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The Pine Tree

from Good Stories For Great Holidays - CHRISTMAS DAY





BY HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN (TRANSLATED)


I. WHEN IT WAS LITTLE

Out in the woods stood such a nice little Pine Tree: he had a good
place; the sun could get at him; there was fresh air enough; and round
him grew many big comrades, both pines and firs. But the little Pine
wanted so very much to be a grown-up tree.

He did not think of the warm sun and of the fresh air, he did not care
for the little cottage-children who ran about and prattled when they
were looking for wild strawberries and raspberries. Often they came with
a whole jug full, or had their strawberries strung on a straw, and sat
down near the little Tree and said, "Oh, what a nice little fellow!"
This was what the Tree could not bear to hear.

The year after he had shot up a good deal, and the next year after he
was still bigger; for with pine trees one can always tell by the shoots
how many years old they are.

"Oh, were I but such a big tree as the others are," sighed the little
Tree. "Then I could spread my branches so far, and with the tops look
out into the wide world! Birds would build nests among my branches; and
when there was a breeze, I could nod as grandly as the others there."

He had no delight at all in the sunshine, or in the birds, or the red
clouds which morning and evening sailed above him.

When now it was winter and the snow all around lay glittering white,
a hare would often come leaping along, and jump right over the little
Tree. Oh, that made him so angry! But two winters went by, and with
the third the Tree was so big that the hare had to go round it. "Oh, to
grow, to grow, to become big and old, and be tall," thought the Tree:
"that, after all, is the most delightful thing in the world!"

In autumn the wood-cutters always came and felled some of the largest
trees. This happened every year, and the young Pine Tree, that was now
quite well grown, trembled at the sight; for the great stately trees
fell to the earth with noise and cracking, the branches were lopped off,
and the trees looked quite bare, they were so long and thin; you would
hardly know them for trees, and then they were laid on carts, and horses
dragged them out of the wood.

Where did they go to? What became of them?

In spring, when the Swallow and the Stork came, the Tree asked them,
"Don't you know where they have been taken? Have you not met them
anywhere?"

The Swallow did not know anything about it; but the Stork looked
doubtful, nodded his head, and said, "Yes; I have it; I met many new
ships as I was flying from Egypt; on the ships were splendid masts, and
I dare say it was they that smelt so of pine. I wish you joy, for they
lifted themselves on high in fine style!"

"Oh, were I but old enough to fly across the sea! How does the sea
really look? and what is it like?"

"Aye, that takes a long time to tell," said the Stork, and away he went.

"Rejoice in thy youth!" said the Sunbeams, "rejoice in thy hearty
growth, and in the young life that is in thee!"

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



II. CHRISTMAS IN THE WOODS


When Christmas came, quite young trees were cut down; trees which were
not even so large or of the same age as this Pine Tree, who had no rest
or peace, but always wanted to be off. These young trees, and they were
always the finest looking, always kept their branches; they were laid on
carts, and the horses drew them out of the wood.

"Where are they going to?" asked the Pine Tree. "They are not taller
than I; there was one, indeed, that was much shorter;--and why do they
keep all their branches? Where are they carrying them to?"

"We know! we know!" chirped the Sparrows. "We have peeped in at the
windows down there in the town. We know where they are carrying them
to. Oh, they are going to where it is as bright and splendid as you can
think! We peeped through the windows, and saw them planted in the middle
of the warm room, and dressed with the most splendid things,--with
gilded apples, with gingerbread, with toys and many hundred lights!"

"And then?" asked the Pine Tree, and he trembled in every bough. "And
then? What happens then?"

"We did not see anything more: it beat everything!"

"I wonder if I am to sparkle like that!" cried the Tree, rejoicing.
"That is still better than to go over the sea! How I do suffer for very
longing! Were Christmas but come! I am now tall, and stretch out like
the others that were carried off last year! Oh, if I were already on
the cart! I wish I were in the warm room with all the splendor and
brightness. And then? Yes; then will come something better, something
still grander, or why should they dress me out so? There must come
something better, something still grander,--but what? Oh, how I long,
how I suffer! I do not know myself what is the matter with me!"

"Rejoice in us!" said the Air and the Sunlight; "rejoice in thy fresh
youth out here in the open air!"

But the Tree did not rejoice at all; he grew and grew; and he stood
there in all his greenery; rich green was he winter and summer. People
that saw him said, "That's a fine tree!" and toward Christmas he was
the first that was cut down. The axe struck deep into the very pith; the
Tree fell to the earth with a sigh: he felt a pang--it was like a swoon;
he could not think of happiness, for he was sad at being parted from his
home, from the place where he had sprung up. He well knew that he should
never see his dear old comrades, the little bushes and flowers around
him, any more; perhaps not even the birds! The setting off was not at
all pleasant.

