The Snow Queen
: Hans Andersens Fairy Tales
STORY THE FIRST
WHICH DESCRIBES A LOOKING-GLASS AND ITS BROKEN FRAGMENTS
YOU must attend to the beginning of this story, for when we get to the
end we shall know more than we now do about a very wicked hobgoblin; he
was one of the most mischievous of all sprites, for he was a real demon.
One day when he was in a merry mood he made a looking-glass which had
the power of making e
erything good or beautiful that was reflected in
it shrink almost to nothing, while everything that was worthless and bad
was magnified so as to look ten times worse than it really was.
The most lovely landscapes appeared like boiled spinach, and all the
people became hideous and looked as if they stood on their heads and had
no bodies. Their countenances were so distorted that no one could
recognize them, and even one freckle on the face appeared to spread over
the whole of the nose and mouth. The demon said this was very amusing.
When a good or holy thought passed through the mind of any one a wrinkle
was seen in the mirror, and then how the demon laughed at his cunning
All who went to the demon's school--for he kept a school--talked
everywhere of the wonders they had seen, and declared that people could
now, for the first time, see what the world and its inhabitants were
really like. They carried the glass about everywhere, till at last there
was not a land nor a people who had not been looked at through this
They wanted even to fly with it up to heaven to see the angels, but the
higher they flew the more slippery the glass became, and they could
scarcely hold it. At last it slipped from their hands, fell to the
earth, and was broken into millions of pieces.
But now the looking-glass caused more unhappiness than ever, for some of
the fragments were not so large as a grain of sand, and they flew about
the world into every country. And when one of these tiny atoms flew into
a person's eye it stuck there, unknown to himself, and from that moment
he viewed everything the wrong way, and could see only the worst side of
what he looked at, for even the smallest fragment retained the same
power which had belonged to the whole mirror.
Some few persons even got a splinter of the looking-glass in their
hearts, and this was terrible, for their hearts became cold and hard
like a lump of ice. A few of the pieces were so large that they could be
used as windowpanes; it would have been a sad thing indeed to look at
our friends through them. Other pieces were made into spectacles, and
this was dreadful, for those who wore them could see nothing either
rightly or justly. At all this the wicked demon laughed till his sides
shook, to see the mischief he had done. There are still a number of
these little fragments of glass floating about in the air, and now you
shall hear what happened with one of them.
A LITTLE BOY AND A LITTLE GIRL
In a large town full of houses and people there is not room for
everybody to have even a little garden. Most people are obliged to
content themselves with a few flowers in flowerpots.
In one of these large towns lived two poor children who had a garden
somewhat larger and better than a few flowerpots. They were not brother
and sister, but they loved each other almost as much as if they had
been. Their parents lived opposite each other in two garrets where the
roofs of neighboring houses nearly joined each other, and the water pipe
ran between them. In each roof was a little window, so that any one
could step across the gutter from one window to the other.
The parents of each of these children had a large wooden box in which
they cultivated kitchen vegetables for their own use, and in each box
was a little rosebush which grew luxuriantly.
After a while the parents decided to place these two boxes across the
water pipe, so that they reached from one window to the other and
looked like two banks of flowers. Sweet peas drooped over the boxes, and
the rosebushes shot forth long branches, which were trained about the
windows and clustered together almost like a triumphal arch of leaves
The boxes were very high, and the children knew they must not climb upon
them without permission; but they often had leave to step out and sit
upon their little stools under the rosebushes or play quietly together.
In winter all this pleasure came to an end, for the windows were
sometimes quite frozen over. But they would warm copper pennies on the
stove and hold the warm pennies against the frozen pane; then there
would soon be a little round hole through which they could peep, and the
soft, bright eyes of the little boy and girl would sparkle through the
hole at each window as they looked at each other. Their names were Kay
and Gerda. In summer they could be together with one jump from the
window, but in winter they had to go up and down the long staircase and
out through the snow before they could meet.
"See! there are the white bees swarming," said Kay's old grandmother one
day when it was snowing.
"Have they a queen bee?" asked the little boy, for he knew that the real
bees always had a queen.
"To be sure they have," said the grandmother. "She is flying there where
the swarm is thickest. She is the largest of them all and never remains
on the earth, but flies up to the dark clouds. Often at midnight she
flies through the streets of the town and breathes with her frosty
breath upon the windows; then the ice freezes on the panes into
wonderful forms that look like flowers and castles."
"Yes, I have seen them," said both the children; and they knew it must
"Can the Snow Queen come in here?" asked the little girl.
"Only let her come," said the boy. "I'll put her on the warm stove, and
then she'll melt."
The grandmother smoothed his hair and told him more stories.
That same evening when little Kay was at home, half undressed, he
climbed upon a chair by the window and peeped out through the little
round hole. A few flakes of snow were falling, and one of them, rather
larger than the rest, alighted on the edge of one of the flower boxes.
Strange to say, this snowflake grew larger and larger till at last it
took the form of a woman dressed in garments of white gauze, which
looked like millions of starry snowflakes linked together. She was fair
and beautiful, but made of ice--glittering, dazzling ice. Still, she was
alive, and her eyes sparkled like bright stars, though there was neither
peace nor rest in them. She nodded toward the window and waved her hand.
The little boy was frightened and sprang from the chair, and at the same
moment it seemed as if a large bird flew by the window.
On the following day there was a clear frost, and very soon came the
spring. The sun shone; the young green leaves burst forth; the swallows
built their nests; windows were opened, and the children sat once more
in the garden on the roof, high above all the other rooms.
How beautifully the roses blossomed this summer! The little girl had
learned a hymn in which roses were spoken of. She thought of their own
roses, and she sang the hymn to the little boy, and he sang, too:
"Roses bloom and fade away;
The Christ-child shall abide alway.
Blessed are we his face to see
And ever little children be."
Then the little ones held each other by the hand, and kissed the roses,
and looked at the bright sunshine, and spoke to it as if the
Christ-child were really there. Those were glorious summer days. How
beautiful and fresh it was out among the rosebushes, which seemed as if
they would never leave off blooming.
