Simple Winter Puppet Show

Puppet shows can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like. If there are some peg dolls around you can use them as the characters. Even your children little wooden, plastic or stuffed animals. Simple pieces of cloth or scarves work for sky and scenery. I like to check the thrift stores for real silk scarves, I have even found some beautifully handprinted ones for under a dollar.

This video is a wonderful example of a truly simple and lovely puppet show by Starfuldolls.

The Twelve Huntsman

The Twelve Huntsman
Frog Prince
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
*Audio file at the end

Paolo Uccello
Paolo Uccello

Once upon a time there was a prince who had a fiancée whom he loved very much. Once when he was sitting beside her very happily, news came that his father was deathly ill, and wanted to see him before he died.

Then he said to his beloved, “I must now go and leave you. I give you a ring to remember me by. As soon as I am king, I will return and take you home with me.”

Then he rode away, and when he reached his father, the latter was mortally ill and near death.

The king said to him, “My dearest son, I wanted to see you one more time before my end. Promise me to marry the woman of my choice,” and he named a certain princess who was to become his wife.

The son was so grieved that without thinking he said, “Yes, dear father, your will shall be done.”

Then the king closed his eyes and died.

After the son had been proclaimed king, and the period of mourning had passed, he had to keep the promise that he had given his father. He proposed marriage to the princess, and she was promised to him.

His first fiancée heard about this, and was so saddened by his faithlessness that she nearly died.

Then her father said to her, “Dearest child, why are you so sad? You shall have whatever you want.”

She thought for a moment and then said, “Dear father, I want eleven girls exactly like myself in appearance, figure, and size.”

The father said, “If it is possible, your wish shall be fulfilled,” and he had his entire kingdom searched until eleven girls were found who were exactly like his daughter in appearance, figure, and size.

When they came to the princess, she had twelve huntsmen’s outfits made, each one like the others. The eleven girls put on the huntsmen’s outfits, and she herself put on the twelfth outfit.

After this she took leave of her father, and rode away with them. They rode to the court of her former fiancé, whom she loved so dearly. There she asked if he needed any huntsmen, and if he would take all of them into his service. The king looked at her without recognizing her. Because they were such good-looking fellows, he said, yes, that he would willingly take them, and then they were the king’s twelve huntsmen.

Now the king had a lion that was a miraculous animal, for he knew all hidden and secret things. It happened that one evening the lion said to the king, “You think that you have twelve huntsmen.”

“Yes,” said the king, “they are twelve huntsmen.”

The lion continued, “You are mistaken. They are twelve girls.”

The king said, “That is absolutely not true. How can you prove that to me?”

“Oh, just have some peas scattered in your antechamber,” answered the lion, “and then you shall soon see. Men have a firm step, and when they walk over the peas, none of them will be moved. On the other hand, girls trip and skip and shuffle their feet, rolling the peas about.”

The king liked this advise and had peas scattered on the floor.

Now one of the king’s servants liked the huntsmen, and when he heard that they were going to be put to this test, he went to them and told them everything, saying, “The lion wants to make the king believe that you are girls.”

The princess thanked him, then said to her girls, “Be strong, and step firmly on the peas.”

The next morning the king had the twelve huntsmen called before him. When they came into the antechamber where the peas were lying, they stepped so firmly on them, and had such a strong, sure walk, that not one of the peas rolled or moved.

After they had gone, the king said to the lion, “You lied to me. They walk just like men.”

The lion said, “They knew that were going to be put to a test, and acted like they were strong. Just have twelve spinning wheels brought into the antechamber. They will go up to them and admire them. No man would do that.”

The king liked this advice, and he had the spinning wheels set up in the antechamber.

But the servant who was honest with the huntsmen went to them and told them about the proposal.

So when they were alone, the princess said to her eleven girls, “Be strong and do not look around at the spinning wheels.”

The next morning when the king had his twelve huntsmen summoned, they walked through the antechamber without looking at the spinning wheels at all.

Then the king again said to the lion, “You lied to me. They are men, for they did not look at the spinning wheels.”

The lion answered, “They knew that they were going to be put to a test, and acted like they were strong.”

The king, however, refused to believe the lion anymore.

The twelve huntsmen always accompanied the king hunting, and the longer he knew them, the better he liked them. Now it happened that once when they were out hunting, news came that the king’s bride was approaching. When the true bride heard this, it hurt her so much that it almost broke her heart, and she fainted and fell to the ground.

Thinking that something had happened to his dear huntsman, the king ran up to him in order to help him. Pulling the huntsman’s glove off, he saw the ring that he had given to his first fiancée, and when he looked into her face, he recognized her. Then his heart was so touched that he kissed her, and when she opened her eyes he said, “You are mine, and I am yours, and no one in the world can change that.”

He sent a messenger to the other bride, and asked her to return to her own kingdom, for, as he informed her, he already had a wife, and someone who had found an old key did not need a new one.

After this their wedding was celebrated, and the lion was accepted back into favor, because, after all, he had told the truth.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

The Water of Life

The Water of Life
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
*Audio file at the end

There was once a King who was so ill that it was thought impossible his life could be saved. He had three sons, and they were all in great distress on his account, and they went into the castle gardens and wept at the thought that he must die. An old man came up to them and asked the cause of their grief. They told him that their father was dying, and nothing could save him.

The old man said, “There is only one remedy which I know; it is the Water of Life. If he drinks of it, he will recover, but it is very difficult to find.”

The eldest son said, “I will soon find it”; and he went to the sick man to ask permission to go in search of the Water of Life, as that was the only thing to cure him.

“No,” said the King. “The danger is too great. I would rather die.”

But he persisted so long that at last the King gave his permission.

The Prince thought, “If I bring this water I shall be the favourite,
and I shall inherit the kingdom.”

So he set off, and when he had ridden some distance he came upon a
Dwarf standing in the road, who cried, ‘Whither away so fast?’

“Stupid little fellow,” said the Prince, proudly; “what business is it
of yours?” and rode on.

The little man was very angry, and made an evil vow.

Soon after, the Prince came to a gorge in the mountains, and the further he rode the narrower it became, till he could go no further. His horse could neither go forward nor turn round for him to dismount; so there he sat, jammed in.

The sick King waited a long time for him, but he never came back. Then the second son said, “Father, let me go and find the Water of Life, “thinking, “if my brother is dead I shall have the kingdom.”

The King at first refused to let him go, but at last he gave his consent. So the Prince started on the same road as his brother, and met the same Dwarf, who stopped him and asked where he was going in such a hurry.

“Little Snippet, what does it matter to you?” he said, and rode away without looking back.

But the Dwarf cast a spell over him, and he, too, got into a narrow gorge like his brother, where he could neither go backwards nor forwards.

This is what happens to the haughty.

As the second son also stayed away, the youngest one offered to go and
fetch the Water of Life, and at last the King was obliged to let him go.

When he met the Dwarf, and he asked him where he was hurrying to, he
stopped and said, “I am searching for the Water of Life, because my
father is dying.”

“Do you know where it is to be found?”

“No,” said the Prince.

“As you have spoken pleasantly to me, and not been haughty like your false brothers, I will help you and tell you how to find the Water of Life. It flows from a fountain in the courtyard of an enchanted castle; but you will never get in unless I give you an iron rod and two loaves of bread. With the rod strike three times on the iron gate of the castle, and it will spring open. Inside you will find two Lions with wide-open jaws, but if you throw a loaf to each they will be quiet. Then you must make haste to fetch the Water of Life before it strikes twelve, or the gates of the castle will close and you will be shut in.”

The Prince thanked him, took the rod and the loaves, and set off. When he reached the castle all was just as the Dwarf had said. At the third knock the gate flew open, and when he had pacified the Lions with the loaves, he walked into the castle. In the great hall he found several enchanted Princes, and he took the rings from their fingers. He also took a sword and a loaf, which were lying by them. On passing into the next room he found a beautiful Maiden, who rejoiced at his coming. She embraced him, and said that he had saved her, and should have the whole of her kingdom; and if he would come back in a year she would marry him. She also told him where to find the fountain with the enchanted water; but, she said, he must make haste to get out of the castle before the clock struck twelve.

Then he went on, and came to a room where there was a beautiful bed freshly made, and as he was very tired he thought he would take a little rest; so he lay down and fell asleep. When he woke it was striking a quarter to twelve. He sprang up in a fright, and ran to the fountain, and took some of the water in a cup which was lying near, and then hurried away. The clock struck just as he reached the iron gate, and it banged so quickly that it took off a bit of his heel.

He was rejoiced at having got some of the Water of Life, and hastened on his homeward journey. He again passed the Dwarf, who said, when he saw the sword and the loaf, “Those things will be of much service to you. You will be able to strike down whole armies with the sword, and the loaf will never come to an end.”

The Prince did not want to go home without his brothers, and he said,
“Good Dwarf, can you not tell me where my brothers are? They went in
search of the Water of Life before I did, but they never came back.”

“They are both stuck fast in a narrow mountain gorge. I cast a spell
over them because of their pride.”

Then the Prince begged so hard that they might be released that at last the Dwarf yielded; but he warned him against them, and said, “Beware of them; they have bad hearts.”

He was delighted to see his brothers when they came back, and told them all that had happened to him; how he had found the Water of Life, and brought a goblet full with him. How he had released a beautiful Princess, who would wait a year for him and then marry him, and he would become a great Prince.

Then they rode away together, and came to a land where famine and war
were raging. The King thought he would be utterly ruined, so great was
the destitution.

The Prince went to him and gave him the loaf, and with it he fed and satisfied his whole kingdom. The Prince also gave him his sword, and he smote the whole army of his enemies with it, and then he was able to live in peace and quiet. Then the Prince took back his sword and his loaf, and the three brothers rode on. But they had to pass through two more countries where war and famine were raging, and each time the Prince gave his sword and his loaf to the King, and in this way he saved three kingdoms.

After that they took a ship and crossed the sea. During the passage the two elder brothers said to each other, “Our youngest brother found the Water of Life, and we did not, so our father will give him the kingdom which we ought to have, and he will take away our fortune from us.”

This thought made them very vindictive, and they made up their minds to get rid of him. They waited till he was asleep, and then they emptied the Water of Life from his goblet and took it themselves, and filled up his cup with salt sea water.

As soon as they got home the youngest Prince took his goblet to the King, so that he might drink of the water which was to make him well; but after drinking only a few drops of the sea water he became more ill than ever. As he was bewailing himself, his two elder sons came to him and accused the youngest of trying to poison him, and said that they had the real Water of Life, and gave him some. No sooner had he drunk it than he felt better, and he soon became as strong and well as he had been in his youth.

Then the two went to their youngest brother, and mocked him, saying, “It was you who found the Water of Life; you had all the trouble, while we have the reward. You should have been wiser, and kept your eyes open; we stole it from you while you were asleep on the ship. When the end of the year comes, one of us will go and bring away the beautiful Princess. But don’t dare to betray us. Our father will certainly not believe you, and if you say a single word you will lose your life; your only chance is to keep silence.”

