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The Rose Elf
In the midst of a garden there grew a rose
bush, quite covered with roses, and in the most beautiful of them
all there lived an elf-an elf so tiny that no mortal eye could see
him. But he was as well made and as perfect as any child could be,
and he had wings reaching from his shoulders to his feet. Behind
each petal of the rose he had a tiny bedroom. Oh, how fragrant his
rooms were, and how bright and transparent the walls, for they were
the beautiful pale pink petals of the rose! All day long the little
elf rejoiced in the warm sunshine as he flew from flower to flower
or danced on the wings of the fluttering butterflies and measured
how many steps he would have to take to pass along all the roads and
paths on a single linden leaf. You see, what we call the veins on a
leaf were highroads and byways to him. It was a long journey, and he
had begun it rather late, so before he finished, the sun had gone
It turned very cold, dew fell, and the wind
blew, so now it was high time he went home. He hurried as fast as he
could, but to his dismay he found that the rose had closed its
petals for the night! Not a single rose stood open! He couldn't get
in! Now, the poor little rose elf was terribly frightened, for he
had never been out at night before; he had always slumbered sweetly
and safely behind the warm rose petals. This would surely be the
death of him!
Suddenly he remembered that at the other end
of the garden there was an arbor of lovely honeysuckle, those
flowers which looked like big painted horns. In one of them,
perhaps, he could go down and sleep safely till morning.
Swiftly he flew to the far end of the garden.
But suddenly he stopped! Quiet! There were already two people in the
arbor. The loveliest maiden and a handsome young man. They sat
closely together and wished they might never, never part. They loved
each other, even more than the best child can love its father and
"Yet we must part," the young man was saying.
"Your brother doesn't like me, so he is sending me on a long
journey, far over distant mountains and oceans. Farewell, my
sweetest bride, for that you will always be to me!"
Then they kissed, and the young maiden wept
and gave him a rose. But first she pressed on it a kiss so warm and
tender that the rose petals opened, and then the little elf slipped
quickly inside. As he leaned his tiny head against the delicate,
fragrant walls, he could hear, "Farewell! Farewell!" and he felt
that the rose was being placed on the young man's heart. Ah, how
that heart beat! The little elf couldn't go to sleep for its
But not long did the rose rest undisturbed on
that throbbing heart. As the young man walked lonely through the
dark wood he took the rose out and kissed it so often and so warmly
that the little elf was almost crushed. Through the petals he could
feel the young man's burning lips, while the rose itself opened as
if under the strongest midday sun.
Suddenly another man appeared. It was the
pretty maiden's gloomy and wicked brother! He drew out a long sharp
knife, and while the young man was kissing the rose, this wicked one
stabbed him to death! Then he cut off the head and buried head and
body in the soft earth beneath the linden tree.
"Now he's dead and forgotten!" the evil
brother thought. "He'll never come back again. He was supposed to
have left on a long journey where a man might easily lose his
life-and so he has lost his. No, he won't come back, and my sister
won't ever dare ask me about him." Then he kicked dry leaves over
the loose earth and went home in the darkness of the night.
But he was not alone, as he thought. The
little elf was with him. For, as he dug the grave, a dried,
rolled-up linden leaf had fallen in his hair, and the rose elf was
in that leaf. Now the man's hat was placed over the leaf, and it was
very dark in there where the little elf trembled in fear and anger
at the wicked deed.
In the early morning, the evil man reached
home. He took off his hat and went into his sister's bedroom. There
lay the pretty maiden, dreaming of her beloved, whom she thought far
away traveling over mountains and through the forests. The wicked
brother leaned over her and laughed-the hideous laugh of a devil-and
the withered leaf dropped from his hair onto her bed cover. But he
didn't notice, and pretty soon he left her room to get a little
Now the little elf crept quietly out of the
withered leaf, slipped into the ear of the sleeping girl, and told
her, as in a dream, the dreadful story of the murder. He described
the spot in the woods where her brother had killed her sweetheart,
and the place under the linden tree where the body was buried, and
then whispered, "And so that you may not think this all a dream, you
will find a withered leaf of the tree on your bedspread!" And when
she awoke she found the leaf.
Oh, what bitter, bitter tears she shed! Yet to
no one did she dare betray her grief. All that day her window stood
open, and the little elf could easily have escaped to the roses and
all the other flowers of the garden, but he could not bear to leave
the sorrowing girl.
