Fairy tales and stories (Andersen, Tegner)/The Snow Queen

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WELL, now let us begin! When we have got to the end of the story, we shall know more than we do at present. It is all about a wicked troll, the worst of them all, the Devil. One day he was in a really good humor, for he had made a mirror which had this virtue, that everything good and beautiful which was reflected in it would shrink to almost nothing, but all that was worthless and hideous appeared only too distinctly, and was even magnified. The most beautiful landscapes looked like boiled spinach, and the best of people looked hideous, or were seen standing on their heads with no stomach to their bodies; the faces were so distorted that no one could recognize them, and, if one had a freckle, in the mirror it was sure to spread all over one's nose and mouth. "It is most amusing," said the Devil. If a good, pious thought passed through a person's mind it was reflected so hideously in the mirror that the chief of the trolls had to laugh at his crafty invention. All those who went to the troll-school — for he kept such a one — went about telling everybody that a miracle had happened; now at last one could see what the world and mankind really looked like. They ran about with the mirror till at last there was not a country or a human being that had not been reflected and distorted in it. And now they wanted to fly up to heaven with it and mock at the angels and the Lord. The higher they flew with the mirror the more distorted and ridiculous the reflections became, till they could scarcely hold it for laughter. Higher and higher they flew, nearer to God and the angels; then the mirror trembled so violently in its distortions that it slipped from their hands and fell down to the earth, where it broke into hundreds of millions and billions of pieces. But just on that account it caused greater misfortune than before, for some pieces were hardly as big as a grain of sand and these flew about all over the world, and when they got into people's eyes they stuck there and made everything appear to them topsy-turvy, or made them only see the wrong side of things, for every piece had retained the same power as the whole mirror. Some people even got a small piece into their hearts and this was the most terrible of all; these hearts became like lumps of ice. Some of the pieces were so large that they could be used for window- panes, but it was scarcely worth looking at one's friend's through these panes; other pieces were used for spectacles, and when people put on these spectacles to see aright and be just, then things went all wrong; the Evil One laughed till his sides ached — he felt so awfully tickled. But small pieces of glass were still flying about in the air. Now we shall hear!

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In the middle of the big town, where there are so many houses and people that there is not room enough for every one to have a little garden, and where most people must therefore be content with growing flowers in pots, there were, however, two poor children who had a garden somewhat bigger than a flower-pot. They were not brother and sister, but they were just as fond of one another as if they had been. Their parents lived close to each other; they lived in two garrets, where the roof of the one house adjoined that of the neighboring one, with the gutter running between them along the eaves. There were two little windows opposite each other in the roofs of the houses; you had only to step across the gutter to get to one window from the other.

Outside each window the parents had placed a large wooden box in which they grew vegetables for their own use, and a little rose-tree, one in each box, which thrived well. The parents had now placed the boxes right across the gutter, so that they almost reached from one window to the other and looked exactly like two flower beds. The creepers of the sweet-pea hung down over the sides of the boxes, and the rose-trees shot long branches which twined themselves around the windows while others clustered together; it was almost like a triumphal arch of flowers and leaves. As the boxes were very high and the children knew that they must not climb up there, they were often allowed to step outside and sit on their small footstools under the rose-trees, and there they could play splendidly.

In the winter-time these pleasant hours came to an end. The windows were often frozen all over, but then they heated copper pennies on the stove and placed the warm coin against the frozen pane, and thus got a splendid peephole, so round, so round; and then from behind would peep a bright gentle eye, one from each window, they were those of the little boy and the little girl. He was called Kay, and she, Gerda. In the summer-time they could get to each other with one jump; in the winter they had first to go down many stairs and then up many stairs, while the snow was falling outside.

"It's the white bees that are swarming!" said the old grandmother.

"Have they also a queen-bee?" asked the little boy, for he knew that there was such a thing among the real bees.

"That they have!" said the grandmother; "she is generally where the swarm is thickest. She is the largest of them all and never settles on the ground, but flies up to the black clouds again. Many a winter night does she fly through the streets of the town looking in through the windows, and the frost on the panes then becomes most wonderful, and looks like flowers."