The old King was very angry with his youngest son, thinking that he had tried to take his life. So he had the Court assembled to give judgment upon him, and it was decided that he must be secretly got out of the way.

One day when the Prince was going out hunting, thinking no evil, the King’s Huntsman was ordered to go with him. Seeing the Huntsman look sad, the Prince said to him, “My good Huntsman, what is the matter with you?”

The Huntsman answered, “I can’t bear to tell you, and yet I must.”

The Prince said, “Say it out; whatever it is I will forgive you.”

“Alas!” said the Huntsman, “I am to shoot you dead; it is the King’s command.”

The Prince was horror-stricken, and said, “Dear Huntsman, do not kill me, give me my life. Let me have your dress, and you shall have my royal robes.”

The Huntsman said, “I will gladly do so; I could never have shot you.” So they changed clothes, and the Huntsman went home, but the Prince wandered away into the forest.

After a time three wagon loads of gold and precious stones came to the King for his youngest son. They were sent by the Kings who had been saved by the Prince’s sword and his miraculous loaf, and who now wished to show their gratitude.

Then the old King thought, “What if my son really was innocent?” and
said to his people, “If only he were still alive! How sorry I am that I ordered him to be killed.”

“He is still alive,” said the Huntsman. “I could not find it in my heart to carry out your commands,” and he told the King what had taken place.

A load fell from the King’s heart on hearing the good news, and he sent out a proclamation to all parts of his kingdom that his son was to come home, where he would be received with great favour.

In the meantime, the Princess had caused a road to be made of pure shining gold leading to her castle, and told her people that whoever came riding straight along it would be the true bridegroom, and they were to admit him. But any one who came either on one side of the road or the other would not be the right one, and he was not to be let in.

When the year had almost passed, the eldest Prince thought that he would hurry to the Princess, and by giving himself out as her deliverer would gain a wife and a kingdom as well. So he rode away, and when he saw the beautiful golden road he thought it would be a thousand pities to ride upon it; so he turned aside, and rode to the right of it. But when he reached the gate the people told him that he was not the true bridegroom, and he had to go away.

Soon after the second Prince came, and when he saw the golden road he thought it would be a thousand pities for his horse to tread upon it; so he turned aside, and rode up on the left of it. But when he reached the gate he was also told that he was not the true bridegroom, and, like his brother, was turned away.

When the year had quite come to an end, the third Prince came out of the wood to ride to his beloved, and through her to forget all his past sorrows. So on he went, thinking only of her, and wishing to be with her; and he never even saw the golden road. His horse cantered right along the middle of it, and when he reached the gate it was flung open and the Princess received him joyfully, and called him her Deliverer, and the Lord of her Kingdom. Their marriage was celebrated without delay, and with much rejoicing. When it was over, she told him that his father had called him back and forgiven him. So he went to him and told him everything; how his brothers had deceived him, and how they had forced him to keep silence. The old King wanted to punish them, but they had taken a ship and sailed away over the sea, and they never came back as long as they lived.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

The Goose Girl

The Goose Girl
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
(Ideal for 5-6 Year Olds)
*Audio file at the end

10233793_f520

There was once an old Queen whose husband had been dead for many
years, and she had a very beautiful daughter. When she grew up she was
betrothed to a Prince in a distant country. When the time came for the
maiden to be sent into this distant country to be married, the old
Queen packed up quantities of clothes and jewels, gold and silver,
cups and ornaments, and, in fact, everything suitable to a royal
outfit, for she loved her daughter very dearly.

She also sent a Waiting-woman to travel with her, and to put her hand
into that of the bridegroom. They each had a horse. The Princess’s
horse was called Falada, and it could speak.

When the hour of departure came, the old Queen went to her bedroom,
and with a sharp little knife cut her finger and made it bleed. Then
she held a piece of white cambric under it, and let three drops of
blood fall on to it. This cambric she gave to her daughter, and said,
‘Dear child, take good care of this; it will stand you in good stead
on the journey.’ They then bade each other a sorrowful farewell. The
Princess hid the piece of cambric in her bosom, mounted her horse, and
set out to her bridegroom’s country.

When they had ridden for a time the Princess became very thirsty, and
said to the Waiting-woman, ‘Get down and fetch me some water in my cup
from the stream. I must have something to drink.’

‘If you are thirsty,’ said the Waiting-woman, ‘dismount yourself, lie
down by the water and drink. I don’t choose to be your servant.’

So, in her great thirst, the Princess dismounted and stooped down to
the stream and drank, as she might not have her golden cup. The poor
Princess said, ‘Alas!’ and the drops of blood answered, ‘If your
mother knew this, it would break her heart.’

The royal bride was humble, so she said nothing, but mounted her horse
again. Then they rode several miles further; but the day was warm, the
sun was scorching, and the Princess was soon thirsty again.

When they reached a river she called out again to her Waiting-woman,
‘Get down, and give me some water in my golden cup!’

She had forgotten all about the rude words which had been said to her.
But the Waiting-woman answered more haughtily than ever, ‘If you want
to drink, get the water for yourself. I won’t be your servant.’

Being very thirsty, the Princess dismounted, and knelt by the flowing
water. She cried, and said, ‘Ah me!’ and the drops of blood answered,
‘If your mother knew this it would break her heart.’

While she stooped over the water to drink, the piece of cambric with
the drops of blood on it fell out of her bosom, and floated away on
the stream; but she never noticed this in her great fear. The
Waiting-woman, however, had seen it, and rejoiced at getting more
power over the bride, who, by losing the drops of blood, had become
weak and powerless.

Now, when she was about to mount her horse Falada again, the
Waiting-woman said, ‘By rights, Falada belongs to me; this jade will
do for you!’

The poor little Princess was obliged to give way. Then the
Waiting-woman, in a harsh voice, ordered her to take off her royal
robes, and to put on her own mean garments. Finally, she forced her to
swear before heaven that she would not tell a creature at the Court
what had taken place. Had she not taken the oath she would have been
killed on the spot. But Falada saw all this and marked it.

The Waiting-woman then mounted Falada and put the real bride on her
poor jade, and they continued their journey.

There was great rejoicing when they arrived at the castle. The Prince
hurried towards them, and lifted the Waiting-woman from her horse,
thinking she was his bride. She was led upstairs, but the real
Princess had to stay below.

The old King looked out of the window and saw the delicate, pretty
little creature standing in the courtyard; so he went to the bridal
apartments and asked the bride about her companion, who was left
standing in the courtyard, and wished to know who she was.

‘I picked her up on the way, and brought her with me for company. Give
the girl something to do to keep her from idling.’

But the old King had no work for her, and could not think of anything.
At last he said, ‘I have a little lad who looks after the geese; she
may help him.’

The boy was called little Conrad, and the real bride was sent with him
to look after the geese.

Soon after, the false bride said to the Prince, ‘Dear husband, I pray
you do me a favour.’

He answered, ‘That will I gladly.’

‘Well, then, let the knacker be called to cut off the head of the
horse I rode; it angered me on the way.’

Really, she was afraid that the horse would speak, and tell of her
treatment of the Princess. So it was settled, and the faithful Falada
had to die.

When this came to the ear of the real Princess, she promised the
knacker a piece of gold if he would do her a slight service. There was
a great dark gateway to the town, through which she had to pass every
morning and evening. ‘Would he nail up Falada’s head in this gateway,
so that she might see him as she passed?’

The knacker promised to do as she wished, and when the horse’s head
was cut off, he hung it up in the dark gateway. In the early
morning, when she and Conrad went through the gateway, she said in
passing–

‘Alas! dear Falada, there thou hangest.’

And the Head answered–

‘Alas! Queen’s daughter, there thou gangest.
If thy mother knew thy fate,
Her heart would break with grief so great.’

Then they passed on out of the town, right into the fields, with the
geese. When they reached the meadow, the Princess sat down on the
grass and let down her hair. It shone like pure gold, and when little
Conrad saw it, he was so delighted that he wanted to pluck some out;
but she said–

‘Blow, blow, little breeze,
And Conrad’s hat seize.
Let him join in the chase
While away it is whirled,
Till my tresses are curled
And I rest in my place.’

Then a strong wind sprang up, which blew away Conrad’s hat right over
the fields, and he had to run after it. When he came back, she had
finished combing her hair, and it was all put up again; so he could
not get a single hair. This made him very sulky, and he would not say
another word to her. And they tended the geese till evening, when they
went home.

Next morning, when they passed under the gateway, the Princess said–

‘Alas! dear Falada, there thou hangest.’

Falada answered:–

‘Alas! Queen’s daughter, there thou gangest.
If thy mother knew thy fate,
Her heart would break with grief so great.’

Again, when they reached the meadows, the Princess undid her hair and
began combing it. Conrad ran to pluck some out; but she said quickly–

‘Blow, blow, little breeze,
And Conrad’s hat seize.
Let him join in the chase
While away it is whirled,
Till my tresses are curled
And I rest in my place.’

The wind sprang up and blew Conrad’s hat far away over the fields, and
he had to run after it. When he came back the hair was all put up
again, and he could not pull a single hair out. And they tended the
geese till the evening. When they got home Conrad went to the old
King, and said, ‘I won’t tend the geese with that maiden again.’

‘Why not?’ asked the King.

‘Oh, she vexes me every day.’

The old King then ordered him to say what she did to vex him.

Conrad said, ‘In the morning, when we pass under the dark gateway with
the geese, she talks to a horse’s head which is hung up on the wall.
She says–

‘Alas! Falada, there thou hangest,’

and the Head answers–

‘Alas! Queen’s daughter, there thou gangest.
If thy mother knew thy fate,
Her heart would break with grief so great.’

Then Conrad went on to tell the King all that happened in the meadow,
and how he had to run after his hat in the wind.

The old King ordered Conrad to go out next day as usual. Then he
placed himself behind the dark gateway, and heard the Princess
speaking to Falada’s head. He also followed her into the field, and
hid himself behind a bush, and with his own eyes he saw the Goosegirl
and the lad come driving the geese into the field. Then, after a
time, he saw the girl let down her hair, which glittered in the sun.
Directly after this, she said–

‘Blow, blow, little breeze,
And Conrad’s hat seize.
Let him join in the chase
While away it is whirled,
Till my tresses are curled
And I rest in my place.’

Then came a puff of wind, which carried off Conrad’s hat and he had to
run after it. While he was away, the maiden combed and did up her
hair; and all this the old King observed. Thereupon he went away
unnoticed; and in the evening, when the Goosegirl came home, he called
her aside and asked why she did all these things.

‘That I may not tell you, nor may I tell any human creature; for I
have sworn it under the open sky, because if I had not done so I
should have lost my life.’

He pressed her sorely, and gave her no peace, but he could get nothing
out of her. Then he said, ‘If you won’t tell me, then tell your
sorrows to the iron stove there’; and he went away.

