Materials for language lessons

Posts tagged ‘Christmas tree’

A Christmas Nutcracker 1.

It was the night before Christmas.  Clarla and Fritz were sitting  by the door of the kitchen.  Their cheeks were red after throwing snowballs outside in the cold air.   Their eyes shone brighter than the candles on the Christmas tree.  They were chattering very excitedly about something.

And what were two children so excited about on Christmas Eve? You don’t have to be a genius to guess the answer to that question.  For they were talking about –


And the presents for Clara and Fritz were wrapped up and waiting for them  on the kitchen table, just on the other side of the door.  But the children were forbidden to go through the door until it was time.  Time for presents.  And as they couldn’t see the presents, they talked about them instead.

“I bet, ” said Fritz, “That this year, Godfather Drosselmeyer has made a two entire armies of clockwork soldiers – thousands and thousands of them –  Cavalry, and infantry, and artillery – and they’ll go to war with each other and fire cannons and guns like this  BAAAMMMMM !  It is will be just like a Real Battle !”

“Oh NO! ” said Clara.  “I do hope he’s made something more pretty than that.  I think he’s made a toy theatre, with an orchestra that plays, and ballerinas  who look like swans and dance on their tip-toes. In fact, Godfather Drosselmeyer has told me himself that he had been to see the Russian dancers – and that they were the most marvellous thing he had ever seen – and that’s why I think he’s making a magic theatre for us.”

“You’re such a silly nincompoop sometimes,” said Fritz.  “Godfather Drosselmeyer doesn’t do magic.  He makes clockwork that you can wind up.”

“Oh yes he does do magic,” said Clara.  “And in any case, you’re the silly nincompoop – so there.”

And  the children chattered on, until at last the door bell rang to announce that Godfather Drosselmeyer himself had arrived at the house. The children rushed to meet him in the hall.

“Oh Godfather  do please come into the kitchen so we can open our presents,” begged Clara.

He was a funny-looking man, who wore a wig that sometimes slid half off his head.  He had a faint mustache that had never grown very bushy, and his left eye was usually half closed.  His hands and fingers were very tiny, but he was ever so clever with them – for Fritz was right; Godfather Drosselmeyer was a watch and clock maker and one of the cleverest who ever lived.  But then perhaps Clara was right too.  Maybe, just maybe he also could do a little magic.  But in any case, his presents were always amazing and wonderful.

It took a while to gather the whole family including parents, children, aunts, uncles and godparents.  But at last it was time to open the presents. Sweets, dolls,and tin soldiers all  emerged out of the wrapping, and even a Sultan’s palace beautifully carved and painted.  They were exciting, lovely presents – and  at last they were all opened – except that they hadn’t yet found a gift from Godfather Drosselmeyer.   Clara understood that he was keeping back an extra special surprise for them, but Fritz thought that their godfather such a strange man, that perhaps he had forgotten all about Christmas this year.  Both children were too polite to ask – but Clara gave her Godfather a gift of her own – a picture of a sugar-plum fairy that she painted herself. The old man was clearly delighted with it,  he said.

“And what have I got for dear Clara and Fritz this year?  Ah yes, I remember now. It’s here in my waistcoat pocket.”

And he pulled out a very small present – no longer than his hand.  “Which one of you two wants to open it this year?”

Fritz saw how small the present was and said : “Let Clara open it.  She’s so excited about it because she’s still a baby.”

And Clara took the present and felt it.    Yes here was its head – a little on the large size,   and here were its legs. She smiled and said:

“It’s a doll.   I bet it dances.”

And she carefully unwrapped it.

But it wasn’t just a doll.   It was a nutcracker – painted to look like a soldier.  The handles were legs, in bright red trousers, and with feet in shiny boots,  and the part where you put the nuts to crack them looked like an oversized head with giant jaws. On top of its head it wore a tall fury hat.  To tell you the truth, it was rather ugly.

“Why thank you,” said Clara.

“You’re not disappointed are you?” asked Godfather Drosselmeyer.

