand to the
coffin as it was driven away.
Some days afterwards there was an auction at the old house, and
the little boy saw from his window how they carried the old knights
and the old ladies away, the flower-pots with the long ears, the old
chairs, and the old clothes-presses. Something came here, and
something came there; the portrait of her who had been found at the
broker's came to the broker's again; and there it hung, for no one
knew her more—no one cared about the old picture.
In the spring they pulled the house down, for, as people said, it
was a ruin. One could see from the street right into the room with
the hog's-leather hanging, which was slashed and torn; and the green
grass and leaves about the balcony hung quite wild about the falling
beams.—And then it was put to rights.
"That was a relief," said the neighboring houses.
A fine house was built there, with large windows, and smooth white
walls; but before it, where the old house had in fact stood, was a
little garden laid out, and a wild grapevine ran up the wall of the
neighboring house. Before the garden there was a large iron railing
with an iron door, it looked quite splendid, and people stood still
and peeped in, and the sparrows hung by scores in the vine, and
chattered away at each other as well as they could, but it was not
about the old house, for they could not remember it, so many years
had passed,—so many that the little boy had grown up to a whole man,
yes, a clever man, and a pleasure to his parents; and he had just
been married, and, together with his little wife, had come to live in
the house here, where the garden was; and he stood by her there
whilst she planted a field-flower that she found so pretty; she
planted it with her little hand, and pressed the earth around it with
her fingers. Oh! what was that? She had stuck herself. There sat
something pointed, straight out of the soft mould.
It was——yes, guess!—it was the pewter soldier, he that was lost up
at the old man's, and had tumbled and turned about amongst the timber
and the rubbish, and had at last laid for many years in the
The young wife wiped the dirt off the soldier, first with a green
leaf, and then with her fine handkerchief—it had such a delightful
smell, that it was to the pewter soldier just as if he had awaked
from a trance.
"Let me see him," said the young man. He laughed, and then shook
his head. "Nay, it cannot be he; but he reminds me of a story about a
pewter soldier which I had when I was a little boy!" And then he told
his wife about the old house, and the old man, and about the pewter
soldier that he sent over to him because he was so very, very lonely;
and he told it as correctly as it had really been, so that the tears
came into the eyes of his young wife, on account of the old house and
the old man.
"It may possibly be, however, that it is the same pewter soldier!"
said she, "I will take care of it, and remember all that you have
told me; but you must show me the old man's grave!"
"But I do not know it," said he, "and no one knows it! all his
friends were dead, no one took care of it, and I was then a little
"How very, very lonely he must have been!" said she.
"Very, very lonely!" said the pewter soldier; "but it is
delightful not to be forgotten!"
"Delightful!" shouted something close by; but no one, except the
pewter soldier, saw that it was a piece of the hog's-leather
hangings; it had lost all its gilding, it looked like a piece of wet
clay, but it had an opinion, and it gave it:
"The gilding decays, But hog's
This the pewter soldier did not believe.
THE DROP OF
What a magnifying glass is, you surely know—such a round sort of
spectacle-glass that makes everything full a hundred times larger
than it really is. When one holds it before the eye, and looks at a
drop of water out of the pond, then one sees above a thousand strange
creatures. It looks almost like a whole plateful of shrimps springing
about among each other, and they are so ravenous, they tear one
another's arms and legs, tails and sides, and yet they are glad and
pleased in their way.
Now, there was once an old man, who was called by every body
Creep-and-Crawl; for that was his name. He would always make the best
out of everything, and when he could not make anything out of it he
resorted to witchcraft.
Now, one day he sat and held his magnifying glass before his eye,
and looked at a drop of water that was taken out of a little pool in
the ditch. What a creeping and crawling was there! all the thousands
of small creatures hopped and jumped about, pulled one another, and
pecked one another.
"But this is abominable!" said Creep-and-Crawl, "Can one not get
them to live in peace and quiet, and each mind his own business?" And
he thought and thought, but he could come to no conclusion, and so he
was obliged to conjure. "I must give them a color, that they may be
more discernible!" said he; and so he poured something like a little
drop of red wine into the drop of water, but it was bewitched blood
from the lobe of the ear—the very finest sort for a penny; and then
all the strange creatures became rose-colored over the whole body. It
looked like a whole town of naked savages.
"What have you got there?" said another old wizard, who had no
name, and that was just the best of it.
"Why," said Creep-and-Crawl, "if you can guess what it is, I will
make you a present of it; but it is not so easy to find out when one
does not know it!"
The wizard who had no name looked through the magnifying glass. It
actually appeared like a whole town, where all the inhabitants ran
about without clothes! it was terrible, but still more terrible to
see how the one knocked and pushed the other, bit each other, and
drew one another about. What was undermost should be topmost, and
what was topmost should be undermost!—See there, now! his leg is
longer than mine!—whip it off, and away with it! There is one that
has a little lump behind the ear, a little innocent lump, but it
pains him, and so it shall pain him still more! And they pecked at
it, and they dragged him about, and they ate him, and all on account
of the little lump. There sat one as still as a little maid, who only
wished for peace and quietness, but she must be brought out and they
dragged her, and they pulled her, and they devoured her!
"It is quite amusing!" said the wizard.
"Yes; but what do you think it is?" asked Creep-and-Crawl. "Can
you find it out!"
"It is very easy to see," said the other, "it is some great city,
they all resemble each other. A great city it is, that's sure!"
"It is ditch-water!" said Creep-and-Crawl.
THE HAPPY FAMILY.
Really, the largest green leaf in this country is a dock-leaf; if
one holds it before one, it is like a whole apron, and if one holds
it over one's head in rainy weather, it is almost as good as an
umbrella, for it is so immensely large. The burdock never grows
alone, but where there grows one there always grow several: it is a
great delight, and all this delightfulness is snails' food. The great
white snails which persons of quality in former times made fricassees
of, ate, and said, "Hem, hem! how delicious!" for they thought it
tasted so delicate—lived on dock leaves, and therefore burdock seeds
Now, there was an old manor-house, where they no longer ate
snails, they were quite extinct; but the burdocks were not extinct,
they grew and grew all over the walks and all the beds; they could
not get the mastery over them—it was a whole forest of burdocks. Here
and there stood an apple and a plumb-tree, or else one never would
have thought that it was a garden; all was burdocks, and there lived
the two last venerable old snails.
They themselves knew not how old they were, but they could
remember very well that there had been many more; that they were of a
family from foreign lands, and that for them and theirs the whole
forest was planted. They had never been outside it, but they knew
that there was still something more in the world, which was called
the manor-house, and that there they were boiled, and then they
became black, and were then placed on a silver dish; but what
happened further they knew not; or, in fact, what it was to be
boiled, and to lie on a silver dish, they could not possibly imagine;
but it was said to be delightful, and particularly genteel. Neither
the chafers, the toads, nor the earth-worms, whom they asked about it
could give them any information,—none of them had been boiled or laid
on a silver dish.
The old white snails were the first persons of distinction in the
world, that they knew; the forest was planted for their sake, and the
manor-house was there that they might be boiled and laid on a silver
Now they lived a very lonely and happy life; and as they had no
children themselves, they had adopted a little common snail, which
they brought up as their own; but the little one would not grow, for
he was of a common family; but the old ones, especially Dame Mother
Snail, thought they could observe how he increased in size, and she
begged father, if he could not see it, that he would at least feel
the little snail's shell; and then he felt it, and found the good
dame was right.
One day there was a heavy storm of rain.
"Hear how it beats like a drum on the dock leaves!" said Father
"There are also rain-drops!" said Mother Snail; "and now the rain
pours right down the stalk! You will see that it will be wet here! I
am very happy to think that we have our good house, and the little
one has his also! There is more done for us than for all other
creatures, sure enough; but can you not see that we are folks of
quality in the world? We are provided with a house from our birth,
and the burdock forest is planted for our sakes! I should like to
know how far it extends, and what there is outside!"
"There is nothing at all," said Father Snail. "No place can be
better than ours, and I have nothing to wish for!"
"Yes," said the dame. "I would willingly go to the manor-house, be
boiled, and laid on a silver dish; all our forefathers have been
treated so; there is something extraordinary in it, you may be
"The manor-house has most likely fallen to ruin!" said Father
Snail. "or the burdocks have grown up over it, so that they cannot
come out. There need not, however, be any haste about that; but you
are always in such a tremendous hurry, and the little one is
beginning to be the same. Has he not been creeping up that stalk
these three days? It gives me a headache when I look up to him!"
"You must not scold him," said Mother Snail; "he creeps so
carefully; he will afford us much pleasure—and we have nothing but
him to live for! But have you not thought of it?—where shall we get a
wife for him? Do you not think that there are some of our species at
a great distance in the interior of the burdock forest?"
"Black snails, I dare say, there are enough of," said the old
one—"black snails without a house—but they are so common, and so
conceited. But we might give the ants a commission to look out for
us; they run to and fro as if they had something to do, and they
certainly know of a wife for our little snail!"
"I know one, sure enough—the most charming one!" said one of the
ants; "but I am afraid we shall hardly succeed, for she is a
"That is nothing!" said the old folks; "has she a house?"
"She has a palace!" said the ant—"the finest ant's palace, with
seven hundred passages!"
"I thank you!" said Mother Snail; "our son shall not go into an
ant-hill; if you know nothing better than that, we shall give the
commission to the white gnats. They fly far and wide, in rain and
sunshine; they know the whole forest here, both within and
"We have a wife for him," said the gnats; "at a hundred human
paces from here there sits a little snail in her house, on a
gooseberry bush; she is quite lonely, and old enough to be married.
It is only a hundred human paces!"
"Well, then, let her come to him!" said the old ones; "he has a
whole forest of burdocks, she has only a bush!"
And so they went and fetched little Miss Snail. It was a whole
week before she arrived; but therein was just the very best of it,
for one could thus see that she was of the same species.
And then the marriage was celebrated. Six earth-worms shone as
well as they could. In other respects the whole went off very
quietly, for the old folks could not bear noise and merriment; but
old Dame Snail made a brilliant speech. Father Snail could not speak,
he was too much affected; and so they gave them as a dowry and
inheritance, the whole forest of burdocks, and said—what they had
always said—that it was the best in the world; and if they lived
honestly and decently, and increased and multiplied, they and their
children would once in the course of time come to the manor-house, be
boiled black, and laid on silver dishes. After this speech was made,
the old ones crept into their shells, and never more came out. They
slept; the young couple governed in the forest, and had a numerous
progeny, but they were never boiled, and never came on the silver
dishes; so from this they concluded that the manor-house had fallen
to ruins, and that all the men in the world were extinct; and as no
one contradicted them, so, of course it was so. And the rain beat on
the dock-leaves to make drum-music for their sake, and the sun shone
in order to give the burdock forest a color for their sakes; and they
were very happy, and the whole family was happy; for they, indeed
THE STORY OF A
A mother sat there with her little child. She was so downcast, so
afraid that it should die! It was so pale, the small eyes had closed
themselves, and it drew its breath so softly, now and then, with a
deep respiration, as if it sighed; and the mother looked still more
sorrowfully on the little creature.
Then a knocking was heard at the door, and in came a poor old, man
wrapped up as in a large horse-cloth, for it warms one, and he needed
it, as it was the cold winter season! Every thing out of doors was
covered with ice and snow, and the wind blew so that it cut the
As the old man trembled with cold, and the little child slept a
moment, the mother went and poured some ale into a pot and set it on
the stove, that it might be warm for him; the old man sat and rocked
the cradle, and the mother sat down on a chair close by him, and
looked at her little sick child that drew its breath so deep, and
raised its little hand.
"Do you not think that I shall save him?" said she, "Our
Lord will not take him from me!"
And the old man,—it was Death himself,—he nodded so strangely, it
could just as well signify yes as no. And the mother looked down in
her lap, and the tears ran down over her cheeks; her head became so
heavy—she had not closed her eyes for three days and nights; and now
she slept, but only for a minute, when she started up and trembled
with cold: "What is that?" said she, and looked on all sides; but the
old man was gone, and her little child was gone—he had taken it with
him; and the old clock in the corner burred, and burred, the great
leaden weight ran down to the floor, bump! and then the clock also
But the poor mother ran out of the house and cried aloud for her
Out there, in the midst of the snow, there sat a woman in long,
black clothes; and she said, "Death has been in thy chamber, and I
saw him hasten away with thy little child; he goes faster than the
wind, and he never brings back what he takes!"
"Oh, only tell me which way he went!" said the mother: "Tell me
the way, and I shall find him!"
"I know it!" said the woman in the black clothes, "but before I
tell it, thou must first sing for me all the songs thou hast sung for
thy child!—I am fond of them; I have heard them before; I am Night; I
saw thy tears whilst thou sang'st them!"
"I will sing them all, all!" said the mother; "but do not stop me
now;—I may overtake him—I may find my child!"
But Night stood still and mute. Then the mother wrung her hands,
sang and wept, and there were many songs, but yet many more tears;
and then Night said, "Go to the right, into the dark pine forest;
thither I saw Death take his way with thy little child!"
The roads crossed each other in the depths of the forest, and she
no longer knew whither she should go; then there stood a thorn-bush;
there was neither leaf nor flower on it, it was also in the cold
winter season, and ice-flakes hung on the branches.