The Tree only came to himself when he was unloaded in a courtyard with
other trees, and heard a man say, "That one is splendid! we don't want
the others." Then two servants came in rich livery and carried the
Pine Tree into a large and splendid room. Portraits were hanging on the
walls, and near the white porcelain stove stood two large Chinese vases
with lions on the covers. There, too, were large easy-chairs, silken
sofas, large tables full of picture-books, and full of toys worth a
hundred times a hundred dollars--at least so the children said. And the
Pine Tree was stuck upright in a cask filled with sand: but no one could
see that it was a cask, for green cloth was hung all around it, and it
stood on a gayly colored carpet. Oh, how the Tree quivered! What was to
happen? The servants, as well as the young ladies, dressed it. On one
branch there hung little nets cut out of colored paper; each net was
filled with sugar-plums; gilded apples and walnuts hung as though they
grew tightly there, and more than a hundred little red, blue, and white
tapers were stuck fast into the branches. Dolls that looked for all the
world like men--the Tree had never seen such things before--fluttered
among the leaves, and at the very top a large star of gold tinsel was
fixed. It was really splendid--splendid beyond telling.

"This evening!" said they all; "how it will shine this evening!"

"Oh," thought the Tree, "if it were only evening! If the tapers were but
lighted! And then I wonder what will happen! I wonder if the other trees
from the forest will come to look at me! I wonder if the sparrows will
beat against the window-panes! I wonder if I shall take root here, and
stand dressed so winter and summer!"

Aye, aye, much he knew about the matter! but he had a real back-ache
for sheer longing, and a back-ache with trees is the same thing as a
head-ache with us.


III. CHRISTMAS IN THE HOUSE


The candles were now lighted. What brightness! What splendor! The Tree
trembled so in every bough that one of the tapers set fire to a green
branch. It blazed up splendidly.

Now the Tree did not even dare to tremble. That was a fright! He was so
afraid of losing something of all his finery, that he was quite confused
amidst the glare and brightness; and now both folding-doors opened, and
a troop of children rushed in as if they would tip the whole Tree over.
The older folks came quietly behind; the little ones stood quite still,
but only for a moment, then they shouted so that the whole place echoed
their shouts, they danced round the Tree, and one present after another
was pulled off.

"What are they about?" thought the Tree. "What is to happen now?" And
the lights burned down to the very branches, and as they burned down
they were put out one after the other, and then the children had leave
to plunder the Tree. Oh, they rushed upon it so that it cracked in all
its limbs; if its tip-top with the gold star on it had not been fastened
to the ceiling, it would have tumbled over.

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

"A story! a story!" cried the children, and they dragged a little fat
man toward the Tree. He sat down under it, and said, "Now we are in the
shade, and the Tree can hear very well too. But I shall tell only
one story. Now which will you have: that about Ivedy-Avedy, or about
Klumpy-Dumpy who tumbled downstairs, and came to the throne after all,
and married the princess?"

"Ivedy-Avedy," cried some; "Klumpy-Dumpy," cried the others. There was
such a bawling and screaming!--the Pine Tree alone was silent, and he
thought to himself, "Am I not to bawl with the rest?--am I to do nothing
whatever?"--for he was one of them, and he had done what he had to do.

And the man told about Klumpy-Dumpy who tumbled downstairs, and came to
the throne after all, and married the princess. And the children clapped
their hands, and cried out, "Go on, go on!" They wanted to hear about
Ivedy-Avedy too, but the little man only told them about Klumpy-Dumpy.
The Pine Tree stood quite still and thoughtful: the birds in the wood
had never told anything like this. "Klumpy-Dumpy fell downstairs, and
yet he married the princess! Yes, yes, that's the way of the world!"
thought the Pine Tree, and he believed it all, because it was such a
nice man who told the story.

"Well, well! who knows, perhaps I may fall downstairs, too, and so get a
princess!" And he looked forward with joy to the next day when he should
be decked out with lights and toys, fruits and tinsel.

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

In the morning the servant and the maid came in.


IV. IN THE ATTIC


"Now all the finery will begin again," thought the Pine. But they
dragged him out of the room, and up the stairs into the attic; and here
in a dark corner, where no daylight could enter, they left him. "What's
the meaning of this?" thought the Tree. "What am I to do here? What
shall I see and hear now, I wonder?" And he leaned against the wall and
stood and thought and thought. And plenty of time he had, for days and
nights passed, and nobody came up; and when at last somebody did come,
it was only to put some great trunks in the corner. There stood the Tree
quite hidden; it seemed as if he had been entirely forgotten.

