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LOOK You, now we're going to begin. When we are at the end of the story we shall know more than we do now,for he was a bad goblin. He was one of the very worst, for he was the devil himself. One day he was in very high spirits, for he had made a mirror which had this peculiarity, that everything good and beautiful that was reflected in it shrank together into almost nothing, but that whatever was worthless and looked ugly became prominent and looked worse than ever. The most lovely landscapes seen in this mirror looked like boiled spinach, and the best people became hideous, or stood on their heads and had no stomachs; their faces were so distorted as to be unrecognizable,and a single freckle was shown spread out over nose and mouth.

That was very amusing, the devil said. When a good pious thought passed through any person's mind, there came a grin in the mirror, so that the devil chuckled at his artistic invention. Those who went to the goblin school----for he kept a goblin school----declared everywhere that a wonder had been wrought. For now, they asserted, one could see, for the first time, how the world and the people in it really looked. They ran about with the mirror, and at last there was not a single country or person that had not been distorted in it. Now they wanted to fly up to heaven,to sneer and scoff at the angels themselves. The higher they flew with the mirror, the more it grinned; they could scarcely hold it fast. They flew higher and higher, and then the mirror trembled so terribly amid its grinning that it fell down out of their hands to the earth, where it was shattered into a hundred million million and more fragments. And now this mirror occasioned much more unhappiness than before; for some of the fragments were scarcely so large as a barleycorn, and these flew about in the world, and whenever they flew into any one's eye they stuck there,and those people saw everything wrongly, or had only eyes for the bad side of a thing, for every little fragment of the mirror had retained the same power which the whole glass possessed. A few persons even got a fragment of the mirror into their hearts, and that was terrible indeed, for such a heart became a block of ice. A few fragments of the mirror were so large that they were used as windowpanes, but it was a bad thing to look at one's friends through these panes; other pieces were made into spectacles, and then it went badly when people put on these spectacles to see rightly and to be just; and the demon laughed till his paunch shook, for it tickled him so. But without, some little fragments of glass still floated about in the air----and now we shall hear.






IN the great town, where there are many houses and so many people that there is not room enough for every one to have a little garden, and where consequently most persons are compelled to be content with some flowers in flower-pots, were two poor children who possessed a garden somewhat larger than a flower-pot. They were not brother and sister, but they loved each other quite as much as if they had been. Their parents lived just opposite each other in two garrets, there where the roof of one neighbour's house joined that of another; and where the water-pipe ran between the two houses was a little window; one had only to step across the pipe to get from one window to the other.

The parents of each child had a great box, in which grew kitchen herbs that they used, and a little rose bush;there was one in each box, and they grew famously. Now, it occurred to the parents to place the boxes across the pipe, so that they reached from one window to another, and looked quite like two embankments of flowers. Pea plants hung down over the boxes, and the rose bushes shot forth long twigs, which clustered round the windows and bent down towards each other: it was almost like a triumphal arch of flowers and leaves. As the boxes were very high, and the children knew that they might not creep upon them, they often obtained permission to step out upon the roof behind the boxes, and to sit upon their little stools under the roses, and there they could play capitally.

In the winter there was an end of this amusement.The windows were sometimes quite frozen all over. But then they warmed copper farthings on the stove, and held the warm coins against the frozen pane; and this made a capital peep-hole, so round, so round! and behind it gleamed a pretty, mild eye at each window; and these eyes belonged to the little boy and the little girl. His name was Kay and the little girl's was Gerda.

In the summer they could get to one another at one bound; but in the winter they had to go down and up the long staircase, while the snow was pelting without.

“Those are the white bees swarming,”said the old grandmother.

“Have they a Queen-bee?”asked the little boy. For he knew that there is one among the real bees.

“Yes, they have one,”replied grandmamma. “She always flies where they swarm thickest. She is the largest of them all, and never remains quiet upon the earth; she flies up again into the black cloud. Many a midnight she is flying through the streets of the town, and looks in at the windows, and then they freeze in such a strange way, and look like flowers.”

“Yes, I've seen that!”cried both the children; and now they knew that it was true.

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

“Only let her come,”cried the boy;“I'll set her upon the warm stove, and then she'll melt.”