"Hast thou not seen Death go past with my little child?" said the
"Yes," said the thorn-bush; "but I will not tell thee which way he
took, unless thou wilt first warm me up at thy heart. I am freezing
to death; I shall become a lump of ice!"
And she pressed the thorn-bush to her breast, so firmly, that it
might be thoroughly warmed, and the thorns went right into her flesh,
and her blood flowed in large drops, but the thorn-bush shot forth
fresh green leaves, and there came flowers on it in the cold winter
night, the heart of the afflicted mother was so warm; and the
thorn-bush told her the way she should go.
She then came to a large lake, where there was neither ship nor
boat. The lake was not frozen sufficiently to bear her; neither was
it open, nor low enough that she could wade through it; and across it
she must go if she would find her child! Then she lay down to drink
up the lake, and that was an impossibility for a human being, but the
afflicted mother thought that a miracle might happen
"Oh, what would I not give to come to my child!" said the weeping
mother; and she wept still more, and her eyes sunk down in the depths
of the waters, and became two precious pearls; but the water bore her
up, as if she sat in a swing, and she flew in the rocking waves to
the shore on the opposite side, where there stood a mile-broad,
strange house, one knew not if it were a mountain with forests and
caverns, or if it were built up; but the poor mother could not see
it; she had wept her eyes out.
"Where shall I find Death, who took away my little child?" said
"He has not come here yet!" said the old grave woman, who was
appointed to look after Death's great greenhouse! "How have you been
able to find the way hither? and who has helped you?"
"Our Lord has helped me," said she. "He is merciful, and
you will also be so! Where shall I find my little child?"
"Nay, I know not," said the woman, "and you cannot see! Many
flowers and trees have withered this night; Death will soon come and
plant them over again! You certainly know that every person has his
or her life's tree or flower, just as every one happens to be
settled; they look like other plants, but they have pulsations of the
heart. Children's hearts can also beat; go after yours, perhaps you
may know your child's; but what will you give me if I tell you what
you shall do more?"
"I have nothing to give," said the afflicted mother, "but I will
go to the world's end for you!"
"Nay, I have nothing to do there!" said the woman, "but you can
give me your long black hair; you know yourself that it is fine, and
that I like! You shall have my white hair instead! and that's always
"Do you demand nothing else?" said she,—"that I will gladly give
you!" And she gave her her fine black hair, and got the old woman's
snow-white hair instead.
So they went into Death's great greenhouse, where flowers and
trees grew strangely into one another. There stood fine hyacinths
under glass bells, and there stood strong-stemmed peonies; there grew
water plants, some so fresh, others half sick, the water-snakes lay
down on them, and black crabs pinched their stalks. There stood
beautiful palm-trees, oaks, and plantains; there stood parsley and
flowering thyme: every tree and every flower had its name; each of
them was a human life, the human frame still lived—one in China, and
another in Greenland—round about in the world. There were large trees
in small pots, so that they stood so stunted in growth, and ready to
burst the pots; in other places, there was a little dull flower in
rich mould, with moss round about it, and it was so petted and
nursed. But the distressed mother bent down over all the smallest
plants, and heard within them how the human heart beat; and amongst
millions she knew her child's.
"There it is!" cried she, and stretched her hands out over a
little blue crocus, that hung quite sickly on one side.
"Don't touch the flower!" said the old woman, "but place yourself
here, and when Death comes,—I expect him every moment,—do not let him
pluck the flower up, but threaten him that you will do the same with
the others. Then he will be afraid! he is responsible for them to Our Lord, and no one dares to pluck them up before
He gives leave."
All at once an icy cold rushed through the great hall, and the
blind mother could feel that it was Death that came.
"How hast thou been able to find thy way hither?" he asked. "How
couldst thou come quicker than I?"
"I am a mother," said she.
And Death stretched out his long hand towards the fine little
flower, but she held her hands fast around his, so tight, and yet
afraid that she should touch one of the leaves. Then Death blew on
her hands, and she felt that it was colder than the cold wind, and
her hands fell down powerless.
"Thou canst not do anything against me!" said Death.
"But that Our Lord can!" said she.
"I only do His bidding!" said Death. "I am His gardener, I take
all His flowers and trees, and plant them out in the great garden of
Paradise, in the unknown land; but how they grow there, and how it is
there I dare not tell thee."
"Give me back my child!" said the mother, and she wept and prayed.
At once she seized hold of two beautiful flowers close by, with each
hand, and cried out to Death, "I will tear all thy flowers off, for I
am in despair."
"Touch them not!" said Death. "Thou say'st that thou art so
unhappy, and now thou wilt make another mother equally unhappy."
"Another mother!" said the poor woman, and directly let go her
hold of both the flowers.
"There, thou hast thine eyes," said Death; "I fished them up from
the lake, they shone so bright; I knew not they were thine. Take them
again, they are now brighter than before; now look down into the deep
well close by; I shall tell thee the names of the two flowers thou
wouldst have torn up, and thou wilt see their whole future life—their
whole human existence: and see what thou wast about to disturb and
And she looked down into the well; and it was a happiness to see
how the one became a blessing to the world, to see how much happiness
and joy were felt everywhere. And she saw the other's life, and it
was sorrow and distress, horror, and wretchedness.
"Both of them are God's will!" said Death.
"Which of them is Misfortune's flower? and which is that of
Happiness?" asked she.
"That I will not tell thee," said Death; "but this thou shalt know
from me, that the one flower was thy own child! it was thy child's
fate thou saw'st,—thy own child's future life!"
Then the mother screamed with terror, "Which of them was my child?
Tell it me! save the innocent! save my child from all that misery!
rather take it away! take it into God's kingdom! Forget my tears,
forget my prayers, and all that I have done!"
"I do not understand thee!" said Death. "Wilt thou have thy child
again, or shall I go with it there, where thou dost not know!"
Then the mother wrung her hands, fell on her knees, and prayed to
our Lord: "Oh, hear me not when I pray against Thy will, which is the
best! hear me not! hear me not!"
And she bowed her head down in her lap, and Death took her child
and went with it into the unknown land.
THE STORY OF A MOTHER
THE FALSE COLLAR.
There was once a fine gentleman, all of whose moveables were a
bootjack and a hair-comb: but he had the finest false collars in the
world; and it is about one of these collars that we are now to hear a
It was so old, that it began to think of marriage; and it happened
that it came to be washed in company with a garter.
"Nay!" said the collar, "I never did see anything so slender and
so fine, so soft and so neat. May I not ask your name?"
"That I shall not tell you!" said the garter.
"Where do you live?" asked the collar.
But the garter was so bashful, so modest, and thought it was a
strange question to answer.
"You are certainly a girdle," said the collar; "that is to say an
inside girdle. I see well that you are both for use and ornament, my
dear young lady."
"I will thank you not to speak to me," said the garter. "I think I
have not given the least occasion for it."
"Yes! when one is as handsome as you," said the collar, "that is
"Don't come so near me, I beg of you!" said the garter. "You look
so much like those men-folks."
"I am also a fine gentleman," said the collar. "I have a boot-jack
and a hair-comb."
But that was not true, for it was his master who had them: but he
"Don't come so near me," said the garter: "I am not accustomed to
"Prude!" exclaimed the collar; and then it was taken out of the
washing-tub. It was starched, hung over the back of a chair in the
sunshine, and was then laid on the ironing-blanket; then came the
warm box-iron. "Dear lady!" said the collar. "Dear widow-lady! I feel
quite hot. I am quite changed. I begin to unfold myself. You will
burn a hole in me. Oh! I offer you my hand."
"Rag!" said the box-iron; and went proudly over the collar: for
she fancied she was a steam-engine, that would go on the railroad and
draw the waggons. "Rag!" said the box-iron.
The collar was a little jagged at the edge, and so came the long
scissors to cut off the jagged part.
"Oh!" said the collar, "you are certainly the first opera dancer.
How well you can stretch your legs out! It is the most graceful
performance I have ever seen. No one can imitate you."
"I know it," said the scissors.
"You deserve to be a baroness," said the collar. "All that I have
is a fine gentleman, a boot-jack, and a hair-comb. If I only had the
"Do you seek my hand?" said the scissors; for she was angry; and
without more ado, she cut him, and then he was
"I shall now be obliged to ask the hair-comb. It is surprising how
well you preserve your teeth, Miss," said the collar. "Have you never
thought of being betrothed?"
"Yes, of course! you may be sure of that," said the hair comb. "I
am betrothed—to the boot-jack!"
"Betrothed!" exclaimed the collar. Now there was no other to
court, and so he despised it.
A long time passed away, then the collar came into the rag chest
at the paper mill; there was a large company of rags, the fine by
themselves, and the coarse by themselves, just as it should be. They
all had much to say, but the collar the most; for he was a real
"I have had such an immense number of sweet-hearts!" said the
collar, "I could not be in peace! It is true, I was always a fine
starched-up gentleman! I had both a bootjack and a hair-comb, which I
never used! You should have seen me then, you should have seen me
when I lay down!—I shall never forget my first
love—she was a girdle, so fine, so soft, and so charming, she
threw herself into a tub of water for my sake! There was also a
widow, who became glowing hot, but I left her standing till she got
black again; there was also the first opera dancer, she gave me that
cut which I now go with, she was so ferocious! my own hair-comb was
in love with me, she lost all her teeth from the heart-ache; yes, I
have lived to see much of that sort of thing; but I am extremely
sorry for the garter—I mean the girdle—that went into the water-tub.
I have much on my conscience, I want to become white paper!"
And it became so, all the rags were turned into white paper; but
the collar came to be just this very piece of white paper we here
see, and on which the story is printed; and that was because it
boasted so terribly afterwards of what had never happened to it. It
would be well for us to beware, that we may not act in a similar
manner, for we can never know if we may not, in the course of time,
also come into the rag chest, and be made into white paper, and then
have our whole life's history printed on it, even the most secret,
and be obliged to run about and tell it ourselves, just like this
It is in the hot lands that the sun burns, sure enough!—there the
people become quite a mahogany brown, ay, and in the hottest lands they are burnt to negroes. But now it was
only to the hot lands that a learned man had
come from the cold; there he thought that he could run about just as
when at home, but he soon found out his mistake.
He, and all sensible folks, were obliged to stay within doors,—the
window-shutters and doors were closed the whole day; it looked as if
the whole house slept, or there was no one at home.
The narrow street with the high houses, was built so that the
sunshine must fall there from morning till evening—it was really not
to be borne.
The learned man from the cold lands—he was a young man, and seemed
to be a clever man—sat in a glowing oven; it took effect on him, he
became quite meagre—even his shadow shrunk in, for the sun had also
an effect on it. It was first towards evening when the sun was down,
that they began to freshen up again.
In the warm lands every window has a balcony, and the people came
out on all the balconies in the street—for one must have air, even if
one be accustomed to be mahogany!* It was lively both up and down the
street. Tailors, and shoemakers, and all the folks, moved out into
the street—chairs and tables were brought forth—and candles
burnt—yes, above a thousand lights were burning—and the one talked
and the other sung; and people walked and church-bells rang, and
asses went along with a dingle-dingle-dong! for they too had bells
on. The street boys were screaming and hooting, and shouting and
shooting, with devils and detonating balls:—and there came corpse
bearers and hood wearers,—for there were funerals with psalm and
hymn,—and then the din of carriages driving and company
arriving:—yes, it was, in truth, lively enough down in the street.
Only in that single house, which stood opposite that in which the
learned foreigner lived, it was quite still; and yet some one lived
there, for there stood flowers in the balcony—they grew so well in
the sun's heat—and that they could not do unless they were
watered—and some one must water them—there must be somebody there.
The door opposite was also opened late in the evening, but it was
dark within, at least in the front room; further in there was heard
the sound of music. The learned foreigner thought it quite
marvellous, but now—it might be that he only imagined it—for he found
everything marvellous out there, in the warm lands, if there had only
been no sun. The stranger's landlord said that he didn't know who had
taken the house opposite, one saw no person about, and as to the
music, it appeared to him to be extremely tiresome. "It is as if some
one sat there, and practised a piece that he could not master—always
the same piece. 'I shall master it!' says he; but yet he cannot
master it, however long he plays."
* The word mahogany can be understood, in
Danish, as having two meanings. In general, it means the
reddish-brown wood itself; but in jest, it signifies "excessively
fine," which arose from an anecdote of Nyboder, in Copenhagen, (the
seamen's quarter.) A sailor's wife, who was always proud and fine, in
her way, came to her neighbor, and complained that she had got a
splinter in her finger. "What of?" asked the neighbor's wife. "It is
a mahogany splinter;" said the other. "Mahogany! it cannot be less
with you!" exclaimed the woman;—and thence the proverb, "It is so
mahogany!"—(that is, so excessively fine)—is derived.
One night the stranger awoke—he slept with the doors of the
balcony open—the curtain before it was raised by the wind, and he
thought that a strange lustre came from the opposite neighbor's
house; all the flowers shone like flames, in the most beautiful
colors, and in the midst of the flowers stood a slender, graceful
maiden,—it was as if she also shone; the light really hurt his eyes.