One day Kay and Gerda sat looking at a book of pictures of animals and
birds. Just then, as the clock in the church tower struck twelve, Kay
said, "Oh, something has struck my heart!" and soon after, "There is
certainly something in my eye."
The little girl put her arm round his neck and looked into his eye, but
she could see nothing.
"I believe it is gone," he said. But it was not gone; it was one of
those bits of the looking-glass,--that magic mirror of which we have
spoken,--the ugly glass which made everything great and good appear
small and ugly, while all that was wicked and bad became more visible,
and every little fault could be plainly seen. Poor little Kay had also
received a small splinter in his heart, which very quickly turned to a
lump of ice. He felt no more pain, but the glass was there still. "Why
do you cry?" said he at last. "It makes you look ugly. There is nothing
the matter with me now. Oh, fie!" he cried suddenly; "that rose is
worm-eaten, and this one is quite crooked. After all, they are ugly
roses, just like the box in which they stand." And then he kicked the
boxes with his foot and pulled off the two roses.
"Why, Kay, what are you doing?" cried the little girl; and then when he
saw how grieved she was he tore off another rose and jumped through his
own window, away from sweet little Gerda.
When afterward she brought out the picture book he said, "It is only fit
for babies in long clothes," and when grandmother told stories he would
interrupt her with "but"; or sometimes when he could manage it he would
get behind her chair, put on a pair of spectacles, and imitate her very
cleverly to make the people laugh. By and by he began to mimic the
speech and gait of persons in the street. All that was peculiar or
disagreeable in a person he would imitate directly, and people said,
"That boy will be very clever; he has a remarkable genius." But it was
the piece of glass in his eye and the coldness in his heart that made
him act like this. He would even tease little Gerda, who loved him with
all her heart.
His games too were quite different; they were not so childlike. One
winter's day, when it snowed, he brought out a burning glass, then,
holding out the skirt of his blue coat, let the snowflakes fall upon it.
"Look in this glass, Gerda," said he, and she saw how every flake of
snow was magnified and looked like a beautiful flower or a glittering
"Is it not clever," said Kay, "and much more interesting than looking at
real flowers? There is not a single fault in it. The snowflakes are
quite perfect till they begin to melt."
Soon after, Kay made his appearance in large, thick gloves and with his
sledge at his back. He called upstairs to Gerda, "I've got leave to go
into the great square, where the other boys play and ride." And away he
In the great square the boldest among the boys would often tie their
sledges to the wagons of the country people and so get a ride. This was
capital. But while they were all amusing themselves, and Kay with them,
a great sledge came by; it was painted white, and in it sat some one
wrapped in a rough white fur and wearing a white cap. The sledge drove
twice round the square, and Kay fastened his own little sledge to it, so
that when it went away he went with it. It went faster and faster right
through the next street, and the person who drove turned round and
nodded pleasantly to Kay as if they were well acquainted with each
other; but whenever Kay wished to loosen his little sledge the driver
turned and nodded as if to signify that he was to stay, so Kay sat
still, and they drove out through the town gate.
Then the snow began to fall so heavily that the little boy could not see
a hand's breadth before him, but still they drove on. He suddenly
loosened the cord so that the large sledge might go on without him, but
it was of no use; his little carriage held fast, and away they went like
the wind. Then he called out loudly, but nobody heard him, while the
snow beat upon him, and the sledge flew onward. Every now and then it
gave a jump, as if they were going over hedges and ditches. The boy was
frightened and tried to say a prayer, but he could remember nothing but
the multiplication table.
The snowflakes became larger and larger, till they appeared like great
white birds. All at once they sprang on one side, the great sledge
stopped, and the person who had driven it rose up. The fur and the cap,
which were made entirely of snow, fell off, and he saw a lady, tall and
white; it was the Snow Queen.
"We have driven well," said she; "but why do you tremble so? Here, creep
into my warm fur." Then she seated him beside her in the sledge, and as
she wrapped the fur about him, he felt as if he were sinking into a
"Are you still cold?" she asked, as she kissed him on the forehead. The
kiss was colder than ice; it went quite through to his heart, which was
almost a lump of ice already. He felt as if he were going to die, but
only for a moment--he soon seemed quite well and did not notice the cold
all around him.
"My sledge! Don't forget my sledge," was his first thought, and then he
looked and saw that it was bound fast to one of the white birds which
flew behind him. The Snow Queen kissed little Kay again, and by this
time he had forgotten little Gerda, his grandmother, and all at home.
"Now you must have no more kisses," she said, "or I should kiss you to
Kay looked at her. She was so beautiful, he could not imagine a more
lovely face; she did not now seem to be made of ice as when he had seen
her through his window and she had nodded to him.
In his eyes she was perfect, and he did not feel at all afraid. He told
her he could do mental arithmetic as far as fractions, and that he knew
the number of square miles and the number of inhabitants in the country.
She smiled, and it occurred to him that she thought he did not yet know
so very much.
He looked around the vast expanse as she flew higher and higher with him
upon a black cloud, while the storm blew and howled as if it were
singing songs of olden time. They flew over woods and lakes, over sea
and land; below them roared the wild wind; wolves howled, and the snow
crackled; over them flew the black, screaming crows, and above all shone
the moon, clear and bright--and so Kay passed through the long, long
winter's night, and by day he slept at the feet of the Snow Queen.
THE ENCHANTED FLOWER GARDEN
But how fared little Gerda in Kay's absence?
What had become of him no one knew, nor could any one give the slightest
information, excepting the boys, who said that he had tied his sledge to
another very large one, which had driven through the street and out at
the town gate. No one knew where it went. Many tears were shed for him,
and little Gerda wept bitterly for a long time. She said she knew he
must be dead, that he was drowned in the river which flowed close by
the school. The long winter days were very dreary. But at last spring
came with warm sunshine.
"Kay is dead and gone," said little Gerda.
"I don't believe it," said the sunshine.
"He is dead and gone," she said to the sparrows.
"We don't believe it," they replied, and at last little Gerda began to
doubt it herself.
"I will put on my new red shoes," she said one morning, "those that Kay
has never seen, and then I will go down to the river and ask for him."