She crept up to the stove, and, beginning to weep and lament,
unburdened her heart to it, and said: ‘Here I am, forsaken by all the
world, and yet I am a Princess. A false Waiting-woman brought me to
such a pass that I had to take off my royal robes. Then she took my
place with my bridegroom, while I have to do mean service as a
Goosegirl. If my mother knew it she would break her heart.’

The old King stood outside by the pipes of the stove, and heard all
that she said. Then he came back, and told her to go away from the
stove. He caused royal robes to be put upon her, and her beauty was a
marvel. The old King called his son, and told him that he had a false
bride–she was only a Waiting-woman; but the true bride was here, the
so-called Goosegirl.

The young Prince was charmed with her youth and beauty. A great
banquet was prepared, to which all the courtiers and good friends were
bidden. The bridegroom sat at the head of the table, with the Princess
on one side and the Waiting-woman at the other; but she was dazzled,
and did not recognise the Princess in her brilliant apparel.

When they had eaten and drunk and were all very merry, the old King
put a riddle to the Waiting-woman. ‘What does a person deserve who
deceives his master?’ telling the whole story, and ending by asking,
‘What doom does he deserve?’

The false bride answered, ‘No better than this. He must be put stark
naked into a barrel stuck with nails, and be dragged along by two
white horses from street to street till he is dead.’

‘That is your own doom,’ said the King, ‘and the judgment shall be
carried out.’

When the sentence was fulfilled, the young Prince married his true
bride, and they ruled their kingdom together in peace and happiness.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

The Fisherman and his Wife

The Fisherman and his Wife
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
(Ideal for 5-6 Year Olds)
*Audio file at the end

fisherman-and-his-wife-anne-anderson

There was once a fisherman and his wife who lived together in a hovel by the sea-shore, and the fisherman went out every day with his hook and line to catch fish, and he angled and angled.

One day, he was sitting with his rod and looking into the clear water, and he sat and sat.

At last down went the line to the bottom of the water, and when he drew it up, he found a great flounder on the hook. And the flounder said to him, “Fisherman, listen to me; let me go — I am not a real fish but an enchanted prince. What good shall I be to you if you land me? I shall not taste well; so put me back into the water again, and let me swim away.”

“Well,” said the fisherman, “no need of so many words about the matter; as you can speak, I had much rather let you swim away.”

Then he put him back into the clear water, and the flounder sank to the bottom, leaving a long streak of blood behind him. Then the fisherman got up and went home to his wife in their hovel.

“Well, husband,” said the wife, “have you caught nothing to-day?”

“No,” said the man — “that is, I did catch a flounder, but as he said he was an enchanted prince, I let him go again.”

“Then, did you wish for nothing?” said the wife.

“No,” said the man; “what should I wish for?”

“Oh dear!” said the wife; “and it is so dreadful always to live in this evil-smelling hovel; you might as well have wished for a little cottage; go again and call him; tell him we want a little cottage, I daresay he will give it us; go, and be quick.”

And when he went back, the sea was green and yellow, and not nearly so clear. So he stood and said,

O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

Then the flounder came swimming up and said, “Now then, what does she want?”

“Oh,” said the man, “you know when I caught you my wife says I ought to have wished for something. She does not want to live any longer in the hovel and would rather have a cottage.

“Go home with you,” said the flounder; “she has it already.”

So the man went home and found, instead of the hovel, a little cottage, and his wife was sitting on a bench before the door. And she took him by the hand, and said to him, “Come in and see if this is not a great improvement.”

So they went in, and there was a little house-place and a beautiful little bedroom, a kitchen and larder, with all sorts of furniture, and iron and brass ware of the very best. And at the back was a little yard with fowls and ducks, and a little garden full of green vegetables and fruit.

“Look,” said the wife, “is not that nice?”

“Yes,” said the man, “if this can only last, we shall be very well contented.”

“We will see about that,” said the wife. And after a meal they went to bed.

So all went well for a week or fortnight, when the wife said, “Look here, husband, the cottage is really too confined, and the yard and garden are so small; I think the flounder had better get us a larger house. I should like very much to live in a large stone castle; so, go to your fish and he will send us a castle.”

“O my dear wife,” said the man, “the cottage is good enough; what do we want a castle for?”

“We want one,” said the wife; “go along with you; the flounder can give us one.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “the flounder gave us the cottage; I do not like to go to him again — he may be angry.”

“Go along,” said the wife; “he might just as well give us it as not; do as I say!”

The man felt very reluctant and unwilling; and he said to himself, “It is not the right thing to do,” — nevertheless he went.
So when he came to the seaside, the water was purple and dark blue and grey and thick, and not green and yellow as before. And he stood and said,

O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

“Now then, what does she want?” said the flounder.

“Oh,” said the man, half-frightened, “she wants to live in a large stone castle.”

“Go home with you; she is already standing before the door,” said the flounder.

Then the man went home, as he supposed, but when he got there, there stood in the place of the cottage a great castle of stone, and his wife was standing on the steps, about to go in; so she took him by the hand and said, “Let us enter.”

With that he went in with her, and in the castle was a great hall with a marble pavement, and there were a great many servants who led them through large doors, and the passages were decked with tapestry, and the rooms with golden chairs and tables and crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and all the rooms had carpets. And the tables were covered with eatables and the best wine for any one who wanted them. And at the back of the house was a great stable-yard for horses and cattle, and carriages of the finest; besides, there was a splendid large garden with the most beautiful flowers and fine fruit trees, and a pleasance full half a mile long, with deer and oxen and sheep, and everything that heart could wish for.

“There!” said the wife, “is not this beautiful?”

“Oh yes,” said the man, “if it will only last, we can live in this fine castle and be very well contented.”

“We will see about that,” said the wife; “in the meanwhile, we will sleep upon it.” With that they went to bed.

The next morning the wife was awake first, just at the break of day, and she looked out and saw from her bed the beautiful country lying all round. The man took no notice of it, so she poked him in the side with her elbow, and said, “Husband, get up and just look out of the window. Look, just think if we could be king over all this country. Just go to your fish and tell him we should like to be king.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “what should we be kings for? I don’t want to be king.”

“Well,” said the wife, “if you don’t want to be king, I will be king.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “what do you want to be king for? I could not ask him such a thing.”

“Why not?” said the wife, “you must go directly all the same; I must be king.”

So the man went, very much put out that his wife should want to be king.

“It is not the right thing to do — not at all the right thing,” thought the man. He did not at all want to go, and yet he went all the same.

And when he came to the sea the water was quite dark grey, and rushed far inland, and had an ill smell. And he stood and said,

“O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

“Now then, what does she want?” said the fish.

“Oh dear!” said the man, “she wants to be king.”

“Go home with you, she is so already,” said the fish.

So the man went back, and as he came to the palace, he saw it was very much larger and had great towers and splendid gateways; the herald stood before the door, and a number of soldiers with kettle-drums and trumpets.

And when he came inside everything was of marble and gold, and there were many curtains with great golden tassels. Then he went through the doors of the saloon to where the great throne-room was, and there was his wife sitting upon a throne of gold and diamonds, and she had a great golden crown on, and the sceptre in her hand was of pure gold and jewels, and on each side stood six pages in a row, each one a head shorter than the other.

So the man went up to her and said, “Well, wife, so now you are king!”

“Yes,” said the wife, “now I am king.”

So then he stood and looked at her, and when he had gazed at her for some time he said, “Well, wife, this is fine for you to be king! Now there is nothing more to wish for.”

“O husband,” said the wife, seeming quite restless, “I am tired of this already! Go to your fish and tell him that, now I am king, I must be emperor.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “what do you want to be emperor for?”

“Husband,” said she, “go and tell the fish I want to be emperor.”

“Oh dear!” said the man, “he could not do it — I cannot ask him such a thing. There is but one emperor at a time; the fish can’t possibly make any one emperor — indeed he can’t.”

“Now, look here,” said the wife, “I am king, and you are only my husband, so will you go at once? Go along! For if he was able to make me king, he is able to make me emperor, and I will and must be emperor, so go along!”

So he was obliged to go, and as he went, he felt very uncomfortable about it, and he thought to himself, “It is not at all the right thing to do; to want to be emperor is really going too far; the flounder will soon be beginning to get tired of this.”

With that he came to the sea, and the water was quite black and thick, and the foam flew, and the wind blew, and the man was terrified. But he stood and said,

O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

“What is it now?” said the fish.

“Oh dear!” said the man, “my wife wants to be emperor.”

“Go home with you,” said the fish, “she is emperor already.”

So the man went home and found the castle adorned with polished marble, and alabaster figures, and golden gates. The troops were being marshalled before the door, and they were blowing trumpets and beating drums and cymbals, and when he entered, he saw barons and earls and dukes waiting about like servants, and the doors were of bright gold.

And he saw his wife sitting upon a throne made of one entire piece of gold, and it was about two miles high, and she had a great golden crown on, which was about three yards high, set with brilliants and carbuncles, and in one hand she held the sceptre, and in the other the globe, and on both sides of her stood pages in two rows, all arranged according to their size, from the most enormous giant of two miles high to the tiniest dwarf of the size of my little finger, and before her stood earls and dukes in crowds.

So the man went up to her and said, “Well, wife, so now you are emperor.”

“Yes,” said she, “now I am emperor.”

Then he went and sat down and had a good look at her, and then he said, “Well now, wife, there is nothing left to be, now you are emperor.”

“What are you talking about, husband?” said she; “I am emperor, and next I will be pope! So go and tell the fish so.”

“Oh dear!” said the man, “what is it that you don’t want? You can never become pope; there is but one pope in Christendom, and the fish can’t possibly do it.”

“Husband,” said she, “no more words about it; I must and will be pope; so go along to the fish.”

“Now, wife,” said the man, “how can I ask him such a thing? it is too bad — it is asking a little too much, and besides, he could not do it.”

“What rubbish!” said the wife; “if he could make me emperor he can make me pope. Go along and ask him; I am emperor, and you are only my husband, so go you must.”

So he went, feeling very frightened, and he shivered and shook, and his knees trembled, and there arose a great wind, and the clouds flew by, and it grew very dark, and the sea rose mountains high, and the ships were tossed about, and the sky was partly blue in the middle, but at the sides very dark and red, as in a great tempest. And he felt very desponding, and stood trembling and said,

“O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.”

“Well, what now?” said the fish.

“Oh dear!” said the man, “she wants to be pope.”

“Go home with you; she is pope already,” said the fish.
So he went home, and he found himself before a great church, with palaces all round. He had to make his way through a crowd of people, and when he got inside, he found the place lighted up with thousands and thousands of lights, and his wife was clothed in a golden garment, and sat upon a very high throne, and had three golden crowns on, all in the greatest priestly pomp, and on both sides of her there stood two rows of lights of all sizes — from the size of the longest tower to the smallest rushlight, and all the emperors and kings were kneeling before her and kissing her foot.