He now opened them quite wide—yes, he was quite awake; with one
spring he was on the floor; he crept gently behind the curtain but
the maiden was gone; the flowers shone no longer, but there they
stood, fresh and blooming as ever; the door was ajar, and, far
within, the music sounded so soft and delightful, one could really
melt away in sweet thoughts from it. Yet it was like a piece of
enchantment. And who lived there? Where was the actual entrance? The
whole of the ground-floor was a row of shops, and there people could
not always be running through.
One evening the stranger sat out on the balcony. The light burnt
in the room behind him; and thus it was quite natural that his shadow
should fall on his opposite neighbor's wall. Yes! there it sat,
directly opposite, between the flowers on the balcony; and when the
stranger moved, the shadow also moved: for that it always does.
"I think my shadow is the only living thing one sees over there,"
said the learned man. "See! how nicely it sits between the flowers.
The door stands half-open: now the shadow should be cunning, and go
into the room, look about, and then come and tell me what it had
seen. Come, now! be useful, and do me a service," said he, in jest.
"Have the kindness to step in. Now! art thou going?" and then he
nodded to the shadow, and the shadow nodded again. "Well then, go!
but don't stay away."
The stranger rose, and his shadow on the opposite neighbor's
balcony rose also; the stranger turned round and the shadow also
turned round. Yes! if any one had paid particular attention to it,
they would have seen, quite distinctly, that the shadow went in
through the half-open balcony-door of their opposite neighbor, just
as the stranger went into his own room, and let the long curtain fall
down after him.
Next morning, the learned man went out to drink coffee and read
"What is that?" said he, as he came out into the sunshine. "I have
no shadow! So then, it has actually gone last night, and not come
again. It is really tiresome!"
This annoyed him: not so much because the shadow was gone, but
because he knew there was a story about a man without a shadow.* It
was known to everybody at home, in the cold lands; and if the
learned man now came there and told his story, they would say that he
was imitating it, and that he had no need to do. He would, therefore,
not talk about it at all; and that was wisely thought.
* Peter Schlemihl, the shadowless man.
In the evening he went out again on the balcony. He had placed the
light directly behind him, for he knew that the shadow would always
have its master for a screen, but he could not entice it. He made
himself little; he made himself great: but no shadow came again. He
said, "Hem! hem!" but it was of no use.
It was vexatious; but in the warm lands every thing grows so
quickly; and after the lapse of eight days he observed, to his great
joy, that a new shadow came in the sunshine. In the course of three
weeks he had a very fair shadow, which, when he set out for his home
in the northern lands, grew more and more in the journey, so that at
last it was so long and so large, that it was more than
The learned man then came home, and he wrote books about what was
true in the world, and about what was good and what was beautiful;
and there passed days and years,—yes! many years passed away.
One evening, as he was sitting in his room, there was a gentle
knocking at the door.
"Come in!" said he; but no one came in; so he opened the door, and
there stood before him such an extremely lean man, that he felt quite
strange. As to the rest, the man was very finely dressed,—he must be
"Whom have I the honor of speaking to?" asked the learned man.
"Yes! I thought as much," said the fine man. "I thought you would
not know me. I have got so much body. I have even got flesh and
clothes. You certainly never thought of seeing me so well off. Do you
not know your old shadow? You certainly thought I should never more
return. Things have gone on well with me since I was last with you. I
have, in all respects, become very well off. Shall I purchase my
freedom from service? If so, I can do it;" and then he rattled a
whole bunch of valuable seals that hung to his watch, and he stuck
his hand in the thick gold chain he wore around his neck;—nay! how
all his fingers glittered with diamond rings; and then all were pure
"Nay; I cannot recover from my surprise!" said the learned man:
"what is the meaning of all this?"
"Something common, is it not," said the shadow: "but you yourself
do not belong to the common order; and I, as you know well, have from
a child followed in your footsteps, As soon as you found I was
capable to go out alone in the world, I went my own way. I am in the
most brilliant circumstances, but there came a sort of desire over me
to see you once more before you die; you will die, I suppose? I also
wished to see this land again,—for you know we always love our native
land. I know you have got another shadow again; have I anything to
pay to it or you? If so, you will oblige me by saying what it
"Nay, is it really thou?" said the learned man: "it is most
remarkable: I never imagined that one's old shadow could come again
as a man."
"Tell me what I have to pay," said the shadow; "for I don't like
to be in any sort of debt."
"How canst thou talk so?" said the learned man; "what debt is
there to talk about? Make thyself as free as any one else. I am
extremely glad to hear of thy good fortune: sit down, old friend, and
tell me a little how it has gone with thee, and what thou hast seen
at our opposite neighbor's there—in the warm lands."
"Yes, I will tell you all about it," said the shadow, and sat
down: "but then you must also promise me, that, wherever you may meet
me, you will never say to any one here in the town that I have been
your shadow. I intend to get betrothed, for I can provide for more
than one family."
"Be quite at thy ease about that," said the learned man; "I shall
not say to any one who thou actually art: here is my hand—I promise
it, and a man's bond is his word."
"A word is a shadow," said the shadow, "and as such it must
It was really quite astonishing how much of a man it was. It was
dressed entirely in black, and of the very finest cloth; it had
patent leather boots, and a hat that could be folded together, so
that it was bare crown and brim; not to speak of what we already know
it had—seals, gold neck-chain, and diamond rings; yes, the shadow was
well-dressed, and it was just that which made it quite a man.
"Now I shall tell you my adventures," said the shadow; and then he
sat, with the polished boots, as heavily as he could, on the arm of
the learned man's new shadow, which lay like a poodle-dog at his
feet. Now this was perhaps from arrogance; and the shadow on the
ground kept itself so still and quiet, that it might hear all that
passed: it wished to know how it could get free, and work its way up,
so as to become its own master.
"Do you know who lived in our opposite neighbor's house?" said the
shadow; "it was the most charming of all beings, it was Poesy! I was
there for three weeks, and that has as much effect as if one had
lived three thousand years, and read all that was composed and
written; that is what I say, and it is right. I have seen everything
and I know everything!"
"Poesy!" cried the learned man; "yes, yes, she often dwells a
recluse in large cities! Poesy! yes, I have seen her,—a single short
moment, but sleep came into my eyes! She stood on the balcony and
shone as the aurora borealis shines. Go on, go on!—thou wert on the
balcony, and went through the doorway, and then———"
"Then I was in the antechamber," said the shadow. "You always sat
and looked over to the antechamber. There was no light; there was a
sort of twilight, but the one door stood open directly opposite the
other through a long row of rooms and saloons, and there it was
lighted up. I should have been completely killed if I had gone over
to the maiden; but I was circumspect, I took time to think, and that
one must always do."
"And what didst thou then see?" asked the learned man.
"I saw everything, and I shall tell all to you: but,—it is no
pride on my part,—as a free man, and with the knowledge I have, not
to speak of my position in life, my excellent circumstances,—I
certainly wish that you would say you* to
"I beg your pardon," said the learned man; "it is an old habit
with me. You are perfectly right, and I shall
remember it; but now you must tell me all you saw!"
"Everything!" said the shadow, "for I saw everything, and I know
"How did it look in the furthest saloon?" asked the learned man.
"Was it there as in the fresh woods? Was it there as in a holy
church? Were the saloons like the starlit firmament when we stand on
the high mountains?"
* It is the custom in Denmark for intimate acquaintances to use
the second person singular, "Du," (thou) when speaking to each other.
When a friendship is formed between men, they generally affirm it,
when occasion offers, either in public or private, by drinking to
each other and exclaiming, "thy health," at the same time
striking their glasses together.—This is called drinking
"Duus:"—they are then, "Duus Brodre," (thou brothers,)
and ever afterwards use the pronoun "thou," to each other, it
being regarded as more familiar than "De," (you). Father and mother,
sister and brother, say thou to one
another—without regard to age or rank. Master and mistress say thou to their servants—the superior to the
inferior. But servants and inferiors do not use the same term to
their masters, or superiors—nor is it ever used when speaking to a
stranger, or any one with whom they are but slightly acquainted—they
then say as in English—you.
"Everything was there!" said the shadow. "I did not go quite in, I
remained in the foremost room, in the twilight, but I stood there
quite well; I saw everything, and I know everything! I have been in
the antechamber at the court of Poesy."
"But what did you see? Did all the gods of
the olden times pass through the large saloons? Did the old heroes
combat there? Did sweet children play there, and relate their
"I tell you I was there, and you can conceive that I saw
everything there was to be seen. Had you come over there, you would
not have been a man; but I became so! And besides, I learned to know
my inward nature, my innate qualities, the relationship I had with
Poesy. At the time I was with you, I thought not of that, but
always—you know it well—when the sun rose, and when the sun went
down, I became so strangely great; in the moonlight I was very near
being more distinct than yourself; at that time I did not understand
my nature; it was revealed to me in the antechamber! I became a
man!—I came out matured; but you were no longer in the warm lands;—as
a man I was ashamed to go as I did. I was in want of boots, of
clothes, of the whole human varnish that makes a man perceptible. I
took my way—I tell it to you, but you will not put it in any book—I
took my way to the cake woman—I hid myself behind her; the woman
didn't think how much she concealed. I went out first in the evening;
I ran about the streets in the moonlight; I made myself long up the
walls—it tickles the back so delightfully! I ran up, and ran down,
peeped into the highest windows, into the saloons, and on the roofs,
I peeped in where no one could peep, and I saw what no one else saw,
what no one else should see! This is, in fact, a base world! I would
not be a man if it were not now once accepted and regarded as
something to be so! I saw the most unimaginable things with the
women, with the men, with parents, and with the sweet, matchless
children; I saw," said the shadow "what no human being must know, but
what they would all so willingly know—what is bad in their neighbor.
Had I written a newspaper, it would have been read! but I wrote
direct to the persons themselves, and there was consternation in all
the towns where I came. They were so afraid of me, and yet they were
so excessively fond of me. The professors made a professor of me; the
tailors gave me new clothes—I am well furnished; the master of the
mint struck new coin for me, and the women said I was so handsome!
and so I became the man I am. And I now bid you farewell;—here is my
card—I live on the sunny side of the street, and am always at home in
rainy weather!" And so away went the shadow.
"That was most extraordinary!" said the learned man.
Years and days passed away, then the shadow came again.
"How goes it?" said the shadow.
"Alas!" said the learned man, "I write about the true, and the
good, and the beautiful, but no one cares to hear such things; I am
quite desperate, for I take it so much to heart!"
"But I don't!" said the shadow, "I become fat, and it is that one
wants to become! You do not understand the world. You will become ill
by it. You must travel! I shall make a tour this summer; will you go
with me?—I should like to have a travelling companion! will you go
with me, as shadow? It will be a great pleasure for me to have you
with me; I shall pay the travelling expenses!"
"Nay, this is too much!" said the learned man.
"It is just as one takes it!"—said the shadow. "It will do you
much good to travel!—will you be my shadow?—you shall have everything
free on the journey!"
"Nay, that is too bad!" said the learned man.
"But it is just so with the world!" said the shadow,—"and so it
will be!"—and away it went again.
The learned man was not at all in the most enviable state; grief
and torment followed him, and what he said about the true, and the
good, and the beautiful, was, to most persons, like roses for a
cow!—he was quite ill at last.
"You really look like a shadow!" said his friends to him; and the
learned man trembled, for he thought of it.
"You must go to a watering-place!" said the shadow, who came and
visited him; "there is nothing else for it! I will take you with me
for old acquaintance' sake; I will pay the travelling expenses, and
you write the descriptions—and if they are a little amusing for me on
the way! I will go to a watering-place,—my beard does not grow out as
it ought—that is also a sickness—and one must have a beard! Now you
be wise and accept the offer; we shall travel as comrades!"
And so they travelled; the shadow was master, and the master was
the shadow; they drove with each other, they rode and walked
together, side by side, before and behind, just as the sun was; the
shadow always took care to keep itself in the master's place. Now the
learned man didn't think much about that; he was a very kind-hearted
man, and particularly mild and friendly, and so he said one day to
the shadow: "As we have now become companions, and in this way have
grown up together from childhood, shall we not drink 'thou' together, it is more familiar?"
"You are right," said the shadow, who was now the proper master.
"It is said in a very straight-forward and well-meant manner. You, as
a learned man, certainty know how strange nature is. Some persons
cannot bear to touch grey paper, or they become ill; others shiver in
every limb if one rub a pane of glass with a nail: I have just such a
feeling on hearing you say thou to me; I feel
myself as if pressed to the earth in my first situation with you. You
see that it is a feeling; that it is not pride: I cannot allow you to
say thou to me, but I will willingly say thou to you, so it is half done!"
So the shadow said thou to its former
"This is rather too bad," thought he, that I must say you and he say "thou," but he was now obliged to put up
So they came to a watering-place where there were many strangers,
and amongst them was a princess, who was troubled with seeing too
well; and that was so alarming!
She directly observed that the stranger who had just come was
quite a different sort of person to all the others;—"He has come here
in order to get his beard to grow, they say, but I see the real
cause, he cannot cast a shadow."
She had become inquisitive; and so she entered into conversation
directly with the strange gentleman, on their promenades. As the
daughter of a king, she needed not to stand upon trifles, so she
said, "Your complaint is, that you cannot cast a shadow?"