“No,” she said. “I love the nutcracker-soldier because he’s funny.” And she gave her godfather a hug and a kiss.

But Fritz did not like the nutcracker-soldier at all.  He thought it was useless. Well almost, you could use it to crack nuts – and after dinner that’s what they did.  Clara and Fritz sat under the Christmas tree and cracked walnuts in the mouth of the soldier.

Clara wasn’t quite strong enough to break the shells, but Fritz found it easy.  Until he tried to break open an extra hard nut.  He squeezed and squeezed and squeezed  until eventually – the nutcracker broke.  One of its jaws came off, leaving the poor solider with half a mouth.

“Oh no!” squealed Clara. “Why did you do that?”  And she grabbed the nutcracker and the broken-off piece its jaw and ran off to find their mother.

But what could her mother do? All she could do was to hug Clara and promise that Godfather Drosselmeyer would make the nutcracker as good as new in the morning.   It was funny, but now that the nutcracker-soldier was damaged,  Clara felt sorry for it, and even though it had an ugly face, she began to love it as much as if it were the most beautiful doll in the world.

And when Clara went to  lay it  under the Christmas tree,  she felt so sad that she lay down and held the broken solider closely to her.  She cried a little, and soon she fell asleep among the presents.  And if you came into the room just then, you might have thought that Clara herself was a big doll, like the others flopped under the tree.

At midnight, the 12 chimes of the grandfather clock roused Clara from her sleep.   She sat up and wondered for a  where she was.  And as she looked up she saw Godfather Drosselmeyer sitting on the very top of the tree in the place of the angel.

“Godfather !  What are you doing up there? ” she said.

But he did not answer, because he was just a doll.

And then she saw the nutcracker.  Oh, how sad it looked, lying there with a piece missing.  But then the nutcracker-soldier turned over… and it smiled at her with its broken face.

She screamed and started to run for the door.  But she had only taken a few steps when she saw that the whole floor in front of her was covered with mice  –  only they weren’t ordinary mice because they were dressed as soldiers and they had swords and rifles.   Out in front they were lead by a terrible rodent with seven heads, each with a golden crown on it.

I think that anyone can get a fright from a mouse – they are so small and squeaky, but at the same time they appear out of holes and cracks so suddenly that they catch us by surprise.  But an army of mice!  And a Seven-headed Mouse-King.  This was a terrible sight indeed !  Perhaps I don’t need to tell you that Clara let out a scream !

But before she could scream, or cry , or run,  the Nutcracker Doll rushed forward followed by his own army of dolls and tin soldiers, and the battle between the toys and the mice broke out all around Clara’s feet.   The mice squeaked and guns and cannons fired on both sides.  Clara wondered why the whole family was not awoken by the noise.  Toys and mice lay wounded on all sides, and the nutcracker was fighting  with the Mouse King.  The Mouse King was biting the nutcracker with his seven heads, but the nutracker fought on – if only he was not broken he could have caught the Mouse King in his jaws, but as it was, all he could do was to dance, jump, and kick with his long legs.   He was winning the fight with the King, but losing the battle, for he was surrounded by mice solders who caught him by the feet and started to drag him away.

“Oh no you don’t !” screamed Clara, “and she took off her shoe and threw it as hard as she could at the Mouse King.  She just missed him, but he took fright and started to run.   When the army of mice saw their king running from a giant girl and her flying shoes they turned and fled in terror. In a moment they had vanished into the cracks between the floor boards, leaving their prisoner, the nutcracker, behind them.  All the toys cheered and began to dance, until at least, when the first light came through the window they crept back into the toy box, or went back to sleep under the Christmas tree.

And Clara pulled herself back to her own room and fell into a deep sleep.

She awoke late on Christmas Morning. When she went downstairs, she found Godfather Drosselmeyer. He had already fixed the nutcracker doll so that he was as good as new …

“Thank you so much dear Godfather,” said Clara. “He’s the best present I ever had.”  And then she told him all about her strange dream.

