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The Snow Queen
A Tale in Seven Stories
Which Has to Do with a Mirror and its Fragments
Now then! We will begin. When the story is
done you shall know a great deal more than you do know.
He was a terribly bad hobgoblin, a goblin of
the very wickedest sort and, in fact, he was the devil himself. One
day the devil was in a very good humor because he had just finished
a mirror which had this peculiar power: everything good and
beautiful that was reflected in it seemed to dwindle to almost
nothing at all, while everything that was worthless and ugly became
most conspicuous and even uglier than ever. In this mirror the
loveliest landscapes looked like boiled spinach, and the very best
people became hideous, or stood on their heads and had no stomachs.
Their faces were distorted beyond any recognition, and if a person
had a freckle it was sure to spread until it covered both nose and
"That's very funny!" said the devil. If a
good, pious thought passed through anyone's mind, it showed in the
mirror as a carnal grin, and the devil laughed aloud at his
All those who went to the hobgoblin's
school-for he had a school of his own-told everyone that a miracle
had come to pass. Now, they asserted, for the very first time you
could see how the world and its people really looked. They scurried
about with the mirror until there was not a person alive nor a land
on earth that had not been distorted.
Then they wanted to fly up to heaven itself,
to scoff at the angels, and our Lord. The higher they flew with the
mirror, the wider it grinned. They could hardly manage to hold it.
Higher they flew, and higher still, nearer to heaven and the angels.
Then the grinning mirror trembled with such violence that it slipped
from their hands and fell to the earth, where it shattered into
hundreds of millions of billions of bits, or perhaps even more. And
now it caused more trouble than it did before it was broken, because
some of the fragments were smaller than a grain of sand and these
went flying throughout the wide world. Once they got in people's
eyes they would stay there. These bits of glass distorted everything
the people saw, and made them see only the bad side of things, for
every little bit of glass kept the same power that the whole mirror
A few people even got a glass splinter in
their hearts, and that was a terrible thing, for it turned their
hearts into lumps of ice. Some of the fragments were so large that
they were used as window panes-but not the kind of window through
which you should look at your friends. Other pieces were made into
spectacles, and evil things came to pass when people put them on to
see clearly and to see justice done. The fiend was so tickled by it
all that he laughed till his sides were sore. But fine bits of the
glass are still flying through the air, and now you shall hear what
A Little Boy and a Little Girl
In the big city it was so crowded with houses
and people that few found room for even a small garden and most
people had to be content with a flowerpot, but two poor children who
lived there managed to have a garden that was a little bigger than a
flowerpot. These children were not brother and sister, but they
loved each other just as much as if they had been. Their parents
lived close to one another in the garrets of two adjoining houses.
Where the roofs met and where the rain gutter ran between the two
houses, their two small windows faced each other. One had only to
step across the rain gutter to go from window to window.
In these windows, the parents had a large box
where they planted vegetables for their use, and a little rose bush
too. Each box had a bush, which thrived to perfection. Then it
occurred to the parents to put these boxes across the gutter, where
they very nearly reached from one window to the other, and looked
exactly like two walls of flowers. The pea plants hung down over the
boxes, and the rose bushes threw out long sprays that framed the
windows and bent over toward each other. It was almost like a little
triumphal arch of greenery and flowers. The boxes were very high,
and the children knew that they were not to climb about on them, but
they were often allowed to take their little stools out on the roof
under the roses, where they had a wonderful time playing together.
Winter, of course, put an end to this
pleasure. The windows often frosted over completely. But they would
heat copper pennies on the stove and press these hot coins against
the frost-coated glass. Then they had the finest of peepholes, as
round as a ring, and behind them appeared a bright, friendly eye,
one at each window-it was the little boy and the little girl who
peeped out. His name was Kay and hers was Gerda. With one skip they
could join each other in summer, but to visit together in the
wintertime they had to go all the way downstairs in one house, and
climb all the way upstairs in the other. Outside the snow was
"See the white bees swarming," the old
"Do they have a queen bee, too?" the little
boy asked, for he knew that real bees have one.
"Yes, indeed they do," the grandmother said.
"She flies in the thick of the swarm. She is the biggest bee of all,
and can never stay quietly on the earth, but goes back again to the
dark clouds. Many a wintry night she flies through the streets and
peers in through the windows. Then they freeze over in a strange
fashion, as if they were covered with flowers."
"Oh yes, we've seen that," both the children
said, and so they knew it was true.
"Can the Snow Queen come in here?" the little
"Well, let her come!" cried the boy. "I would
put her on the hot stove and melt her."
But Grandmother stroked his head, and told
them other stories.
That evening when little Kay was at home and
half ready for bed, he climbed on the chair by the window and looked
out through the little peephole. A few snowflakes were falling, and
the largest flake of all alighted on the edge of one of the flower
boxes. This flake grew bigger and bigger, until at last it turned
into a woman, who was dressed in the finest white gauze which looked
as if it had been made from millions of star-shaped flakes. She was
beautiful and she was graceful, but she was ice-shining, glittering
ice. She was alive, for all that, and her eyes sparkled like two
bright stars, but in them there was neither rest nor peace. She
nodded toward the window and beckoned with her hand. The little boy
was frightened, and as he jumped down from the chair it seemed to
him that a huge bird flew past the window.