"Your Royal Highness must be improving considerably," said the
shadow,—"I know your complaint is, that you see too clearly, but it
has decreased, you are cured. I just happen to have a very unusual
shadow! Do you not see that person who always goes with me? Other
persons have a common shadow, but I do not like what is common to
all. We give our servants finer cloth for their livery than we
ourselves use, and so I had my shadow trimmed up into a man: yes, you
see I have even given him a shadow. It is somewhat expensive, but I
like to have something for myself!"
"What!" thought the princess, "should I really be cured! These
baths are the first in the world! In our time water has wonderful
powers. But I shall not leave the place, for it now begins to be
amusing here. I am extremely fond of that stranger: would that his
beard should not grow! for in that case he will leave us."
In the evening, the princess and the shadow danced together in the
large ball-room. She was light, but he was still lighter; she had
never had such a partner in the dance. She told him from what land
she came, and he knew that land; he had been there, but then she was
not at home; he had peeped in at the window, above and below—he had
seen both the one and the other, and so he could answer the princess,
and make insinuations, so that she was quite astonished; he must be
the wisest man in the whole world! she felt such respect for what he
knew! So that when they again danced together she fell in love with
him; and that the shadow could remark, for she almost pierced him
through with her eyes. So they danced once more together; and she was
about to declare herself, but she was discreet; she thought of her
country and kingdom, and of the many persons she would have to reign
"He is a wise man," said she to herself—"It is well; and he dances
delightfully—that is also good; but has he solid knowledge?—that is
just as important!—he must be examined."
So she began, by degrees, to question him about the most difficult
things she could think of, and which she herself could not have
answered; so that the shadow made a strange face.
"You cannot answer these questions?" said the princess.
"They belong to my childhood's learning," said the shadow. "I
really believe my shadow, by the door there, can answer them!"
"Your shadow!" said the princess; "that would indeed be
"I will not say for a certainty that he can," said the shadow,
"but I think so; he has now followed me for so many years, and
listened to my conversation—I should think it possible. But your
royal highness will permit me to observe, that he is so proud of
passing himself off for a man, that when he is to be in a proper
humor—and he must be so to answer well—he must be treated quite like
"Oh! I like that!" said the princess.
So she went to the learned man by the door, and she spoke to him
about the sun and the moon, and about persons out of and in the
world, and he answered with wisdom and prudence.
"What a man that must be who has so wise a shadow!" thought she;
"It will be a real blessing to my people and kingdom if I choose him
for my consort—I will do it!"
They were soon agreed, both the princess and the shadow; but no
one was to know about it before she arrived in her own kingdom.
"No one—not even my shadow!" said the shadow, and he had his own
thoughts about it!
Now they were in the country where the princess reigned when she
was at home.
"Listen, my good friend," said the shadow to the learned man. "I
have now become as happy and mighty as any one can be; I will,
therefore, do something particular for thee! Thou shalt always live
with me in the palace, drive with me in my royal carriage, and have
ten thousand pounds a year; but then thou must submit to be called
shadow by all and every one; thou must not say that thou hast ever
been a man; and once a-year, when I sit on the balcony in the
sunshine, thou must lie at my feet, as a shadow shall do! I must tell
thee: I am going to marry the king's daughter, and the nuptials are
to take place this evening!"
"Nay, this is going too far!" said the learned man; "I will not
have it; I will not do it! it is to deceive the whole country and the
princess too! I will tell every thing!—that I am a man, and that thou
art a shadow—thou art only dressed up!"
"There is no one who will believe it!" said the shadow; "be
reasonable, or I will call the guard!"
"I will go directly to the princess!" said the learned man.
"But I will go first!" said the shadow, "and thou wilt go to
prison!" and that he was obliged to do—for the sentinels obeyed him
whom they knew the king's daughter was to marry.
"You tremble!" said the princess, as the shadow came into her
chamber; "has anything happened? You must not be unwell this evening,
now that we are to have our nuptials celebrated."
"I have lived to see the most cruel thing that any one can live to
see!" said the shadow. "Only imagine—yes, it is true, such a poor
shadow-skull cannot bear much—only think, my shadow has become mad;
he thinks that he is a man, and that I—now only think—that I am his
"It is terrible!" said the princess; "but he is confined, is he
"That he is. I am afraid that he will never recover."
"Poor shadow!" said the princess, "he is very unfortunate; it
would be a real work of charity to deliver him from the little life
he has, and, when I think properly over the matter, I am of opinion
that it will be necessary to do away with him in all stillness!"
"It is certainly hard!" said the shadow, "for he was a faithful
servant!" and then he gave a sort of sigh.
"You are a noble character!" said the princess.
The whole city was illuminated in the evening, and the cannons
went off with a bum! bum! and the soldiers presented arms. That was a
marriage! The princess and the shadow went out on the balcony to show
themselves, and get another hurrah!
The learned man heard nothing of all this—for they had deprived
him of life.
Have you heard the story about the old street lamp? It is not so
very amusing, but one may very well hear it once. It was such a
decent old street-lamp, that had done its duty for many, many years,
but now it was to be condemned. It was the last evening,—it sat there
on the post and lighted the street; and it was in just such a humor
as an old figurante in a ballet, who dances for the last evening, and
knows that she is to be put on the shelf to-morrow. The lamp had such
a fear of the coming day, for it knew that it should then be carried
to the town-hall for the first time, and examined by the authorities
of the city, who should decide if it could be used or not. It would
then be determined whether it should be sent out to one of the
suburbs, or in to the country to a manufactory; perhaps it would be
sent direct to the ironfounder's and be re-cast; in that case it
could certainly be all sorts of things: but it pained it not to know
whether it would then retain the remembrance of its having been a
However it might be, whether it went into the country or not, it
would be separated from the watchman and his wife, whom it regarded
as its family. It became a street-lamp when he became watchman. His
wife was a very fine woman at that time; it was only in the evening
when she went past the lamp that she looked at it, but never in the
daytime. Now, on the contrary, of late years, as they had all three
grown old,—the watchman, his wife, and the lamp,—the wife had always
attended to it, polished it up, and put oil in it. They were honest
folks that married couple, they had not cheated the lamp of a single
drop. It was its last evening in the street, and to-morrow it was to
be taken to the town-hall; these were two dark thoughts in the lamp,
and so one can know how it burnt. But other thoughts also passed
through it; there was so much it had seen, so much it had a desire
for, perhaps just as much as the whole of the city authorities; but
it didn't say so, for it was a well-behaved old lamp—it would not
insult any one, least of all its superiors. It remembered so much,
and now and then the flames within it blazed up,—it was as if it had
a feeling of—yes, they will also remember me! There was now that
handsome young man—but that is many years since,—he came with a
letter, it was on rose-colored paper; so fine—so fine! and with a
gilt edge; it was so neatly written, it was a lady's hand; he read it
twice, and he kissed it, and he looked up to me with his two bright
eyes—they said, "I am the happiest of men!" Yes, only he and I knew
what stood in that first letter from his beloved.
I also remember two other eyes—it is strange how one's thoughts
fly about!—there was a grand funeral here in the street, the
beautiful young wife lay in the coffin on the velvet-covered funeral
car; there were so many flowers and wreaths, there were so many
torches burning, that I was quite forgotten—out of sight; the whole
footpath was filled with persons; they all followed in the
procession; but when the torches were out of sight, and I looked
about, there stood one who leaned against my post and wept. I shall
never forget those two sorrowful eyes that looked into me. Thus there
passed many thoughts through the old street-lamp, which this evening
burnt for the last time. The sentinel who is relieved from his post
knows his successor, and can say a few words to him, but the lamp
knew not its successor; and yet it could have given him a hint about
rain and drizzle, and how far the moon shone on the footpath, and
from what corner the wind blew.
Now, there stood three on the kerb-stone; they had presented
themselves before the lamp, because they thought it was the
street-lamp who gave away the office; the one of these three was a
herring's head, for it shines in the dark, and it thought that it
could be of great service, and a real saving of oil, if it came to be
placed on the lamp-post. The other was a piece of touchwood, which
also shines, and always more than a stock-fish; besides, it said so
itself, it was the last piece of a tree that had once been the pride
of the forest. The third was a glow-worm; but where it had come from
the lamp could not imagine; but the glow-worm was there, and it also
shone, but the touchwood and the herring's head took their oaths that
it only shone at certain times, and therefore it could never be taken
The old lamp said that none of them shone well enough to be a
street-lamp; but not one of them thought so; and as they heard that
it was not the lamp itself that gave away the office, they said that
it was a very happy thing, for that it was too infirm and broken down
to be able to choose.
At the same moment the wind came from the street corner, it
whistled through the cowl of the old lamp, and said to it, "What is
it that I hear, are you going away to-morrow? Is it the last evening
I shall meet you here? Then you shall have a present!—now I will blow
up your brain-box so that you shall not only remember, clearly and
distinctly, what you have seen and heard, but when anything is told
or read in your presence, you shall be so clear-headed that you will
also see it."
"That is certainly much!" said the old street-lamp; "I thank you
much; if I be only not re-cast."
"It will not happen yet awhile," said the wind; "and now I will
blow up your memory; if you get more presents than that you may have
quite a pleasant old age."
"If I be only not re-cast," said the lamp; "or can you then assure
me my memory?"
"Old lamp, be reasonable!" said the wind, and then it blew. The
moon came forth at the same time. "What do you give?" asked the
"I give nothing!" said the moon; "I am waning, and the lamps have
never shone for me, but I have shone for the lamps."* So the moon
went behind the clouds again, for it would not be plagued. A
drop of rain then fell straight down on the lamp's cowl, it was like
a drop of water from the eaves, but the drop said that it came from
the grey clouds, and was also a present,—-and perhaps the best of
all. "I penetrate into you, so that you have the power, if you wish
it, in one night to pass over to rust, so that you may fall in pieces
and become dust." But the lamp thought this was a poor present, and
the wind thought the same. "Is there no better—is there no better?"
it whistled, as loud as it could. A shooting-star then fell, it shone
in a long stripe.
* It is the custom in Denmark, and one deserving the severest
censure, that, on those nights in which the moon shines; or,
according to almanac authority, ought to shine, the street lamps are
not lighted; so that, as it too frequently happens, when the moon is
overclouded, or on rainy evenings when she is totally obscured, the
streets are for the most part in perfect darkness. This petty economy
is called "the magistrates' light," they having the direction of the
lighting, paving, and cleansing of towns.
The same management may be met with in some other countries
"What was that?" exclaimed the herring's head; "did not a star
fall right down? I think it went into the lamp! Well, if persons who
stand so high seek the office, we may as well take ourselves
And it did so, and the others did so too; but the old lamp shone
all at once so singularly bright.
"That was a fine present!" it said; "the bright stars which I have
always pleased myself so much about, and which shine so
beautifully,—as I really have never been able to shine, although it
was my whole aim and endeavor,—have noticed me, a poor old-lamp, and
sent one down with a present to me, which consists of that quality,
that everything I myself remember and see quite distinctly, shall
also be seen by those I am fond of; and that is, above all, a true
pleasure, for what one cannot share with others is but a half
"It is a very estimable thought," said the wind; "but you
certainly don't know that there must be wax-candles; for unless a
wax-candle be lighted in you there are none of the others that will
be able to see anything particular about you. The stars have not
thought of that; they think that everything which shines has, at
least, a wax-candle in it. But now I am tired," said the wind, "I
will now lie down;" and so it lay down to rest.
The next day—yes, the next day we will spring over: the next
evening the lamp lay in the arm chair,—and where? At the old
watchman's. He had, for his long and faithful services, begged of the
authorities that he might be allowed to keep the old lamp; they
laughed at him when he begged for it, and then gave him it; and now
the lamp lay in the arm-chair, close by the warm stove, and it was
really just as if it had become larger on that account,—it almost
filled the whole chair. The old folks now sat at their supper, and
cast mild looks at the old lamp, which they would willingly have
given a place at the table with them. It is true they lived in a
cellar, a yard or so below ground: one had to go through a paved
front-room to come into the room they lived in; but it was warm here,
for there was list round the door to keep it so. It looked clean and
neat, with curtains round the bed and over the small windows, where
two strange-looking flowerpots stood on the sill. Christian, the
sailor, had brought them from the East or West Indies; they were of
clay in the form of two elephants, the backs of which were wanting:
but in their place there came flourishing plants out of the earth
that was in them; in the one was the finest chive,—It was the old
folks' kitchen-garden,—and in the other was a large flowering
geranium—this was their flower-garden. On the wall hung a large
colored print of "The Congress of Vienna;" there they had all the
kings and emperors at once. A Bornholm* clock, with heavy leaden
weights went "tic-tac!" and always too fast; but the old folks said
it was better than if it went too slow. They ate their suppers, and
the old lamp, as we have said, lay in the armchair close by the warm
stove. It was, for the old lamp, as if the whole world was turned
upside down. But when the old watchman looked at it, and spoke about
what they had lived to see with each other, in rain and drizzle,
in the clear, short summer nights, and when the snow drove about so
that it was good to get into the pent-house of the cellar,—then all
was again in order for the old lamp, it saw it all just as if it were
now present;—yes! the wind had blown it up right well,—it had
* Bornholm, a Danish island in the Baltic is famous for its
manufactures of clocks, potteries, and cement; it contains also
considerable coal mines, though not worked to any extent. It is
fertile in minerals, chalks, potters' clay of the finest quality, and
other valuable natural productions; but, on account of the jealous
nature of the inhabitants, which deters foreigners from settling
there, these productions are not made so available or profitable as
they otherwise might be.