“Well, wife,” said the man, and sat and stared at her, “so you are pope.”

“Yes,” said she, “now I am pope!”

And he went on gazing at her till he felt dazzled, as if he were sitting in the sun. And after a little time he said, “Well, now, wife, what is there left to be, now you are pope?”

And she sat up very stiff and straight, and said nothing.

And he said again, “Well, wife, I hope you are contented at last with being pope; you can be nothing more.”

“We will see about that,” said the wife. With that they both went to bed, but she was as far as ever from being contented, and she could not get to sleep for thinking of what she should like to be next.

The husband, however, slept as fast as a top after his busy day, but the wife tossed and turned from side to side the whole night through, thinking all the while what she could be next, but nothing would occur to her, and when she saw the red dawn, she slipped off the bed and sat before the window to see the sun rise, and as it came up, she said, “Ah, I have it! What if I should make the sun and moon to rise — husband!” she cried and stuck her elbow in his ribs; “wake up, and go to your fish, and tell him I want power over the sun and moon.”

The man was so fast asleep that when he started up he fell out of bed. Then he shook himself together, and opened his eyes and said, “Oh, — wife, what did you say?”

“Husband,” said she, “if I cannot get the power of making the sun and moon rise when I want them, I shall never have another quiet hour. Go to the fish and tell him so.”

“O wife!” said the man, and fell on his knees to her, “the fish can really not do that for you. I grant you he could make you emperor and pope; do be contented with that, I beg of you.”

And she became wild with impatience, and screamed out, “I can wait no longer; go at once!”

And so off he went as well as he could for fright. And a dreadful storm arose, so that he could hardly keep his feet, and the houses and trees were blown down, and the mountains trembled, and rocks fell in the sea; the sky was quite black, and it thundered and lightened; and the waves, crowned with foam, ran mountains high. So he cried out, without being able to hear his own words,

O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I’ve got,
For she wants what I do not.

“Well, what now?” said the flounder.

“Oh dear!” said the man, “she wants to order about the sun and moon.”

“Go home with you!” said the flounder, “you will find her in the old hovel.”

And there they are sitting to this very day.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

Snowdrop aka Snow White

Snowdrop
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
(Ideal for 5-6 Year Olds)
*Audio file at the end

 

It was the middle of winter, and the snowflakes were falling from the
sky like feathers. Now, a Queen sat sewing at a window framed in black
ebony, and as she sewed she looked out upon the snow. Suddenly she
pricked her finger and three drops of blood fell on to the snow. And
the red looked so lovely on the white that she thought to herself: “If
only I had a child as white as snow and as red as blood, and as black
as the wood of the window frame!”

Soon after, she had a daughter,whose hair was black as ebony, while her cheeks were red as blood, and her skin as white as snow; so she was called Snowdrop. But when the child was born the Queen died. A year after the King took another wife. She was a handsome woman, but proud and overbearing, and could not endure that any one should surpass her in beauty. She had a magic looking-glass, and when she stood before it and looked at herself she used to say, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, Who is fairest of us all?”

Then the Glass answered, “Queen, thou’rt fairest of them all.”

Then she was content, for she knew that the Looking-glass spoke the truth.

But Snowdrop grew up and became more and more beautiful, so that when she was seven years old she was as beautiful as the day, and far surpassed the Queen. Once, when she asked her Glass, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”

It answered, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold, but Snowdrop is fairer a thousandfold.”

Then the Queen was horror-struck, and turned green and yellow with jealousy. From the hour that she saw Snowdrop her heart sank, and she hated the little girl.

The pride and envy of her heart grew like a weed, so that she had no rest day nor night. At last she called a Huntsman, and said: “Take the child out into the wood; I will not set eyes on her again; you must kill her and bring me her lungs and liver as tokens.”

The Huntsman obeyed, and took Snowdrop out into the forest, but when he drew his hunting-knife and was preparing to plunge it into her innocent heart, she began to cry, “Alas! dear Huntsman, spare my life, and I will run away into the wild forest and never come back again.”

And because of her beauty the Huntsman had pity on her and said, “Well, run away, poor child.” Wild beasts will soon devour you, he thought, but still he felt as though a weight were lifted from his heart because he had not been obliged to kill her. And as just at that moment a young fawn came leaping by, he pierced it and took the lungs and liver as tokens to the Queen. The Cook was ordered to serve them up in pickle, and the wicked Queen ate them thinking that they were Snowdrop’s.

Now the poor child was alone in the great wood, with no living soul near, and she was so frightened that she knew not what to do. Then she began to run, and ran over the sharp stones and through the brambles, while the animals passed her by without harming her. She ran as far as her feet could carry her till it was nearly evening, when she saw a little house and went in to rest. Inside, everything was small, but as neat and clean as could be. A small table covered with a white cloth stood ready with seven small plates, and by every plate was a spoon, knife, fork, and cup. Seven little beds were ranged against the walls, covered with snow-white coverlets. As Snowdrop was very hungry and thirsty she ate a little bread and vegetable from each plate, and drank a little wine from each cup, for she did not want to eat up the whole of one portion. Then, being very tired, she lay down in one of the beds. She tried them all but none suited her; one was too short, another too long, all except the seventh, which was just right. She remained in it, said her prayers, and fell asleep.

When it was quite dark the masters of the house came in. They were seven Dwarfs, who used to dig in the mountains for ore. They kindled their lights, and as soon as they could see they noticed that some one had been there, for everything was not in the order in which they had left it.

The first said, “Who has been sitting in my chair?”

The second said, “Who has been eating off my plate?”

The third said, “Who has been nibbling my bread?”

The fourth said, “Who has been eating my vegetables?”

The fifth said, “Who has been using my fork?”

The sixth said, “Who has been cutting with my knife?”

The seventh said, “Who has been drinking out of my cup?”

Then the first looked and saw a slight impression on his bed, and said, “Who has been treading on my bed?” The others came running up and said, “And mine, and mine.” But the seventh, when he looked into his bed, saw Snowdrop, who lay there asleep. He called the others, who came up and cried out with astonishment, as they held their lights and gazed at Snowdrop. “Heavens! what a beautiful child,” they said, and they were so delighted that they did not wake her up but left her asleep in bed. And the seventh Dwarf slept with his comrades, an hour with each all through the night.

When morning came Snowdrop woke up, and when she saw the seven Dwarfs she was frightened. But they were very kind and asked her name.

“I am called Snowdrop,” she answered.

“How did you get into our house?” they asked.

Then she told them how her stepmother had wished to get rid of her, how the Huntsman had spared her life, and how she had run all day till she had found the house.

Then the Dwarfs said, “Will you look after our household, cook, make the beds, wash, sew and knit, and keep everything neat and clean? If so you shall stay with us and want for nothing.”

“Yes,” said Snowdrop, “with all my heart”; and she stayed with them and kept the house in order.

In the morning they went to the mountain and searched for copper and gold, and in the evening they came back and then their meal had to be ready. All day the maiden was alone, and the good Dwarfs warned her and said, “Beware of your stepmother, who will soon learn that you are here. Don’t let any one in.”

But the Queen, having, as she imagined, eaten Snowdrop’s liver and lungs, and feeling certain that she was the fairest of all, stepped in front of her Glass, and asked, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”

the Glass answered as usual, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold, but Snowdrop over the fells, who with the seven Dwarfs dwells, is fairer still a thousandfold.”

She was dismayed, for she knew that the Glass told no lies, and she saw that the Hunter had deceived her and that Snowdrop still lived. Accordingly she began to wonder afresh how she might compass her death; for as long as she was not the fairest in the land her jealous heart left her no rest. At last she thought of a plan. She dyed her face and dressed up like an old Pedlar, so that she was quite unrecognizable. In this guise she crossed over the seven mountains to the home of the seven Dwarfs and called out, “Wares for sale.”

Snowdrop peeped out of the window and said, “Good-day, mother, what have you got to sell?”

“Good wares, fine wares,” she answered, “laces of every color”; and she held out one which was made of gay plaited silk.

“I may let the honest woman in,” thought Snowdrop, and she unbolted the door and bought the pretty lace.

“Child,” said the Old Woman, “what a sight you are, I will lace you properly for once.”

Snowdrop made no objection, and placed herself before the Old Woman to let her lace her with the new lace. But the Old Woman laced so quickly and tightly that she took away Snowdrop’s breath and she fell down as though dead.

“Now I am the fairest,” she said to herself, and hurried away.

Not long after the seven Dwarfs came home, and were horror-struck when they saw their dear little Snowdrop lying on the floor without stirring, like one dead. When they saw she was laced too tight they cut the lace, whereupon she began to breathe and soon came back to life again. When the Dwarfs heard what had happened, they said that the old Pedlar was no other than the wicked Queen. “Take care not to let any one in when we are not here,” they said.

Now the wicked Queen, as soon as she got home, went to the Glass and asked, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”

and it answered as usual, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold,
but Snowdrop over the fells, who with the seven Dwarfs dwells, is fairer still a thousandfold.”

When she heard it all her blood flew to her heart, so enraged was she, for she knew that Snowdrop had come back to life again. Then she thought to herself, “I must plan something which will put an end to her.” By means of witchcraft, in which she was skilled, she made a poisoned comb. Next she disguised herself and took the form of a different Old Woman. She crossed the mountains and came to the home of the seven Dwarfs, and knocked at the door calling out, “Good wares to sell.”

Snowdrop looked out of the window and said, “Go away, I must not let any one in.”

“At least you may look,” answered the Old Woman, and she took the poisoned comb and held it up.

The child was so pleased with it that she let herself be beguiled, and opened the door.

When she had made a bargain the Old Woman said, “Now I will comb your hair properly for once.”

Poor Snowdrop, suspecting no evil, let the Old Woman have her way, but scarcely was the poisoned comb fixed in her hair than the poison took effect, and the maiden fell down unconscious.

“You paragon of beauty,” said the wicked woman, “now it is all over with you,” and she went away.

Happily it was near the time when the seven Dwarfs came home. When they saw Snowdrop lying on the ground as though dead, they immediately suspected her stepmother, and searched till they found the poisoned comb. No sooner had they removed it than Snowdrop came to herself again and related what had happened. They warned her again to be on her guard, and to open the door to no one.

When she got home the Queen stood before her Glass and said, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”

and it answered as usual, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold,
but Snowdrop over the fells, who with the seven Dwarfs dwells, is fairer still a thousandfold.”

When she heard the Glass speak these words she trembled and quivered with rage. “Snowdrop shall die,” she said, “even if it cost me my own life.” Thereupon she went into a secret room, which no one ever entered but herself, and made a poisonous apple. Outwardly it was beautiful to look upon, with rosy cheeks, and every one who saw it longed for it, but whoever ate of it was certain to die. When the apple was ready she dyed her face and dressed herself like an old Peasant Woman and so crossed the seven hills to the Dwarfs’ home. There she knocked.

Snowdrop put her head out of the window and said, “I must not let any one in, the seven Dwarfs have forbidden me.”