And her Godfather put his head on one side, while he listened to her dream, and when she had finished telling him, he said.

“Interesting. Very interesting indeed. Your dream reminds me of a story.  Let me tell it too you now”

And this is the story that he told Clara.

One Christmas some bad mice crept into the Royal Palace and gobbled up all the sausage meat that was meant for the King’s special Christmas lunch.  The king was furious, and he summoned his special inventor – whose name was Drosselmeyer and who made many wonderful things.   He ordered him to make some mousetraps – which he did – and these were left in the palace kitchens.  Soon they had caught lots of mice.   The Queen of the Mice was furious – for the mice that lay in the traps were her children. A  She climbed up onto the Human Queen’s dressing room table, and just as the Queen was going to bed, the Queen Mouse said:

“So you dared to kill my children did you?   Well I’ll have my revenge, I will.   I’ll make your little Princess turn quite ugly”

The Queen screamed, and her guards rushed in to the room with drawn swords – but the Mouse Queen had disappeared behind the skirting board.

It so happened that the King and Queen had a beautiful daughter called Princess Pirlpat.  When The king heard about the threats of the Mouse-Queen, he ordered bed of the princess must be guarded by seven fierce cats so that no mouse could get near her.  But even cats must sleep. And when they were curled up and purring softly, the Queen Mouse crept past them and climbed up on to the end of Princess Pirlpat’s cot. There she said an evil magic spell, and in the morning, when she looked in the mirror, she saw that her face had been turned quite, quite ugly.  Her nose was long and had a wart on the end of it,  her eyes were small and squinty, her hair was standing up on end and would not settle down,  she had spots on her chin.  In fact, she wasn’t just ugly. She was hideous.

As you can imagine, the Queen was utterly distraught – and the King, well he was beside himself.  He summoned Drosselmeyer again and gave him just four weeks to find a cure for the princesse’s ugliness – or else.

But Drosselmeyer was an inventor, not a magician.  He did not know any spells or anti-spells.  He did not know what to do, and so he asked the Court Astrologer for his advice.  And the advice he received was that Princess Pirlpat must eat a nut called a Crakatook.  But first the Nut must be cracked by a boy who had never shaved,  and he must do it without opening his eyes, and then he must take seven steps backwards without stumbling.

Well Drosselmeyer searched the land for a Crakatook nut, and eventually, after almost four weeks were up, he found one in a small shop. He brought it before the King.

“This nut sire, ” he said, “is the cure for your daughter’s ugliness.  She must eat it.  But first the nut must be cracked by a boy who has never shaved, and he must do it with his eyes closed, and then he must take seven steps backwards without stumbling”.

The King was pleased that the cure for his daughter was so straight forward.  He made a law that that any boy who fulfilled the conditions and cured his daughter of ugliness would have the hand in marriage of the princess.

And many boys came to the palace and tried to crack the nut.  But not one could succeed.

Until one day, Drosselmeyer’s own nephew was visiting his uncle in the palace.  His face was still smooth, he had not quite reached the age when he needed to shave, and his uncle asked if he would like to try his hand at cracking the nut.

And the nephew held the nut between his teeth. And he closed his eyes.  And he cracked it. Then he took seven steps backwards, and on the seventh step — he stumbled.

And although Princess Pirlpat was cured of her ugliness, and was beautiful once more- Drosselmeyer’s nephew caught the spell – and his face became ugly.   In place of his nice kind mouth, he wore a stupid grin, and his smooth cheeks grew a white curly beard.  And his head grew too large for his shoulders. And he looked not only ugly, but stupid too.

And although the King had promised that his daughter would marry the boy who cured her,  his daughter refused to marry one who was so ugly.  And the king had to agree that it would not be proper for the princess to marry such an ugly, stupid-looking boy.

And as Drosselmeyer’s nephew went home, people pointed and laughed at him.  His teacher said he could no longer come to school because he looked so stupid.  And so he stayed at home, all alone.