The old folks were so clever and industrious, not an hour was
quietly dozed away; on Sunday afternoons some book was always brought
forth, particularly a book of travels, and the old man read aloud
about Africa, about the great forests and the elephants that were
there quite wild; and the old woman listened so attentively, and now
and then took a side glance at the clay elephants—her flower-pots. "I
can almost imagine it!" said she; and the lamp wished so much that
there was a wax candle to light and be put in it, so that she could
plainly see everything just as the lamp saw it; the tall trees, the
thick branches twining into one another, the black men on horseback,
and whole trains of elephants, which, with their broad feet, crushed
the canes and bushes.
"Of what use are all my abilities when there is no wax candle?"
sighed the lamp; "they have only train oil and tallow candles, and
they are not sufficient."
One day there came a whole bundle of stumps of wax candles into
the cellar, the largest pieces were burnt, and the old woman used the
smaller pieces to wax her thread with when she sewed; there were wax
candle ends, but they never thought of putting a little piece in the
"Here I stand with my rare abilities," said the lamp; "I have
everything within me, but I cannot share any part with them. They
know not that I can transform the white walls to the prettiest
paper-hangings, to rich forests, to everything that they may wish
for. They know it not!"
For the rest, the lamp stood in a corner, where it always met the
eye, and it was neat and well scoured; folks certainly said it was an
old piece of rubbish; but the old man and his wife didn't care about
that, they were fond of the lamp.
One day it was the old watchman's birth day; the old woman came up
to the lamp, smiled, and said, "I will illuminate for him," and the
lamp's cowl creaked, for it thought, "They will now be enlightened!"
But she put in train oil, and no wax candle; it burnt the whole
evening; but now it knew that the gift which the stars had given it,
the best gift of all, was a dead treasure for this life. It then
dreamt—and when one has such abilities, one can surely dream,—that
the old folks were dead, and that it had come to an ironfounder's to
be cast anew; it was in as much anxiety as when it had to go to the
town-hall to be examined by the authorities; but although it had the
power to fall to pieces in rust and dust, when it wished it, yet it
did not do it; and so it came into the furnace and was re-cast as a
pretty iron candlestick, in which any one might set a wax candle. It
had the form of an angel, bearing a nosegay, and in the centre of the
nosegay they put a wax taper and it was placed on a green
writing-table; and the room was so snug and comfortable: there hung
beautiful pictures—there stood many books; it was at a poet's, and
everything that he wrote, unveiled itself round about: the room
became a deep, dark forest,—a sun-lit meadow where the stork stalked
about; and a ship's deck high aloft on the swelling sea!
"What power I have!" said the old lamp, as it awoke. "I almost
long to be re-cast;—but no, it must not be as long as the old folks
live. They are fond of me for the sake of my person. I am to them as
a child, and they have scoured me, and they have given me train oil.
After all, I am as well off as 'The Congress,'—which is something so
From that time it had more inward peace, which was merited by the
THE DREAM OF LITTLE
Ah! yes, that was little Tuk: in reality his name was not Tuk, but
that was what he called himself before he could speak plain: he meant
it for Charles, and it is all well enough if one do but know it. He
had now to take care of his little sister Augusta, who was much less
than himself, and he was, besides, to learn his lesson at the same
time; but these two things would not do together at all. There sat
the poor little fellow with his sister on his lap, and he sang to her
all the songs he knew; and he glanced the while from time to time
into the geography-book that lay open before him. By the next morning
he was to have learnt all the towns in Zealand by heart, and to know
about them all that is possible to be known.
His mother now came home, for she had been out, and took little
Augusta on her arm. Tuk ran quickly to the window, and read so
eagerly that he pretty nearly read his eyes out; for it got darker
and darker, but his mother had no money to buy a candle.
"There goes the old washerwoman over the way," said his mother, as
she looked out of the window. "The poor woman can hardly drag herself
along, and she must now drag the pail home from the fountain: be a
good boy, Tukey, and run across and help the old woman, won't
So Tuk ran over quickly and helped her; but when he came back
again into the room it was quite dark, and as to a light, there was
no thought of such a thing. He was now to go to bed; that was an old
turn-up bedstead; in it he lay and thought about his geography
lesson, and of Zealand, and of all that his master had told him. He
ought, to be sure, to have read over his lesson again, but that, you
know, he could not do. He therefore put his geography-book under his
pillow, because he had heard that was a very good thing to do when
one wants to learn one's lesson; but one cannot, however, rely upon
it entirely. Well there he lay, and thought an thought, and all at
once it was just as if some one kissed his eyes and mouth: he slept,
and yet he did not sleep; it was as though the old washerwoman gazed
on him with her mild eyes and said, "It were a great sin if you were
not to know your lesson tomorrow morning. You have aided me, I
therefore will now help you; and the loving God will do so at all
times." And all of a sudden the book under Tuk's pillow began
scraping and scratching.
"Kickery-ki! kluk! kluk! kluk!"—that was an old hen who came
creeping along, and she was from Kjöge. I am a Kjöger hen,"* said
she, and then she related how many inhabitants there were there,
and about the battle that had taken place, and which, after all, was
hardly worth talking about.
* Kjöge a town in the bay of Kjöge "To see the Kjöge hens," is an
expression similar to "showing a child London," which is said to be
done by taking his head in both hands, and so lifting him off the
ground. At the invasion of the English in 1807, an encounter of a no
very glorious nature took place between the British troops and the
undisciplined Danish militia.
"Kribledy, krabledy—plump!" down fell somebody: it was a wooden
bird, the popinjay used at the shooting-matches at Prästöe. Now he said that there were just as many inhabitants as
he had nails in his body; and he was very proud. "Thorwaldsen lived
almost next door to me.* Plump! here I lie capitally."
* Prästöe, a still smaller town than Kjöge. Some hundred paces
from it lies the manor-house Ny Söe, where Thorwaldsen generally
sojourned during his stay in Denmark, and where he called many of his
immortal works into existence.
But little Tuk was no longer lying down: all at once he was on
horseback. On he went at full gallop, still galloping on and on. A
knight with a gleaming plume, and most magnificently dressed, held
him before him on the horse, and thus they rode through the wood to
the old town of Bordingborg, and that was a large and very
lively town. High towers rose from the castle of the king, and the
brightness of many candles streamed from all the windows; within was
dance and song, and King Waldemar and the young, richly-attired maids
of honor danced together. The morn now came; and as soon as the sun
appeared, the whole town and the king's palace crumbled together, and
one tower after the other; and at last only a single one remained
standing where the castle had been before,* and the town was so small
and poor, and the school boys came along with their books under their
arms, and said, "2000 inhabitants!" but that was not true, for there
were not so many.
* Bordingborg, in the reign of King Waldemar a considerable place,
now an unimportant little town. One solitary tower only, and some
remains of a wall, show where the castle once stood.
And little Tukey lay in his bed: it seemed to him as if he
dreamed, and yet as if he were not dreaming; however, somebody was
close beside him.
"Little Tukey! little Tukey!" cried some one near. It was a
seaman, quite a little personage, so little as if he were a
midshipman; but a midshipman it was not.
"Many remembrances from Cörsör.* That is a town that is just
rising into importance; a lively town that has steam-boats and
stagecoaches: formerly people called it ugly, but that is no longer
true. I lie on the sea," said Cörsör; "I have high roads and gardens,
and I have given birth to a poet who was witty and amusing, which all
poets are not. I once intended to equip a ship that was to sail all
round the earth; but I did not do it, although I could have done so:
and then, too, I smell so deliciously, for close before the gate
bloom the most beautiful roses."
* Cörsör, on the Great Belt, called, formerly, before the
introduction of steam-vessels, when travellers were often obliged to
wait a long time for a favorable wind, "the most tiresome of towns."
The poet Baggesen was born here.
Little Tuk looked, and all was red and green before his eyes; but
as soon as the confusion of colors was somewhat over, all of a sudden
there appeared a wooded slope close to the bay, and high up above
stood a magnificent old church, with two high pointed towers.
From out the hill-side spouted fountains in thick streams of water,
so that there was a continual splashing; and close beside them sat an
old king with a golden crown upon his white head: that was King
Hroar, near the fountains, close to the town of Roeskilde, as it is
now called. And up the slope into the old church went all the kings
and queens of Denmark, hand in hand, all with their golden crowns;
and the organ played and the fountains rustled. Little Tuk saw all,
heard all. "Do not forget the diet," said King Hroar. Again all
suddenly disappeared. Yes, and whither? It seemed to him just as if
one turned over a leaf in a book. And now stood there an old
peasant-woman, who came from Soröe, where grass grows in the
 Roeskilde, once the capital of Denmark. The town takes its
name from King Hroar, and the many fountains in the neighborhood. In
the beautiful cathedral the greater number of the kings and queens of
Denmark are interred. In Roeskilde, too, the members of the Danish
 Soröe, a very quiet little town, beautifully situated,
surrounded by woods and lakes. Holberg, Denmark's Molière, founded
here an academy for the sons of the nobles. The poets Hauch and
Ingemann were appointed professors here. The latter lives there
She had an old grey linen apron hanging over her head and back: it
was so wet, it certainly must have been raining "Yes, that it has,"
said she; and she now related many pretty things out of Holberg's
comedies, and about Waldemar and Absalon; but all at once she cowered
together, and her head began shaking backwards and forwards, and she
looked as she were going to make a spring. "Croak! croak!" said she:
"it is wet, it is wet; there is such a pleasant death-like stillness
in Soröe!" She was now suddenly a frog, "Croak;" and now she was an
old woman. "One must dress according to the weather," said she. "It
is wet, it is wet. My town is just like a bottle; and one gets in by
the neck, and by the neck one must get out again! In former times I
had the finest fish, and now I have fresh rosy-cheeked boys at the
bottom of the bottle, who learn wisdom, Hebrew, Greek,—Croak!" When
she spoke it sounded just like the noise of frogs, or as if one
walked with great boots over a moor; always the same tone, so uniform
and so tiring that little Tuk fell into a good sound sleep, which, by
the bye, could not do him any harm.
But even in this sleep there came a dream, or whatever else it
was: his little sister Augusta, she with the blue eyes and the fair
curling hair, was suddenly a tall, beautiful girl, and without having
wings was yet able to fly; and she now flew over Zealand—over the
green woods and the blue lakes.
"Do you hear the cock crow, Tukey? cock-a-doodle-doo! The cocks
are flying up from Kjöge! You will have a farm-yard, so large, oh! so
very large! You will suffer neither hunger nor thirst! You will get
on in the world! You will be a rich and happy man! Your house will
exalt itself like King Waldemar's tower, and will be richly decorated
with marble statues, like that at Prästöe. You understand what I
mean. Your name shall circulate with renown all round the earth, like
unto the ship that was to have sailed from Cörsör; and in
"Do not forget the diet!" said King Hroar.
"Then you will speak well and wisely, little Tukey; and when at
last you sink into your grave, you shall sleep as quietly"——
"As if I lay in Soröe," said Tuk, awaking. It was bright day, and
he was now quite unable to call to mind his dream; that, however, was
not at all necessary, for one may not know what the future will
And out of bed he jumped, and read in his book, and now all at
once he knew his whole lesson. And the old washerwoman popped her
head in at the door, nodded to him friendly, and said, "Thanks, many
thanks, my good child, for your help! May the good ever-loving God
fulfil your loveliest dream!"
Little Tukey did not at all know what he had dreamed, but the
loving God knew it.
THE NAUGHTY BOY.
A long time ago there lived an old poet, a thoroughly kind old
poet. As he was sitting one evening in his room, a dreadful storm
arose without, and the rain streamed down from heaven; but the old
poet sat warm and comfortable in his chimney-corner, where the fire
blazed and the roasting apple hissed.
"Those who have not a roof over their heads will be wetted to the
skin," said the good old poet.
"Oh let me in! let me in! I am cold, and I'm so wet!" exclaimed
suddenly a child that stood crying at the door and knocking for
admittance, while the rain poured down, and the wind made all the
"Poor thing!" said the old poet, as he went to open the door.
There stood a little boy, quite naked, and the water ran down from
his long golden hair; he trembled with cold, and had he not come into
a warm room he would most certainly have perished in the frightful
"Poor child!" said the old poet, as he took the boy by the hand.
"Come in, come in, and I will soon restore thee! Thou shalt have wine
and roasted apples, for thou art verily a charming child!" And the
boy was so really. His eyes were like two bright stars; and although
the water trickled down his hair, it waved in beautiful curls. He
looked exactly like a little angel, but he was so pale, and his whole
body trembled with cold. He had a nice little bow in his hand, but it
was quite spoiled by the rain, and the tints of his many-colored
arrows ran one into the other.
The old poet seated himself beside his hearth, and took the little
fellow on his lap; he squeezed the water out of his dripping hair,
warmed his hands between his own, and boiled for him some sweet wine.