“It is all the same to me,” said the Peasant Woman. “I shall soon get rid of my apples. There, I will give you one.”

“No; I must not take anything.”

“Are you afraid of poison?” said the woman. “See, I will cut the apple in half: you eat the red side and I will keep the other.”

Now the apple was so cunningly painted that the red half alone was poisoned. Snowdrop longed for the apple, and when she saw the Peasant Woman eating she could hold out no longer, stretched out her hand and took the poisoned half. Scarcely had she put a bit into her mouth than she fell dead to the ground.

The Queen looked with a fiendish glance, and laughed aloud and said, “White as snow, red as blood, and black as ebony, this time the Dwarfs cannot wake you up again.” And when she got home and asked the Looking-glass, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”

it answered at last, “Queen, thou’rt fairest of them all.”

Then her jealous heart was at rest, as much at rest as a jealous heart can be. The Dwarfs, when they came at evening, found Snowdrop lying on the ground and not a breath escaped her lips, and she was quite dead. They lifted her up and looked to see whether any poison was to be found, unlaced her dress, combed her hair, washed her with wine and water, but it was no use; their dear child was dead. They laid her on a bier, and all seven sat down and bewailed her and lamented over her for three whole days. Then they prepared to bury her, but she looked so fresh and living, and still had such beautiful rosy cheeks, that they said, “We cannot bury her in the dark earth.” And so they had a transparent glass coffin made, so that she could be seen from every side, laid her inside and wrote on it in letters of gold her name and how she was a King’s daughter. Then they set the coffin out on the mountain, and one of them always stayed by and watched it. And the birds came too and mourned for Snowdrop, first an owl, then a raven, and lastly a dove.

Now Snowdrop lay a long, long time in her coffin, looking as though she were asleep. It happened that a Prince was wandering in the wood, and came to the home of the seven Dwarfs to pass the night. He saw the coffin on the mountain and lovely Snowdrop inside, and read what was written in golden letters. Then he said to the Dwarfs, “Let me have the coffin; I will give you whatever you like for it.”

But they said, “We will not give it up for all the gold of the world.”

Then he said, “Then give it to me as a gift, for I cannot live without Snowdrop to gaze upon; and I will honor and reverence it as my dearest treasure.”

When he had said these words the good Dwarfs pitied him and gave him the coffin.

The Prince bade his servants carry it on their shoulders. Now it happened that they stumbled over some brushwood, and the shock dislodged the piece of apple from Snowdrop’s throat. In a short time she opened her eyes, lifted the lid of the coffin, sat up and came back to life again completely.

“O Heaven! where am I?” she asked.

The Prince, full of joy, said, “You are with me,” and he related what had happened, and then said, “I love you better than all the world; come with me to my father’s castle and be my wife.”

Snowdrop agreed and went with him, and their wedding was celebrated with great magnificence.

Snowdrop’s wicked stepmother was invited to the feast; and when she had put on her fine clothes she stepped to her Glass and asked, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is fairest of us all?”

The Glass answered, “Queen, thou art fairest here, I hold, the young Queen fairer a thousandfold.”

Then the wicked woman uttered a curse, and was so terribly frightened that she didn’t know what to do. Yet she had no rest: she felt obliged to go and see the young Queen. And when she came in she recognized Snowdrop, and stood stock still with fear and terror. But iron slippers were heated over the fire, and were soon brought in with tongs and put before her. And she had to step into the red-hot shoes and dance till she fell down dead.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here:

The Fir Tree

The Fir Tree
~Hans Christian Andersen

LittleFirTree

Far down in the forest, where the warm sun and the fresh air made a sweet resting-place, grew a pretty little fir-tree; and yet it was not happy, it wished so much to be tall like its companions— the pines and firs which grew around it. The sun shone, and the soft air fluttered its leaves, and the little peasant children passed by, prattling merrily, but the fir-tree heeded them not. Sometimes the children would bring a large basket of raspberries or strawberries, wreathed on a straw, and seat themselves near the fir-tree, and say, “Is it not a pretty little tree?” which made it feel more unhappy than before. And yet all this while the tree grew a notch or joint taller every year; for by the number of joints in the stem of a fir-tree we can discover its age. Still, as it grew, it complained, “Oh! how I wish I were as tall as the other trees, then I would spread out my branches on every side, and my top would over-look the wide world. I should have the birds building their nests on my boughs, and when the wind blew, I should bow with stately dignity like my tall companions.” The tree was so discontented, that it took no pleasure in the warm sunshine, the birds, or the rosy clouds that floated over it morning and evening. Sometimes, in winter, when the snow lay white and glittering on the ground, a hare would come springing along, and jump right over the little tree; and then how mortified it would feel! Two winters passed, and when the third arrived, the tree had grown so tall that the hare was obliged to run round it. Yet it remained unsatisfied, and would exclaim, “Oh, if I could but keep on growing tall and old! There is nothing else worth caring for in the world!” In the autumn, as usual, the wood-cutters came and cut down several of the tallest trees, and the young fir-tree, which was now grown to its full height, shuddered as the noble trees fell to the earth with a crash.

After the branches were lopped off, the trunks looked so slender and bare, that they could scarcely be recognized. Then they were placed upon wagons, and drawn by horses out of the forest. “Where were they going? What would become of them?” The young fir-tree wished very much to know; so in the spring, when the swallows and the storks came, it asked, “Do you know where those trees were taken? Did you meet them?”
The swallows knew nothing, but the stork, after a little reflection, nodded his head, and said, “Yes, I think I do. I met several new ships when I flew from Egypt, and they had fine masts that smelt like fir. I think these must have been the trees; I assure you they were stately, very stately.”

“Oh, how I wish I were tall enough to go on the sea,” said the fir-tree. “What is the sea, and what does it look like?”

“It would take too much time to explain,” said the stork, flying quickly away.

“Rejoice in thy youth,” said the sunbeam; “rejoice in thy fresh growth, and the young life that is in thee.”
And the wind kissed the tree, and the dew watered it with tears; but the fir-tree regarded them not.
Christmas-time drew near, and many young trees were cut down, some even smaller and younger than the fir-tree who enjoyed neither rest nor peace with longing to leave its forest home. These young trees, which were chosen for their beauty, kept their branches, and were also laid on wagons and drawn by horses out of the forest.

“Where are they going?” asked the fir-tree. “They are not taller than I am: indeed, one is much less; and why are the branches not cut off? Where are they going?”

“We know, we know,” sang the sparrows; “we have looked in at the windows of the houses in the town, and we know what is done with them. They are dressed up in the most splendid manner. We have seen them standing in the middle of a warm room, and adorned with all sorts of beautiful things,—honey cakes, gilded apples, playthings, and many hundreds of wax tapers.”

“And then,” asked the fir-tree, trembling through all its branches, “and then what happens?”

“We did not see any more,” said the sparrows; “but this was enough for us.”

“I wonder whether anything so brilliant will ever happen to me,” thought the fir-tree. “It would be much better than crossing the sea. I long for it almost with pain. Oh! when will Christmas be here? I am now as tall and well grown as those which were taken away last year. Oh! that I were now laid on the wagon, or standing in the warm room, with all that brightness and splendor around me! Something better and more beautiful is to come after, or the trees would not be so decked out. Yes, what follows will be grander and more splendid. What can it be? I am weary with longing. I scarcely know how I feel.”

“Rejoice with us,” said the air and the sunlight. “Enjoy thine own bright life in the fresh air.”
But the tree would not rejoice, though it grew taller every day; and, winter and summer, its dark-green foliage might be seen in the forest, while passers by would say, “What a beautiful tree!”

A short time before Christmas, the discontented fir-tree was the first to fall. As the axe cut through the stem, and divided the pith, the tree fell with a groan to the earth, conscious of pain and faintness, and forgetting all its anticipations of happiness, in sorrow at leaving its home in the forest. It knew that it should never again see its dear old companions, the trees, nor the little bushes and many-colored flowers that had grown by its side; perhaps not even the birds. Neither was the journey at all pleasant. The tree first recovered itself while being unpacked in the courtyard of a house, with several other trees; and it heard a man say, “We only want one, and this is the prettiest.”

Then came two servants in grand livery, and carried the fir-tree into a large and beautiful apartment. On the walls hung pictures, and near the great stove stood great china vases, with lions on the lids. There were rocking chairs, silken sofas, large tables, covered with pictures, books, and playthings, worth a great deal of money,—at least, the children said so. Then the fir-tree was placed in a large tub, full of sand; but green baize hung all around it, so that no one could see it was a tub, and it stood on a very handsome carpet. How the fir-tree trembled! “What was going to happen to him now?” Some young ladies came, and the servants helped them to adorn the tree. On one branch they hung little bags cut out of colored paper, and each bag was filled with sweetmeats; from other branches hung gilded apples and walnuts, as if they had grown there; and above, and all round, were hundreds of red, blue, and white tapers, which were fastened on the branches. Dolls, exactly like real babies, were placed under the green leaves,—the tree had never seen such things before,—and at the very top was fastened a glittering star, made of tinsel. Oh, it was very beautiful!

“This evening,” they all exclaimed, “how bright it will be!” “Oh, that the evening were come,” thought the tree, “and the tapers lighted! then I shall know what else is going to happen. Will the trees of the forest come to see me? I wonder if the sparrows will peep in at the windows as they fly? shall I grow faster here, and keep on all these ornaments summer and winter?” But guessing was of very little use; it made his bark ache, and this pain is as bad for a slender fir-tree, as headache is for us. At last the tapers were lighted, and then what a glistening blaze of light the tree presented! It trembled so with joy in all its branches, that one of the candles fell among the green leaves and burnt some of them. “Help! help!” exclaimed the young ladies, but there was no danger, for they quickly extinguished the fire. After this, the tree tried not to tremble at all, though the fire frightened him; he was so anxious not to hurt any of the beautiful ornaments, even while their brilliancy dazzled him. And now the folding doors were thrown open, and a troop of children rushed in as if they intended to upset the tree; they were followed more silently by their elders. For a moment the little ones stood silent with astonishment, and then they shouted for joy, till the room rang, and they danced merrily round the tree, while one present after another was taken from it.

“What are they doing? What will happen next?” thought the fir. At last the candles burnt down to the branches and were put out. Then the children received permission to plunder the tree.
Oh, how they rushed upon it, till the branches cracked, and had it not been fastened with the glistening star to the ceiling, it must have been thrown down. The children then danced about with their pretty toys, and no one noticed the tree, except the children’s maid who came and peeped among the branches to see if an apple or a fig had been forgotten.

“A story, a story,” cried the children, pulling a little fat man towards the tree.
“Now we shall be in the green shade,” said the man, as he seated himself under it, “and the tree will have the pleasure of hearing also, but I shall only relate one story; what shall it be? Ivede-Avede, or Humpty Dumpty, who fell down stairs, but soon got up again, and at last married a princess.”