The next day was clear and cold. Then the snow
thawed, and springtime came. The sun shone, the green grass
sprouted, swallows made their nests, windows were thrown open, and
once again the children played in their little roof garden, high up
in the rain gutter on top of the house.
That summer the roses bloomed their splendid
best. The little girl had learned a hymn in which there was a line
about roses that reminded her of their own flowers. She sang it to
the little boy, and he sang it with her:
"Where roses bloom so sweetly in the vale,
There shall you find the Christ Child, without
The children held each other by the hand,
kissed the roses, looked up at the Lord's clear sunshine, and spoke
to it as if the Christ Child were there. What glorious summer days
those were, and how beautiful it was out under those fragrant rose
bushes which seemed as if they would never stop blooming.
Kay and Gerda were looking at a picture book
of birds and beasts one day, and it was then-just as the clock in
the church tower was striking five-that Kay cried:
"Oh! something hurt my heart. And now I've got
something in my eye."
The little girl put her arm around his neck,
and he blinked his eye. No, she couldn't see anything in it.
"I think it's gone," he said. But it was not
gone. It was one of those splinters of glass from the magic mirror.
You remember that goblin's mirror-the one which made everything
great and good that was reflected in it appear small and ugly, but
which magnified all evil things until each blemish loomed large.
Poor Kay! A fragment had pierced his heart as well, and soon it
would turn into a lump of ice. The pain had stopped, but the glass
was still there.
"Why should you be crying?" he asked. "It
makes you look so ugly. There's nothing the matter with me." And
suddenly he took it into his head to say:
"Ugh! that rose is all worm-eaten. And look,
this one is crooked. And these roses, they are just as ugly as they
can be. They look like the boxes they grow in." He gave the boxes a
kick, and broke off both of the roses.
"Kay! what are you doing?" the little girl
cried. When he saw how it upset her, he broke off another rose and
then leaped home through his own window, leaving dear little Gerda
Afterwards, when she brought out her picture
book, he said it was fit only for babes in the cradle. And whenever
Grandmother told stories, he always broke in with a "but-." If he
could manage it he would steal behind her, perch a pair of
spectacles on his nose, and imitate her. He did this so cleverly
that it made everybody laugh, and before long he could mimic the
walk and the talk of everyone who lived on that street. Everything
that was odd or ugly about them, Kay could mimic so well that people
said, "That boy has surely got a good head on him!" But it was the
glass in his eye and the glass in his heart that made him tease even
little Gerda, who loved him with all her soul.
Now his games were very different from what
they used to be. They became more sensible. When the snow was flying
about one wintry day, he brought a large magnifying glass out of
doors and spread the tail of his blue coat to let the snowflakes
fall on it.
"Now look through the glass," he told Gerda.
Each snowflake seemed much larger, and looked like a magnificent
flower or a ten-pointed star. It was marvelous to look at.
"Look, how artistic!" said Kay. "They are much
more interesting to look at than real flowers, for they are
absolutely perfect. There isn't a flaw in them, until they start
A little while later Kay came down with his
big gloves on his hands and his sled on his back. Right in Gerda's
ear he bawled out, "I've been given permission to play in the big
square where the other boys are!" and away he ran.
In the square some of the more adventuresome
boys would tie their little sleds on behind the farmer's carts, to
be pulled along for quite a distance. It was wonderful sport. While
the fun was at its height, a big sleigh drove up. It was painted
entirely white, and the driver wore a white, shaggy fur cloak and a
white, shaggy cap. As the sleigh drove twice around the square, Kay
quickly hooked his little sled behind it, and down the street they
went, faster and faster. The driver turned around in a friendly
fashion and nodded to Kay, just as if they were old acquaintances.
Every time Kay started to unfasten his little sleigh, its driver
nodded again, and Kay held on, even when they drove right out
through the town gate.
Then the snow began to fall so fast that the
boy could not see his hands in front of him, as they sped on. He
suddenly let go the slack of the rope in his hands, in order so get
loose from the big sleigh, but it did no good. His little sled was
tied on securely, and they went like the wind. He gave a loud shout,
but nobody heard him. The snow whirled and the sleigh flew along.
Every now and then it gave a jump, as if it were clearing hedges and
ditches. The boy was terror-stricken. He tried to say his prayers,
but all he could remember was his multiplication tables.
The snowflakes got bigger and bigger, until
they looked like big white hens. All of a sudden the curtain of snow
parted, and the big sleigh stopped and the driver stood up. The fur
coat and the cap were made of snow, and it was a woman, tall and
slender and blinding white-she was the Snow Queen herself.
"We have made good time," she said. "Is it
possible that you tremble from cold? Crawl under my bear coat." She
took him up in the sleigh beside her, and as she wrapped the fur
about him he felt as if he were sinking into a snowdrift.
"Are you still cold?" she asked, and kissed
him on the forehead. Brer-r-r. That kiss was colder than
ice. He felt it right down to his heart, half of which was already
an icy lump. He felt as if he were dying, but only for a moment.
Then he felt quite comfortable, and no longer noticed the cold.