"Yes, I have seen that!" said both the children, and then they knew it was true.

"Can the Snow Queen come in here?" asked the little girl.

"Let her only come," said the boy, "I'll put her on the warm stove and then she'll melt."

But the grandmother smoothed his hair and told him some other stories.

In the evening when little Kay was at home and half-undressed, he climbed up on the chairs by the window and looked out through the little hole; he could see the snowflakes falling outside, and one of them, the largest of all, settled on the edge of one of the flower-boxes. The snowflake grew larger and larger till at last it became a full-grown woman, dressed in the most delicate white gauze; it looked as if it was composed of millions of star-like flakes. She was very beautiful and graceful, but she was made of ice, dazzling, glittering ice; still, she was alive, her eyes sparkled like two bright stars, but there was no repose or rest in them. She nodded toward the windows and beckoned with her hand. The little boy was frightened and jumped down from the chair, and just then it seemed as if a large bird flew past outside the window.

Next day it was clear frosty weather, and then came the thaw, and at last the spring; the sun shone, the green shoots burst forth, the swallows built their nests, the windows were opened and the two little children were again sitting in their little garden high up in the gutter on the roof.

The roses blossomed most beautifully that summer; the little girl had learned a hymn, in which there was something about roses, and that made her think of her own roses, and so she sang it to the little boy, who also joined in, and together they sang:

"The roses grow in the valley,
Where the Christ-Child we shall see."

And the little ones held each other by the hand, kissed the roses, and looked up at God's bright sunshine, and spoke to it as if the Christ-Child were there. What beautiful summer days they were, what a blessing to be near the fresh rose-trees, which seemed never to cease blossoming.

Kay and Gerda sat looking in the picture book of animals and birds, when just at that moment the clock in the great church tower struck five. Kay exclaimed: "Oh dear! I feel as if something had stabbed my heart! And now I've got something into my eye!"

The little girl put her arms round his neck; he blinked his eye, but no — there was nothing to be seen.

"I think it is gone!" he said; but it was not gone. It was one of the glass pieces from the mirror, the troll-mirror, which you no doubt remember, the horrible mirror, in which everything great and good that was reflected in it became small and ugly, while everything bad and wicked became more distinct and prominent and every fault was at once noticed. Poor Kay had got one of the fragments right into his heart. It would soon become like a lump of ice. It did not cause him any pain, but it was there.

"Why do you cry?" he asked. "And you look so ugly! There is nothing the matter with me! Fie!" he cried suddenly, "that rose is worm-eaten! And look! why, it is quite crooked! They are ugly roses after all, just like the boxes they are in!" And then he kicked the box with his foot, and knocked off two roses.

"Kay, what are you doing?" cried the girl; and when he saw her fright he knocked off another rose and rushed through his window away from the good little Gerda.

When afterward she brought out the picture book he said it was only fit for babies, and if the grandmother began to tell stories he was always sure to put in an if, and if he saw his opportunity he would go behind her, put on a pair of spectacles, and talk like her; he could mimic her exactly, and make people laugh at him. He could soon talk and walk like all the people in the whole street. Everything that was peculiar and unattractive to them he was sure to imitate, and then people said: "That boy must have a clever head!" But it was the piece of glass he had got in his eye and the piece of glass that had stuck in his heart that caused all this; that was the reason he teased even little Gerda, who loved him with all her heart.

He no longer cared for the old games, he was now only interested in what he considered was more sensible, thus, one winter day, when the snow was falling, he brought a large magnifying glass and held out the tail of his blue coat and let the snowflakes fill upon it. "Just look through the glass, Gerda!" he said; and every snowflake was magnified and looked like a splendid flower or star with many points, and a most beautiful sight it was!

"Do you see how curious it is?" said Kay, "how much more interesting than real flowers? And there is not a single fault in them; they are quite perfect, if only they do not melt away!"