And that was the story that Godfather Drosselmeyer told to Clara. And she thanked her Godfather for telling her such an interesting story, but she had to admit that it had made her feel rather sad.

That night Clara was thinking about the strange tale, and she could not fall asleep.  After a long while of laying awake, she heard a voice whispering in her ear.

It was the mouse king who had come back. And he said to her:

“Feed me your sweets, or I will bite off the head of your precious nutcracker, and I will spit it out where nobody will find it again, not even your ingenious godfather.”

And Clara was so afraid for the nutcracker that she got up and found some sweets for the Mouse king.  He gobbled them up with this seven heads in an instance, and then he demanded more. And she went down the the pantry and found some cake – and he ate all of that too – and the Christmas pudding – and the newly baked biscuits.  And still he wanted more.

“How much more shall I give you?” Asked Clara.  And the Mouse King said:

“It is for me to say when to stop.  Give me more. More I say !”

And Clara began to cry – for what would her mother say in the morning when she found that all the sweets, cake and biscuits in the house had been eaten?



The Little Match Girl

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 tree: it was still larger, and more decorated than the one which she had seen through the glass door in the rich merchant’s house.

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.

“Someone 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 God.

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.

by Andersen

images (2)

The Fir Tree

Out in the woods stood a nice little Fir Tree. The place he had was a very good one: the sun shone on him: as to fresh air, there was enough of that, and round him grew many large-sized comrades, pines as well as firs. But the little Fir wanted so very much to be a grown-up tree.

He did not think of the warm sun and of the fresh air; he did not care for the little cottage children that ran about and prattled when they were in the woods looking for wild-strawberries. The children often came with a whole pitcher full of berries, or a long row of them threaded on a straw, and sat down near the young tree and said, “Oh, how pretty he is! What a nice little fir!” But this was what the Tree could not bear to hear.

At the end of a year he had shot up a good deal, and after another year he was another long bit taller; for with fir trees one can always tell by the shoots how many years old they are.

“Oh! Were I but such a high tree as the others are,” sighed he. “Then I should be able to spread out my branches, and with the tops to look into the wide world! Then would the birds build nests among my branches: and when there was a breeze, I could bend with as much stateliness as the others!”

Neither the sunbeams, nor the birds, nor the red clouds which morning and evening sailed above him, gave the little Tree any pleasure.

In winter, when the snow lay glittering on the ground, a hare would often come leaping along, and jump right over the little Tree. Oh, that made him so angry! But two winters were past, and in the third the Tree was so large that the hare was obliged to go round it. “To grow and grow, to get older and be tall,” thought the Tree–“that, after all, is the most delightful thing in the world!”

In autumn the wood-cutters always came and felled some of the largest trees. This happened every year; and the young Fir Tree, that had now grown to a very comely size, trembled at the sight; for the magnificent great trees fell to the earth with noise and cracking, the branches were lopped off, and the trees looked long and bare; they were hardly to be recognised; and then they were laid in carts, and the horses dragged them out of the wood.

Where did they go to? What became of them?

In spring, when the swallows and the storks came, the Tree asked them, “Don’t you know where they have been taken? Have you not met them anywhere?”

The swallows did not know anything about it; but the Stork looked musing, nodded his head, and said, “Yes; I think I know; I met many ships as I was flying hither from Egypt; on the ships were magnificent masts, and I venture to assert that it was they that smelt so of fir. I may congratulate you, for they lifted themselves on high most majestically!”

“Oh, were I but old enough to fly across the sea! But how does the sea look in reality? What is it like?”

“That would take a long time to explain,” said the Stork, and with these words off he went.

“Rejoice in thy growth!” said the Sunbeams. “Rejoice in thy vigorous growth, and in the fresh life that moveth within thee!”

And the Wind kissed the Tree, and the Dew wept tears over him; but the Fir understood it not.