It was quite early when she kissed her old grandmother, who was still
asleep; then she put on her red shoes and went, quite alone, out of the
town gate, toward the river.
"Is it true that you have taken my little playmate away from me?" she
said to the river. "I will give you my red shoes if you will give him
back to me."
And it seemed as if the waves nodded to her in a strange manner. Then
she took off her red shoes, which she liked better than anything else,
and threw them both into the river, but they fell near the bank, and
the little waves carried them back to land just as if the river would
not take from her what she loved best, because it could not give her
back little Kay.
But she thought the shoes had not been thrown out far enough. Then she
crept into a boat that lay among the reeds, and threw the shoes again
from the farther end of the boat into the water; but it was not
fastened, and her movement sent it gliding away from the land. When she
saw this she hastened to reach the end of the boat, but before she could
do so it was more than a yard from the bank and drifting away faster
Little Gerda was very much frightened. She began to cry, but no one
heard her except the sparrows, and they could not carry her to land, but
they flew along by the shore and sang as if to comfort her: "Here we
are! Here we are!"
The boat floated with the stream, and little Gerda sat quite still with
only her stockings on her feet; the red shoes floated after her, but she
could not reach them because the boat kept so much in advance.
The banks on either side of the river were very pretty. There were
beautiful flowers, old trees, sloping fields in which cows and sheep
were grazing, but not a human being to be seen.
"Perhaps the river will carry me to little Kay," thought Gerda, and then
she became more cheerful, and raised her head and looked at the
beautiful green banks; and so the boat sailed on for hours. At length
she came to a large cherry orchard, in which stood a small house with
strange red and blue windows. It had also a thatched roof, and outside
were two wooden soldiers that presented arms to her as she sailed past.
Gerda called out to them, for she thought they were alive; but of course
they did not answer, and as the boat drifted nearer to the shore she saw
what they really were.
Then Gerda called still louder, and there came a very old woman out of
the house, leaning on a crutch. She wore a large hat to shade her from
the sun, and on it were painted all sorts of pretty flowers.
"You poor little child," said the old woman, "how did you manage to come
this long, long distance into the wide world on such a rapid, rolling
stream?" And then the old woman walked into the water, seized the boat
with her crutch, drew it to land, and lifted little Gerda out. And Gerda
was glad to feel herself again on dry ground, although she was rather
afraid of the strange old woman.
"Come and tell me who you are," said she, "and how you came here."
Then Gerda told her everything, while the old woman shook her head and
said, "Hem-hem"; and when Gerda had finished she asked the old woman if
she had not seen little Kay. She told her he had not passed that way,
but he very likely would come. She told Gerda not to be sorrowful, but
to taste the cherries and look at the flowers; they were better than any
picture book, for each of them could tell a story. Then she took Gerda
by the hand, and led her into the little house, and closed the door. The
windows were very high, and as the panes were red, blue, and yellow, the
daylight shone through them in all sorts of singular colors. On the
table stood some beautiful cherries, and Gerda had permission to eat as
many as she would. While she was eating them the old woman combed out
her long flaxen ringlets with a golden comb, and the glossy curls hung
down on each side of the little round, pleasant face, which looked fresh
and blooming as a rose.
"I have long been wishing for a dear little maiden like you," said the
old woman, "and now you must stay with me and see how happily we shall
live together." And while she went on combing little Gerda's hair the
child thought less and less about her adopted brother Kay, for the old
woman was an enchantress, although she was not a wicked witch; she
conjured only a little for her own amusement, and, now, because she
wanted to keep Gerda. Therefore she went into the garden and stretched
out her crutch toward all the rose trees, beautiful though they were,
and they immediately sank into the dark earth, so that no one could tell
where they had once stood. The old woman was afraid that if little Gerda
saw roses, she would think of those at home and then remember little Kay
and run away.
Then she took Gerda into the flower garden. How fragrant and beautiful
it was! Every flower that could be thought of, for every season of the
year, was here in full bloom; no picture book could have more beautiful
colors. Gerda jumped for joy, and played till the sun went down behind
the tall cherry trees; then she slept in an elegant bed, with red silk
pillows embroidered with colored violets, and she dreamed as pleasantly
as a queen on her wedding day.
The next day, and for many days after, Gerda played with the flowers in
the warm sunshine. She knew every flower, and yet, although there were
so many of them, it seemed as if one were missing, but what it was she
could not tell. One day, however, as she sat looking at the old woman's
hat with the painted flowers on it, she saw that the prettiest of them
all was a rose. The old woman had forgotten to take it from her hat when
she made all the roses sink into the earth. But it is difficult to keep
the thoughts together in everything, and one little mistake upsets all
"What! are there no roses here?" cried Gerda, and she ran out into the
garden and examined all the beds, and searched and searched. There was
not one to be found. Then she sat down and wept, and her tears fell just
on the place where one of the rose trees had sunk down. The warm tears
moistened the earth, and the rose tree sprouted up at once, as blooming
as when it had sunk; and Gerda embraced it, and kissed the roses, and
thought of the beautiful roses at home, and, with them, of little Kay.
"Oh, how I have been detained!" said the little maiden. "I wanted to
seek for little Kay. Do you know where he is?" she asked the roses; "do
you think he is dead?"
And the roses answered: "No, he is not dead. We have been in the ground,
where all the dead lie, but Kay is not there."
"Thank you," said little Gerda, and then she went to the other flowers
and looked into their little cups and asked, "Do you know where little
Kay is?" But each flower as it stood in the sunshine dreamed only of its
own little fairy tale or history. Not one knew anything of Kay. Gerda
heard many stories from the flowers, as she asked them one after another
And then she ran to the other end of the garden. The door was fastened,
but she pressed against the rusty latch, and it gave way. The door
sprang open, and little Gerda ran out with bare feet into the wide
world. She looked back three times, but no one seemed to be following
her. At last she could run no longer, so she sat down to rest on a great
stone, and when she looked around she saw that the summer was over and
autumn very far advanced. She had known nothing of this in the beautiful
garden where the sun shone and the flowers grew all the year round.