Shortly afterward Kay appeared with thick gloves on, and his sledge on his back, and shouted into Gerda's ears: "I have got leave to go sledging in the great square, where all the boys are playing"; and off he went.

Many of the boldest boys on the playground used to fasten their sledges to the peasants' carts, and in this way they got a good ride. It was a merry time! While the fun was at its height a large sledge came driving past; it was painted all white, and a person was sitting in it wrapped in a white fur coat and with a white fur cap. The sledge drove twice round the square and Kay managed to get his own little sledge fastened to it, and away he went with it. They went faster and faster right through the next street; the driver turned round and nodded in a friendly way to Kay, as if they were old acquaintances. Every time Kay wanted to set free his sledge, the driver nodded again to him, and so Kay remained on the sledge and soon they drove out of the gate of the town. The snow then began to fall so heavily that the little boy could hardly see a hand before him as they rushed onward; then suddenly he let go the rope, to get loose from the large sledge, but it was of no use, his little sledge stuck fast to the other and they sped on as quickly as the wind. He then cried out aloud, but nobody heard him; the snow fell fast and furious, and the sledge flew onward, while now and then it gave a jump, as if they were rushing over ditches and hurdles. He became quite frightened and wanted to say the Lord's Prayer, hut could only remember the multiplication table.

The snowflakes became larger and larger, till at last they looked like big white fowls; suddenly they ran aside and the great sledge stopped and the person who had been driving stood up ; the coat and the cap were entirely of snow. It was a lady, very tall and erect and dazzlingly white, it was the Snow Queen.

"We have got on quickly!" she said, "but you are shivering with cold! Creep in under my bearskin!" Then she put him beside her in the sledge and wrapped the skin round him, and he felt as if he were sinking into a snowdrift.

"Do you feel cold still?" she asked, as she kissed him on his forehead. Ugh! it was colder than ice, it went right through his heart, which was already half frozen; he felt as if he were going to die — but only for a moment, and then he was quite well again and did not feel the cold around him any more.

"My sledge! Don't forget my sledge!" This was the first thing he remembered; it was tied to one of the white fowls, which came rushing on behind them with the sledge on its back. The Snow Queen kissed Kay once more, and then little Gerda, and the grandmother, and all at home passed out of his mind altogether.

"I shall give you no more kisses," she said; "or I should kiss you to death!"

Kay looked at her; she was very beautiful; a more intelligent or lovely face he could not imagine; she did not now appear to him to be of ice as when she sat outside the window and beckoned to him. In his eyes she was perfect, and he did not feel the least afraid of her; he told her he knew mental arithmetic even in fractions, and how many square miles and inhabitants there were in all countries, to all of which she smiled. But he felt he did not know enough after all, and he looked up into the great space above, whereupon she flew with him high up on the black cloud, while the storm whistled and roared; it seemed as if it were singing old ballads. They flew over forests and lakes, across the ocean and many countries; below them the cold blast scoured the plains, the wolves howled and the snow sparkled, and over them flew the black, screeching crows, while the moon shone bright and clear, and by its light he beheld the long, dreary winter's night — by day he slept at the feet of the Snow Queen.



BUT how did little Gerda fare when Kay didn't return: Where could he be? Nobody knew; nobody could give any tidings of him. The boys could only tell that they had seen him tie his little sledge to another large and splendid sledge which drove down the street and out through the town gate. No one knew where he was; many tears flowed and little Gerda cried long and bitterly; then they said that he was dead, that he had been drowned in the river which flowed past close to the town; oh, they were indeed long, dark winter days.

Then came the spring with the warm sunshine

"Kay is dead and gone," said little Gerda.

"I don't believe it!" said the sunshine.

"He is dead and gone," she said to the swallows. "We don't believe it!" they answered, and at last little Gerda did not believe it either.

"I will put on my new red shoes," she said one morning, "those which Kav has not seen, and then I will go down to the river and ask it about him!"

It was quite early; she kissed her old grandmother, who was asleep, put on the red shoes, and went out quite alone through the town gate toward the river.

