The Fir Tree





HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN



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 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 others! 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

yonder.



He took no pleasure in the sunshine, in the birds, and in the red clouds

that went sailing over him morning and evening.



When it was winter, and the snow lay all around, white and sparkling, a

hare would often come jumping along, and spring right over the little

Fir Tree. Oh! this made him so angry. But two winters went by, and when

the third came the little Tree had grown so tall that the hare was

obliged to run around it.



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 waggons, 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 that 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 thee.



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

trees which were neither so old nor so large as this Fir Tree, that

never rested but always wanted to go away. These young trees, which were

almost the most beautiful, kept all their branches; they were put upon

wagons, and horses dragged them away out of the wood.



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?



We know that! We know that! chirped the Sparrows. Yonder in the town

we looked in at the windows. We know where they go. Oh! they are dressed

up in the greatest pomp and splendor that can be imagined. We have

looked in at the windows, and have perceived that they are planted in

the middle of the warm room, and adorned with the most beautiful

things--gilt apples, honey-cakes, playthings, and many hundreds of

candles.



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 it were only Christmas now! Now I

am great and grown up, like the rest who were led away last year. Oh, if

I were only on the carriage! If I were only in the warm room, among all

the pomp and splendor! And then? Yes, then something even better will

come, something far more charming, or else why should they adorn me so?

There must be something grander, something greater still to come; but

what? Oh, I'm suffering, I'm longing! I don't know myself what is the

matter with me!



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 agreeable.



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 saloon. All around the walls hung pictures, and by the

great stove stood large Chinese vases with lions on the covers; there

were rocking-chairs, silken sofas, great tables covered with

picture-books, and toys worth a hundred times a hundred dollars, at

least the children said so. And the Fir Tree was put into a great tub

filled with sand; but no one could see that it was a tub, for it was

hung round with green cloth, and stood on a large many-colored carpet.

Oh, how the Tree trembled! What was to happen now? The servants, and the

young ladies also, decked it out. On one branch they hung little nets,

cut out of colored paper; every net was filled with sweetmeats; golden

apples and walnuts hung down as if they grew there, and more than a

hundred little candles, red, white, and blue, were fastened to the

different boughs. Dolls that looked exactly like real people--the Tree

had never seen such before--swung among the foliage, and high on the

summit of the Tree was fixed a tinsel star. It was splendid,

particularly splendid.



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? laughed 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 children received permission to plunder

the Tree. Oh! they rushed in upon it, so that every branch cracked

again: if it had not been fastened by the top and by the golden star to

the ceiling, it would have fallen down.



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 not been forgotten.



A story! a story! shouted the children: and they drew a little fat man

towards 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 down stairs, and still

was raised up to honor and married the Princess?



Ivede-Avede! cried some, Klumpey-Dumpey! cried others, and there was

a great crying and shouting. Only the Fir Tree was quite silent, and

thought, Shall 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 down stairs, 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 down stairs, and

yet came to honor and married the Princess!



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 down stairs too, and marry a Princess!

And it looked forward with pleasure to being adorned again, the next

evening, with candles and toys, gold and fruit. To-morrow I shall not

tremble, it thought. I will rejoice in all my splendor. To-morrow I

shall hear the story of Klumpey-Dumpey again, and, perhaps, that of

Ivede-Avede too.



And the Tree stood all night quiet and thoughtful.



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 up stairs to the garret, and here they put him

in a dark corner where no daylight shone.



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 nobody 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 was

that it was quite forgotten.



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. How considerate that is! How

good people are! If it were only not so dark here, and so terribly

solitary!--not even a little hare! That was pretty out there in the

wood, when the snow lay thick and the hare sprang past; yes, even when

he jumped over me; but then I did not like it. It is terribly lonely up

here!



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? Have you been in the store-room, where

cheeses lie on the shelves, and hams hang from the ceiling, where one

dances on tallow candles, and goes in thin and comes out fat?



I don't know that! replied the Tree; but I know the wood, where the

sun shines, and where the birds sing.



And then it told all about its youth.



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? said the Fir Tree; and it thought about what it had told. Yes,

those were really quite happy times. But then he told of the

Christmas-eve, when he had been hung with sweetmeats and candles.



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 the more it said, the more clearly did it

remember everything, and thought, Those were quite merry days! But they

may come again. Klumpey-Dumpey fell down stairs, and yet he married the

Princess. Perhaps I may marry a Princess too! And then the Fir Tree

thought of a pretty little birch tree that grew out in the forest: for

the Fir Tree, that birch was a real Princess.



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?



No, said the Tree.



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 little 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 everything 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 copper, 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 worn on 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.





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