"My sled! Don't forget my sled!" It was the
only thing he thought of. They tied it to one of the white hens,
which flew along after them with the sled on its back. The Snow
Queen kissed Kay once more, and then he forgot little Gerda, and
Grandmother, and all the others at home.
"You won't get any more kisses now," she said,
"or else I should kiss you to death." Kay looked at her. She was so
beautiful! A cleverer and prettier face he could not imagine. She no
longer seemed to be made of ice, as she had seemed when she sat
outside his window and beckoned to him. In his eyes she was perfect,
and she was not at all afraid. He told her how he could do mental
arithmetic even with fractions, and that he knew the size and
population of all the countries. She kept on smiling, and he began
to be afraid that he did not know as much as he thought he did. He
looked up at the great big space overhead, as she flew with him high
up on the black clouds, while the storm whistled and roared as if it
were singing old ballads.
They flew over forests and lakes, over many a
land and sea. Below them the wind blew cold, wolves howled, and
black crows screamed as they skimmed across the glittering snow. But
up above the moon shone bright and large, and on it Kay fixed his
eyes throughout that long, long winter night. By day he slept at the
feet of the Snow Queen.
The Flower Garden of the Woman Skilled in Magic
How did little Gerda get along when Kay did
not come back? Where could he be? Nobody knew. Nobody could give
them any news of him. All that the boys could say was that they had
seen him hitch his little sled to a fine big sleigh, which had
driven down the street and out through the town gate. Nobody knew
what had become of Kay. Many tears were shed, and little Gerda
sobbed hardest of all. People said that he was dead-that he must
have been drowned in the river not far from town. Ah, how gloomy
those long winter days were!
But spring and its warm sunshine came at last.
"Kay is dead and gone," little Gerda said.
"I don't believe it," said the sunshine.
"He's dead and gone," she said to the
"We don't believe it," they sang. Finally
little Gerda began to disbelieve it too. One morning she said to
"I'll put on my new red shoes, the ones Kay
has never seen, and I'll go down by the river to ask about him."
It was very early in the morning. She kissed
her old grandmother, who was still asleep, put on her red shoes, and
all by herself she hurried out through the town gate and down to the
"Is it true that you have taken my own little
playmate? I'll give you my red shoes if you will bring him back to
It seemed to her that the waves nodded very
strangely. So she took off her red shoes that were her dearest
possession, and threw them into the river. But they fell near the
shore, and the little waves washed them right back to her. It seemed
that the river could not take her dearest possession, because it did
not have little Kay. However, she was afraid that she had not thrown
them far enough, so she clambered into a boat that lay among the
reeds, walked to the end of it, and threw her shoes out into the
water again. But the boat was not tied, and her movements made it
drift away from the bank. She realized this, and tried to get
ashore, but by the time she reached the other end of the boat it was
already more than a yard from the bank, and was fast gaining speed.
Little Gerda was so frightened that she began
to cry, and no one was there to hear her except the sparrows. They
could not carry her to land, but they flew along the shore
twittering, "We are here! Here we are!" as if to comfort her. The
boat drifted swiftly down the stream, and Gerda sat there quite
still, in her stocking feet. Her little red shoes floated along
behind, but they could not catch up with her because the boat was
gathering headway. It was very pretty on both sides of the river,
where the flowers were lovely, the trees were old, and the hillsides
afforded pasture for cattle and sheep. But not one single person did
"Perhaps the river will take me to little
Kay," she thought, and that made her feel more cheerful. She stood
up and watched the lovely green banks for hour after hour.
Then she came to a large cherry orchard, in
which there was a little house with strange red and blue windows. It
had a thatched roof, and outside it stood two wooden soldiers, who
presented arms to everyone who sailed past.
Gerda thought they were alive, and called out
to them, but of course they did not answer her. She drifted quite
close to them as the current drove the boat toward the bank. Gerda
called even louder, and an old, old woman came out of the house. She
leaned on a crooked stick; she had on a big sun hat, and on it were
painted the most glorious flowers.
"You poor little child!" the old woman
exclaimed. "However did you get lost on this big swift river, and
however did you drift so far into the great wide world?" The old
woman waded right into the water, caught hold of the boat with her
crooked stick, pulled it in to shore, and lifted little Gerda out of
Gerda was very glad to be on dry land again,
but she felt a little afraid of this strange old woman, who said to
"Come and tell me who you are, and how you got
here." Gerda told her all about it. The woman shook her head and
said, "Hmm, hmm!" And when Gerda had told her everything and asked
if she hadn't seen little Kay, the woman said he had not yet come
by, but that he might be along any day now. And she told Gerda not
to take it so to heart, but to taste her cherries and to look at her
flowers. These were more beautiful than any picture book, and each
one had a story to tell. Then she led Gerda by the hand into her
little house, and the old woman locked the door.
The windows were placed high up on the walls,
and through their red, blue, and yellow panes the sunlight streamed
in a strange mixture of all the colors there are. But on the table
were the most delicious cherries, and Gerda, who was no longer
afraid, ate as many as she liked. While she was eating them, the old
woman combed her hair with a golden comb. Gerda's pretty hair fell
in shining yellow ringlets on either side of a friendly little face
that was as round and blooming as a rose.