"Is it true that you have taken my little playmate? I will make you a present of my red shoes if you will give him back to me."

And she thought the waves nodded to her strangely. She then took her red shoes, the most precious she had, and threw them both out into the river, but they fell close to the bank and the little billows soon carried them ashore to her. It seemed as if the river would not take the dearest treasure she had because it could not give back little Kay to her; but then she thought she had not thrown the shoes out far enough, and so she climbed into a boat which was lying among the rushes, and went right to the farthest end of it and threw the shoes into the water. But the boat was not fastened, and its motion as she got into it sent it adrift from the bank. As soon as she noticed this she hastened to get out, but before she could jump ashore the boat was an arm's length from the bank and now it drifted still faster.

Little Gerda now became quite frightened and began to cry, but no one heard her except the sparrows, and they could not carry her ashore; but they flew along the banks of the river, singing as if to comfort her: "Here we are! Here we are!" The boat drifted with the current, while little Gerda sat quite still in her stockinged feet; her little red shoes were floating along behind, but they did not overtake the boat, which drifted more quickly ahead.

The banks on both sides of the river were pretty; there were beautiful flowers, old trees, and green slopes with sheep and cows, but not a human being was to be seen.

"Perhaps the river is carrying me to little Kay," thought Gerda; and then she became more cheerful and stood up in the boat, looking for many hours at the beautiful banks of the river, till she came to a large cherry orchard where there was a little house with strange red and blue windows and a thatched roof, and outside stood two wooden soldiers who presented arms to all who sailed past.

Gerda called out to them; she thought thev were living beings, but of course they did not answer. She was drawing near to them; the current was driving the boat right against the shore.

Gerda called out still louder, when an old — very old — woman came out of the house, leaning upon a crook; she wore a big sun-bonnet with a broad brim painted all over with the most lovely flowers.

"You poor little child!" said the old crone; "how did you get into the strong, rapid current, and drift so far out into the wide world?" And the old woman went right out into the water, hooked her crook fast into the boat, pulled it ashore and lifted little Gerda out of it.

Gerda was glad to get on land again, but was a little afraid of the strange old woman.

"Come, tell me who you are and how you came here!" she said.

And Gerda told her everything, the old woman shaking her head all the time and only muttering "Hem! Hem!" When Gerda had told her all and asked her if she had not seen little Kay, the woman said he had not passed by there, but he would, no doubt, be coming that way; she had better be of good cheer and taste her cherries and see her flowers — they were much prettier than any picture book. Each of them had a story to tell. She then took Gerda by the hand and went into the little house, locking the door after her.

The windows were high up near the ceiling and the panes were red, blue, and yellow; the daylight shone through them in such a strange way in all sorts of colors. On the table stood the most delicious cherries, and Gerda ate as many as she liked, for she was not afraid to touch them. And while she was eating, the old woman combed her hair with a golden comb, till the glossy hair hung in beautiful yellow curls round the pleasant little face, which was as round and as fresh as a rose.

"I have really been longing for such a pretty little girl as you!" said the old woman. "You will soon see how well we shall get on together, we two!" And as she went on combing little Gerda's hair, the more Gerda forgot her playmate, little Kay, for the old woman was learned in witchcraft, but she was not one of the wicked witches. She only practised witchcraft for her own amusement, and did so now because she wanted to keep little Gerda. She therefore went out into her garden and stretched out her crook toward all the rose-trees, and, beautifully though they blossomed, she caused them all to sink into the dark ground and no one could see where they had been standing. The old woman was afraid that if Gerda saw the roses she would think of her own and then remember little Kay and run away.

She now led Gerda out into the flower garden. Oh, how fragrant and lovely it was there! Every imaginable flower of every season was here in full bloom; no picture book could be more variegated and beautiful. Gerda ran joyously about and played till the sun went down behind the lofty cherry-trees. Then she was put to sleep in a splendid bed with new silk quilts stuffed with blue violets, and there she slept and dreamed as happily as any queen on her wedding-day.

