THE FIR TREE
OUT in the forest
stood a pretty little Fir Tree. It had a good place; it could have sunlight, air there was
in plenty, and all around grew many larger comrades--pines as well as firs. But the little
Fir Tree wished ardently to become greater. It did not care for the warm sun and the fresh
air; it took no notice of the peasant children, who went about talking together, when they
had come out to look for strawberries and raspberries. Often they came with a whole
pot-full, or had strung berries on a straw; then they would sit down by the little Fir
Tree and say, "How pretty and small that one is!" and the Fir Tree did not like
to hear that at all.
Next year he had grown a great
joint, and the following year he was longer still, for in fir trees One can always tell by
the number of rings they have how many years they have been growing.
"Oh, if I were only as great
a tree as the other!" sighed the little Fir, "then I would spread my branches
far around, and look out from my crown into the wide world. The birds would then build
nests in my boughs, and when the wind blew I could nod just as grandly as the others
It took no pleasure in the
sunshine, in the birds, and in the red clouds that went sailing over him morning and
When it was winter, and the snow
lay all around, white and sparkling, a hare would often come
"Oh! to grow, to grow, and
become old; that's the only fine thing in the world," thought the Tree.
In the autumn woodcutters always
came and felled a few of the largest trees; that was done this year too, and the little
Fir Tree, that was now quite well grown, shuddered with fear, for the great stately trees
fell to the ground with a crash, and their branches were cut off, so that the trees looked
quite naked, long, and slender--they could hardly be recognized. But then they were laid
upon wagons, and horses dragged them away out of the wood. Where were they going? What
destiny awaited them ?
In the spring, when the Swallows
and the Stork came, the Tree asked them, "Do you know where they were taken ? Did you
not meet. them ?"
The Swallows knew nothing about
it, but the Stork looked thoughtful, nodded his head, and said:
"Yes, I think so. I met many
new ships when I flew out of Egypt; on the ships were stately masts; I fancy these were
the trees. They smelt like fir. I can assure you they're stately--very stately."
"Oh that I were only big
enough to go over the sea! What kind of thing is this sea, and how does it look?"
"It would take too long to
explain all that," said the Stork, and he went away.
"Rejoice in thy youth,"
said the Sunbeams; "rejoice in thy fresh growth, and in the young life that is within
And the Wind kissed the Tree, and
the Dew wept tears upon it; but the Fir Tree did not understand that.
When Christmas-time approached,
quite young trees were felled, sometimes
"Where are they all
going?" asked the Fir Tree. "They are not greater than I--indeed, one of them
was much smaller. Why do they keep all their branches ? Whither are they taken ?"
"And then ?" asked the
Fir Tree, and trembled through all its branches. "And then? What happens then?"
"Why, we have not seen
anything more. But it was incomparable."
"Perhaps I may be destined to
tread this glorious path one day!" cried the Fir Tree, rejoicingly. "That is
even better than traveling across the sea. How painfully I long for it! If
"Rejoice in us," said Air and SunShine. "Rejoice in thy fresh youth here in the woodland."
But the Fir Tree did not rejoice
at all, but it grew and grew; winter and summer it stood there, green, dark green. The
people who saw it said, "That's a handsome tree!" and at Christmas time it was
felled before any one of the others. The axe cut deep into its marrow, and the tree fell
to the ground with a sigh; it felt a pain, a sensation of faintness, and could not think
at all of happiness, for it was sad at parting from its home, from the place where it had
grown up; it knew that it should never again see the dear old companions, the little
bushes and flowers all around--perhaps not even the birds. The parting was not at all
The Tree only came to itself when
it was unloaded in a yard, with other trees, and heard a man say:
"This one is famous; we only
want this one!"
Now two servants came in gay
liveries, and carried the Fir Tree into a large, beautiful parlor. All around the walls
hung pictures, and by the great stove stood large Chinese vases with
"This evening," said
all, "this evening it will shine." "Oh," thought the Tree, "that
it were evening already! Oh, that the lights may be soon lit up ! When may that be done ?