But grandmother smoothed his hair, and told some other tales.

In the evening, when little Kay was at home and half undressed, he clambered upon the chair by the window, and looked through the little hole. A few flakes of snow were falling outside, and one of them, the largest of them all, remained lying on the edge of one of the flower-boxes. The snowflake grew larger and larger, and at last became a maiden clothed in the finest white gauze, made out of millions of starry flakes. She was beautiful and delicate, but of ice----of shining, glittering ice. Yet she was alive; her eyes flashed like two clear stars, but there was no peace or rest in them. She nodded towards the window, and beckoned with her hand. The little boy was frightened, and sprang down from the chair; then it seemed as if a great bird flew by outside, in front of the window.

Next day there was a clear frost, then there was a thaw, and then the spring came; the sun shone, the green sprouted forth, the swallows built nests, the windows were opened, and the little children again sat in their garden high up in the roof, over all the floors.

How splendidly the roses bloomed this summer! The little girl had learned a psalm, in which mention was made of roses; and, in speaking of roses, she thought of her own; and she sang it to the little boy, and he sang, too----

The roses in the ualleys grow

Where we the infant Christ shall know.

And the little ones held each other by the hand, kissed the roses, looked at God's bright sunshine, and spoke to it, as if the Christ-child were there. What splendid summer days those were! How beautiful it was without, among the fresh rose bushes, which seemed as if they would never leave off blooming!

Kay and Gerda sat and looked at the picture-book of beasts and birds. Then it was, while the clock was just striking five on the church tower, that Kay said,

“Oh! something struck my heart and pricked me in the eye.”

The little girl fell upon his neck; he blinked his eyes. No, there was nothing at all to be seen.

“I think it is gone,”said he; but it was not gone.It was just one of those glass fragments which sprang from the mirror----the magic mirror that we remember well, the ugly glass that made everything great and good which was mirrored in it to seem small and mean, but in which the mean and the wicked things were brought out in relief, and every fault was noticeable at once.Poor little Kay had also received a splinter just in his heart, and that will now soon become like a lump of ice. It did not hurt him now, but the splinter was still there.

“Why do you cry? he asked.“You look ugly like that.There's nothing the matter with me. Oh, fie!”he suddenly exclaimed, “that rose is worm-eaten,and this one is quite crooked. After all, they're ugly roses. They're like the box in which they stand.”

And then he kicked the box with his foot, and tore both the roses off.

“Kay, what are you about?”cried the little girl.

And when he noticed her fright he tore off another rose, and then sprang in at his own window, away from pretty little Gerda.

When she afterwards came with her picture-book,he said it was only fit for babies in arms; and when grandmother told stories he always came in with a but; and when he could manage it, he would get behind her, put on a pair of spectacles, and talk just as she did; he could do that very cleverly, and the people laughed at him. Soon he could mimic the speech and the gait of everybody in the street. Everything that was peculiar or ugly about them Kay could imitate; and people said, “That boy must certainly have a remarkable head.” But it was the glass he had got in his eye, the glass that stuck deep in his heart; so it happened that he even teased little Gerda, who loved him with all her heart.

His games now became quite different from what they were before; they became quite sensible. One winter's day when it snowed he came out with a great burning-glass, held up the blue tail of his coat, and let the snowflakes fall upon it.

“Now look at the glass, Gerda,”said he.

And every flake of snow was magnified, and looked like a splendid flower, or a star with ten points: it was beautiful to behold.

“See how clever that is,”said Kay.“That's much more interesting than real flowers; and there is not a single fault in it----they're quite regular until they begin to melt.”

Soon after Kay came in thick gloves, and with his sledge upon his back. He called up to Gerda,“I've got leave to go into the great square, where the other boys play,”and he was gone.