"I've so often wished for a dear little girl
like you," the old woman told her. "Now you'll see how well the two
of us will get along." While her hair was being combed, Gerda
gradually forgot all about Kay, for the old woman was skilled in
magic. But she was not a wicked witch. She only dabbled in magic to
amuse herself, but she wanted very much to keep little Gerda. So she
went out into her garden and pointed her crooked stick at all the
rose bushes. In the full bloom of their beauty, all of them sank
down into the black earth, without leaving a single trace behind.
The old woman was afraid that if Gerda saw them they would remind
her so strongly of her own roses, and of little Kay, that she would
run away again.
Then Gerda was led into the flower garden. How
fragrant and lovely it was! Every known flower of every season was
there in full bloom. No picture book was ever so pretty and gay.
Gerda jumped for joy, and played in the garden until the sun went
down behind the tall cherry trees. Then she was tucked into a
beautiful bed, under a red silk coverlet quilted with blue violets.
There she slept, and there she dreamed as gloriously as any queen on
her wedding day.
The next morning she again went out into the
warm sunshine to play with the flowers-and this she did for many a
day. Gerda knew every flower by heart, and, plentiful though they
were, she always felt that there was one missing, but which one she
didn't quite know. One day she sat looking at the old woman's sun
hat, and the prettiest of all the flowers painted on it was a rose.
The old woman had forgotten this rose on her hat when she made the
real roses disappear in the earth. But that's just the sort of thing
that happens when one doesn't stop to think.
"Why aren't there any roses here?" said Gerda.
She rushed out among the flower beds, and she looked and she looked,
but there wasn't a rose to be seen. Then she sat down and cried. But
her hot tears fell on the very spot where a rose bush had sunk into
the ground, and when her warm tears moistened the earth the bush
sprang up again, as full of blossoms as when it disappeared. Gerda
hugged it, and kissed the roses. She remembered her own pretty
roses, and thought of little Kay.
"Oh how long I have been delayed," the little
girl said. "I should have been looking for Kay. Don't you know where
he is?" she asked the roses. "Do you think that he is dead and
"He isn't dead," the roses told her. "We have
been down in the earth where the dead people are, but Kay is not
"Thank you," said little Gerda, who went to
all the other flowers, put her lips near them and asked, "Do you
know where little Kay is?"
But every flower stood in the sun, and dreamed
its own fairy tale, or its story. Though Gerda listened to many,
many of them, not one of the flowers knew anything about Kay.
What did the tiger lily say?
"Do you hear the drum? Boom, boom! It
was only two notes, always boom, boom! Hear the women wail.
Hear the priests chant. The Hindoo woman in her long red robe stands
on the funeral pyre. The flames rise around her and her dead
husband, but the Hindoo woman is thinking of that living man in the
crowd around them. She is thinking of him whose eyes are burning
hotter than the flames-of him whose fiery glances have pierced her
heart more deeply than these flames that soon will burn her body to
ashes. Can the flame of the heart die in the flame of the funeral
"I don't understand that at all," little Gerda
"That's my fairy tale," said the lily.
What did the trumpet flower say?
"An ancient castle rises high from a narrow
path in the mountains. The thick ivy grows leaf upon leaf where it
climbs to the balcony. There stands a beautiful maiden. She leans
out over the balustrade to look down the path. No rose on its stem
is as graceful as she, nor is any apple blossom in the breeze so
light. Hear the rustle of her silk gown, sighing, 'Will he never
"Do you mean Kay?" little Gerda asked.
"I am talking about my story, my own dream,"
the trumpet flower replied.
What did the little snowdrop say?
"Between the trees a board hangs by two ropes.
It is a swing. Two pretty little girls, with frocks as white as
snow, and long green ribbons fluttering from their hats, are
swinging. Their brother, who is bigger than they are, stands behind
them on the swing, with his arms around the ropes to hold himself.
In one hand he has a little cup, and in the other a clay pipe. He is
blowing soap bubbles, and as the swing flies the bubbles float off
in all their changing colors. The last bubble is still clinging to
the bowl of his pipe, and fluttering in the air as the swing sweeps
to and fro. A little black dog, light as a bubble, is standing on
his hind legs and trying to get up in the swing. But it does not
stop. High and low the swing flies, until the dog loses his balance,
barks, and loses his temper. They tease him, and the bubble bursts.
A swinging board pictured in a bubble before it broke-that is my
"It may be a very pretty story, but you told
it very sadly and you didn't mention Kay at all."
What did the hyacinths say?
"There were three sisters, quite transparent
and very fair. One wore a red dress, the second wore a blue one, and
the third went all in white. Hand in hand they danced in the clear
moonlight, beside a calm lake. They were not elfin folk. They were
human beings. The air was sweet, and the sisters disappeared into
the forest. The fragrance of the air grew sweeter. Three coffins, in
which lie the three sisters, glide out of the forest and across the
lake. The fireflies hover about them like little flickering lights.
Are the dancing sisters sleeping or are they dead? The fragrance of
the flowers says they are dead, and the evening bell tolls for their
"You are making me very unhappy," little Gerda
said. "Your fragrance is so strong that I cannot help thinking of
those dead sisters. Oh, could little Kay really be dead? The roses
have been down under the ground, and they say no."