I wonder if trees will come out of the forest to look at me ? Will the sparrows fly
against the panes ? Shall I grow fast here, and stand adorned in summer and winter ?"
Yes, he did not guess badly. But
he had a complete backache from mere longing, and the backache is just as bad for a Tree
as the headache for a person.
At last the candles were lighted.
What a brilliance, what splendor! The Tree trembled so in all its branches that one of the
candles set fire to a green twig, and it was scorched.
"Heaven preserve us!"
cried the young ladies; and they hastily put the fire out.
Now the Tree might not even
tremble. Oh, that was terrible ! It was so afraid of setting fire to some of its
ornaments, and it was quite bewildered with all the brilliance. And now the folding doors
were thrown open, and a number of children rushed in as if they would have overturned the
whole Tree; the older people followed more deliberately. The little ones stood quite
silent, but only for a minute; then they shouted till the room rang: they danced gleefully
round the 'Tree, and one present after another was plucked from it.
"What are they about ?"
thought the Tree. "What's going to be done?" And the candles burned down to the
twigs, and as they burned down they were extinguished, and then the
The children danced about with
their pretty toys. No one looked at the Tree except one old man, who came up and peeped
among the branches, but only to see if a fig or an apple had
"A story! A story!"
shouted the children; and they drew a little fat man toward the tree; and he sat down just
beneath it--"for then we shall be in the .green wood," said he, "and the
tree may have the advantage of listening to my tale. But I can only tell one. Will you
hear the story of Ivede-Avede, or of Klumpey-Dumpey, who fell downstairs, and still was
raised up to honor and married the Princess?"
some, "Klumpey-Dumpey!" cried others, and there was a great crying and shouting.
Only the Fir Tree was quite silent, and thought, "ShalI I not be in it ? Shall I have
nothing to do in it?" But he had been in the evening's amusement, and had done what
was required of him.
And the fat man told about
Klumpey-Dumpey who fell downstairs, and yet was raised to honor and married the Princess.
And the children clapped their hands, and cried, "Tell another! tell another!"
for they wanted to hear about Ivede-Avede; but they only got the story of Klumpey-Dumpey.
The Fir Tree stood quite silent and thoughtful; never had the birds in the wood told such
a story as that. Klumpey-Dumpey fell downstairs and yet came to honor and married the
"Yes, so it happens in the
world!" thought the Fir Tree, and believed it must be true, because that was such a
nice man who told it. "Well, who can know? Perhaps I shall fall downstairs, too, and
marry a Princess!" And it looked forward with pleasure to being adorned again, the
"I will rejoice in all my
splendor. Tomorrow I shall here the story of Klumpey-Dumpey again, and perhaps that of
And the Tree stood all night quiet
In the morning the servants and
the chambermaid came in.
"Now my splendor will begin
afresh," thought the Tree. But they dragged him out of the room, and upstairs to the
garret, and here they put him in a dark corner where no day-light
"What's the meaning of
this?" thought the Tree. "What am I to do here? What is to happen?"
And he leaned against the wall,
and thought, and thought. And he had time enough, for days and nights went by, and no-body
came up; and when at length some one came, it was only to put some great boxes in a
corner. Now the Tree stood quite hidden away, and the supposition is that it was quite
"Now it's winter
outside," thought the Tree. "The earth is hard and covered with snow, and people
cannot plant me; therefore I suppose I'm to be sheltered here until spring comes.
"Piep! piep!" said a
little Mouse, and crept forward, and then came another little one. They smelt at the Fir
Tree, and then slipped among the branches.
"It's horribly cold,"
said the two little Mice, "or else it would be comfortable here. Don't you think so,
you old Fir Tree ?"
"I'm not old at all,"
said the Fir Tree. "There are many -much older than I."
"Where do you come
from?" asked the Mice. "And what do you know?" They were dreadfully
inquisitive. "Tell us about the most beautiful spot on earth. Have you been there ?