“Ivede-Avede,” cried some. “Humpty Dumpty,” cried others, and there was a fine shouting and crying out. But the fir-tree remained quite still, and thought to himself, “Shall I have anything to do with all this?” but he had already amused them as much as they wished. Then the old man told them the story of Humpty Dumpty, how he fell down stairs, and was raised up again, and married a princess. And the children clapped their hands and cried, “Tell another, tell another,” for they wanted to hear the story of “Ivede-Avede;” but they only had “Humpty Dumpty.” After this the fir-tree became quite silent and thoughtful; never had the birds in the forest told such tales as “Humpty Dumpty,” who fell down stairs, and yet married a princess.

“Ah! yes, so it happens in the world,” thought the fir-tree; he believed it all, because it was related by such a nice man. “Ah! well,” he thought, “who knows? perhaps I may fall down too, and marry a princess;” and he looked forward joyfully to the next evening, expecting to be again decked out with lights and playthings, gold and fruit. “To-morrow I will not tremble,” thought he; “I will enjoy all my splendor, and I shall hear the story of Humpty Dumpty again, and perhaps Ivede-Avede.” And the tree remained quiet and thoughtful all night. In the morning the servants and the housemaid came in. “Now,” thought the fir, “all my splendor is going to begin again.” But they dragged him out of the room and up stairs to the garret, and threw him on the floor, in a dark corner, where no daylight shone, and there they left him. “What does this mean?” thought the tree, “what am I to do here? I can hear nothing in a place like this,” and he had time enough to think, for days and nights passed and no one came near him, and when at last somebody did come, it was only to put away large boxes in a corner. So the tree was completely hidden from sight as if it had never existed. “It is winter now,” thought the tree, “the ground is hard and covered with snow, so that people cannot plant me. I shall be sheltered here, I dare say, until spring comes. How thoughtful and kind everybody is to me! Still I wish this place were not so dark, as well as lonely, with not even a little hare to look at. How pleasant it was out in the forest while the snow lay on the ground, when the hare would run by, yes, and jump over me too, although I did not like it then. Oh! it is terrible lonely here.”

“Squeak, squeak,” said a little mouse, creeping cautiously towards the tree; then came another; and they both sniffed at the fir-tree and crept between the branches.

“Oh, it is very cold,” said the little mouse, “or else we should be so comfortable here, shouldn’t we, you old fir-tree?”

“I am not old,” said the fir-tree, “there are many who are older than I am.”

“Where do you come from? and what do you know?” asked the mice, who were full of curiosity. “Have you seen the most beautiful places in the world, and can you tell us all about them? and have you been in the storeroom, where cheeses lie on the shelf, and hams hang from the ceiling? One can run about on tallow candles there, and go in thin and come out fat.”

“I know nothing of that place,” said the fir-tree, “but I know the wood where the sun shines and the birds sing.” And then the tree told the little mice all about its youth. They had never heard such an account in their lives; and after they had listened to it attentively, they said, “What a number of things you have seen? you must have been very happy.”

“Happy!” exclaimed the fir-tree, and then as he reflected upon what he had been telling them, he said, “Ah, yes! after all those were happy days.” But when he went on and related all about Christmas-eve, and how he had been dressed up with cakes and lights, the mice said, “How happy you must have been, you old fir-tree.”

“I am not old at all,” replied the tree, “I only came from the forest this winter, I am now checked in my growth.”

“What splendid stories you can relate,” said the little mice. And the next night four other mice came with them to hear what the tree had to tell. The more he talked the more he remembered, and then he thought to himself, “Those were happy days, but they may come again. Humpty Dumpty fell down stairs, and yet he married the princess; perhaps I may marry a princess too.” And the fir-tree thought of the pretty little birch-tree that grew in the forest, which was to him a real beautiful princess.

“Who is Humpty Dumpty?” asked the little mice. And then the tree related the whole story; he could remember every single word, and the little mice was so delighted with it, that they were ready to jump to the top of the tree. The next night a great many more mice made their appearance, and on Sunday two rats came with them; but they said, it was not a pretty story at all, and the little mice were very sorry, for it made them also think less of it.

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

“Only one,” replied the fir-tree; “I heard it on the happiest evening of my life; but I did not know I was so happy at the time.”

“We think it is a very miserable story,” said the rats. “Don’t you know any story about bacon, or tallow in the storeroom.”

“No,” replied the tree.

“Many thanks to you then,” replied the rats, and they marched off.

The little mice also kept away after this, and the tree sighed, and said, “It was very pleasant when the merry little mice sat round me and listened while I talked. Now that is all passed too. However, I shall consider myself happy when some one comes to take me out of this place.” But would this ever happen? Yes; one morning people came to clear out the garret, the boxes were packed away, and the tree was pulled out of the corner, and thrown roughly on the garret floor; then the servant dragged it out upon the staircase where the daylight shone. “Now life is beginning again,” said the tree, rejoicing in the sunshine and fresh air.

Then it was carried down stairs and taken into the courtyard so quickly, that it forgot to think of itself, and could only look about, there was so much to be seen. The court was close to a garden, where everything looked blooming. Fresh and fragrant roses hung over the little palings. The linden-trees were in blossom; while the swallows flew here and there, crying, “Twit, twit, twit, my mate is coming,”—but it was not the fir-tree they meant. “Now I shall live,” cried the tree, joyfully spreading out its branches; but alas! they were all withered and yellow, and it lay in a corner amongst weeds and nettles. The star of gold paper still stuck in the top of the tree and glittered in the sunshine. In the same courtyard two of the merry children were playing who had danced round the tree at Christmas, and had been so happy. The youngest saw the gilded star, and ran and pulled it off the tree. “Look what is sticking to the ugly old fir-tree,” said the child, treading on the branches till they crackled under his boots. And the tree saw all the fresh bright flowers in 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 forest, of the merry Christmas evening, and of the little mice who had listened to the story of “Humpty Dumpty.” “Past! past!” said the old tree; “Oh, had I but enjoyed myself while I could have done so! but now it is too late.” Then a lad came and chopped the tree into small pieces, till a large bundle lay in a heap on the ground. The pieces were placed in a fire under the copper, and they quickly blazed up brightly, while the tree sighed so deeply that each sigh was like a pistol-shot. Then the children, who were at play, came and seated themselves in front of the fire, and looked at it and cried,

“Pop, pop.” But at each “pop,” which was a deep sigh, the tree was thinking of a summer day in the forest; and of Christmas evening, and of “Humpty Dumpty,” the only story it had ever heard or knew how to relate, till at last it was consumed. The boys still played in the garden, and the youngest wore the golden star on his breast, with which the tree had been adorned during the happiest evening of its existence. Now all was past; the tree’s life was past, and the story also,—for all stories must come to an end at last.

The Emperor’s New Suit

The Emperor’s New Suit
~Hans Christian Andersen

442px-Edmund_Dulac_-_The_Emperors_New_Clothes_-_procession ~Art by Edmund Dulac

Many, many years ago lived an emperor, who thought so much of new clothes that he spent all his money in order to obtain them; his only ambition was to be always well dressed. He did not care for his soldiers, and the theatre did not amuse him; the only thing, in fact, he thought anything of was to drive out and show a new suit of clothes. He had a coat for every hour of the day; and as one would say of a king “He is in his cabinet,” so one could say of him, “The emperor is in his dressing-room.”

The great city where he resided was very gay; every day many strangers from all parts of the globe arrived. One day two swindlers came to this city; they made people believe that they were weavers, and declared they could manufacture the finest cloth to be imagined. Their colours and patterns, they said, were not only exceptionally beautiful, but the clothes made of their material possessed the wonderful quality of being invisible to any man who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid.

“That must be wonderful cloth,” thought the emperor. “If I were to be dressed in a suit made of this cloth I should be able to find out which men in my empire were unfit for their places, and I could distinguish the clever from the stupid. I must have this cloth woven for me without delay.” And he gave a large sum of money to the swindlers, in advance, that they should set to work without any loss of time. They set up two looms, and pretended to be very hard at work, but they did nothing whatever on the looms. They asked for the finest silk and the most precious gold-cloth; all they got they did away with, and worked at the empty looms till late at night.

“I should very much like to know how they are getting on with the cloth,” thought the emperor. But he felt rather uneasy when he remembered that he who was not fit for his office could not see it. Personally, he was of opinion that he had nothing to fear, yet he thought it advisable to send somebody else first to see how matters stood. Everybody in the town knew what a remarkable quality the stuff possessed, and all were anxious to see how bad or stupid their neighbours were.

“I shall send my honest old minister to the weavers,” thought the emperor. “He can judge best how the stuff looks, for he is intelligent, and nobody understands his office better than he.”

The good old minister went into the room where the swindlers sat before the empty looms. “Heaven preserve us!” he thought, and opened his eyes wide, “I cannot see anything at all,” but he did not say so. Both swindlers requested him to come near, and asked him if he did not admire the exquisite pattern and the beautiful colours, pointing to the empty looms. The poor old minister tried his very best, but he could see nothing, for there was nothing to be seen. “Oh dear,” he thought, “can I be so stupid? I should never have thought so, and nobody must know it! Is it possible that I am not fit for my office? No, no, I cannot say that I was unable to see the cloth.”

“Now, have you got nothing to say?” said one of the swindlers, while he pretended to be busily weaving.

“Oh, it is very pretty, exceedingly beautiful,” replied the old minister looking through his glasses. “What a beautiful pattern, what brilliant colours! I shall tell the emperor that I like the cloth very much.”

“We are pleased to hear that,” said the two weavers, and described to him the colours and explained the curious pattern. The old minister listened attentively, that he might relate to the emperor what they said; and so he did.

Now the swindlers asked for more money, silk and gold-cloth, which they required for weaving. They kept everything for themselves, and not a thread came near the loom, but they continued, as hitherto, to work at the empty looms.

Soon afterwards the emperor sent another honest courtier to the weavers to see how they were getting on, and if the cloth was nearly finished. Like the old minister, he looked and looked but could see nothing, as there was nothing to be seen.

“Is it not a beautiful piece of cloth?” asked the two swindlers, showing and explaining the magnificent pattern, which, however, did not exist.

“I am not stupid,” said the man. “It is therefore my good appointment for which I am not fit. It is very strange, but I must not let any one know it;” and he praised the cloth, which he did not see, and expressed his joy at the beautiful colours and the fine pattern. “It is very excellent,” he said to the emperor.
Everybody in the whole town talked about the precious cloth. At last the emperor wished to see it himself, while it was still on the loom. With a number of courtiers, including the two who had already been there, he went to the two clever swindlers, who now worked as hard as they could, but without using any thread.

“Is it not magnificent?” said the two old statesmen who had been there before. “Your Majesty must admire the colours and the pattern.” And then they pointed to the empty looms, for they imagined the others could see the cloth.

“What is this?” thought the emperor, “I do not see anything at all. That is terrible! Am I stupid? Am I unfit to be emperor? That would indeed be the most dreadful thing that could happen to me.”