When Christmas came, quite young trees were cut down: trees which often were not even as large or of the same age as this Fir Tree, who could never rest, but always wanted to be off. These young trees, and they were always the finest looking, retained their branches; they were laid on carts, and the horses drew them out of the wood.

“Where are they going to?” asked the Fir. “They are not taller than I; there was one indeed that was considerably shorter; and why do they retain all their branches? Whither are they taken?”

“We know! We know!” chirped the Sparrows. “We have peeped in at the windows in the town below! We know whither they are taken! The greatest splendor and the greatest magnificence one can imagine await them. We peeped through the windows, and saw them planted in the middle of the warm room and ornamented with the most splendid things, with gilded apples, with gingerbread, with toys, and many hundred lights!

“And then?” asked the Fir Tree, trembling in every bough. “And then? What happens then?”

“We did not see anything more: it was incomparably beautiful.”

“I would fain know if I am destined for so glorious a career,” cried the Tree, rejoicing. “That is still better than to cross the sea! What a longing do I suffer! Were Christmas but come! I am now tall, and my branches spread like the others that were carried off last year! Oh! were I but already on the cart! Were I in the warm room with all the splendor and magnificence! Yes; then something better, something still grander, will surely follow, or wherefore should they thus ornament me? Something better, something still grander must follow–but what? Oh, how I long, how I suffer! I do not know myself what is the matter with me!”

“Rejoice in our presence!” said the Air and the Sunlight. “Rejoice in thy own fresh youth!”

But the Tree did not rejoice at all; he grew and grew, and was green both winter and summer. People that saw him said, “What a fine tree!” and towards Christmas he was one of the first that was cut down. The axe struck deep into the very pith; the Tree fell to the earth with a sigh; he felt a pang–it was like a swoon; he could not think of happiness, for he was sorrowful at being separated from his home, from the place where he had sprung up. He well knew that he should never see his dear old comrades, the little bushes and flowers around him, anymore; perhaps not even the birds! The departure was not at all agreeable.

The Tree only came to himself when he was unloaded in a court-yard with the other trees, and heard a man say, “That one is splendid! We don’t want the others.” Then two servants came in rich livery and carried the Fir Tree into a large and splendid drawing-room. Portraits were hanging on the walls, and near the white porcelain stove stood two large Chinese vases with lions on the covers. There, too, were large easy-chairs, silken sofas, large tables full of picture-books and full of toys, worth hundreds and hundreds of crowns–at least the children said so. And the Fir Tree was stuck upright in a cask that was filled with sand; but no one could see that it was a cask, for green cloth was hung all round it, and it stood on a large gaily-colored carpet. Oh! how the Tree quivered! What was to happen? The servants, as well as the young ladies, decorated it. On one branch there hung little nets cut out of colored paper, and each net was filled with sugarplums; and among the other boughs gilded apples and walnuts were suspended, looking as though they had grown there, and little blue and white tapers were placed among the leaves. Dolls that looked for all the world like men–the Tree had never beheld such before–were seen among the foliage, and at the very top a large star of gold tinsel was fixed. It was really splendid–beyond description splendid.

“This evening!” they all said. “How it will shine this evening!”

“Oh!” thought the Tree. “If the evening were but come! If the tapers were but lighted! And then I wonder what will happen! Perhaps the other trees from the forest will come to look at me! Perhaps the sparrows will beat against the windowpanes! I wonder if I shall take root here, and winter and summer stand covered with ornaments!”

He knew very much about the matter–but he was so impatient that for sheer longing he got a pain in his back, and this with trees is the same thing as a headache with us.

The candles were now lighted–what brightness! What splendor! The Tree trembled so in every bough that one of the tapers set fire to the foliage. It blazed up famously.

“Help! Help!” cried the young ladies, and they quickly put out the fire.

Now the Tree did not even dare tremble. What a state he was in! He was so uneasy lest he should lose something of his splendor, that he was quite bewildered amidst the glare and brightness; when suddenly both folding-doors opened and a troop of children rushed in as if they would upset the Tree. The older persons followed quietly; the little ones stood quite still. But it was only for a moment; then they shouted that the whole place re-echoed with their rejoicing; they danced round the Tree, and one present after the other was pulled off.