"I don't know that,"
replied the Tree; "but I know the wood, where the sun shines and the birds
And then it told all about its
And the little Mice had never
heard anything of the kind; and they listened and said:
"What a number of things you
have seen! How happy you must have been!" "I?" replied the Fir Tree; and it
thought about what it had told. "Yes, those were really quite happy times."
"Oh!" said the little
Mice, "how happy you have been, you old Fir Tree!"
"I'm not old at all," said the Tree. "I only came out of the wood this winter. I'm only rather backward' in my growth."
"What splendid stories you can tell!" said the little Mice.
And next night they came with four
other little Mice, to hear what the Tree had to relate; and
"Who's Klumpey-Dumpey ?"
asked the little Mice.
And then the Fir Tree told the whole story. It could remember every single word; and the little Mice were ready to leap to the very top of the tree with pleasure. Next night a great many more Mice came, and on Sunday two Rats even appeared; but these thought the story was not pretty, and the little Mice were sorry for that, for now they also did not like it so much as before.
"Do you only know one story
?" asked the Rats.
"Only that one," replied
the Tree. "I heard that on the happiest evening of my life; I did not think then how
happy I was."
"That's a very miserable
story. -Don't you know any about bacon and tallow candles--a store-room story?"
"Then we'd rather not hear
you," said the Rats.
And they went back to their own
people. The little Mice at last stayed away also; and then the Tree sighed and said:
"It was very nice when they
sat round me, the merry littie Mice, and listened when I spoke to them. Now that's past
too. But I shall remember to be pleased when they take me out."
But when did that happen ? Why, it
was one morning that people came and rummaged in the garret; the boxes were put away, and
the Tree brought out; they certainly threw him rather roughly on the floor, but a servant
dragged him away at once to the stairs, where the daylight shone.
"Now life is beginning
again!" thought the Tree.
It felt the fresh air and the
first sunbeams, and now it was out in the courtyard. Everything passed so quickly that the
Tree quite forgot to look' at itself, there was so much to look at all round. The
courtyard was close to a garden, and here every-thing was blooming; the roses hung fresh
and fragrant over the little paling, the linden trees were in blossom, and the swallows
cried, "Quinze-wit! quinze-wit! my husband's come!" But it was not the Fir Tree
that they meant.
"Now I shall live!" said
the Tree, rejoicingly, and spread its branches far out; but, alas! they were all withered
and yellow; and it lay in the corner among nettles and weeds. The tinsel star was still
upon it, and shone in the bright sunshine.
In the courtyard a couple of the
merry children were playing who had danced round the tree at Christmas time, and had
rejoiced over it.. One of the youngest ran up and tore off the golden star.
"Look what is sticking to the
ugly old fir tree!" said the child, and he trod upon the branches till they cracked
again under his boots.
And the Tree looked at all the
blooming flowers and the splendor of the garden, and then looked at itself, and wished it
had remained in the dark corner of the garret; it thought of its fresh youth in the wood,
of the merry Christmas Eve, and of the little Mice which had listened so pleasantly to the
story of Klumpey-Dumpey. *
"Past! past!" said the
old Tree. "Had I but rejoiced when I could have done so! Past! past!"
And the servant Came and chopped
the Tree into little pieces; a whole bundle lay there; it blazed brightly under the great
brewing kettle, and it sighed deeply, and each sigh was like a little shot; and the
children who were at play there ran up and seated themselves at the fire, looked into it,
and cried "Puff! puff!" But at each explosion, which was a deep sigh, the Tree
thought of a summer day in the woods, or of a winter night there, when the stars beamed;
he thought of Christmas Eve and of Klumpey-Dumpey, the only story he had ever heard or
knew how to tell; and then the Tree was burned.
The boys played in the garden, and
the youngest had on his breast a golden star, which the Tree had wornon its happiest
evening. Now that was past, and the Tree's life was past, and the story is past too: past!
past!--and that's the way with all stories.
Hans Christian Anderson
FROM THE BOOK:
<THE YOUNG FOLKS TREASURY>
THE UNIVERSITY SOCIETY INC.