"Oh, how I have wasted my time!" said little Gerda. "It is autumn; I
must not rest any longer," and she rose to go on. But her little feet
were wounded and sore, and everything around her looked cold and bleak.
The long willow leaves were quite yellow, the dewdrops fell like water,
leaf after leaf dropped from the trees; the sloe thorn alone still bore
fruit, but the sloes were sour and set the teeth on edge. Oh, how dark
and weary the whole world appeared!
THE PRINCE AND PRINCESS
Gerda was obliged to rest again, and just opposite the place where she
sat she saw a great crow come hopping toward her across the snow. He
stood looking at her for some time, and then he wagged his head and
said, "Caw, caw, good day, good day." He pronounced the words as plainly
as he could, because he meant to be kind to the little girl, and then he
asked her where she was going all alone in the wide world.
The word "alone" Gerda understood very well and felt how much it
expressed. So she told the crow the whole story of her life and
adventures and asked him if he had seen little Kay.
The crow nodded his head very gravely and said, "Perhaps I have--it may
"No! Do you really think you have?" cried little Gerda, and she kissed
the crow and hugged him almost to death, with joy.
"Gently, gently," said the crow. "I believe I know. I think it may be
little Kay; but he has certainly forgotten you by this time, for the
"Does he live with a princess?" asked Gerda.
"Yes, listen," replied the crow; "but it is so difficult to speak your
language. If you understand the crows' language, then I can explain it
better. Do you?"
"No, I have never learned it," said Gerda, "but my grandmother
understands it, and used to speak it to me. I wish I had learned it."
"It does not matter," answered the crow. "I will explain as well as I
can, although it will be very badly done"; and he told her what he had
"In this kingdom where we now are," said he, "there lives a princess who
is so wonderfully clever that she has read all the newspapers in the
world--and forgotten them too, although she is so clever.
"A short time ago, as she was sitting on her throne, which people say is
not such an agreeable seat as is often supposed, she began to sing a
song which commences with these words:
Why should I not be married?
'Why not, indeed?' said she, and so she determined to marry if she could
find a husband who knew what to say when he was spoken to, and not one
who could only look grand, for that was so tiresome. She assembled all
her court ladies at the beat of the drum, and when they heard of her
intentions they were very much pleased.
"'We are so glad to hear of it,' said they. 'We were talking about it
ourselves the other day.'
"You may believe that every word I tell you is true," said the crow,
"for I have a tame sweetheart who hops freely about the palace, and she
told me all this."
Of course his sweetheart was a crow, for "birds of a feather flock
together," and one crow always chooses another crow.
"Newspapers were published immediately with a border of hearts and the
initials of the princess among them. They gave notice that every young
man who was handsome was free to visit the castle and speak with the
princess, and those who could reply loud enough to be heard when spoken
to were to make themselves quite at home at the palace, and the one who
spoke best would be chosen as a husband for the princess.
"Yes, yes, you may believe me. It is all as true as I sit here," said
"The people came in crowds. There was a great deal of crushing and
running about, but no one succeeded either on the first or the second
day. They could all speak very well while they were outside in the
streets, but when they entered the palace gates and saw the guards in
silver uniforms and the footmen in their golden livery on the staircase
and the great halls lighted up, they became quite confused. And when
they stood before the throne on which the princess sat they could do
nothing but repeat the last words she had said, and she had no
particular wish to hear her own words over again. It was just as if they
had all taken something to make them sleepy while they were in the
palace, for they did not recover themselves nor speak till they got back
again into the street. There was a long procession of them, reaching
from the town gate to the palace.
"I went myself to see them," said the crow. "They were hungry and
thirsty, for at the palace they did not even get a glass of water. Some
of the wisest had taken a few slices of bread and butter with them, but
they did not share it with their neighbors; they thought if the others
went in to the princess looking hungry, there would be a better chance
"But Kay! tell me about little Kay!" said Gerda. "Was he among the
"Stop a bit; we are just coming to him. It was on the third day that
there came marching cheerfully along to the palace a little personage
without horses or carriage, his eyes sparkling like yours. He had
beautiful long hair, but his clothes were very poor."
"That was Kay," said Gerda, joyfully. "Oh, then I have found him!" and
she clapped her hands.
"He had a little knapsack on his back," added the crow.
"No, it must have been his sledge," said Gerda, "for he went away with
"It may have been so," said the crow; "I did not look at it very
closely. But I know from my tame sweetheart that he passed through the
palace gates, saw the guards in their silver uniform and the servants in
their liveries of gold on the stairs, but was not in the least
"'It must be very tiresome to stand on the stairs,' he said. 'I prefer
to go in.'
"The rooms were blazing with light; councilors and ambassadors walked
about with bare feet, carrying golden vessels; it was enough to make any
one feel serious. His boots creaked loudly as he walked, and yet he was
not at all uneasy."
"It must be Kay," said Gerda; "I know he had new boots on. I heard them
creak in grandmother's room."
"They really did creak," said the crow, "yet he went boldly up to the
princess herself, who was sitting on a pearl as large as a spinning
wheel. And all the ladies of the court were present with their maids and
all the cavaliers with their servants, and each of the maids had another
maid to wait upon her, and the cavaliers' servants had their own
servants as well as each a page. They all stood in circles round the
princess, and the nearer they stood to the door the prouder they looked.
The servants' pages, who always wore slippers, could hardly be looked
at, they held themselves up so proudly by the door."
"It must be quite awful," said little Gerda; "but did Kay win the
"If I had not been a crow," said he, "I would have married her myself,
although I am engaged. He spoke as well as I do when I speak the crows'
language. I heard this from my tame sweetheart. He was quite free and
agreeable and said he had not come to woo the princess, but to hear her
wisdom. And he was as pleased with her as she was with him."
"Oh, certainly that was Kay," said Gerda; "he was so clever; he could
work mental arithmetic and fractions. Oh, will you take me to the
"It is very easy to ask that," replied the crow, "but how are we to
manage it? However, I will speak about it to my tame sweetheart and ask
her advice, for, I must tell you, it will be very difficult to gain
permission for a little girl like you to enter the palace."
"Oh, yes, but I shall gain permission easily," said Gerda, "for when Kay
hears that I am here he will come out and fetch me in immediately."
"Wait for me here by the palings," said the crow, wagging his head as he
It was late in the evening before the crow returned. "Caw, caw!" he
said; "she sends you greeting, and here is a little roll which she took
from the kitchen for you. There is plenty of bread there, and she thinks
you must be hungry. It is not possible for you to enter the palace by
the front entrance. The guards in silver uniform and the servants in
gold livery would not allow it. But do not cry; we will manage to get
you in. My sweetheart knows a little back staircase that leads to the
sleeping apartments, and she knows where to find the key."
Then they went into the garden, through the great avenue, where the
leaves were falling one after another, and they could see the lights in
the palace being put out in the same manner. And the crow led little
Gerda to a back door which stood ajar. Oh! how her heart beat with
anxiety and longing; it was as if she were going to do something wrong,
and yet she only wanted to know where little Kay was.
"It must be he," she thought, "with those clear eyes and that long
She could fancy she saw him smiling at her as he used to at home when
they sat among the roses. He would certainly be glad to see her, and to
hear what a long distance she had come for his sake, and to know how
sorry they had all been at home because he did not come back. Oh, what
joy and yet what fear she felt!
They were now on the stairs, and in a small closet at the top a lamp was
burning. In the middle of the floor stood the tame crow, turning her
head from side to side and gazing at Gerda, who curtsied as her
grandmother had taught her to do.
"My betrothed has spoken so very highly of you, my little lady," said
the tame crow. "Your story is very touching. If you will take the lamp,
I will walk before you. We will go straight along this way; then we
shall meet no one."
"I feel as if somebody were behind us," said Gerda, as something rushed
by her like a shadow on the wall; and then it seemed to her that horses
with flying manes and thin legs, hunters, ladies and gentlemen on
horseback, glided by her like shadows.
"They are only dreams," said the crow; "they are coming to carry the
thoughts of the great people out hunting. All the better, for if their
thoughts are out hunting, we shall be able to look at them in their beds
more safely. I hope that when you rise to honor and favor you will show
a grateful heart."
"You may be quite sure of that," said the crow from the forest.
They now came into the first hall, the walls of which were hung with
rose-colored satin embroidered with artificial flowers. Here the dreams
again flitted by them, but so quickly that Gerda could not distinguish
the royal persons. Each hall appeared more splendid than the last. It
was enough to bewilder one. At length they reached a bedroom. The
ceiling was like a great palm tree, with glass leaves of the most costly
crystal, and over the center of the floor two beds, each resembling a
lily, hung from a stem of gold. One, in which the princess lay, was
white; the other was red. And in this Gerda had to seek for little Kay.
She pushed one of the red leaves aside and saw a little brown neck. Oh,
that must be Kay! She called his name loudly and held the lamp over him.
The dreams rushed back into the room on horseback. He woke and turned
his head round--it was not little Kay! The prince was only like him;
still he was young and pretty. Out of her white-lily bed peeped the
princess, and asked what was the matter. Little Gerda wept and told her
story, and all that the crows had done to help her.
"You poor child," said the prince and princess; then they praised the
crows, and said they were not angry with them for what they had done,
but that it must not happen again, and that this time they should be
"Would you like to have your freedom?" asked the princess, "or would you
prefer to be raised to the position of court crows, with all that is
left in the kitchen for yourselves?"
Then both the crows bowed and begged to have a fixed appointment; for
they thought of their old age, and it would be so comfortable, they
said, to feel that they had made provision for it.
And then the prince got out of his bed and gave it up to Gerda--he could
not do more--and she lay down. She folded her little hands and thought,
"How good everybody is to me, both men and animals"; then she closed
her eyes and fell into a sweet sleep. All the dreams came flying back
again to her, looking like angels now, and one of them drew a little
sledge, on which sat Kay, who nodded to her. But all this was only a
dream. It vanished as soon as she awoke.
The following day she was dressed from head to foot in silk and velvet
and invited to stay at the palace for a few days and enjoy herself; but
she only begged for a pair of boots and a little carriage and a horse to
draw it, so that she might go out into the wide world to seek for Kay.
And she obtained not only boots but a muff, and was neatly dressed; and
when she was ready to go, there at the door she found a coach made of
pure gold with the coat of arms of the prince and princess shining upon
it like a star, and the coachman, footman, and outriders all wearing
golden crowns upon their heads. The prince and princess themselves
helped her into the coach and wished her success.
The forest crow, who was now married, accompanied her for the first
three miles; he sat by Gerda's side, as he could not bear riding
backwards. The tame crow stood in the doorway flapping her wings. She
could not go with them, because she had been suffering from headache
ever since the new appointment, no doubt from overeating. The coach was
well stored with sweet cakes, and under the seat were fruit and
"Farewell, farewell," cried the prince and princess, and little Gerda
wept, and the crow wept; and then, after a few miles, the crow also said
farewell, and this parting was even more sad. However he flew to a tree
and stood flapping his black wings as long as he could see the coach,
which glittered like a sunbeam.
THE LITTLE ROBBER GIRL
The coach drove on through a thick forest, where it lighted up the way
like a torch and dazzled the eyes of some robbers, who could not bear to
let it pass them unmolested.
"It is gold! it is gold!" cried they, rushing forward and seizing the
horses. Then they struck dead the little jockeys, the coachman, and the
footman, and pulled little Gerda out of the carriage.
"She is plump and pretty. She has been fed with the kernels of nuts,"
said the old robber woman, who had a long beard, and eyebrows that hung
over her eyes. "She is as good as a fatted lamb; how nice she will
taste!" and as she said this she drew forth a shining knife, that
glittered horribly. "Oh!" screamed the old woman at the same moment, for
her own daughter, who held her back, had bitten her in the ear. "You
naughty girl," said the mother, and now she had not time to kill Gerda.
"She shall play with me," said the little robber girl. "She shall give
me her muff and her pretty dress, and sleep with me in my bed." And then
she bit her mother again, and all the robbers laughed.
"I will have a ride in the coach," said the little robber girl, and she
would have her own way, for she was self-willed and obstinate.
She and Gerda seated themselves in the coach and drove away over stumps
and stones, into the depths of the forest. The little robber girl was
about the same size as Gerda, but stronger; she had broader shoulders
and a darker skin; her eyes were quite black, and she had a mournful
look. She clasped little Gerda round the waist and said:
"They shall not kill you as long as you don't make me vexed with you. I
suppose you are a princess."
"No," said Gerda; and then she told her all her history and how fond she
was of little Kay.
The robber girl looked earnestly at her, nodded her head slightly, and
said, "They shan't kill you even if I do get angry with you, for I will
do it myself." And then she wiped Gerda's eyes and put her own hands
into the beautiful muff, which was so soft and warm.
The coach stopped in the courtyard of a robber's castle, the walls of
which were full of cracks from top to bottom. Ravens and crows flew in
and out of the holes and crevices, while great bulldogs, each of which
looked as if it could swallow a man, were jumping about; but they were
not allowed to bark.
In the large old smoky hall a bright fire was burning on the stone
floor. There was no chimney, so the smoke went up to the ceiling and
found a way out for itself. Soup was boiling in a large cauldron, and
hares and rabbits were roasting on the spit.
"You shall sleep with me and all my little animals to-night," said the
robber girl after they had had something to eat and drink. So she took
Gerda to a corner of the hall where some straw and carpets were laid
down. Above them, on laths and perches, were more than a hundred pigeons
that all seemed to be asleep, although they moved slightly when the two
little girls came near them. "These all belong to me," said the robber
girl, and she seized the nearest to her, held it by the feet, and shook
it till it flapped its wings. "Kiss it," cried she, flapping it in
"There sit the wood pigeons," continued she, pointing to a number of
laths and a cage which had been fixed into the walls, near one of the
openings. "Both rascals would fly away directly, if they were not
closely locked up. And here is my old sweetheart 'Ba,'" and she dragged
out a reindeer by the horn; he wore a bright copper ring round his neck
and was tethered to the spot. "We are obliged to hold him tight too,
else he would run away from us also. I tickle his neck every evening
with my sharp knife, which frightens him very much." And the robber girl
drew a long knife from a chink in the wall and let it slide gently over
the reindeer's neck. The poor animal began to kick, and the little
robber girl laughed and pulled down Gerda into bed with her.
"Will you have that knife with you while you are asleep?" asked Gerda,
looking at it in great fright.
"I always sleep with the knife by me," said the robber girl. "No one
knows what may happen. But now tell me again all about little Kay, and
why you went out into the world."
Then Gerda repeated her story over again, while the wood pigeons in the
cage over her cooed, and the other pigeons slept. The little robber girl
put one arm across Gerda's neck, and held the knife in the other, and
was soon fast asleep and snoring. But Gerda could not close her eyes at
all; she knew not whether she was to live or to die. The robbers sat
round the fire, singing and drinking. It was a terrible sight for a
little girl to witness.
Then the wood pigeons said: "Coo, coo, we have seen little Kay. A white
fowl carried his sledge, and he sat in the carriage of the Snow Queen,
which drove through the wood while we were lying in our nest. She blew
upon us, and all the young ones died, excepting us two. Coo, coo."
"What are you saying up there?" cried Gerda. "Where was the Snow Queen
going? Do you know anything about it?"
"She was most likely traveling to Lapland, where there is always snow
and ice. Ask the reindeer that is fastened up there with a rope."
"Yes, there is always snow and ice," said the reindeer, "and it is a
glorious place; you can leap and run about freely on the sparkling icy
plains. The Snow Queen has her summer tent there, but her strong castle
is at the North Pole, on an island called Spitzbergen."
"O Kay, little Kay!" sighed Gerda.
"Lie still," said the robber girl, "or you shall feel my knife."
In the morning Gerda told her all that the wood pigeons had said, and
the little robber girl looked quite serious, and nodded her head and
said: "That is all talk, that is all talk. Do you know where Lapland
is?" she asked the reindeer.
"Who should know better than I do?" said the animal, while his eyes
sparkled. "I was born and brought up there and used to run about the
"Now listen," said the robber girl; "all our men are gone away; only
mother is here, and here she will stay; but at noon she always drinks
out of a great bottle, and afterwards sleeps for a little while; and
then I'll do something for you." She jumped out of bed, clasped her
mother round the neck, and pulled her by the beard, crying, "My own
little nanny goat, good morning!" And her mother pinched her nose till
it was quite red; yet she did it all for love.
When the mother had gone to sleep the little robber maiden went to the
reindeer and said: "I should like very much to tickle your neck a few
times more with my knife, for it makes you look so funny, but never
mind--I will untie your cord and set you free, so that you may run away
to Lapland; but you must make good use of your legs and carry this
little maiden to the castle of the Snow Queen, where her playfellow is.
You have heard what she told me, for she spoke loud enough, and you were
The reindeer jumped for joy, and the little robber girl lifted Gerda on
his back and had the forethought to tie her on and even to give her her
own little cushion to sit upon.
"Here are your fur boots for you," said she, "for it will be very cold;
but I must keep the muff, it is so pretty. However, you shall not be
frozen for the want of it; here are my mother's large warm mittens; they
will reach up to your elbows. Let me put them on. There, now your hands
look just like my mother's."
But Gerda wept for joy.
"I don't like to see you fret," said the little robber girl. "You ought
to look quite happy now. And here are two loaves and a ham, so that you
need not starve."
These were fastened upon the reindeer, and then the little robber maiden
opened the door, coaxed in all the great dogs, cut the string with
which the reindeer was fastened, with her sharp knife, and said, "Now
run, but mind you take good care of the little girl." And Gerda
stretched out her hand, with the great mitten on it, toward the little
robber girl and said "Farewell," and away flew the reindeer over stumps
and stones, through the great forest, over marshes and plains, as
quickly as he could. The wolves howled and the ravens screamed, while up
in the sky quivered red lights like flames of fire. "There are my old
northern lights," said the reindeer; "see how they flash!" And he ran on
day and night still faster and faster, but the loaves and the ham were
all eaten by the time they reached Lapland.
THE LAPLAND WOMAN AND THE FINLAND WOMAN
They stopped at a little hut; it was very mean looking. The roof sloped
nearly down to the ground, and the door was so low that the family had
to creep in on their hands and knees when they went in and out. There
was no one at home but an old Lapland woman who was dressing fish by the
light of a train-oil lamp.
The reindeer told her all about Gerda's story after having first told
his own, which seemed to him the most important. But Gerda was so
pinched with the cold that she could not speak.
"Oh, you poor things," said the Lapland woman, "you have a long way to
go yet. You must travel more than a hundred miles farther, to Finland.
The Snow Queen lives there now, and she burns Bengal lights every
evening. I will write a few words on a dried stockfish, for I have no
paper, and you can take it from me to the Finland woman who lives there.
She can give you better information than I can."
So when Gerda was warmed and had taken something to eat and drink, the
woman wrote a few words on the dried fish and told Gerda to take great
care of it. Then she tied her again on the back of the reindeer, and he
sprang high into the air and set off at full speed. Flash, flash, went
the beautiful blue northern lights the whole night long.
And at length they reached Finland and knocked at the chimney of the
Finland woman's hut, for it had no door above the ground. They crept in,
but it was so terribly hot inside that the woman wore scarcely any
clothes. She was small and very dirty looking. She loosened little
Gerda's dress and took off the fur boots and the mittens, or Gerda would
have been unable to bear the heat; and then she placed a piece of ice on
the reindeer's head and read what was written on the dried fish. After
she had read it three times she knew it by heart, so she popped the fish
into the soup saucepan, as she knew it was good to eat, and she never
The reindeer told his own story first and then little Gerda's, and the
Finlander twinkled with her clever eyes, but said nothing.
"You are so clever," said the reindeer; "I know you can tie all the
winds of the world with a piece of twine. If a sailor unties one knot,
he has a fair wind; when he unties the second, it blows hard; but if the
third and fourth are loosened, then comes a storm which will root up
whole forests. Cannot you give this little maiden something which will
make her as strong as twelve men, to overcome the Snow Queen?"
"The power of twelve men!" said the Finland woman. "That would be of
very little use." But she went to a shelf and took down and unrolled a
large skin on which were inscribed wonderful characters, and she read
till the perspiration ran down from her forehead.
But the reindeer begged so hard for little Gerda, and Gerda looked at
the Finland woman with such tender, tearful eyes, that her own eyes
began to twinkle again. She drew the reindeer into a corner and
whispered to him while she laid a fresh piece of ice on his head:
"Little Kay is really with the Snow Queen, but he finds everything there
so much to his taste and his liking that he believes it is the finest
place in the world; and this is because he has a piece of broken glass
in his heart and a little splinter of glass in his eye. These must be
taken out, or he will never be a human being again, and the Snow Queen
will retain her power over him."
"But can you not give little Gerda something to help her to conquer this
"I can give her no greater power than she has already," said the woman;
"don't you see how strong that is? how men and animals are obliged to
serve her, and how well she has gotten through the world, barefooted as
she is? She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has,
which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart. If she cannot
herself obtain access to the Snow Queen and remove the glass fragments
from little Kay, we can do nothing to help her. Two miles from here the
Snow Queen's garden begins. You can carry the little girl so far, and
set her down by the large bush which stands in the snow, covered with
red berries. Do not stay gossiping, but come back here as quickly as you
can." Then the Finland woman lifted little Gerda upon the reindeer, and
he ran away with her as quickly as he could.
"Oh, I have forgotten my boots and my mittens," cried little Gerda, as
soon as she felt the cutting cold; but the reindeer dared not stop, so
he ran on till he reached the bush with the red berries. Here he set
Gerda down, and he kissed her, and the great bright tears trickled over
the animal's cheeks; then he left her and ran back as fast as he could.
There stood poor Gerda, without shoes, without gloves, in the midst of
cold, dreary, ice-bound Finland. She ran forward as quickly as she
could, when a whole regiment of snowflakes came round her. They did not,
however, fall from the sky, which was quite clear and glittered with the
northern lights. The snowflakes ran along the ground, and the nearer
they came to her the larger they appeared. Gerda remembered how large
and beautiful they looked through the burning glass. But these were
really larger and much more terrible, for they were alive and were the
guards of the Snow Queen and had the strangest shapes. Some were like
great porcupines, others like twisted serpents with their heads
stretching out, and some few were like little fat bears with their hair
bristled; but all were dazzlingly white, and all were living snowflakes.
Little Gerda repeated the Lord's Prayer, and the cold was so great that
she could see her own breath come out of her mouth like steam, as she
uttered the words. The steam appeared to increase as she continued her
prayer, till it took the shape of little angels, who grew larger the
moment they touched the earth. They all wore helmets on their heads and
carried spears and shields. Their number continued to increase more and
more, and by the time Gerda had finished her prayers a whole legion
stood round her. They thrust their spears into the terrible snowflakes
so that they shivered into a hundred pieces, and little Gerda could go
forward with courage and safety. The angels stroked her hands and feet,
so that she felt the cold less as she hastened on to the Snow Queen's
But now we must see what Kay is doing. In truth he thought not of little
Gerda, and least of all that she could be standing at the front of the
OF THE PALACE OF THE SNOW QUEEN AND WHAT HAPPENED THERE AT LAST
The walls of the palace were formed of drifted snow, and the windows and
doors of cutting winds. There were more than a hundred rooms in it, all
as if they had been formed of snow blown together. The largest of them
extended for several miles. They were all lighted up by the vivid light
of the aurora, and were so large and empty, so icy cold and glittering!
There were no amusements here; not even a little bear's ball, when the
storm might have been the music, and the bears could have danced on
their hind legs and shown their good manners. There were no pleasant
games of snapdragon, or touch, nor even a gossip over the tea table for
the young-lady foxes. Empty, vast, and cold were the halls of the Snow
The flickering flames of the northern lights could be plainly seen,
whether they rose high or low in the heavens, from every part of the
castle. In the midst of this empty, endless hall of snow was a frozen
lake, broken on its surface into a thousand forms; each piece resembled
another, because each was in itself perfect as a work of art, and in the
center of this lake sat the Snow Queen when she was at home. She called
the lake "The Mirror of Reason," and said that it was the best, and
indeed the only one, in the world.