“What are they about?” thought the Tree. “What is to happen now!” And the lights burned down to the very branches, and as they burned down they were put out one after the other, and then the children had permission to plunder the Tree. So they fell upon it with such violence that all its branches cracked; if it had not been fixed firmly in the ground, it would certainly have tumbled down.

The children danced about with their beautiful playthings; no one looked at the Tree except the old nurse, who peeped between the branches; but it was only to see if there was a fig or an apple left that had been forgotten.

“A story! A story!” cried the children, drawing a little fat man towards the Tree. He seated himself under it and said, “Now we are in the shade, and the Tree can listen too. But I shall tell only one story. Now which will you have; that about Ivedy-Avedy, or about Humpy-Dumpy, who tumbled downstairs, and yet after all came to the throne and married the princess?”

“Ivedy-Avedy,” cried some; “Humpy-Dumpy,” cried the others. There was such a bawling and screaming–the Fir Tree alone was silent, and he thought to himself, “Am I not to bawl with the rest? Am I to do nothing whatever?” for he was one of the company, and had done what he had to do.

And the man told about Humpy-Dumpy that tumbled down, who notwithstanding came to the throne, and at last married the princess. And the children clapped their hands, and cried. “Oh, go on! Do go on!” They wanted to hear about Ivedy-Avedy too, but the little man only told them about Humpy-Dumpy. The Fir Tree stood quite still and absorbed in thought; the birds in the wood had never related the like of this. “Humpy-Dumpy fell downstairs, and yet he married the princess! Yes, yes! That’s the way of the world!” thought the Fir Tree, and believed it all, because the man who told the story was so good-looking. “Well, well! who knows, perhaps I may fall downstairs, too, and get a princess as wife! And he looked forward with joy to the morrow, when he hoped to be decked out again with lights, playthings, fruits, and tinsel.

“I won’t tremble to-morrow!” thought the Fir Tree. “I will enjoy to the full all my splendor! To-morrow I shall hear again the story of Humpy-Dumpy, and perhaps that of Ivedy-Avedy too.” And the whole night the Tree stood still and in deep thought.

In the morning the servant and the housemaid came in.

“Now then the splendor will begin again,” thought the Fir. But they dragged him out of the room, and up the stairs into the loft: and here, in a dark corner, where no daylight could enter, they left him. “What’s the meaning of this?” thought the Tree. “What am I to do here? What shall I hear now, I wonder?” And he leaned against the wall lost in reverie. Time enough had he too for his reflections; for days and nights passed on, and nobody came up; and when at last somebody did come, it was only to put some great trunks in a corner, out of the way. There stood the Tree quite hidden; it seemed as if he had been entirely forgotten.

“‘Tis now winter out-of-doors!” thought the Tree. “The earth is hard and covered with snow; men cannot plant me now, and therefore I have been put up here under shelter till the spring-time comes! How thoughtful that is! How kind man is, after all! If it only were not so dark here, and so terribly lonely! Not even a hare! And out in the woods it was so pleasant, when the snow was on the ground, and the hare leaped by; yes–even when he jumped over me; but I did not like it then! It is really terribly lonely here!”

“Squeak! Squeak!” said a little Mouse, at the same moment, peeping out of his hole. And then another little one came. They snuffed about the Fir Tree, and rustled among the branches.

“It is dreadfully cold,” said the Mouse. “But for that, it would be delightful here, old Fir, wouldn’t it?”

“I am by no means old,” said the Fir Tree. “There’s many a one considerably older than I am.”

“Where do you come from,” asked the Mice; “and what can you do?” They were so extremely curious. “Tell us about the most beautiful spot on the earth. Have you never been there? Were you never in the larder, where cheeses lie on the shelves, and hams hang from above; where one dances about on tallow candles: that place where one enters lean, and comes out again fat and portly?”