Then the boy recovered, his cheeks again grew rosy, he jumped down
from the lap where he was sitting, and danced round the kind old
"You are a merry fellow," said the old man; "what's your
"My name is Cupid," answered the boy. "Don't you know me? There
lies my bow; it shoots well, I can assure you! Look, the weather is
now clearing up, and the moon is shining clear again through the
"Why, your bow is quite spoiled," said the old poet.
"That were sad indeed," said the boy, and he took the bow in his
hand and examined it on every side. "Oh, it is dry again, and is not
hurt at all; the string is quite tight. I will try it directly." And
he bent his bow, took aim, and shot an arrow at the old poet, right
into his heart. "You see now that my bow was not spoiled," said he,
laughing; and away he ran.
The naughty boy! to shoot the old poet in that way; he who had
taken him into his warm room, who had treated him so kindly, and who
had given him warm wine and the very best apples!
The poor poet lay on the earth and wept, for the arrow had really
flown into his heart.
"Fie!" said he, "how naughty a boy Cupid is! I will tell all
children about him, that they may take care and not play with him,
for he will only cause them sorrow and many a heart-ache."
And all good children to whom he related this story, took great
heed of this naughty Cupid; but he made fools of them still, for he
is astonishingly cunning. When the university students come from the
lectures, he runs beside them in a black coat, and with a book under
his arm. It is quite impossible for them to know him, and they walk
along with him arm in arm, as if he, too, were a student like
themselves; and then, unperceived, he thrusts an arrow to their
bosom. When the young maidens come from being examined by the
clergyman, or go to church to be confirmed, there he is again close
behind them. Yes, he is for ever following people. At the play he
sits in the great chandelier and burns in bright flames, so that
people think it is really a flame, but they soon discover it is
something else. He roves about in the garden of the palace and upon
the ramparts: yes, once he even shot your father and mother right in
the heart. Ask them only, and you will hear what they'll tell you.
Oh, he is a naughty boy, that Cupid; you must never have anything to
do with him. He is for ever running after everybody. Only think, he
shot an arrow once at your old grandmother! But that is a long time
ago, and it is all past now; however, a thing of that sort she never
forgets. Fie, naughty Cupid! But now you know him, and you know, too,
how ill-behaved he is!
THE TWO NEIGHBORING
We really might have thought something of importance was going on
in the duck-pond, but there was nothing going on. All the ducks that
were resting tranquilly on the water, or were standing in it on their
heads—for that they were able to do—swam suddenly to the shore: you
could see in the wet ground the traces of their feet, and hear their
quacking far and near. The water, which but just now was smooth and
bright as a mirror, was quite put into commotion. Before, one saw
every tree reflected in it, every bush that was near: the old
farm-house, with the holes in the roof and with the swallow's nest
under the eaves; but principally, however, the great rose-bush, sown,
as it were, with flowers. It covered the wall, and hung forwards over
the water, in which one beheld the whole as in a picture, except that
everything was upside down; but when the water was agitated, all swam
away and the picture was gone. Two duck's feathers, which the
fluttering ducks had lost, were rocking to and fro: suddenly they
flew forwards as if the wind were coming, but it did not come: they
were, therefore, obliged to remain where they were, and the water
grew quiet and smooth again, and again the roses reflected
themselves—they were so beautiful, but that they did not know, for
nobody had told them. The sun shone in between the tender leaves—all
breathed the most beautiful fragrance; and to them it was as with us,
when right joyfully we are filled with the thought of our
"How beautiful is existence!" said each rose. "There is but one
thing I should wish for,—to kiss the sun, because it is so bright and
warm.* The roses yonder, too, below in the water, the exact image of
ourselves—them also I should like to kiss, and the nice little birds
below in their nest. There are some above, too; they stretch out
their heads and chirrup quite loud: they have no feathers at all, as
their fathers and mothers have. They are good neighbors, those below
as well as those above. How beautiful existence is!"
The young birds above and below—those below of course the
reflection only in the water—were sparrows: their parents were
likewise sparrows; and they had taken possession of the empty
swallow's nest of the preceding year, and now dwelt therein as if it
had been their own property.
"Are those little duck children that are swimming there?" asked
the young sparrows, when they discovered the duck's feathers on the
* In Danish the sun is of the feminine gender, and not, as with
us, when personified, spoken of as "he." We beg to make this
observation, lest the roses' wish "to kiss the sun," be thought
unmaidenly. We are anxious, also, to remove a stumbling block, which
might perchance trip up exquisitely-refined modern notions, sadly
shocked, no doubt, as they would be, at such an apparent breach of
modesty and decorum.—(Note of the Translator.)
"If you will ask questions, do let them be a
little rational at least," said the mother. "Don't you see that they
are feathers, living stuff for clothing such as I wear, and such as
you will wear also? But ours is finer. I should, however, be glad if
we had it up here in our nest, for it keeps one warm. I am curious to
know at what the ducks were so frightened; at us, surely not; 'tis
true I said 'chirp,' to you rather loud. In reality, the thick-headed
roses ought to know, but they know nothing; they only gaze on
themselves and smell: for my part, I am heartily tired of these
"Listen to the charming little birds above," said the roses, "they
begin to want to sing too, but they cannot as yet. However, they will
do so by and by: what pleasure that must afford! It is so pleasant to
have such merry neighbors!"
Suddenly two horses came galloping along to be watered. A peasant
boy rode on one, and he had taken off all his clothes except his
large broad black hat. The youth whistled like a bird, and rode into
the pond where it was deepest; and as he passed by the rosebush he
gathered a rose and stuck it in his hat; and now he fancied himself
very fine, and rode on. The other roses looked after their sister,
and asked each other, "Whither is she going?" but that no one
"I should like to go out into the world," thought one; "yet here
at home amid our foliage it is also beautiful. By day the sun shines
so warm, and in the night the sky shines still more beautifully: we
can see that through all the little holes that are in it." By this
they meant the stars, but they did not know any better.
"We enliven the place," said the mamma sparrow; "and the swallow's
nest brings luck, so people say, and therefore people are pleased to
have us. But our neighbors! Such a rose-bush against the wall
produces damp; it will doubtless be cleared away, and then, perhaps,
some corn at least may grow there. The roses are good for nothing
except to look at and to smell, and, at most to put into one's hat.
Every year—that I know from my mother—they fall away; the peasants
wife collects them together and strews salt among them; they then
receive a French name which I neither can nor care to pronounce, and
are put upon the fire, when they are to give a pleasant odor. Look
ye, such is their life; they are only here to please the eye and
nose! And so now you know the whole matter."
As the evening came on, and the gnats played in the warm air and
in the red clouds, the nightingale came and sang to the roses; sang
that the beautiful is as the sunshine in this world, and that the
beautiful lives for ever. But the roses thought that the nightingale
sang his own praise, which one might very well have fancied; for that
the song related to them, of that they never thought: they rejoiced
in it, however, and meditated if perhaps all the little sparrows
could become nightingales too.
"I understood the song of that bird quite
well," said the young sparrows; "one word only was not quite
clear to me. What was the meaning of 'the beautiful?'"
"That is nothing," said the mamma sparrow, "that is only something
external. Yonder at the mansion, where the pigeons have a house of
their own, and where every day peas and corn is strewn before them—I
have myself eaten there with them, and you shall, too, in time; tell
me what company you keep, and I'll tell you who you are—yes, yonder
at the mansion they have got two birds with green necks and a comb on
their head; they can spread out their tail like a great wheel, and in
it plays every color, that it quite hurts one's eyes to look at it.
These birds are called peacocks, and that is 'THE BEAUTIFUL.' They
only want to be plucked a little, and then they would not look at all
different from the rest of us. I would already have plucked them, if
they had not been quite so big."
"I will pluck them," chirped the smallest sparrow, that as yet had
not a single feather.
In the peasant's cottage dwelt a young married couple; they loved
each other dearly, and were industrious and active: everything in
their house looked so neat and pretty. On Sunday morning early the
young woman came out, gathered a handful of the most beautiful roses,
and put them into a glass of water, which she placed on the
"Now I see that it is Sunday," said the man, and kissed his little
wife. They sat down, read in the hymn-book, and held each other by
the hand: the sun beamed on the fresh roses and on the young married
"This is really too tiring a sight," said the mamma sparrow, who
from her nest could look into the room, and away she flew.
The next Sunday it was the same, for every Sunday fresh roses were
put in the glass: yet the rose-tree bloomed on equally beautiful. The
young sparrows had now feathers, and wanted much to fly with their
mother; she, however, would not allow it, so they were forced to
remain. Off she flew; but, however, it happened, before she was
aware, she got entangled in a springe of horse-hair, which some boys
had set upon a bough. The horse-hair drew itself tightly round her
leg, so tightly as though it would cut it in two. That was an agony,
a fright! The boys ran to the spot and caught hold of the bird, and
that too in no very gentle manner.
"It's only a sparrow," said they; but they, nevertheless, did not
let her fly, but took her home with them, and every time she cried
they gave her a tap on the beak.
There stood in the farm-yard an old man, who knew how to make
shaving-soap and soap for washing, in square cakes as well as in
round balls. He was a merry, wandering old man. When he saw the
sparrow that the boys had caught, and which, as they said, they did
not care about at all, he asked, "Shall we make something very fine
of him?" Mamma sparrow felt an icy coldness creep over her. Out of
the box, in which were the most beautiful colors, the old man took a
quantity of gold leaf, and the boys were obliged to go and fetch the
white of an egg, with which the sparrow was painted all over; on this
the gold was stuck, and mamma sparrow was now entirely gilded; but
she did not think of adornment, for she trembled in every limb. And
the soap-dealer tore a bit off the lining of his old jacket, cut
scollops in it so that it might look like a cock's comb, and stuck it
on the head of the bird.
"Now, then, you shall see master gold-coat fly," said the old man,
and let the sparrow go, who, in deadly fright, flew off, illumined by
the beaming sun. How she shone! All the sparrows, even a crow,
although an old fellow, were much frightened at the sight; they,
however flew on after him, in order to learn what foreign bird it
Impelled by anguish and terror, he flew homewards: he was near
falling exhausted to the earth. The crowd of pursuing birds
increased; yes, some indeed even tried to peck at him.
"Look! there's a fellow! Look! there's a fellow!" screamed they
"Look! there's a fellow! Look! there's a fellow!" cried the young
sparrows, as the old one approached the nest. "That, for certain, is
a young peacock; all sorts of colors are playing in his feathers: it
quite hurts one's eyes to look at him, just as our mother told us.
Chirp! chirp! That is the beautiful!" And now they began pecking at
the bird with their little beaks, so that it was quite impossible for
the sparrow to get into the nest: she was so sadly used that she
could not even say "Chirrup," still less, "Why, I am your own
mother!" The other birds, too, now set upon the sparrow, and plucked
out feather after feather; so that at last she fell bleeding in the
"Oh! poor thing!" said all the roses, "be quieted; we will hide
you. Lean your little head on us."
The sparrow spread out her wings once more, then folded them close
to her body, and lay dead in the midst of the family who were her
neighbors,—the beautiful fresh roses.
"Chirp! chirp!" sounded from the nest. "Where can our mother be?
It is quite inconceivable! It cannot surely be a trick of hers by
which she means to tell us that we are now to provide for ourselves?
She has left us the house as an inheritance; but to which of us is it
exclusively to belong, when we ourselves have families'?"
"Yes, that will never do that you stay here with me when my
household is increased by the addition of a wife and children," said
"I shall have, I should think, more wives and children than you,"
said the second.
"But I am the eldest," said the third. They all now grew
passionate; they beat each other with their wings, pecked with their
beaks, when, plump! one after the other was tumbled out of the nest.
There they lay with their rage; they turned their heads on one side,
and winked their eyes as they looked upward: that was their way of
playing the simpleton. They could fly a little, and by practice they
learned to do so still better; and they finally were unanimous as to
a sign by which, when at some future time they should meet again in
the world, they might recognise each other. It was to consist in a
"Chirrup!" and in a thrice-repeated scratching on the ground with the
The young sparrow that had been left behind in the nest spread
himself out to his full size. He was now, you know, a householder;
but his grandeur did not last long: in the night red fire broke
through the windows, the flames seized on the roof, the dry thatch
blazed up high, the whole house was burnt, and the young sparrow with
it; but the young married couple escaped, fortunately, with life.
When the sun rose again, and every thing looked so refreshed and
invigorated, as after a peaceful sleep, there was nothing left of the
cottage except some charred black beams leaning against the chimney,
which now was its own master. A great deal of smoke still rose from
the ground, but without, quite uninjured, stood the rose-bush, fresh
and blooming, and mirrored every flower, every branch, in the clear
"Oh! how beautifully the roses are blooming in front of the
burnt-down house!" cried a passer-by. "It is impossible to fancy a
more lovely picture. I must have that!"
And the man took a little book with white leaves out of his
pocket: he was a painter, and with a pencil he drew the smoking
house, the charred beams, and the toppling chimney, which now hung
over more and more. But the large and blooming rose-tree, quite in
the foreground, afforded a magnificent sight; it was on its account
alone that the whole picture had been made.
Later in the day two of the sparrows who had been born here passed
by. "Where is the house?" asked they. "Where the nest? Chirp! chirp!
