THE LITTLE FIR TREE
: 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
"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!