“Really,” he said, turning to the weavers, “your cloth has our most gracious approval;” and nodding contentedly he looked at the empty loom, for he did not like to say that he saw nothing. All his attendants, who were with him, looked and looked, and although they could not see anything more than the others, they said, like the emperor, “It is very beautiful.” And all advised him to wear the new magnificent clothes at a great procession which was soon to take place. “It is magnificent, beautiful, excellent,” one heard them say; everybody seemed to be delighted, and the emperor appointed the two swindlers “Imperial Court weavers.”
The whole night previous to the day on which the procession was to take place, the swindlers pretended to work, and burned more than sixteen candles. People should see that they were busy to finish the emperor’s new suit. They pretended to take the cloth from the loom, and worked about in the air with big scissors, and sewed with needles without thread, and said at last: “The emperor’s new suit is ready now.”

The emperor and all his barons then came to the hall; the swindlers held their arms up as if they held something in their hands and said: “These are the trousers!” “This is the coat!” and “Here is the cloak!” and so on. “They are all as light as a cobweb, and one must feel as if one had nothing at all upon the body; but that is just the beauty of them.”

“Indeed!” said all the courtiers; but they could not see anything, for there was nothing to be seen.
“Does it please your Majesty now to graciously undress,” said the swindlers, “that we may assist your Majesty in putting on the new suit before the large looking-glass?”

The emperor undressed, and the swindlers pretended to put the new suit upon him, one piece after another; and the emperor looked at himself in the glass from every side.

“How well they look! How well they fit!” said all. “What a beautiful pattern! What fine colours! That is a magnificent suit of clothes!”

The master of the ceremonies announced that the bearers of the canopy, which was to be carried in the procession, were ready.

“I am ready,” said the emperor. “Does not my suit fit me marvellously?” Then he turned once more to the looking-glass, that people should think he admired his garments.

The chamberlains, who were to carry the train, stretched their hands to the ground as if they lifted up a train, and pretended to hold something in their hands; they did not like people to know that they could not see anything.

The emperor marched in the procession under the beautiful canopy, and all who saw him in the street and out of the windows exclaimed: “Indeed, the emperor’s new suit is incomparable! What a long train he has! How well it fits him!” Nobody wished to let others know he saw nothing, for then he would have been unfit for his office or too stupid. Never emperor’s clothes were more admired.

“But he has nothing on at all,” said a little child at last. “Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. “But he has nothing on at all,” cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, “Now I must bear up to the end.” And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the train which did not exist.

Little Ida’s Flowers

Little Ida’s Flowers
~Hans Christian Andersen

little-idas-flowers-anne-anderson

My poor flowers are quite dead,” said little Ida, “they were so pretty yesterday evening, and now all the leaves are hanging down quite withered. What do they do that for,” she asked, of the student who sat on the sofa; she liked him very much, he could tell the most amusing stories, and cut out the prettiest pictures; hearts, and ladies dancing, castles with doors that opened, as well as flowers; he was a delightful student. “Why do the flowers look so faded to-day?” she asked again, and pointed to her nosegay, which was quite withered.

“Don’t you know what is the matter with them?” said the student. “The flowers were at a ball last night, and therefore, it is no wonder they hang their heads.”

“But flowers cannot dance?” cried little Ida.
“Yes indeed, they can,” replied the student. “When it grows dark, and everybody is asleep, they jump about quite merrily. They have a ball almost every night.”

“Can children go to these balls?”

“Yes,” said the student, “little daisies and lilies of the valley.”

“Where do the beautiful flowers dance?” asked little Ida.

“Have you not often seen the large castle outside the gates of the town, where the king lives in summer, and where the beautiful garden is full of flowers? And have you not fed the swans with bread when they swam towards you? Well, the flowers have capital balls there, believe me.”

“I was in the garden out there yesterday with my mother,” said Ida, “but all the leaves were off the trees, and there was not a single flower left. Where are they? I used to see so many in the summer.”

“They are in the castle,” replied the student. “You must know that as soon as the king and all the court are gone into the town, the flowers run out of the garden into the castle, and you should see how merry they are. The two most beautiful roses seat themselves on the throne, and are called the king and queen, then all the red cockscombs range themselves on each side, and bow, these are the lords-in-waiting. After that the pretty flowers come in, and there is a grand ball. The blue violets represent little naval cadets, and dance with hyacinths and crocuses which they call young ladies. The tulips and tiger-lilies are the old ladies who sit and watch the dancing, so that everything may be conducted with order and propriety.”

“But,” said little Ida, “is there no one there to hurt the flowers for dancing in the king’s castle?”
“No one knows anything about it,” said the student. “The old steward of the castle, who has to watch there at night, sometimes comes in; but he carries a great bunch of keys, and as soon as the flowers hear the keys rattle, they run and hide themselves behind the long curtains, and stand quite still, just peeping their heads out. Then the old steward says, ‘I smell flowers here,’ but he cannot see them.”

“Oh how capital,” said little Ida, clapping her hands. “Should I be able to see these flowers?”

“Yes,” said the student, “mind you think of it the next time you go out, no doubt you will see them, if you peep through the window. I did so to-day, and I saw a long yellow lily lying stretched out on the sofa. She was a court lady.”

“Can the flowers from the Botanical Gardens go to these balls?” asked Ida. “It is such a distance!”
“Oh yes,” said the student “whenever they like, for they can fly. Have you not seen those beautiful red, white. and yellow butterflies, that look like flowers? They were flowers once. They have flown off their stalks into the air, and flap their leaves as if they were little wings to make them fly. Then, if they behave well, they obtain permission to fly about during the day, instead of being obliged to sit still on their stems at home, and so in time their leaves become real wings. It may be, however, that the flowers in the Botanical Gardens have never been to the king’s palace, and, therefore, they know nothing of the merry doings at night, which take place there. I will tell you what to do, and the botanical professor, who lives close by here, will be so surprised. You know him very well, do you not? Well, next time you go into his garden, you must tell one of the flowers that there is going to be a grand ball at the castle, then that flower will tell all the others, and they will fly away to the castle as soon as possible. And when the professor walks into his garden, there will not be a single flower left. How he will wonder what has become of them!”

“But how can one flower tell another? Flowers cannot speak?”
“No, certainly not,” replied the student; “but they can make signs. Have you not often seen that when the wind blows they nod at one another, and rustle all their green leaves?”

“Can the professor understand the signs?” asked Ida.

“Yes, to be sure he can. He went one morning into his garden, and saw a stinging nettle making signs with its leaves to a beautiful red carnation. It was saying, ‘You are so pretty, I like you very much.’ But the professor did not approve of such nonsense, so he clapped his hands on the nettle to stop it. Then the leaves, which are its fingers, stung him so sharply that he has never ventured to touch a nettle since.”

“Oh how funny!” said Ida, and she laughed.

“How can anyone put such notions into a child’s head?” said a tiresome lawyer, who had come to pay a visit, and sat on the sofa. He did not like the student, and would grumble when he saw him cutting out droll or amusing pictures. Sometimes it would be a man hanging on a gibbet and holding a heart in his hand as if he had been stealing hearts. Sometimes it was an old witch riding through the air on a broom and carrying her husband on her nose. But the lawyer did not like such jokes, and he would say as he had just said, “How can anyone put such nonsense into a child’s head! what absurd fancies there are!”

But to little Ida, all these stories which the student told her about the flowers, seemed very droll, and she thought over them a great deal. The flowers did hang their heads, because they had been dancing all night, and were very tired, and most likely they were ill. Then she took them into the room where a number of toys lay on a pretty little table, and the whole of the table drawer besides was full of beautiful things. Her doll Sophy lay in the doll’s bed asleep, and little Ida said to her, “You must really get up Sophy, and be content to lie in the drawer to-night; the poor flowers are ill, and they must lie in your bed, then perhaps they will get well again.” So she took the doll out, who looked quite cross, and said not a single word, for she was angry at being turned out of her bed. Ida placed the flowers in the doll’s bed, and drew the quilt over them. Then she told them to lie quite still and be good, while she made some tea for them, so that they might be quite well and able to get up the next morning. And she drew the curtains close round the little bed, so that the sun might not shine in their eyes. During the whole evening she could not help thinking of what the student had told her. And before she went to bed herself, she was obliged to peep behind the curtains into the garden where all her mother’s beautiful flowers grew, hyacinths and tulips, and many others. Then she whispered to them quite softly, “I know you are going to a ball to-night.” But the flowers appeared as if they did not understand, and not a leaf moved; still Ida felt quite sure she knew all about it. She lay awake a long time after she was in bed, thinking how pretty it must be to see all the beautiful flowers dancing in the king’s garden. “I wonder if my flowers have really been there,” she said to herself, and then she fell asleep. In the night she awoke; she had been dreaming of the flowers and of the student, as well as of the tiresome lawyer who found fault with him. It was quite still in Ida’s bedroom; the night-lamp burnt on the table, and her father and mother were asleep. “I wonder if my flowers are still lying in Sophy’s bed,” she thought to herself; “how much I should like to know.” She raised herself a little, and glanced at the door of the room where all her flowers and playthings lay; it was partly open, and as she listened, it seemed as if some one in the room was playing the piano, but softly and more prettily than she had ever before heard it. “Now all the flowers are certainly dancing in there,” she thought, “oh how much I should like to see them,” but she did not dare move for fear of disturbing her father and mother. “If they would only come in here,” she thought; but they did not come, and the music continued to play so beautifully, and was so pretty, that she could resist no longer. She crept out of her little bed, went softly to the door and looked into the room. Oh what a splendid sight there was to be sure!

There was no night-lamp burning, but the room appeared quite light, for the moon shone through the window upon the floor, and made it almost like day. All the hyacinths and tulips stood in two long rows down the room, not a single flower remained in the window, and the flower-pots were all empty. The flowers were dancing gracefully on the floor, making turns and holding each other by their long green leaves as they swung round. At the piano sat a large yellow lily which little Ida was sure she had seen in the summer, for she remembered the student saying she was very much like Miss Lina, one of Ida’s friends. They all laughed at him then, but now it seemed to little Ida as if the tall, yellow flower was really like the young lady. She had just the same manners while playing, bending her long yellow face from side to side, and nodding in time to the beautiful music. Then she saw a large purple crocus jump into the middle of the table where the playthings stood, go up to the doll’s bedstead and draw back the curtains; there lay the sick flowers, but they got up directly, and nodded to the others as a sign that they wished to dance with them. The old rough doll, with the broken mouth, stood up and bowed to the pretty flowers. They did not look ill at all now, but jumped about and were very merry, yet none of them noticed little Ida. Presently it seemed as if something fell from the table. Ida looked that way, and saw a slight carnival rod jumping down among the flowers as if it belonged to them; it was, however, very smooth and neat, and a little wax doll with a broad brimmed hat on her head, like the one worn by the lawyer, sat upon it. The carnival rod hopped about among the flowers on its three red stilted feet, and stamped quite loud when it danced the Mazurka; the flowers could not perform this dance, they were too light to stamp in that manner. All at once the wax doll which rode on the carnival rod seemed to grow larger and taller, and it turned round and said to the paper flowers, “How can you put such things in a child’s head? they are all foolish fancies;” and then the doll was exactly like the lawyer with the broad brimmed hat, and looked as yellow and as cross as he did; but the paper dolls struck him on his thin legs, and he shrunk up again and became quite a little wax doll. This was very amusing, and Ida could not help laughing. The carnival rod went on dancing, and the lawyer was obliged to dance also. It was no use, he might make himself great and tall, or remain a little wax doll with a large black hat; still he must dance. Then at last the other flowers interceded for him, especially those who had lain in the doll’s bed, and the carnival rod gave up his dancing. At the same moment a loud knocking was heard in the drawer, where Ida’s doll Sophy lay with many other toys. Then the rough doll ran to the end of the table, laid himself flat down upon it, and began to pull the drawer out a little way.