"Ding, dong," tolled the hyacinth bells. "We
do not toll for little Kay. We do not know him. We are simply
singing our song-the only song we know."
And Gerda went on to the buttercup that shone
among its glossy green leaves.
"You are like a bright little sun," said
Gerda. "Tell me, do you know where I can find my playmate?"
And the buttercup shone brightly as it looked
up at Gerda. But what sort of song would a buttercup sing? It
certainly wouldn't be about Kay.
"In a small courtyard, God's sun was shining
brightly on the very first day of spring. Its beams glanced along
the white wall of the house next door, and close by grew the first
yellow flowers of spring shining like gold in the warm sunlight. An
old grandmother was sitting outside in her chair. Her granddaughter,
a poor but very pretty maidservant, had just come home for a little
visit. She kissed her grandmother, and there was gold, a heart full
of gold, in that kiss. Gold on her lips, gold in her dreams, and
gold above in the morning beams. There, I've told you my little
story," said the buttercup.
"Oh, my poor old Grandmother," said Gerda.
"She will miss me so. She must be grieving for me as much as she did
for little Kay. But I'll soon go home again, and I'll bring Kay with
me. There's no use asking the flowers about him. They don't know
anything except their own songs, and they haven't any news for me."
Then she tucked up her little skirts so that
she could run away faster, but the narcissus tapped against her leg
as she was jumping over it. So she stopped and leaned over the tall
"Perhaps you have something to tell me," she
What did the narcissus say?
"I can see myself! I can see myself! Oh, how
sweet is my own fragrance! Up in the narrow garret there is a little
dancer, half dressed. First she stands on one leg. Then she stands
on both, and kicks her heels at the whole world. She is an illusion
of the stage. She pours water from the teapot over a piece of cloth
she is holding-it is her bodice. Cleanliness is such a virtue! Her
white dress hangs from a hook. It too has been washed in the teapot,
and dried on the roof. She puts it on, and ties a saffron scarf
around her neck to make the dress seem whiter. Point your toes! See
how straight she balances on that single stem. I can see myself! I
can see myself!"
"I'm not interested," said Gerda. "What a
thing to tell me about!"
She ran to the end of the garden, and though
the gate was fastened she worked the rusty latch till it gave way
and the gate flew open. Little Gerda scampered out into the wide
world in her bare feet. She looked back three times, but nobody came
after her. At last she could run no farther, and she sat down to
rest on a big stone, and when she looked up she saw that summer had
gone by, and it was late in the fall. She could never have guessed
it inside the beautiful garden where the sun was always shining, and
the flowers of every season were always in full bloom.
"Gracious! how long I've dallied," Gerda said.
"Fall is already here. I can't rest any longer."
She got up to run on, but how footsore and
tired she was! And how cold and bleak everything around her looked!
The long leaves of the willow tree had turned quite yellow, and damp
puffs of mist dropped from them like drops of water. One leaf after
another fell to the ground. Only the blackthorn still bore fruit,
and its fruit was so sour that it set your teeth on edge.
Oh, how dreary and gray the wide world looked.
The Prince and the Princess
The next time that Gerda was forced to rest, a
big crow came hopping across the snow in front of her. For a long
time he had been watching her and cocking his head to one side, and
now he said, "Caw, caw! Good caw day!" He could not say it any
better, but he felt kindly inclined toward the little girl, and
asked her where she was going in the great wide world, all alone.
Gerda understood him when he said "alone," and she knew its meaning
all too well. She told the crow the whole story of her life, and
asked if he hadn't seen Kay. The crow gravely nodded his head and
cawed, "Maybe I have, maybe I have!"
"What! do you really think you have?" the
little girl cried, and almost hugged the crow to death as she kissed
"Gently, gently!" said the crow. "I think that
it may have been little Kay that I saw, but if it was, then he has
forgotten you for the Princess."
"Does he live with a Princess?" Gerda asked.
"Yes. Listen!" said the crow. "But it is so
hard for me to speak your language. If you understand crow talk, I
can tell you much more easily."
"I don't know that language," said Gerda. "My
grandmother knows it, just as well as she knows baby talk, and I do
wish I had learned it."
"No matter," said the crow. "I'll tell you as
well as I can, though that won't be any too good." And he told her
all that he knew.
"In the kingdom where we are now, there is a
Princess who is uncommonly clever, and no wonder. She has read all
the newspapers in the world and forgotten them again - that's how
clever she is. Well, not long ago she was sitting on her throne.
That's by no means as much fun as people suppose, so she fell to
humming an old tune, and the refrain of it happened to run:
"Why, oh, why, shouldn't I get married?"
" 'Why, that's an idea!' said she. And she
made up her mind to marry as soon as she could find the sort of
husband who could give a good answer when anyone spoke to him,
instead of one of those fellows who merely stand around looking
impressive, for that is so tiresome. She had the drums drubbed to
call together all her ladies-in-waiting, and when they heard what
she had in mind they were delighted.
" 'Oh, we like that!' they said. 'We were just
thinking the very same thing.'