In the great square the boldest among the boys often tied their sledges to the country people's carts, and thus rode with them a good way. They went capitally. When they were in the midst of their playing there came a great sledge. It was painted quite white, and in it sat somebody wrapped in a rough white fur, and with a white rough cap on his head. The sledge drove twice round the square,and Kay bound his little sledge to it, and so he drove on with it. It went faster and faster, straight into the next street. The man who drove turned round and nodded in a friendly way to Kay; it was as if they knew one another: each time when Kay wanted to cast loose his little sledge,the stranger nodded again, and then Kay remained where he was, and thus they drove out at the town gate. Then the snow began to fall so rapidly that the boy could not see a hand's breadth before him, but still he drove on.Now he hastily dropped the cord, so as to get loose from the great sledge, but that was no use, for his sledge was fast bound to the other, and they went on like the wind.Then he called out quite loudly, but nobody heard him;and the snow beat down, and the sledge flew onward; every now and then it gave a jump, and they seemed to be flying over hedges and ditches. The boy was quite frightened. He wanted to say his prayers, but could remember nothing but the multiplication table.

The snowflakes became larger and larger, at last they looked like great white fowls. All at once they sprang aside and the great sledge stopped, and the person who had driven it rose up. The fur and the cap were made altogether of ice. It was a lady, tall and slender, and brilliantly white: it was the Snow Queen.

“We have driven well!”said she.“But why do you tremble with cold? Creep into my fur.”

And she seated him beside her in her own sledge,and wrapped the fur round him, and he felt as if he sank into a snow-drift.

“Are you still cold?”asked she, and then she kissed him on the forehead.

Oh, that was colder than ice; it went quite through to his heart, half of which was already a lump of ice: he felt as if he were going to die; but only for a moment; for then he seemed quite well, and he did not notice the cold all about him.

“My sledge! don't forget my sledge.”

That was the first thing he thought of; and it was bound fast to one of the white chickens, and this chicken flew behind him with the sledge upon its back. The Snow Queen kissed Kay again, and then he had forgotten little Gerda, his grandmother, and all at home.

“Now you shall have no more kisses,”said she,“for if you did I should kiss you to death.”

Kay looked at her. She was so beautiful, he could not imagine a more sensible or lovely face; she did not appear to him to be made of ice now as before, when she sat at the window and beckoned to him. In his eyes she was perfact; he did not feel at all afraid. He told her that he could do mental arithmetic as far as fractions, that he knew the number of square miles, and the number of inhabitants in the country. And she always smiled, and then it seemed to him that what he knew was not enough, and he looked up into the wide sky, and she flew with him high up upon the black cloud, and the storm blew and whistled; it seemed as though the wind sang old songs. They flew over woods and lakes, over sea and land: below them roared the cold wind, the wolves howled, the snow crackled; over them flew the black screaming crows; but above all the moon shone bright and clear, and Kay looked at the long, long winter night; by day he slept at the feet of the Queen.







BUT how did it fare with little Gerda when Kay did not return? What could have become of him? No one knew, no one could give information. The boys only told that they had seen him bind his sledge to another very large one, which had driven along the street and out at the town gate. Nobody knew what had become of him; many tears were shed, and little Gerda especially wept long and bitterly: then they said he was dead----he had been drowned in the river which flowed close by their town. Oh, those were very dark long winter days!

But now spring came, with warmer sunshine.

“Kay is dead and gone,”said little Gerda.

“I don't believe it,”said the Sunshine.

“He is dead and gone,”said she to the Swallows.

“We don't believe it,”they replied; and at last little Gerda did not believe it herself.

“I will put on my new red shoes,”she said one morning,“those that Kay has never seen; and then I will go down to the river, and ask for him.”

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

“Is it true that you have taken away my little playmate from me? I will give you my red shoes if you will give him back to me!”

And it seemed to her as if the waves nodded quite strangely; and then she took her red shoes, that she liked best of anything she possessed, and threw them both into the river; but they fell close to the shore, and the little wavelets carried them back to her, to the land. It seemed as if the river would not take from her the dearest things she possessed because it had not her little Kay; but she thought she had not thrown the shoes far enough out; so she crept into a boat that lay among the reeds; she went to the other end of the boat, and threw the shoes from thence into the water; but the boat was not bound fast, and at the movement she made it glided away from the shore. She noticed it, and hurried to get back, but before she reached the other end the boat was a yard from the bank, and it drifted away faster than before.