"'T is now winter out-of-doors!" thought the Tree. "The earth is hard
and covered with snow; men cannot plant me now; therefore I have been
put up here under cover till spring! How thoughtful that is! How good
men are, after all! If it were not so dark here, and so terribly lonely!
Not even a hare. Out there it was so pleasant in the woods, when the
snow was on the ground, and the hare leaped by; yes--even when he jumped
over me; but I did not like it then. It is terribly lonely here!"

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

"It is dreadfully cold," said the little Mouse. "But for that, it would
be delightful here, old Pine, wouldn't it!"

"I am by no means old," said the Pine Tree. "There are many a good deal
older than I am."

"Where do you come from?" asked the Mice; "and what can you do?" They
were so very curious. "Tell us about the most beautiful spot on earth.
Have you been there? Were you ever in the larder, where cheeses lie on
the shelves, and hams hang from above; where one dances about on tallow
candles; where one goes in lean and comes out fat?"

"I don't know that place," said the Tree. "But I know the wood where the
sun shines, and where the little birds sing."

And then he told his story from his youth up; and the little Mice had
never heard the like before; and they listened and said, "Well, to be
sure! How much you have seen! How happy you must have been!"

"I!" said the Pine Tree, and he thought over what he had himself told.
"Yes, really those were happy times." And then he told about Christmas
Eve, when he was decked out with cakes and candles.

"Oh," said the little Mice, "how lucky you have been, old Pine Tree!"

"I am not at all old," said he. "I came from the wood this winter; I am
in my prime, and am only rather short of my age."

"What delightful stories you know!" said the Mice: and the next night
they came with four other little Mice, who were to hear what the Tree
had to tell; and the more he told, the more plainly he remembered all
himself; and he thought: "That was a merry time! But it can come! it can
come! Klumpy-Dumpy fell down stairs, and yet he got a princess! Maybe I
can get a princess too!" And all of a sudden he thought of a nice little
Birch Tree growing out in the woods: to the Pine, that would be a really
charming princess.

"Who is Klumpy-Dumpy?" asked the little Mice.

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

"Do you know only that one story?" asked the Rats.

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

"It is a very stupid story! Don't you know one about bacon and tallow
candles? Can't you tell any larder-stories?"

"No," said the Tree.

"Thank you, then," said the Rats; and they went home.

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

But when was that to be? Why, it was one morning when there came a
number of people and set to work in the loft. The trunks were moved, the
tree was pulled out and thrown down; they knocked him upon the floor,
but a man drew him at once toward the stairs, where the daylight shone.


V. OUT OF DOORS AGAIN


"Now life begins again," thought the Tree. He felt the fresh air, the
first sunbeam,--and now he was out in the courtyard. All passed so
quickly that the Tree quite forgot to look to himself, there was so much
going on around him. The court adjoined a garden, and all was in flower;
the roses hung over the fence, so fresh and smelling so sweetly;
the lindens were in blossom, the Swallows flew by, and said,
"Quirre-virre-vit! my husband is come!" But it was not the Pine Tree
that they meant.

"Now, I shall really live," said he with joy, and spread out his
branches; dear! dear! they were all dry and yellow. It was in a corner
among weeds and nettles that he lay. The golden star of tinsel was still
on top of the Tree, and shone in the bright sunshine.

In the courtyard a few of the merry children were playing who had danced
at Christmas round the Tree, and were so glad at the sight of him. One
of the littlest ran and tore off the golden star.

"See what is still on the ugly old Christmas Tree!" said he, and he
trampled on the branches, so that they cracked under his feet.

And the Tree saw all the beauty of the flowers, and the freshness in the
garden; he saw himself, and he wished he had stayed in his dark corner
in the attic: he thought of his fresh youth in the wood, of the merry
Christmas Eve, and of the little Mice who had heard so gladly the story
of Klumpy-Dumpy.

"Gone! gone!" said the poor Tree. "Had I but been happy when I could be.
Gone! gone!"

And the gardener's boy came and chopped the Tree into small pieces;
there was a whole heap lying there. The wood flamed up finely under
the large brewing kettle, and it sighed so deeply! Each sigh was like a
little shot. So the children ran to where it lay and sat down before the
fire, and peeped in at the blaze, and shouted "Piff! paff!" But at every
snap there was a deep sigh. The Tree was thinking of summer days in
the wood, and of winter nights when the stars shone; it was thinking
of Christmas Eve and Klumpy-Dumpy, the only fairy tale it had heard and
knew how to tell,--and so the Tree burned out.

The boys played about in the court, and the youngest wore the gold star
on his breast which the Tree had worn on the happiest evening of his
life. Now, that was gone, the Tree was gone, and gone too was the story.
All, all was gone, and that's the way with all stories.





Next: The Christmas Cuckoo

Previous: The Wooden Shoes Of Little Wolff



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