: Stories To Tell Children

When I was a very little girl some one, probably my mother, read to me

Hans Christian Andersen's story of the Little Fir Tree. It happened that

I did not read it for myself or hear it again during my childhood. One

Christmas Day, when I was grown up, I found myself at a loss for the

"one more" story called for by some little children with whom I was

spending the holiday. In the mental search for buried treasure which

sued, I came upon one or two word-impressions of the experiences of

the Little Fir Tree, and forthwith wove them into what I supposed to be

something of a reproduction of the original. The latter part of the

story had wholly faded from my memory, so that I "made up" to suit the

tastes of my audience. Afterward I told the story to a good many

children, at one time or another, and it gradually took the shape it has

here. It was not until several years later that, in rereading Andersen

for other purposes, I came upon the real story of the Little Fir Tree,

and read it for myself. Then indeed I was amused, and somewhat

distressed, to find how far I had wandered from the text.

I give this explanation that the reader may know I do not presume to

offer the little tale which follows as an "adaptation" of Andersen's

famous story. I offer it plainly as a story which children have liked,

and which grew out of my early memories of Andersen's _The Little Fir


Once there was a Little Fir Tree, slim and pointed, and shiny, which

stood in the great forest in the midst of some big fir trees, broad, and

tall, and shadowy green. The Little Fir Tree was very unhappy because he

was not big like the others. When the birds came flying into the woods

and lit on the branches of the big trees and built their nests there, he

used to call up to them,--

"Come down, come down, rest in my branches!" But they always said,--

"Oh, no, no; you are too little!"

When the splendid wind came blowing and singing through the forest, it

bent and rocked and swung the tops of the big trees, and murmured to

them. Then the Little Fir Tree looked up, and called,--

"Oh, please, dear wind, come down and play with me!" But he always


"Oh, no; you are too little, you are too little!"

In the winter the white snow fell softly, softly, and covered the great

trees all over with wonderful caps and coats of white. The Little Fir

Tree, close down in the cover of the others, would call up,--

"Oh, please, dear snow, give me a cap, too! I want to play, too!" But

the snow always said,--

"Oh no, no, no; you are too little, you are too little!"

The worst of all was when men came into the wood, with sledges and teams

of horses. They came to cut the big trees down and carry them away.

Whenever one had been cut down and carried away the others talked about

it, and nodded their heads, and the Little Fir Tree listened, and heard

them say that when you were carried away so, you might become the mast

of a mighty ship, and go far away over the ocean, and see many wonderful

things; or you might be part of a fine house in a great city, and see

much of life. The Little Fir Tree wanted greatly to see life, but he

was always too little; the men passed him by.

But by and by, one cold winter's morning, men came with a sledge and

horses, and after they had cut here and there they came to the circle of

trees round the Little Fir Tree, and looked all about.

"There are none little enough," they said.

Oh! how the Little Fir Tree pricked up his needles!

"Here is one," said one of the men, "it is just little enough." And he

touched the Little Fir Tree.

The Little Fir Tree was happy as a bird, because he knew they were about

to cut him down. And when he was being carried away on the sledge he lay

wondering, _so_ contentedly, whether he should be the mast of a ship or

part of a fine city house. But when they came to the town he was taken

out and set upright in a tub and placed on the edge of a path in a row

of other fir trees, all small, but none so little as he. And then the

Little Fir Tree began to see life.

People kept coming to look at the trees and to take them away. But

always when they saw the Little Fir Tree they shook their heads and


"It is too little, too little."

Until, finally, two children came along, hand in hand, looking

carefully at all the small trees. When they saw the Little Fir Tree they

cried out,--

"We'll take this one; it is just little enough!"

They took him out of his tub and carried him away, between them. And the

happy Little Fir Tree spent all his time wondering what it could be that

he was just little enough for; he knew it could hardly be a mast or a

house, since he was going away with children.

He kept wondering, while they took him in through some big doors, and

set him up in another tub, on the table, in a bare little room. Very

soon they went away, and came back again with a big basket, which they

carried between them. Then some pretty ladies, with white caps on their

heads and white aprons over their blue dresses, came bringing little

parcels. The children took things out of the basket and began to play

with the Little Fir Tree, just as he had often begged the wind and the

snow and the birds to do. He felt their soft little touches on his head

and his twigs and his branches. When he looked down at himself, as far

as he could look, he saw that he was all hung with gold and silver

chains! There were strings of white fluffy stuff drooping around him;

his twigs held little gold nuts and pink, rosy balls and silver stars;

he had pretty little pink and white candles in his arms; but last, and

most wonderful of all, the children hung a beautiful white, floating

doll-angel over his head! The Little Fir Tree could not breathe, for joy

and wonder. What was it that he was, now? Why was this glory for him?

After a time every one went away and left him. It grew dusk, and the

Little Fir Tree began to hear strange sounds through the closed doors.

Sometimes he heard a child crying. He was beginning to be lonely. It

grew more and more shadowy.

All at once, the doors opened and the two children came in. Two of the

pretty ladies were with them. They came up to the Little Fir Tree and

quickly lighted all the little pink and white candles. Then the two

pretty ladies took hold of the table with the Little Fir Tree on it and

pushed it, very smoothly and quickly, out of the doors, across a hall,

and in at another door.

The Little Fir Tree had a sudden sight of a long room with many little

white beds in it, of children propped up on pillows in the beds, and of

other children in great wheeled chairs, and others hobbling about or

sitting in little chairs. He wondered why all the little children looked

so white and tired; he did not know that he was in a hospital. But

before he could wonder any more his breath was quite taken away by the

shout those little white children gave.

"Oh! oh! m-m! m-m!" they cried.

"How pretty! How beautiful! Oh, isn't it lovely!"

He knew they must mean him, for all their shining eyes were looking

straight at him. He stood as straight as a mast, and quivered in every

needle, for joy. Presently one little weak child-voice called out,--

"It's the nicest Christmas tree I ever saw!"

And then, at last, the Little Fir Tree knew what he was; he was a

Christmas tree! And from his shiny head to his feet he was glad, through

and through, because he was just little enough to be the nicest kind of

tree in the world!