"Believe me," said the crow, "every word I
tell you is true. I have a tame ladylove who has the run of the
palace, and I had the whole story straight from her." Of course his
ladylove was also a crow, for birds of a feather will flock
"The newspapers immediately came out with a
border of hearts and the initials of the Princess, and you could
read an announcement that any presentable young man might go to the
palace and talk with her. The one who spoke best, and who seemed
most at home in the palace, would be chosen by the Princess as her
"Yes, yes," said the crow, "believe me, that's
as true as it is that here I sit. Men flocked to the palace, and
there was much crowding and crushing, but on neither the first nor
the second day was anyone chosen. Out in the street they were all
glib talkers, but after they entered the palace gate where the
guardsmen were stationed in their silver-braided uniforms, and after
they climbed up the staircase lined with footmen in gold-embroidered
livery, they arrived in the brilliantly lighted reception halls
without a word to say. And when they stood in front of the Princess
on her throne, the best they could do was to echo the last word of
her remarks, and she didn't care to hear it repeated.
"It was just as if everyone in the throne room
had his stomach filled with snuff and had fallen asleep; for as soon
as they were back in the streets there was no stopping their talk.
"The line of candidates extended all the way
from the town gates to the palace. I saw them myself," said the
crow. "They got hungry and they got thirsty, but from the palace
they got nothing-not even a glass of lukewarm water. To be sure,
some of the clever candidates had brought sandwiches with them, but
they did not share them with their neighbors. Each man thought,
'Just let him look hungry, then the Princess won't take him!' "
"But Kay, little Kay," Gerda interrupted,
"when did he come? Was he among those people?"
"Give me time, give me time! We are just
coming to him. On the third day a little person, with neither horse
nor carriage, strode boldly up to the palace. His eyes sparkled the
way yours do, and he had handsome long hair, but his clothes were
"Oh, that was Kay!" Gerda said, and clapped
her hands in glee. "Now I've found him."
"He had a little knapsack on his back," the
crow told her.
"No, that must have been his sled," said
Gerda. "He was carrying it when he went away."
"Maybe so," the crow said. "I didn't look at
it carefully. But my tame ladylove told me that when he went through
the palace gates and saw the guardsmen in silver, and on the
staircase the footmen in gold, he wasn't at all taken aback. He
nodded and he said to them:
" 'It must be very tiresome to stand on the
stairs. I'd rather go inside.'
"The halls were brilliantly lighted. Ministers
of state and privy councilors were walking about barefooted,
carrying golden trays in front of them. It was enough to make anyone
feel solemn, and his boots creaked dreadfully, but he wasn't a bit
"That certainly must have been Kay," said
Gerda. "I know he was wearing new boots. I heard them creaking in
"Oh, they creaked all right," said the crow.
"But it was little enough he cared as he walked straight to the
Princess, who was sitting on a pearl as big as a spinning wheel. All
the ladies-in-waiting with their attendants and their attendants'
attendants, and all the lords-in-waiting with their gentlemen and
their gentlemen's men, each of whom had his page with him, were
standing there, and the nearer they stood to the door the more
arrogant they looked. The gentlemen's men's pages, who always wore
slippers, were almost too arrogant to look as they stood at the
"That must have been terrible!" little Gerda
exclaimed. "And yet Kay won the Princess?"
"If I weren't a crow, I would have married her
myself, for all that I'm engaged to another. They say he spoke as
well as I do when I speak my crow language. Or so my tame ladylove
tells me. He was dashing and handsome, and he was not there to court
the Princess but to hear her wisdom. This he liked, and she liked
"Of course it was Kay," said Gerda. "He was so
clever that he could do mental arithmetic even with fractions. Oh,
please take me to the palace."
"That's easy enough to say," said the crow,
"but how can we manage it? I'll talk it over with my tame ladylove,
and she may be able to suggest something, but I must warn you that a
little girl like you will never be admitted."
"Oh, yes I shall," said Gerda. "When Kay hears
about me, he will come out to fetch me at once."
"Wait for me beside that stile," the crow
said. He wagged his head and off he flew.
Darkness had set in when he got back.
"Caw, caw!" he said. "My ladylove sends you
her best wishes, and here's a little loaf of bread for you. She
found it in the kitchen, where they have all the bread they need,
and you must be hungry. You simply can't get into the palace with
those bare feet. The guardsmen in silver and the footmen in gold
would never permit it. But don't you cry. We'll find a way. My
ladylove knows of a little back staircase that leads up to the
bedroom, and she knows where they keep the key to it."
Then they went into the garden and down the
wide promenade where the leaves were falling one by one. When, one
by one, the lights went out in the palace, the crow led little Gerda
to the back door, which stood ajar.
Oh, how her heart did beat with fear and
longing. It was just as if she were about to do something wrong, yet
she only wanted to make sure that this really was little Kay. Yes,
truly it must be Kay, she thought, as she recalled his sparkling
eyes and his long hair. She remembered exactly how he looked when he
used to smile at her as they sat under the roses at home. Wouldn't
he be glad to see her! Wouldn't he be interested in hearing how far
she had come to find him, and how sad they had all been when he
didn't come home. She was so frightened, and yet so happy.
Now they were on the stairway. A little lamp
was burning on a cupboard, and there stood the tame crow, cocking
her head to look at Gerda, who made the curtsy that her grandmother
had taught her.