Next day she again played with the flowers in the warm sunshine, and thus many days passed. Gerda knew every flower, but numerous as they were she seemed to feel there was one missing, but she did not know which it was. Then, one day, as she sat looking at the old woman's sunbonnet with the painted flowers, she noticed that the prettiest of them all was a rose. The old crone had forgotten to take it off her bonnet when she buried the rose-trees in the ground. But that is the way when you don't keep your wits about you!

"What! are there no roses here?" cried Gerda, as she ran among the flower beds, looking and searching, but there were none to be found.

She then sat down and cried, but her hot tears happened to fall just where a rose-tree had sunk into the ground, and when the warm tears moistened the soil the tree shot up suddenly in full bloom, just as when it had disappeared. Gerda embraced it, kissed the roses, and thought of the lovely roses at home, and then of little Kay.

"Oh, how I have been losing my time!" said the little girl. "Why, I was going to find Kay! Do you know where he is?" she asked the roses. "Do you think he is dead, and lost to us?"

"He is not dead," said the roses. "We have been under the ground, where all the dead are, but Kay was not there!"

"Thank you," said little Gerda, and she went to the other flowers and looked into their cups and asked: "Do you know where little Kay is?"

Hut all the flowers were standing in the sunshine, dreaming the fairy tale of their own lives. Gerda heard many — very many — of these stories, but none of the flowers knew anything about Kay.

And what did the orange-lily say?

"Do you hear the drum? Rat! Tat! There are only two sounds — always Rat! Tat! Listen to the women's funeral dirge! Listen to the priest's cry! The Hindoo woman is standing in her long red robe on the funeral pile, the flames are enveloping her and her husband's dead body; but the Hindoo woman is thinking of the living being in the circle around her, of him whose eyes burn hotter than the flames, and the fire which penetrates sooner to her heart than the flames which will soon burn her body to ashes. Can the flames of the heart die in the flames of the funeral pile?"

"I cannot understand it all!" said little Gerda.

"That is the story of my life," said the orange-lily.

What does the convolvulus say?

"Over the narrow mountain path looms an old castle; the ivy is climbing, leaf by leaf, up along the old red walls and around the balcony, on which stands a beautiful girl; she bends over the balustrade and looks down the road. No rose is fresher than she; no apple-blossom carried away from the tree by the wind could float more gracefully than she. How her magnificent silk robe rustles! She murmurs: "Will he not come?"

"Is it Kay you mean?" asked little Gerda.

"I am only thinking about the fairy tale of my life, my dream," answered the convolvulus.

What does the little snowdrop say?

"Between the trees hangs a long board suspended between ropes; it is a swing, and two lovely little girls, in frocks white as snow, and with long green-silk ribbons fluttering from their hats, are sitting in it, swinging to and fro. Their brother, who is bigger than they, stands on the swing with one arm round the rope to steady himself, for in one hand he has a little bowl and in the other a clay pipe; he is blowing soap-bubbles. The swing goes backward and forward and the bubbles fly about, constantly changing their color. The last bubble is still hanging at the end of the pipe, swaying to and fro in the wind. A little black dog, as light as the bubbles, sits up on his hind legs and wants to get on the swing; but it never stops, and the dog fills, barks, and becomes angry; they tease him, the bubbles burst — a swinging board, the picture of a bursting bubble is my song."

"It may be very pretty, all that you tell me, but you speak in such a sad voice, and do not mention Kay at all! What do the hyacinths say?"

"There were three beautiful sisters, fair and delicate; one was dressed in red, the other in blue, and the third in white; hand in hand they danced near the silent lake in the bright moonshine. They were not elfin-maidens, they were the daughters of mankind. There was a sweet fragrance in the air as the maidens disappeared, into the wood; the fragrance became stronger — three coffins, in which lay the beautiful maidens, glided away from the thicket across the lake; shining glow-worms flew about like little floating lights. Were the dancing maidens asleep or were they dead? The fragrance of the flowers tells us they are corpses; the evening bell is tolling for the dead!"