All is burnt down, and our strong brother,—that is what he has got
for keeping the nest. The roses have escaped well; there they are yet
standing with their red cheeks. They, forsooth, do not mourn at the
misfortune of their neighbors. I have no wish whatever to address
them; and, besides, it is very ugly here, that's my opinion." And off
and away they flew.
On a beautiful, bright, sunny autumn day—one might almost have
thought it was still the middle of summer—the pigeons were strutting
about the dry and nicely-swept court-yard in front of the great
steps—black and white and party-colored—and they shone in the
sunshine. The old mamma pigeon said to the young ones: "Form
yourselves in groups, form yourselves in groups, for that makes a
much better appearance."
"What little brown creatures are those running about amongst us?"
asked an old pigeon, whose eyes were green and yellow. "Poor little
brownies! poor little brownies!"
"They are sparrows: we have always had the reputation of being
kind and gentle; we will, therefore, allow them to pick up the grain
with us. They never mix in the conversation, and they scrape a leg so
"Yes, they scratched three times with their leg, and with the left
leg too, and said also "Chirrup!" It is by this they recognised each
other; for they were three sparrows out of the nest of the house that
had been burnt down.
"Very good eating here," said one of the sparrows. The pigeons
strutted round each other, drew themselves up, and had inwardly their
own views and opinions.
"Do you see the cropper pigeon?" said one of the others. "Do you
see how she swallows the peas? She takes too many, and the very best
into the bargain!"—"Coo! coo!"—"How she puts up her top-knot, the
ugly, mischievous creature!" "Coo! coo! coo!"
And every eye sparkled with malice. "Form yourselves in groups!
form yourselves in groups! Little brown creatures! Poor little
brownies! Coo! coo!" So it went on unceasingly, and so will they go
on chattering in a thousand years to come.
The sparrows ate right bravely. They listened attentively to what
was said, and even placed themselves in a row side by side, with the
others. It was not at all becoming to them, however. They were not
satisfied, and they therefore quitted the pigeons, and exchanged
opinions about them; nestled along under the garden palisades, and,
as they found the door of the room open that led upon the lawn, one
of them, who was filled to satiety, and was therefore over-bold,
hopped upon the threshold. "Chirrup!" said he, "I dare to
"Chirrup!" said another, "I dare, too, and more besides!" and he
hopped into the chamber. No one was present: the third saw this, and
flew still further into the room, calling out, "Either all or
nothing! However, 'tis a curious human nest that we have here; and
what have they put up there? What is that?"
Close in front of the sparrows bloomed the roses; they mirrored
themselves in the water, and the charred rafters leaned against the
over-hanging chimney. But what can that be? how comes this in the
room of the mansion? And all three sparrows were about to fly away
over the roses and the chimney, but they flew against a flat wall. It
was all a picture, a large, beautiful picture, which the painter had
executed after the little sketch.
"Chirrup!" said the sparrows, "it is nothing! It only looks like
something. Chirrup! That is beautiful! Can you comprehend it? I
cannot!" And away they flew, for people came into the room.
Days and months passed, the pigeons had often cooed, the sparrows
had suffered cold in winter, and in summer lived right jollily; they
were all betrothed and married, or whatever you choose to call it.
They had young ones, and each naturally considered his the handsomest
and the cleverest: one flew here, another there; and if they met they
recognised each other by the "Chirrup?" and by the thrice-repeated
scratching with the left leg. The eldest sparrow had remained an old
maid, who had no nest and no family; her favorite notion was to see a
large town, so away she flew to Copenhagen.
There one beheld a large house, painted with many bright colors,
quite close to the canal, in which lay many barges laden with earthen
pots and apples. The windows were broader below than above, and when
the sparrow pressed through, every room appeared like a tulip, with
the most varied colors and shades, but in the middle of the tulip
white men were standing: they were of marble, some, too, were of
plaister; but when viewed with a sparrow's eyes, they are the same.
Up above on the roof stood a metal chariot, with metal horses
harnessed to it; and the goddess of victory, also of metal, held the
reins. It was Thorwaldsen's Museum.
"How it shines! How it shines!'' said the old maiden sparrow.
That, doubtless, is 'the beautiful.' Chirrup! But here it is larger
than a peacock!" She remembered still what her mother, when she was a
child, had looked upon as the grandest among all beautiful things.
The sparrow fled down into the court: all was so magnificent. Palms
and foliage were painted on the walls. In the middle of the court
stood a large, blooming rose-tree; it spread out its fresh branches,
with its many roses, over a grave. Thither flew the old maiden
sparrow, for she saw there many of her sort. "Chirrup!" and three
scrapes with the left leg. Thus had she often saluted, from one
year's end to the other, and nobody had answered the greeting—for
those who are once separated do not meet again every day—till at last
the salutation had grown into a habit. But to-day, however, two old
sparrows and one young one answered with a "Chirrup!" and with a
thrice-repeated scrape of the left leg.
"Ah, good day, good day!" It was two old birds from the nest, and
a little one besides, of the family. "That we should meet here! It is
a very grand sort of place, but there is nothing to eat here: that is
'the beautiful!' Chirrup!"
And many persons advanced from the side apartments, where the
magnificent marble figures stood, and approached the grave that hid
the great master who had formed the marble figures. All stood with,
glorified countenances around Thorwaldsen's grave, and some picked up
the shed rose-leaves and carefully guarded them. They had come from
far—one from mighty England, others from Germany and France: the most
lovely lady gathered one of the roses and hid it in her bosom. Then
the sparrows thought that the roses governed here, and that the whole
house had been built on account of them. Now, this seemed to them, at
all events, too much; however, as it was for the roses that the
persons showed all their love, they would remain no longer.
"Chirrup!" said they, and swept the floor with their tails, and
winked with one eye at the roses. They had not looked at them long
before they convinced themselves that they were their old neighbors.
And they really were so. The painter who had drawn the rose-bush
beside the burned-down house, had afterwards obtained permission to
dig it up, and had given it to the architect—for more beautiful roses
had never been seen—and the architect had planted it on Thorwaldsen's
grave, where it bloomed as a symbol of the beautiful, and gave up its
red fragrant leaves to be carried to distant lands as a
"Have you got an appointment here in town?" asked the
And the roses nodded: they recognised their brown neighbors, and
rejoiced to see them again. "How delightful it is to live and to
bloom, to see old friends again, and every day to look on happy
faces! It is as if every day were a holy-day."
"Chirrup!" said the sparrows. "Yes, it is in truth our old
neighbors; their origin—from the pond—is still quite clear in our
memory! Chirrup! How they have risen in the world! Yes, Fortune
favors some while they sleep! Ah! there is a withered leaf that I see
quite plainly." And they pecked at it so long till the leaf fell off;
and the tree stood there greener and more fresh, the roses gave forth
their fragrance in the sunshine over Thorwaldsen's grave, with whose
immortal name, they were united.
There was once upon a time a darning needle, that imagined itself
so fine, that at last it fancied it was a sewing-needle.
"Now, pay attention, and hold me firmly!" said the darning-needle
to the fingers that were taking it out. "Do not let me fall! If I
fall on the ground, I shall certainly never be found again, so fine
"Pretty well as to that," answered the fingers; and so saying,
they took hold of it by the body.
"Look, I come with a train!" said the darning-needle, drawing a
long thread after it, but there was no knot to the thread.
The fingers directed the needle against an old pair of shoes
belonging to the cook. The upper-leather was torn, and it was now to
be sewed together.
"That is vulgar work," said the needle; "I can never get through
it. I shall break! I shall break!" And it really did break. "Did I
not say so?" said the needle; "I am too delicate."
"Now it's good for nothing," said the fingers, but they were
obliged to hold it still; the cook dropped sealing-wax upon it, and
pinned her neckerchief together with it.
"Well, now I am a breast-pin," said the darning-needle. "I was
sure I should be raised to honor: if one is something, one is sure to
get on!" and at the same time it laughed inwardly; for one can never
see when a darning-needle laughs. So there it sat now as proudly as
in a state-carriage, and looked around on every side.
"May I take the liberty to inquire if you are of gold?" asked the
needle of a pin that was its neighbor. "You have a splendid exterior,
and a head of your own, but it is small, however. You must do what
you can to grow, for it is not every one that is bedropped with
sealing-wax!" And then the darning-needle drew itself up so high that
it fell out of the kerchief, and tumbled right into the sink, which
the cook was at that moment rinsing out.
"Now we are going on our travels," said the needle. "If only I do
not get lost!" But it really did get lost.
"I am too delicate for this world!" said the needle, as it lay in
the sink, "but I know who I am, and that is always a consolation;"
and the darning-needle maintained its proud demeanor, and lost none
of its good-humor.
And all sorts of things swam over it—shavings, straws, and scraps
of old newspapers.
"Only look how they sail by," said the needle. "They do not know
what is hidden below them! I stick fast here: here I sit. Look! there
goes a shaving: it thinks of nothing in the world but of itself—but
of a shaving! There drifts a straw; and how it tacks about, how it
turns round! Think of something else besides yourself, or else
perhaps you'll run against a stone! There swims a bit of a newspaper.
What's written there is long ago forgotten, and yet out it spreads
itself, as if it were mighty important! I sit here patient and still:
I know who I am, and that I shall remain after all!"
One day there lay something close beside the needle. It glittered
so splendidly, that the needle thought it must be a diamond: but it
was only a bit of a broken bottle, and because it glittered the
darning-needle addressed it, and introduced itself to the other as a
"You are, no doubt, a diamond?"
"Yes, something of that sort." And so each thought the other
something very precious, and they talked together of the world, and
of how haughty it is.
"I was with a certain miss, in a little box," said the
darning-needle, "and this miss was cook; and on each hand she had
five fingers. In my whole life I have never seen anything so
conceited as these fingers! And yet they were only there to take me
out of the box and to put me back into it again!"
"Were they, then, of noble birth?" asked the broken bottle.
"Noble!" said the darning-needle; "no, but high-minded! There were
five brothers, all descendants of the 'Finger' family. They always
kept together, although they were of different lengths. The outermost
one, little Thumb, was short and stout; he went at the side, a little
in front of the ranks: he had, too, but one joint in his back, so
that he could only make one bow; but he said, if a man were to cut
him off, such a one were no longer fit for military service.
Sweet-tooth, the second finger, pryed into what was sweet, as well as
into what was sour, pointed to the sun and moon, and he it was that
gave stress when they wrote. Longman, the third brother, looked at
the others contemptuously over his shoulder. Goldrim, the fourth,
wore a golden girdle round his body! and the little Peter Playallday
did nothing at all, of which he was very proud. 'Twas boasting, and
boasting, and nothing but boasting, and so away I went."
"And now we sit here and glitter," said the broken glass
At the same moment more water came along the gutter; it streamed
over the sides and carried the bit of bottle away with it.
"Well, that's an advancement," said the darning-needle. "I remain
where I am: I am too fine; but that is just my pride, and as such is
to be respected." And there it sat so proudly, and had many grand
"I should almost think that I was born of a sunbeam, so fine am I!
It seems to me, too, as if the sunbeams were always seeking me
beneath the surface of the water. Ah! I am so fine, that my mother is
unable to find me! Had I my old eye that broke, I verily think I
could weep; but I would not—weep! no, it's not genteel to weep!"
One day two boys came rummaging about in the sink, where they
found old nails, farthings, and such sort of things. It was dirty
work; however, they took pleasure in it.
"Oh!" cried one who had pricked himself with the needle, "there's
a fellow for you."
"I am no fellow, I am a lady!" said the darning-needle; but no one
heard it. The sealing-wax had worn off, and it had become quite
black; but black makes one look more slender, and the needle fancied
it looked more delicate than ever.
"Here comes an egg-shell sailing along!" said the boys; and then
they stuck the needle upright in the egg-shell.
"The walls white and myself black," said the needle. "That is
becoming! People can see me now! If only I do not get seasick, for
then I shall snap."
But it was not sea-sick, and did not snap.
"It is good for sea-sickness to have a stomach of steel, and not
to forget that one is something more than a human being! Now my
sea-sickness is over. The finer one is, the more one can endure!"
"Crack!" said the egg-shell: a wheel went over it.
"Good heavens! how heavy that presses!" said the needle. "Now I
shall be sea-sick! I snap!" But it did not snap, although a wheel
went over it. It lay there at full length, and there it may lie
THE LITTLE MATCH
Most terribly cold it was; it snowed, and was nearly quite dark,
and evening—the last evening of the year. In this cold and darkness
there went along the street a poor little girl, bareheaded, and with
naked feet. When she left home she had slippers on, it is true; but
what was the good of that? They were very large slippers, which her
mother had hitherto worn; so large were they; and the poor little
thing lost them as she scuffled away across the street, because of
two carriages that rolled by dreadfully fast. One slipper was nowhere
to be found; the other had been laid hold of by an urchin, and off he
ran with it; he thought it would do capitally for a cradle when he
some day or other should have children himself. So the little maiden
walked on with her tiny naked feet, that were quite red and blue from
cold. She carried a quantity of matches in an old apron, and she held
a bundle of them in her hand. Nobody had bought anything of her the
whole livelong day; no one had given her a single farthing.
She crept along trembling with cold and hunger—a very picture of
sorrow, the poor little thing!