Then Sophy raised himself, and looked round quite astonished, “There must be a ball here to-night,” said Sophy. “Why did not somebody tell me?”

“Will you dance with me?” said the rough doll.

“You are the right sort to dance with, certainly,” said she, turning her back upon him.
Then she seated herself on the edge of the drawer, and thought that perhaps one of the flowers would ask her to dance; but none of them came. Then she coughed, “Hem, hem, a-hem;” but for all that not one came. The shabby doll now danced quite alone, and not very badly, after all. As none of the flowers seemed to notice Sophy, she let herself down from the drawer to the floor, so as to make a very great noise. All the flowers came round her directly, and asked if she had hurt herself, especially those who had lain in her bed. But she was not hurt at all, and Ida’s flowers thanked her for the use of the nice bed, and were very kind to her. They led her into the middle of the room, where the moon shone, and danced with her, while all the other flowers formed a circle round them. Then Sophy was very happy, and said they might keep her bed; she did not mind lying in the drawer at all. But the flowers thanked her very much, and said,—
“We cannot live long. To-morrow morning we shall be quite dead; and you must tell little Ida to bury us in the garden, near to the grave of the canary; then, in the summer we shall wake up and be more beautiful than ever.”

“No, you must not die,” said Sophy, as she kissed the flowers.
Then the door of the room opened, and a number of beautiful flowers danced in. Ida could not imagine where they could come from, unless they were the flowers from the king’s garden. First came two lovely roses, with little golden crowns on their heads; these were the king and queen. Beautiful stocks and carnations followed, bowing to every one present. They had also music with them. Large poppies and peonies had pea-shells for instruments, and blew into them till they were quite red in the face. The bunches of blue hyacinths and the little white snowdrops jingled their bell-like flowers, as if they were real bells. Then came many more flowers: blue violets, purple heart’s-ease, daisies, and lilies of the valley, and they all danced together, and kissed each other. It was very beautiful to behold.
At last the flowers wished each other good-night. Then little Ida crept back into her bed again, and dreamt of all she had seen. When she arose the next morning, she went quickly to the little table, to see if the flowers were still there. She drew aside the curtains of the little bed. There they all lay, but quite faded; much more so than the day before. Sophy was lying in the drawer where Ida had placed her; but she looked very sleepy.

“Do you remember what the flowers told you to say to me?” said little Ida. But Sophy looked quite stupid, and said not a single word.

“You are not kind at all,” said Ida; “and yet they all danced with you.”
Then she took a little paper box, on which were painted beautiful birds, and laid the dead flowers in it.
“This shall be your pretty coffin,” she said; “and by and by, when my cousins come to visit me, they shall help me to bury you out in the garden; so that next summer you may grow up again more beautiful than ever.”
Her cousins were two good-tempered boys, whose names were James and Adolphus. Their father had given them each a bow and arrow, and they had brought them to show Ida. She told them about the poor flowers which were dead; and as soon as they obtained permission, they went with her to bury them. The two boys walked first, with their crossbows on their shoulders, and little Ida followed, carrying the pretty box containing the dead flowers. They dug a little grave in the garden. Ida kissed her flowers and then laid them, with the box, in the earth. James and Adolphus then fired their crossbows over the grave, as they had neither guns nor cannons.

The Story of the Lightning and the Thunder

The Story of the Lightning and the Thunder
Southern Nigeria
by Elphinstone Darrell (1910)

IN the olden days the thunder and lightning lived on the earth amongst all the other people, but the king made them live at the far end of the town, as far as possible from other people’s houses.

The thunder was an old mother sheep, and the lightning was her son, a ram. Whenever the ram got angry he used to go about and burn houses and knock down trees; he even did damage on the farms, and sometimes killed people. Whenever the lightning did these things, his mother used to call out to him in a very loud voice to stop and not to do any more damage; but the lightning did not care in the least for what his mother said, and when he was in a bad temper used to do a very large amount of damage. At last the people could not stand it any longer, and complained to the king.

So the king made a special order that the sheep (Thunder) and her son, the ram (Lightning), should leave the town and live in the far bush. This did not do much good, as when the ram got angry he still burnt the forest, and the flames sometimes spread to the farms and consumed them.

So the people complained again, and the king banished both the lightning and the thunder from the earth and made them live in the sky, where they could not cause so much destruction. Ever since, when the lightning is angry, he commits damage as before, but you can hear his mother, the thunder, rebuking him and telling him to stop. Sometimes, however, when the mother has gone away some distance from her naughty son, you can still see that he is angry and is doing damage, but his mother’s voice cannot be heard.

A story about a test of skill

A story about a test of skill
Hausa Folk-Lore
by Maalam Shaihua, tr. by R. Sutherland Rattray (1913)

A Story about a Test of Skill
A Story about a Test of Skill

A story, a story.

A certain chief begat children, three males. One day his councillors assembled. He said he himself wished to see the most skilled among them. There was a huge baobab tree (near) the entrance to the chief’s house. He said he wanted them to mount (their) horses, (and) come (and) show their skill, where this baobab tree was.

So they mounted their chargers, (and) went far away. The eldest galloped (and) came, (and) thrust that baobab with (his) spear. The spear went right through and he followed, passing through the hole made by the spear, with his horse. And he passed on.

The next to follow the eldest came on. When he was near to the baobab tree he lifted his horse (on the bit) and jumped the baobab.

When the youngest galloped, he came, (and) pulled up the whole baobab, roots and all, and came on waving it aloft at his father, and the place rang with applause.

Now I ask you who excelled among them. If you do not know, that is all.

Off with the rat’s head.

Jorinda and Joringel

Jorinda and Joringel
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
(Ideal for 1st Grade)
*Audio file at the end

jorinde_und_joringel_by_gold_seven

There was once an old castle in the midst of a large and dense
forest, and in it an old woman who was a witch dwelt all
alone. In the day-time she changed herself into a car or a
screech-owl, but in the evening she took her proper shape
again as a human being. She could lure wild beasts and birds
to her, and then she killed and boiled and roasted them. If
anyone came within one hundred paces of the castle he was
obliged to stand still, and could not stir from the place until
she bade him be free. But whenever an innocent maiden came
within this circle, she changed her into a bird, and shut her
up in a wicker-work cage, and carried the cage into a room in the
castle. She had about seven thousand cages of rare birds in
the castle.

Now, there was once a maiden who was called jorinda, who was
fairer than all other girls. She and a handsome youth named
joringel had promised to marry each other. They were still in
the days of betrothal, and their greatest happiness was being
together. One day in order that they might be able to talk
together in peace they went for a walk in the forest. Take
care, said joringel, that you do not go too near the castle.
It was a beautiful evening. The sun shone brightly between
the trunks of the trees into the dark green of the forest, and
the turtle-doves sang mournfully upon the beech trees.

Jorinda wept now and then. She sat down in the sunshine and
was sorrowful. Joringel was sorrowful too. They were as
sad as if they were about to die. Then they looked around them,
and were quite at a loss, for they did not know by which way
they should go home. The sun was still half above the
mountain and half under.

Joringel looked through the bushes, and saw the old walls of the
castle close at hand. He was horror-stricken and filled with
deadly fear. Jorinda was singing,

my little bird, with the necklace red,
sings sorrow, sorrow, sorrow,
he sings that the dove must soon be dead,
sings sorrow, sor – jug, jug, jug.

Joringel looked for jorinda. She was changed into a nightingale,
and sang, jug, jug, jug. A screech-owl with glowing eyes
flew three times round about her, and three times cried, to-whoo,
to-whoo, to-whoo.

Joringel could not move. He stood there like a stone, and
could neither weep nor speak, nor move hand or foot.
The sun had now set. The owl flew into the thicket, and directly
afterwards there came out of it a crooked old woman, yellow
and lean, with large red eyes and a hooked nose, the point of
which reached to her chin. She muttered to herself, caught the
nightingale, and took it away in her hand.

Joringel could neither speak nor move from the spot. The
nightingale was gone. At last the woman came back, and said
in a hollow voice, greet you, zachiel. If the moon shines on
the cage, zachiel, let him loose at once. Then joringel was
freed. He fell on his knees before the woman and begged that
she would give him back his jorinda, but she said that he
should never have her again, and went away. He called, he wept,
he lamented, but all in vain, hooh, what is to become of me.

Joringel went away, and at last came to a strange village, where
he kept sheep for a long time. He often walked round and round
the castle, but not too near to it. At last he dreamt one
night that he found a blood-red flower, in the middle of
which was a beautiful large pearl. That he picked the flower
and went with it to the castle, and that everything he touched
with the flower was freed from enchantment. He also dreamt
that by means of it he recovered his jorinda.

In the morning, when he awoke, he began to seek over hill and
dale for such a flower. He sought until the ninth day, and then,
early in the morning, he found the blood-red flower. In the
middle of it there was a large dew-drop, as big as the finest
pearl.

Day and night he journeyed with this flower to the castle. When
he was within a hundred paces of it he was not held fast, but
walked on to the door. Joringel was full of joy. He touched the
door with the flower, and it sprang open. He walked in through
the courtyard, and listened for the sound of the birds. At
last he heard it. He went on and found the room from whence it
came, and there the witch was feeding the birds in the seven
thousand cages.

When she saw joringel she was angry, very angry, and scolded
and spat poison and gall at him, but she could not come within
two paces of him. He did not take any notice of her, but went
and looked at the cages with the birds. But there were many
hundred nightingales, how was he to find his jorinda again.
Just then he saw the old woman quietly take away a cage with
a bird in it, and go towards the door.

Swiftly he sprang towards her, touched the cage with the flower,
and also the old woman. She could now no longer bewitch anyone.
And jorinda was standing there, clasping him round the neck,
and she was as beautiful as ever. Then all the other birds
were turned into maidens again, and he went home with his jorinda,
and they lived happily together for a long time.

Listen to the audio from LibriVox here: