The Snow Queen

: Hans Andersens Fairy Tales



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

distorted mirror.

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.



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

and flowers.

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

be true.

"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.



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

than ever.

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

our arrangements.

"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

about him.

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!



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 crow.

"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

for themselves."

"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

flew away.

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

gingerbread nuts.

"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 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

Gerda's face.

"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

snow-covered plains."

"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.



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

wasted anything.

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




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

for joy.

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

new skates.

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

him back."

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

grandmother's door.

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.