"My fiancé has told me many charming things
about you, dear young lady," she said. "Your biography, as one might
say, is very touching. Kindly take the lamp and I shall lead the
way. We shall keep straight ahead, where we aren't apt to run into
"It seems to me that someone is on the stairs
behind us," said Gerda. Things brushed past, and from the shadows on
the wall they seemed to be horses with spindly legs and waving
manes. And there were shadows of huntsmen, ladies and gentlemen, on
"Those are only dreams," said the crow. "They
come to take the thoughts of their royal masters off to the chase.
That's just as well, for it will give you a good opportunity to see
them while they sleep. But I trust that, when you rise to high
position and power, you will show a grateful heart."
"Tut tut! You've no need to say that," said
the forest crow.
Now they entered the first room. It was hung
with rose-colored satin, embroidered with flowers. The dream shadows
were flitting by so fast that Gerda could not see the lords and
ladies. Hall after magnificent hall quite bewildered her, until at
last they reached the royal bedroom.
The ceiling of it was like the top of a huge
palm tree, with leaves of glass, costly glass. In the middle of the
room two beds hung from a massive stem of gold. Each of them looked
like a lily. One bed was white, and there lay the Princess. The
other was red, and there Gerda hoped to find little Kay. She bent
one of the scarlet petals and saw the nape of a little brown neck.
Surely this must be Kay. She called his name aloud and held the lamp
near him. The dreams on horseback pranced into the room again, as he
awoke-and turned his head-and it was not little Kay at all.
The Prince only resembled Kay about the neck,
but he was young and handsome. The Princess peeked out of her
lily-white bed, and asked what had happened. Little Gerda cried and
told them all about herself, and about all that the crows had done
"Poor little thing," the Prince and the
Princess said. They praised the crows, and said they weren't the
least bit angry with them, but not to do it again. Furthermore, they
should have a reward.
"Would you rather fly about without any
responsibilities," said the Princess, "or would you care to be
appointed court crows for life, with rights to all scraps from the
Both the crows bowed low and begged for
permanent office, for they thought of their future and said it was
better to provide for their "old age," as they called it.
The Prince got up, and let Gerda have his bed.
It was the utmost that he could do. She clasped her little hands and
thought, "How nice the people and the birds are." She closed her
eyes, fell peacefully asleep, and all the dreams came flying back
again. They looked like angels, and they drew a little sled on which
Kay sat. He nodded to her, but this was only in a dream, so it all
disappeared when she woke up.
The next day she was dressed from her head to
her heels in silk and in velvet too. They asked her to stay at the
palace and have a nice time there, but instead she begged them to
let her have a little carriage, a little horse, and a pair of little
boots, so that she could drive out into the wide world to find Kay.
They gave her a pair of boots, and also a
muff. They dressed her as nicely as could be and, when she was ready
to go, there at the gate stood a brand new carriage of pure gold. On
it the coat of arms of the Prince and the Princess glistened like a
The coachman, the footman, and the
postilions-for postilions there were-all wore golden crowns. The
Prince and the Princess themselves helped her into the carriage, and
wished her Godspeed. The forest crow, who was now a married man,
accompanied her for the first three miles, and sat beside Gerda, for
it upset him to ride backward. The other crow stood beside the gate
and waved her wings. She did not accompany them because she was
suffering from a headache, brought on by eating too much in her new
position. Inside, the carriage was lined with sugared cookies, and
the seats were filled with fruit and gingerbread.
"Fare you well, fare you well," called the
Prince and Princess. Little Gerda cried and the crow cried too, for
the first few miles. Then the crow said good-by, and that was the
saddest leave-taking of all. He flew up into a tree and waved his
big black wings as long as he could see the carriage, which flashed
as brightly as the sun.
The Little Robber Girl
The carriage rolled on into a dark forest.
Like a blazing torch, it shone in the eyes of some robbers. They
could not bear it.
"That's gold! That's gold!" they cried. They
sprang forward, seized the horses, killed the little postilions, the
coachman, and the footman, and dragged little Gerda out of the
"How plump and how tender she looks, just as
if she'd been fattened on nuts!" cried the old robber woman, who had
a long bristly beard, and long eyebrows that hung down over her
eyes. "She looks like a fat little lamb. What a dainty dish she will
be!" As she said this she drew out her knife, a dreadful, flashing
"Ouch!" the old woman howled. At just that
moment her own little daughter had bitten her ear. The little girl,
whom she carried on her back, was a wild and reckless creature. "You
beasty brat!" her mother exclaimed, but it kept her from using that
knife on Gerda.
"She shall play with me," said the little
robber girl. "She must give me her muff and that pretty dress she
wears, and sleep with me in my bed." And she again gave her mother
such a bite that the woman hopped and whirled around in pain. All
the robbers laughed, and shouted:
"See how she dances with her brat."
"I want to ride in the carriage," the little
robber girl said, and ride she did, for she was too spoiled and
headstrong for words. She and Gerda climbed into the carriage and
away they drove over stumps and stones, into the depths of the
forest. The little robber girl was no taller than Gerda, but she was
stronger and much broader in the shoulders. Her skin was brown and
her eyes coal-black-almost sad in their expression. She put her arms
around Gerda, and said:
"They shan't kill you unless I get angry with
you. I think you must be a Princess."