Little Kay was quite blue with cold,--indeed, almost black,--but he did
not feel it; for the Snow Queen had kissed away the icy shiverings, and
his heart was already a lump of ice. He dragged some sharp, flat pieces
of ice to and fro and placed them together in all kinds of positions, as
if he wished to make something out of them--just as we try to form
various figures with little tablets of wood, which we call a "Chinese
puzzle." Kay's figures were very artistic; it was the icy game of reason
at which he played, and in his eyes the figures were very remarkable and
of the highest importance; this opinion was owing to the splinter of
glass still sticking in his eye. He composed many complete figures,
forming different words, but there was one word he never could manage to
form, although he wished it very much. It was the word "Eternity."
The Snow Queen had said to him, "When you can find out this, you shall
be your own master, and I will give you the whole world and a new pair
of skates." But he could not accomplish it.
"Now I must hasten away to warmer countries," said the Snow Queen. "I
will go and look into the black craters of the tops of the burning
mountains, Etna and Vesuvius, as they are called. I shall make them look
white, which will be good for them and for the lemons and the grapes."
And away flew the Snow Queen, leaving little Kay quite alone in the
great hall which was so many miles in length. He sat and looked at his
pieces of ice and was thinking so deeply and sat so still that any one
might have supposed he was frozen.
Just at this moment it happened that little Gerda came through the great
door of the castle. Cutting winds were raging around her, but she
offered up a prayer, and the winds sank down as if they were going to
sleep. On she went till she came to the large, empty hall and caught
sight of Kay. She knew him directly; she flew to him and threw her arms
around his neck and held him fast while she exclaimed, "Kay, dear little
Kay, I have found you at last!"
But he sat quite still, stiff and cold.
Then little Gerda wept hot tears, which fell on his breast, and
penetrated into his heart, and thawed the lump of ice, and washed away
the little piece of glass which had stuck there. Then he looked at her,
and she sang:
"Roses bloom and fade away,
But we the Christ-child see alway."
Then Kay burst into tears. He wept so that the splinter of glass swam
out of his eye. Then he recognized Gerda and said joyfully, "Gerda, dear
little Gerda, where have you been all this time, and where have I been?"
And he looked all around him and said, "How cold it is, and how large
and empty it all looks," and he clung to Gerda, and she laughed and wept
It was so pleasing to see them that even the pieces of ice danced, and
when they were tired and went to lie down they formed themselves into
the letters of the word which the Snow Queen had said he must find out
before he could be his own master and have the whole world and a pair of
Gerda kissed his cheeks, and they became blooming; and she kissed his
eyes till they shone like her own; she kissed his hands and feet, and he
became quite healthy and cheerful. The Snow Queen might come home now
when she pleased, for there stood his certainty of freedom, in the word
she wanted, written in shining letters of ice.
Then they took each other by the hand and went forth from the great
palace of ice. They spoke of the grandmother and of the roses on the
roof, and as they went on the winds were at rest, and the sun burst
forth. When they arrived at the bush with red berries, there stood the
reindeer waiting for them, and he had brought another young reindeer
with him, whose udders were full, and the children drank her warm milk
and kissed her on the mouth.
They carried Kay and Gerda first to the Finland woman, where they warmed
themselves thoroughly in the hot room and had directions about their
journey home. Next they went to the Lapland woman, who had made some new
clothes for them and put their sleighs in order. Both the reindeer ran
by their side and followed them as far as the boundaries of the country,
where the first green leaves were budding. And here they took leave of
the two reindeer and the Lapland woman, and all said farewell.
Then birds began to twitter, and the forest too was full of green young
leaves, and out of it came a beautiful horse, which Gerda remembered,
for it was one which had drawn the golden coach. A young girl was riding
upon it, with a shining red cap on her head and pistols in her belt. It
was the little robber maiden, who had got tired of staying at home; she
was going first to the north, and if that did not suit her, she meant to
try some other part of the world. She knew Gerda directly, and Gerda
remembered her; it was a joyful meeting.
"You are a fine fellow to go gadding about in this way," said she to
little Kay. "I should like to know whether you deserve that any one
should go to the end of the world to find you."
But Gerda patted her cheeks and asked after the prince and princess.
"They are gone to foreign countries," said the robber girl.
"And the crow?" asked Gerda.
"Oh, the crow is dead," she replied. "His tame sweetheart is now a widow
and wears a bit of black worsted round her leg. She mourns very
pitifully, but it is all stuff. But now tell me how you managed to get
Then Gerda and Kay told her all about it.
"Snip, snap, snurre! it's all right at last," said the robber girl.
She took both their hands and promised that if ever she should pass
through the town, she would call and pay them a visit. And then she rode
away into the wide world.
But Gerda and Kay went hand in hand toward home, and as they advanced,
spring appeared more lovely with its green verdure and its beautiful
flowers. Very soon they recognized the large town where they lived, and
the tall steeples of the churches in which the sweet bells were ringing
a merry peal, as they entered it and found their way to their
They went upstairs into the little room, where all looked just as it
used to do. The old clock was going "Tick, tick," and the hands pointed
to the time of day, but as they passed through the door into the room
they perceived that they were both grown up and become a man and woman.
The roses out on the roof were in full bloom and peeped in at the
window, and there stood the little chairs on which they had sat when
children, and Kay and Gerda seated themselves each on their own chair
and held each other by the hand, while the cold, empty grandeur of the
Snow Queen's palace vanished from their memories like a painful dream.
The grandmother sat in God's bright sunshine, and she read aloud from
the Bible, "Except ye become as little children, ye shall in no wise
enter into the kingdom of God." And Kay and Gerda looked into each
other's eyes and all at once understood the words of the old song:
Roses bloom and fade away,
But we the Christ-child see alway.
And they both sat there, grown up, yet children at heart, and it was
summer--warm, beautiful summer.