Then little Gerda was very much frightened, and be gan to cry; but no one heard her except the Sparrows, and they could not carry her to land; but they flew along by the shore, and sang, as if to console her,“Here we are! here we are!”The boat drove on with the stream, and little Gerda sat quite still, with only her stockings on her feet;her little red shoes floated along behind her, but they could not come up to the boat, for that made more way.

It was very pretty on both shores. There were beautiful flowers, old trees, and slopes with sheep and cows; but not one person was to be seen.

“Perhaps the river will carry me to little Kay,”thought Gerda.

And then she became more cheerful, and rose up,and for many hours she watched the charming green banks; then she came to a great cherry orchard, in which stood a little house with remarkable blue and red windows; it had a thatched roof, and without stood two wooden soldiers, who presented arms to those who sailed past.

Gerda called to them, for she thought they were alive, but of course they did not answer. She came quite close to them; the river carried the boat towards the shore.

Gerda called still louder, and then there came out of the house an old, old woman leaning on a crutch: she had on a great sun-hat, painted over with the finest flowers.

“You poor little child!”said the old woman, “how did you manage to come on the great rolling river, and to float thus far out into the world?”

And then the old woman went quite into the water, seized the boat with her crutch-stick, drew it to land, and lifted little Gerda out. And Gerda was glad to be on dry land again, though she felt a little afraid of the strange old woman.

“Come and tell me who you are, and how you came here,”said the old lady. And Gerda told her everything; and the old woman shook her head, and said,“Hem! hem!”And when Gerda had told everything, and asked if she had not seen little Kay, the woman said that he had not yet come by, but that he probably would soon come.Gerda was not to be sorrowful, but to look at the flowers and taste the cherries, for they were better than any picture-book, for each one of them could tell a story. Then she took Gerda by the hand and led her into the little house, and the old woman locked the door.

The windows were very high, and the panes were red, blue, and yellow; the daylight shone in a remarkable way, with different colours. On the table stood the finest cherries, and Gerda ate as many of them as she liked, for she had leave to do so. While she was eating them, the old lady combed her hair with a golden comb, and the hair hung in ringlets of pretty yellow round the friendly little face, which looked as blooming as a rose.

“I have long wished for such a dear little girl as you,”said the old lady.“Now you shall see how well we shall live with one another.”

And as the ancient dame combed her hair, Gerda forgot her adopted brother Kay more and more; for this old woman could conjure, but she was not a wicked witch. She only practised a little magic for her own amusement, and wanted to keep little Gerda. Therefore she went into the garden, stretched out her crutch towards all the rosebushes, and, beautiful as they were, they all sank into the earth, and one could not tell where they had stood. The old woman was afraid that if the little girl saw roses, she would think of her own, and remember little Kay, and run away.

Now Gerda was led out into the flower-garden. What fragrance was there, and what loveliness! Every conceivable flower was there in full bloom; there were some for every season: no picture-book could be gayer and prettier.Gerda jumped high for joy, and played till the sun went down behind the high cherry-trees; then she was put into a lovely bed with red silk pillows stuffed with blue violets,and she slept there, and dreamed as gloriously as a Queen on her wedding-day.

One day she played again with the flowers in the warm sunshine; and thus many days went by. Gerda knew every flower; but, as many as there were of them, it still seemed to her as if one were wanting, but which one she did not know. One day she sat looking at the old lady's hat with the painted flowers, and the prettiest of them all was a rose. The old lady had forgotten to take it out of her hat when she caused the others to disappear. But so it always is when one does not keep one's wits about one.

“What, are there no roses here?”cried Gerda.

And she went among the beds, and searched and searched, but there was not one to be found. Then she sat down and wept: her tears fell just upon a spot where a rose-bush lay buried, and when the warm tears moistened the earth, the bush at once sprouted up as blooming as when it had sunk; and Gerda embraced it, and kissed the Roses, and thought of the beautiful roses at home, and also of little Kay.

“Oh, how I have been detained!”said the little girl.“I wanted to seek for little Kay! Do you not know where he is?”she asked the Roses.“Do you think he is dead?”

“He is not dead,”the Roses answered.“We have been in the ground. All the dead people are there, but Kay is not there.”