In the window stood a bush that bore roses
every month, and he found a spot in one of those flowers from where
he could watch the poor girl. Often her brother came into the room,
merry with an evil mirth, and she dared not say a word of the grief
in her heart.
When night came she stole out of the house and
into the forest to the place where the linden tree stood. She
brushed away the leaves, dug into the earth, and so at last came to
the body of her beloved. How she wept then, and how she prayed to
God that she too might die! She would gladly have taken the body
home with her, but since that would be impossible, she took up the
pale head, with its closed eyes, kissed the cold mouth, and with a
trembling hand brushed the dirt from the beautiful hair.
"This, at least, I can keep," she wept. Then
she buried the body again and scattered the leaves once more over
it. But the head, together with a little sprig from a jasmine bush
which bloomed in the wood where he had been killed, she took with
her to her home.
As soon as she reached her room she brought
the biggest flowerpot she could find, and in this she laid the dead
man's head, covered it with earth, and planted the sprig of jasmine.
The little elf could no longer bear to see
such grief. "Farewell, farewell," he whispered, and then he flew out
to his rose in the garden. But it was withered and faded now, and
only a few dry leaves clung to the bush. "Alas!" sighed the elf.
"How soon everything good and beautiful passes away!" But at last he
found another rose, and made his home in safety behind its delicate,
But every morning he would fly to the poor
maiden's window, and he always found her there, weeping over the
flowerpot. Softly her bitter tears fell upon the jasmine spray, and
every day as she became paler and paler the sprig grew fresher and
greener. New shoots appeared, one after another, and little white
buds burst forth, and these she kissed.
When her wicked brother saw her do that he
scolded her and asked why she acted so silly. He didn't like it and
didn't understand why she was always weeping over the flowerpot. He
did not know what closed eyes were there, and what red lips had
there returned to dust.
And the pretty maiden leaned her head against
the flowerpot, and the little elf found her there, fallen into a
gentle slumber. So he crept again into her ear and whispered to her
of that evening in the arbor and of the scent of the roses and the
loves of the elves. Then she dreamed so sweetly, and while she
dreamed her life passed gently away. She died a quiet death and was
in Heaven with her beloved. And the jasmine flowers opened their big
white bells and gave out their wonderful sweet fragrance. It was the
only way they knew to weep for the dead.
When the wicked brother saw the beautiful
blooming plant, he took it for himself as an inheritance from his
sister, and put it in his bedroom close beside his bed, for it was
glorious indeed to look at, and its fragrance was sweet and fresh.
But the little rose elf went with it, and flew from blossom to
blossom; in each lived a tiny soul, and to each he told the story of
the murdered man whose head even now rested under the earth beneath
them. He told them of the evil brother and the poor sister.
"We know it!" replied each little soul in the
flowers. "Did we not spring from those murdered eyes and lips? We
know it! We know it!" they repeated, and nodded their heads in an
odd way. The rose elf could not understand how they could be so
quiet about it, and he flew out to the bees gathering honey and told
them the terrible story about the wicked brother. So they reported
it to their Queen, and the Queen commanded all the bees to kill the
murderer the very next morning.
But the night before, the first night after
his sister's death, while the evil brother was asleep in his bed
beside the fragrant jasmine, the flowers opened, and out of each
blossom came a tiny spirit-invisible, but armed with a sharp little
poisoned spear. First, they crept into his ears, and told him wicked
dreams; then they flew across his lips, and pierced his tongue with
their poisoned darts.
"Now we have avenged the dead man!" they
cried, then flew back again into the white bells of the jasmine.
When the morning came, and the windows of the
bedroom were opened, the rose elf and the whole swarm of bees with
their Queen swept in to kill him.
But he was already dead, and people stood
around his bed and said, "The scent of the jasmine has killed him!"
Then the rose elf understood the vengeance of the flowers and told
it to the Queen, and she and her whole swarm of bees ceaselessly
hummed around the flowerpot and could not be driven away. When a man
picked up the pot a bee stung him on the hand, so that he let it
fall and it broke into pieces. Then the people saw the whitened
skull and knew that the dead man on the bed was a murderer.
So the Queen bee hummed in the air and sang of
the vengeance of the flowers and about the rose elf, and how behind
the smallest leaf there dwells One who can disclose and repay every