“I know no such place,” said the Tree. “But I know the wood, where the sun shines and where the little birds sing.” And then he told all about his youth; and the little Mice had never heard the like before; and they listened and said,

“Well, to be sure! How much you have seen! How happy you must have been!”

“I!” said the Fir Tree, thinking over what he had himself related. “Yes, in reality those were happy times.” And then he told about Christmas-eve, when he was decked out with cakes and candles.

“Oh,” said the little Mice, “how fortunate you have been, old Fir Tree!”

“I am by no means old,” said he. “I came from the wood this winter; I am in my prime, and am only rather short for my age.”

“What delightful stories you know,” said the Mice: and the next night they came with four other little Mice, who were to hear what the Tree recounted: and the more he related, the more he remembered himself; and it appeared as if those times had really been happy times. “But they may still come–they may still come! Humpy-Dumpy fell downstairs, and yet he got a princess!” and he thought at the moment of a nice little Birch Tree growing out in the woods: to the Fir, that would be a real charming princess.

“Who is Humpy-Dumpy?” asked the Mice. So then the Fir Tree told the whole fairy tale, for he could remember every single word of it; and the little Mice jumped for joy up to the very top of the Tree. Next night two more Mice came, and on Sunday two Rats even; but they said the stories were not interesting, which vexed the little Mice; and they, too, now began to think them not so very amusing either.

“Do you know only one story?” asked the Rats.

“Only that one,” answered the Tree. “I heard it on my happiest evening; but I did not then know how happy I was.”

“It is a very stupid story! Don’t you know one about bacon and tallow candles? Can’t you tell any larder stories?”

“No,” said the Tree.

“Then good-bye,” said the Rats; and they went home.

At last the little Mice stayed away also; and the Tree sighed: “After all, it was very pleasant when the sleek little Mice sat round me, and listened to what I told them. Now that too is over. But I will take good care to enjoy myself when I am brought out again.”

But when was that to be? Why, one morning there came a quantity of people and set to work in the loft. The trunks were moved, the tree was pulled out and thrown–rather hard, it is true–down on the floor, but a man drew him towards the stairs, where the daylight shone.

“Now a merry life will begin again,” thought the Tree. He felt the fresh air, the first sunbeam–and now he was out in the courtyard. All passed so quickly, there was so much going on around him, the Tree quite forgot to look to himself. The court adjoined a garden, and all was in flower; the roses hung so fresh and odorous over the balustrade, the lindens were in blossom, the Swallows flew by, and said, “Quirre-vit! My husband is come!” but it was not the Fir Tree that they meant.

“Now, then, I shall really enjoy life,” said he exultingly, and spread out his branches; but, alas, they were all withered and yellow! It was in a corner that he lay, among weeds and nettles. The golden star of tinsel was still on the top of the Tree, and glittered in the sunshine.

In the court-yard some of the merry children were playing who had danced at Christmas round the Fir Tree, and were so glad at the sight of him. One of the youngest ran and tore off the golden star.

“Only look what is still on the ugly old Christmas tree!” said he, trampling on the branches, so that they all cracked beneath his feet.

And the Tree beheld all the beauty of the flowers, and the freshness in the garden; he beheld himself, and wished he had remained in his dark corner in the loft; he thought of his first youth in the wood, of the merry Christmas-eve, and of the little Mice who had listened with so much pleasure to the story of Humpy-Dumpy.

“‘Tis over–’tis past!” said the poor Tree. “Had I but rejoiced when I had reason to do so! But now ’tis past, ’tis past!”

And the gardener’s boy chopped the Tree into small pieces; there was a whole heap lying there. The wood flamed up splendidly under the large brewing copper, and it sighed so deeply! Each sigh was like a shot.

The boys played about in the court, and the youngest wore the gold star on his breast which the Tree had had on the happiest evening of his life. However, that was over now–the Tree gone, the story at an end. All, all was over–every tale must end at last.

by Andersen

images (3)

Tag Cloud