“Thank You, said little Gerda; and she went to the other flowers, looked into their cups, and asked,“Do you not know where little Kay is?”

But every flower stood in the sun thinking only of her own story or fairy tale: Gerda heard many, many of them;but not one knew anything of Kay.

And what did the Tiger-Lily say?

“Do you hear the drum‘Rub-dub’? There are only two notes, always‘rub-dub!’Hear the mourning song of the women, hear the call of the priests. The Hindoo widow stands in her long red mantle on the funeral pile;the flames rise up around her and her dead husband; but the Hindoo woman is thinking of the living one here in the circle, of him whose eyes burn hotter than flames, whose fiery glances have burned in her soul more ardently than the flames themselves, which are soon to burn her body to ashes. Can the flame of the heart die in the flame of the funeral pile?”

“I don't understand that at all!”said little Gerda.

“That's my story,”said the Lily.

What says the Convolvulus?

“Over the narrow road looms an old knightly castle: thickly the ivy grows over the crumbling red walls, leaf by leaf up to the balcony, and there stands a beautiful girl; she bends over the balustrade and looks down at the road.No rose on its branch is fresher than she; no apple blossom wafted onward by the wind floats more lightly along. How her costly silks rustle!‘Come she not yet?’”

“Is it Kay whom you mean?”asked little Gerda.

“I'm only speaking of my own story----my dream,”replied the Convolvulus.

What said the little Snowdrop?

“Between the trees a long board hangs by ropes; that is a swing. Two pretty little girls, with clothes white as snow and long green silk ribbons on their hats, are sitting upon it, swinging; their brother, who is greater than they,stands in the swing, and has slung his arm round the rope to hold himself, for in one hand he has a little saucer,and in the other a clay pipe; he is blowing bubbles. The swing flies, and the bubbles rise with beautiful changing colours; the last still hangs from the pipe-bowl, swaying in the wind. The swing flies on: the little black dog, light as the bubbles, stands up on his hind legs and wants to be taken into the swing; it flies on, and the dog falls, barks,and grows angry, for he is teased, and the bubble bursts.A swinging board and a bursting bubble----that is my song.”

“It may be very pretty, what you're telling, but you speak it so mournfully, and you don't mention little Kay at all.”

What do the Hyacinths say?

“There were three beautiful sisters, transparent and delicate. The dress of one was red, that of the second blue, and that of the third quite white; hand in hand they danced by the calm lake in the bright moonlight.They were not elves, they were human beings. It was so sweet and fragrant there! The girls disappeared in the forest, and the sweet fragrance became stronger: three coffins, with the three beautiful maidens lying in them,glided from the wood-thicket across the lake; the glowworms flew gleaming about them like little hovering lights.Are the dancing girls sleeping, or are they dead? The flower-scent says they are dead and the evening bell tolls their knell.”

“You make me quite sorrowful,”said little Gerda.“You scent so strongly, I cannot help thinking of the dead maidens. Ah! Is little Kay really dead? The roses have been down in the earth, and they say no.”

“Kling! klang!”tolled the Hyacinth Bells.“We are not tolling for little Kay----we don't know him; we only sing our song, the only one we know.”

And Gerda went to the Buttercup, gleaming forth from the green leaves.

“You are a little bright sun,”said Gerda.“Tell me, if you know, where I may find my companion.”

And the Buttercup shone so gaily, and looked back at Gerda. What song might the Buttercup sing? It was not about Kay.

“In a little courtyard the clear sun shone warm on the first day of spring. The sunbeams glided down the white wall of the neighbouring house; close by grew the first yellow flower, glancing like gold in the bright sun's ray. The old grandmother sat out of doors in her chair; her granddaughter, a poor handsome maidservant,was coming home for a short visit: she kissed her grandmother. There was gold, heart's gold, in that blessed kiss, gold in the mouth, gold in the south, gold in the morning hour. See, that's my little story,”said the Buttercup.

“My poor old grandmother!”sighed Gerda.“Yes,she is surely longing for me and grieving for me, just as she did for little Kay. But I shall soon go home and take Kay with me. There is no use of my asking the flowers,they only know their own song, and give me no information.”And then she tied her little frock round her, that she might run the faster; but the Jonquil struck against her leg as she sprang over it, and she stopped to look at the tall yellow flower, and asked,“Do you, perhaps, know anything of little Kay?”