"You make me quite sad," said little Gerda. "Your perfume is so strong, I cannot help thinking of the dead maidens! Alas! is little Kay really dead after all? The roses have been under the ground, and they say no!"

"Ding, dong!" rang the bells of the hyacinths. "We are not tolling for little Kay; we do not know him. We are only singing our own song, the only one we know!"

And Gerda went to the buttercup which shone forth among the bright- green leaves.

"You are a bright little sun," said Gerda. "Tell me, if you know, where I can find my playmate." And the buttercup shone so brightly and looked up at Gerda. What song would the buttercup sing? It was not to be about Kay either.

"The sun was was shining so warmly, on the first day of spring, into a little courtyard; the rays glided down along the neighbors' white wall, and close by grew the first yellow flowers, sparkling like gold in the warm sunlight. The old grandmother sat outside in her chair, her granddaughter, the poor, good-looking servant-girl, came home from a short visit; she kissed her grandmother. There was gold, the gold of the heart, in that blessed kiss, gold on the lips, gold on the ground, gold high above in the early morning hour! There, that is my little story!" said the buttercup.

"My poor old grandmother!" sighed Gerda. "She must be longing for me, and be anxious about me, just as she was about little Kay. But I shall soon be home again, and then I'll bring Kay with me. It is no use asking the flowers; they only know their own song, they cannot give me any tidings!" And so she fastened up her little frock, so that she might run the faster; but the narcissus caught her by the leg as she sprang over it. She stopped, looked at the long flower and said:

"Perhaps you know something?" And she bent down close to it. What did she say?

"I can see myself! I can see myself!" said the narcissus. " Oh, what a perfume! Up in the little garret stands a little dancer, half dressed; sometimes she stands on one leg, and sometimes on two — she kicks at the whole world; she is only a phantom. She pours water out of the teapot onto a piece of cloth which she holds in her hand; it is her corset. Cleanliness is a virtue! Her white dress hangs on a peg, and that has also been washed in the teapot and dried on the roof! She puts it on and ties a saffron-colored handkerchief round her neck, so that her dress should look all the whiter. How high she kicks! Look how well she poises on one stem! I can see myself! I can see myself!"

"I don't care for that at all!" said Gerda; "it isn't worth telling me!" And then she ran toward the far end of the garden.

The gate was shut, but she fumbled with the rusty latch till it gave way and the gate flew open, and then little Gerda ran out, barefooted, into the wide world. She looked back three times, but no one was pursuing her; at last she could run no longer and sat down on a large stone, and when she looked round she discovered that the summer was over, and that it was late in the autumn; one could not see that in the beautiful garden where there was always sunshine, and flowers of every season of the year were always in full bloom.

"Gracious goodness! how I have been delayed!" said little Gerda; "the autumn has set in, so I dare not rest!" And she rose to proceed on her journey.

Oh! how sore and tired her little feet were; everything looked so

bleak and damp round about; the long willow leaves were quite yellow, and the dew dripped like water from them. Leaf after leaf fell; the blackthorn alone bore fruit, but it was so sour and bitter that it set one's teeth on edge. Oh, how gray and gloomy the wide world looked!
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GERDA was obliged to sit down and rest again, when a large crow came hopping across the snow just opposite to where she was sitting. The crow looked at her for some time, turning his head from one side to the other, and at last he said: "Caw! Caw! Goo' day! Goo' day!" He could not pronounce the words any better, but he was kindly disposed toward the little girl and asked her where she was going all alone out into the wide world. Gerda understood the word "alone" very well and felt how much it meant, and so she told the crow the story of her life and asked him if he had not seen Kay.

The crow nodded quite thoughtfully and said: "Perhaps I have! Perhaps I have!"

"What? You don't say so!" cried the little girl, and she almost hugged the crow to death, so violently did she embrace him.

"Gently, gently!" said the crow. "I dare say it may be little Kay! But he has no doubt forgotten you by this time for the princess!"

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