The flakes of snow covered her long fair hair, which fell in
beautiful curls around her neck; but of that, of course, she never
once now thought. From all the windows the candles were gleaming, and
it smelt so deliciously of roast goose, for you know it was new
year's eve; yes, of that she thought.
In a corner formed by two houses, of which one advanced more than
the other, she seated herself down and cowered together. Her little
feet she had drawn close up to her, but she grew colder and colder,
and to go home she did not venture, for she had not sold any matches
and could not bring a farthing of money: from her father she would
certainly get blows, and at home it was cold too, for above her she
had only the roof, through which the wind whistled, even though the
largest cracks were stopped up with straw and rags.
Her little hands were almost numbed with cold. Oh! a match might
afford her a world of comfort, if she only dared take a single one
out of the bundle, draw it against the wall, and warm her fingers by
it. She drew one out. "Rischt!" how it blazed, how it burnt! It was a
warm, bright flame, like a candle, as she held her hands over it: it
was a wonderful light. It seemed really to the little maiden as
though she were sitting before a large iron stove, with burnished
brass feet and a brass ornament at top. The fire burned with such
blessed influence; it warmed so delightfully. The little girl had
already stretched out her feet to warm them too; but—the small flame
went out, the stove vanished: she had only the remains of the burnt
out match in her hand.
She rubbed another against the wall: it burned brightly, and where
the light fell on the wall, there the wall became transparent like a
veil, so that she could see into the room. On the table was spread a
snow-white tablecloth; upon it was a splendid porcelain service, and
the roast goose was steaming famously with its stuffing of apple and
dried plums. And what was still more capital to behold was, the goose
hopped down from the dish, reeled about on the floor with knife and
fork in its breast, till it came up to the poor little girl; when—the
match went out and nothing but the thick, cold, damp wall was left
behind. She lighted another match. Now there she was sitting under
the most magnificent Christmas trees: it was still larger, and more
decorated than the one which she had seen through the glass door in
the rich merchant's house.
THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL.
Thousands of lights were burning on the green branches, and
gaily-colored pictures, such as she had seen in the shop-windows
looked down upon her. The little maiden stretched out her hands
towards them when—the match went out. The lights of the Christmas
tree rose higher and higher, she saw them now as stars in heaven; one
fell down and formed a long trail of fire.
"Some one is just dead!" said the little girl; for her old
grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now no
more, had told her, that when a star falls, a soul ascends to
She drew another match against the wall: it was again light, and
in the lustre there stood the old grandmother, so bright and radiant,
so mild, and with such an expression of love.
"Grandmother!" cried the little one; "oh, take me with you! You go
away when the match burns out; you vanish like the warm stove, like
the delicious roast goose, and like the magnificent Christmas tree!"
And she rubbed the whole bundle of matches quickly against the wall,
for she wanted to be quite sure of keeping her grandmother near her.
And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than
at noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been so beautiful and
so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm, and both flew in
brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was
neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety—they were with God.
But in the corner, at the cold hour of dawn, sat the poor girl,
with rosy cheeks and with a smiling mouth, leaning against the
wall—frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. Stiff and
stark sat the child there with her matches, of which one bundle had
been burnt. "She wanted to warm herself," people said: no one had the
slightest suspicion of what beautiful things she had seen; no one
even dreamed of the splendor in which, with her grandmother she had
entered on the joys of a new year.
THE RED SHOES.
There was once a little girl who was very pretty and delicate, but
in summer she was forced to run about with bare feet, she was so
poor, and in winter wear very large wooden shoes, which made her
little insteps quite red, and that looked so dangerous!
In the middle of the village lived old Dame Shoemaker; she sate
and sewed together, as well as she could, a little pair of shoes out
of old red strips of cloth; they were very clumsy, but it was a kind
thought. They were meant for the little girl. The little girl was
On the very day her mother was buried, Karen received the red
shoes, and wore them for the first time. They were certainly not
intended for mourning, but she had no others, and with stockingless
feet she followed the poor straw coffin in them.
Suddenly a large old carriage drove up and a large old lady sate
in it: she looked at the little girl, felt compassion for her, and
then said to the clergyman:
"Here, give me the little girl, I will adopt her!"
And Karen believed all this happened on account of the red shoes,
but the old lady thought they were horrible, and they were burnt. But
Karen herself was cleanly and nicely dressed; she must learn to read
and sew; and people said she was a nice little thing, but the
looking-glass said: "Thou art more than nice, thou art
Now the queen once traveled through the land, and she had her
little daughter with her. And this little daughter was a princess,
and people streamed to the castle, and Karen was there also, and the
little princess stood in her fine white dress, in a window, and let
herself be stared at; she had neither a train nor a golden crown, but
splendid red morocco shoes. They were certainly far handsomer than
those Dame Shoemaker had made for little Karen. Nothing in the world
can be compared with red shoes.
Now Karen was old enough to be confirmed; she had new clothes and
was to have new shoes also. The rich shoemaker in the city took the
measure of her little foot. This took place at his house, in his
room; where stood large glass-cases, filled with elegant shoes and
brilliant boots. All this looked charming, but the old lady could not
see well, and so had no pleasure in them. In the midst of the shoes
stood a pair of red ones, just like those the princess had worn. How
beautiful they were! The shoemaker said also they had been made for
the child of a count, but had not fitted.
"That must be patent leather!" said the old lady, "they shine
"Yes, they shine!" said Karen, and they fitted, and were bought,
but the old lady knew nothing about their being red, else she would
never have allowed Karen to have gone in red shoes to be confirmed.
Yet such was the case.
Everybody looked at her feet; and when she stepped through the
chancel door on the church pavement, it seemed to her as if the old
figures on the tombs, those portraits of old preachers and preachers'
wives, with stiff ruffs, and long black dresses, fixed their eyes on
her red shoes. And she thought only of them as the clergyman laid his
hand upon her head, and spoke of the holy baptism, of the covenant
with God, and how she should be now a matured Christian; and the
organ pealed so solemnly; the sweet children's voices sang, and the
old music-directors sang, but Karen only thought of her red
In the afternoon, the old lady heard from every one that the shoes
had been red, and she said that it was very wrong of Karen, that it
was not at all becoming, and that in future Karen should only go in
black shoes to church, even when she should be older.
The next Sunday there was the sacrament, and Karen looked at the
black shoes, looked at the red ones—looked at them again, and put on
the red shoes.
The sun shone gloriously; Karen and the old lady walked along the
path through the corn; it was rather dusty there.
At the church door stood an old soldier with a crutch, and with a
wonderfully long beard, which was more red than white, and he bowed
to the ground, and asked the old lady whether he might dust her
shoes. And Karen stretched out her little foot.
"See! what beautiful dancing-shoes!" said the soldier, "sit firm
when you dance;" and he put his hand out towards the soles.
And the old lady gave the old soldier an alms, and went into the
church with Karen.
And all the people in the church looked at Karen's red shoes, and
all the pictures, and as Karen knelt before the altar, and raised the
cup to her lips, she only thought of the red shoes, and they seemed
to swim in it; and she forgot to sing her psalm, and she forgot to
pray, "Our father in Heaven!"
Now all the people went out of church, and the old lady got into
her carriage. Karen raised her foot to get in after her, when the old
"Look, what beautiful dancing shoes!"
And Karen could not help dancing a step or two, and when she began
her feet continued to dance; it was just as though the shoes had
power over them. She danced round the church corner, she could not
leave off; the coachman was obliged to run after and catch hold of
her, and he lifted her in the carriage, but her feet continued to
dance so that she trod on the old lady dreadfully. At length she took
the shoes off, and then her legs had peace.
The shoes were placed in a closet at home, but Karen could not
avoid looking at them.
Now the old lady was sick, and it was said she could not recover?
She must be nursed and waited upon, and there was no one whose duty
it was so much as Karen's. But there was a great ball in the city, to
which Karen was invited. She looked, at the old lady, who could not
recover, she looked at the red shoes, and she thought there could be
no sin in it;—she put on the red shoes, she might do that also, she
thought. But then she went to the ball and began to dance.
When she wanted to dance to the right, the shoes would dance to
the left, and when she wanted to dance up the room, the shoes danced
back again, down the steps, into the street, and out of the city
gate. She danced, and was forced to dance straight out into the
Then it was suddenly light up among the trees, and she fancied it
must be the moon, for there was a face; but it was the old soldier
with the red beard; he sate there, nodded his head, and said, "Look,
what beautiful dancing shoes!"
Then she was terrified, and wanted to fling off the red shoes, but
they clung fast; and she pulled down her stockings, but the shoes
seemed to have grown to her feet. And she danced, and must dance,
over fields and meadows, in rain and sunshine, by night and day; but
at night it was the most fearful.
She danced over the churchyard, but the dead did not dance,—they
had something better to do than to dance. She wished to seat herself
on a poor man's grave, where the bitter tansy grew; but for her there
was neither peace nor rest; and when she danced towards the open
church door, she saw an angel standing there. He wore long, white
garments; he had wings which reached from his shoulders to the earth;
his countenance was severe and grave; and in his hand he held a
sword, broad and glittering.
"Dance shalt thou!" said he,—"dance in thy red shoes till thou art
pale and cold! Till thy skin shrivels up and thou art a skeleton!
Dance shalt thou from door to door, and where proud, vain children
dwell, thou shalt knock, that they may hear thee and tremble! Dance
"Mercy!" cried Karen. But she did not hear the angel's reply, for
the shoes carried her through the gate into the fields, across roads
and bridges, and she must keep ever dancing.
One morning she danced past a door which she well knew. Within
sounded a psalm; a coffin, decked with flowers, was borne forth. Then
she knew that the old lady was dead, and felt that she was abandoned
by all, and condemned by the angel of God.
She danced, and she was forced to dance through the gloomy night.
The shoes carried her over stack and stone; she was torn till she
bled; she danced over the heath till she came to a little house.
Here, she knew, dwelt the executioner; and she tapped with her
fingers at the window, and said, "Come out! come out! I cannot come
in, for I am forced to dance!"
And the executioner said, "Thou dost not know who I am, I fancy? I
strike bad people's heads off; and I hear that my axe rings!"
"Don't strike my head off!" said Karen, "then I can't repent of my
sins! But strike off my feet in the red shoes!"
And then she confessed her entire sin, and the executioner struck
off her feet with the red shoes, but the shoes danced away with the
little feet across the field into the deep wood.
And he carved out little wooden feet for her, and crutches, taught
her the psalm criminals always sing; and she kissed the hand which
had wielded the axe, and went over the heath.
"Now I have suffered enough for the red shoes!" said she; "now I
will go into the church that people may see me!" And she hastened
towards the church door: but when she was near it, the red shoes
danced before her, and she was terrified, and turned round. The whole
week she was unhappy, and wept many bitter tears; but when Sunday
returned, she said, "Well, now I have suffered and struggled enough!
I really believe I am as good as many a one who sits in the church,
and holds her head so high!"
And away she went boldly; but she had not got farther than the
churchyard gate before she saw the red shoes dancing before her; and
she was frightened, and turned back, and repented of her sin from her
And she went to the parsonage, and begged that they would take her
into service; she would be very industrious, she said, and would do
everything she could; she did not care about the wages, only she
wished to have a home, and be with good people. And the clergyman's
wife was sorry for her and took her into service; and she was
industrious and thoughtful. She sate still and listened when the
clergyman read the Bible in the evenings. All the children thought a
deal of her; but when they spoke of dress, and grandeur, and beauty,
she shook her head.
The following Sunday, when the family was going to church, they
asked her whether she would not go with them; but she glanced
sorrowfully, with tears in her eyes, at her crutches. The family went
to hear the word of God; but she went alone into her little chamber;
there was only room for a bed and chair to stand in it; and here she
sate down with her prayer-book; and whilst she read with a pious
mind, the wind bore the strains of the organ towards her, and she
raised her tearful countenance, and said, "O God, help me!"
And the sun shone so clearly! and straight before her stood the
angel of God in white garments, the same she had seen that night at
the church door; but he no longer carried the sharp sword, but in its
stead a splendid green spray, full of roses. And he touched the
ceiling with the spray, and the ceiling rose so high, and where he
had touched it there gleamed a golden star. And he touched the walls,
and they widened out, and she saw the organ which was playing; she
saw the old pictures of the preachers and the preachers' wives. The
congregation sat in cushioned seats, and sang out of their
prayer-books. For the church itself had come to the poor girl in her
narrow chamber, or else she had come into the church. She sate in the
pew with the clergyman's family, and when they had ended the psalm
and looked up, they nodded and said, "It is right that thou art
"It was through mercy!" she said.
And the organ pealed, and the children's voices in the choir
sounded so sweet and soft! The clear sunshine streamed so warmly
through the window into the pew where Karen sate! Her heart was so
full of sunshine, peace, and joy, that it broke. Her soul flew on the
sunshine to God, and there no one asked after the Red Shoes.
books, favouritebooks, classicbooks, our favouriteauthor, classicbooks, freedownload, booksauthor, favourite
free booksclassic booksfree classic booksdownload free booksdownload classic booksdownload free classic booksfree novels
freeclassicsbooksdownloadfree download classic booksdownload classicdownload novels