And she bent quite down to the flower, and what did it say?

“I can see myself! I can see myself!”said the Jonquil.“Oh! oh! how I smell! Up in the little room in the gable stands a little dancing girl: she stands sometimes on one foot, sometimes on both; she seems to tread on all the world. She's nothing but an ocular delusion: she pours water out of a teapot on a bit of stuff----it is her bodice.‘Cleanliness is a fine thing,’she says; her white frock hangs on a hook; it has been washed in the teapot too, and dried on the roof: she puts it on and ties her saffron handkerchief round her neck, and the dress looks all the whiter. Point your toes! Look how she seems to stand on a stalk. I can see myself! I can see myself!”

“I don't care at all about that,”said Gerda.“That is nothing to tell me about.”

And then she ran to the end of the garden. The door was locked, but she pressed against the rusty lock, and it broke off, the door sprang open, and little Gerda ran with naked feet out into the wide world. She looked back three times, but no one was there to pursue her; at last she could run no longer, and seated herself on a great stone,and when she looked round the summer was oven----it was late in autumn: one could not notice that in the beautiful garden, where there was always sunshine, and the flowers of every season always bloomed.

“Alas! how I have loitered!”said little Gerda.“Autumn has come. I may not rest again.”

And she rose up to go on. Oh! how sore and tired her little feet were. All around it looked cold and bleak; the long willow leaves were quite yellow, and the mist dropped from them like water; one leaf after another dropped; only the sloe-thorn still bore fruit, but the sloes were sour, and set the teeth on edge. Oh! how grey and gloomy it looked, the wide world!






GERDA was compelled to rest again; then there came hopping across the snow, just opposite the spot where she was sitting, a great Crow. This Crow had long been sitting looking at her, nodding its head----now it said,“Krah! krah! Good day! good day!”It could not pronounce better, but it felt friendly towards the little girl, and asked where she was going all alone in the wide world. The word“alone”Gerda understood very well, and felt how much it expressed; and she told the Crow the whole story of her life and fortunes, and asked if it had not seen Kay.

And the Crow nodded very gravely, and said,

“That may be! that may be!”

“What, do you think so?”cried the little girl, and nearly pressed the Crow to death, she kissed it so.

“Gently, gently!”said the Crow.“I think I know: I believe it may be little Kay, but he has certainly forgotten you, with the Princess.”

“Does he live with a Princess?”asked Gerda.

“Yes; listen,”said the Crow.“But it's so difficult for me to speak your language. If you know the Crows' Language, I can tell it much better.”

“No, I never learned it,”said Gerda;“but my grand mother understood it, and could speak the language too. I only wish I had learned it.”

“That doesn't matter,”said the Crow.“I shall tell you as well as I can.”

And then the Crow told what it knew.

“In the country in which we now are, lives a Princess who is quite wonderfully clever, but then she has read all the newspapers in the world, and has forgotten them again, she is so clever. Lately she was sitting on the throne----and that's not so pleasant as is generally supposed----and she began to sing a song, and it was just this, ‘Why should I not marry now?’You see, there was something in that,”said the Crow.“And so she wanted to marly, but she wished for a husband who could answer when he was spoken to, not one who only stood and looked handsome, for that is so tiresome. And so she had all her maids of honour summoned, and when they heard her intention they were very glad.‘I like that,’said they;‘I thought the very same thing the other day.’You may be sure that every word I am telling you is true,”added the Crow.“I have a tame sweetheart who goes about freely in the castle, and she told me everything.”

Of course the sweetheart was a crow, for one crow always finds out another, and birds of a feather flock together.

“Newspapers were published directly, with a border of hearts and the Princess's initials. One could read in them that every young man who was good-looking might come to the castle and speak with the Princess, and him who spoke so that one could hear he was at home there, and who spoke best, the Princess would choose for her husband. Yes, yes,”said the Crow,“you may believe me. It's as true as I sit here. Young men came flocking in; there............

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