"No, I'm not," said little Gerda. And she told
about all that had happened to her, and how much she cared for
little Kay. The robber girl looked at her gravely, gave a little nod
of approval, and told her:
"Even if I should get angry with you, they
shan't kill you, because I'll do it myself!" Then she dried Gerda's
eyes, and stuck her own hands into Gerda's soft, warm muff.
The carriage stopped at last, in the courtyard
of a robber's castle. The walls of it were cracked from bottom to
top. Crows and ravens flew out of every loophole, and bulldogs huge
enough to devour a man jumped high in the air. But they did not
bark, for that was forbidden.
In the middle of the stone-paved, smoky old
hall, a big fire was burning. The smoke of it drifted up to the
ceiling, where it had to find its own way out. Soup was boiling in a
big caldron, and hares and rabbits were roasting on the spit.
"Tonight you shall sleep with me and all my
little animals," the robber girl said. After they had something to
eat and drink, they went over to a corner that was strewn with rugs
and straw. On sticks and perches around the bedding roosted nearly a
hundred pigeons. They seemed to be asleep, but they stirred just a
little when the two little girls came near them.
"They are all mine, " said the little robber
girl. She seized the one that was nearest to her, held it by the
legs and shook it until it flapped its wings. "Kiss it," she cried,
and thrust the bird in Gerda's face. "Those two are the wild
rascals," she said, pointing high up the wall to a hole barred with
wooden sticks. "Rascals of the woods they are, and they would fly
away in a minute if they were not locked up."
"And here is my old sweetheart, Bae," she
said, pulling at the horns of a reindeer that was tethered by a
shiny copper ring around his neck. "We have to keep a sharp eye on
him, or he would run away from us too. Every single night I tickle
his neck with my knife blade, for he is afraid of that." From a hole
in the wall she pulled a long knife, and rubbed it against the
reindeer's neck. After the poor animal had kicked up its heals, the
robber girl laughed and pulled Gerda down into the bed with her.
"Are you going to keep that knife in bed with
you?" Gerda asked, and looked at it a little frightened.
"I always sleep with my knife," the little
robber girl said. "You never can tell what may happen. But let's
hear again what you told me before about little Kay, and about why
you are wandering through the wide world."
Gerda told the story all over again, while the
wild pigeons cooed in their cage overhead, and the tame pigeons
slept. The little robber girl clasped one arm around Gerda's neck,
gripped her knife in the other hand, fell asleep, and snored so that
one could hear her. But Gerda could not close her eyes at all. She
did not know whether she was to live or whether she was to die. The
robbers sat around their fire, singing and drinking, and the old
robber woman was turning somersaults. It was a terrible sight for a
little girl to see.
Then the wood pigeons said, "Coo, coo. We have
seen little Kay. A white hen was carrying his sled, and Kay sat in
the Snow Queen's sleigh. They swooped low, over the trees where we
lay in our nest. The Snow Queen blew upon us, and all the young
pigeons died except us. Coo, coo."
"What is that you are saying up there?" cried
Gerda. "Where was the Snow Queen going? Do you know anything about
"She was probably bound for Lapland, where
they always have snow and ice. Why don't you ask the reindeer who is
tethered beside you?"
"Yes, there is ice and snow in that glorious
land," the reindeer told her. "You can prance about freely across
those great, glittering fields. The Snow Queen has her summer tent
there, but her stronghold is a castle up nearer the North Pole, on
the island called Spitzbergen."
"Oh, Kay, little Kay," Gerda sighed.
"Lie still," said the robber girl, "or I'll
stick my knife in your stomach."
In the morning Gerda told her all that the
wood pigeons had said. The little robber girl looked quite
thoughtful. She nodded her head, and exclaimed, "Leave it to me!
Leave it to me.
"Do you know where Lapland is?" she asked the
"Who knows it better than I?" the reindeer
said, and his eyes sparkled. "There I was born, there I was bred,
and there I kicked my heels in freedom, across the fields of snow."
"Listen!" the robber girl said to Gerda. "As
you see, all the men are away. Mother is still here, and here she'll
stay, but before the morning is over she will drink out of that big
bottle, and then she usually dozes off for a nap. As soon as that
happens, I will do you a good turn."
She jumped out of bed, rushed over and threw
her arms around her mother's neck, pulled at her beard bristles, and
said, "Good morning, my dear nanny-goat." Her mother thumped her
nose until it was red and blue, but all that was done out of pure
As soon as the mother had tipped up the bottle
and dozed off to sleep, the little robber girl ran to the reindeer
and said, "I have a good notion to keep you here, and tickle you
with my sharp knife. You are so funny when I do, but never mind
that. I'll untie your rope, and help you find your way outside, so
that you can run back to Lapland. But you must put your best leg
forward and carry this little girl to the Snow Queen's palace, where
her playmate is. I suppose you heard what she told me, for she spoke
so loud, and you were eavesdropping."
The reindeer was so happy that he bounded into
the air. The robber girl hoisted little Gerda on his back, carefully
tied her in place, and even gave her a little pillow to sit on. I
don't do things half way," she said. "Here, take back your fur
boots, for it's going to be bitter cold. I'll keep your muff,
because it's such a pretty one. But your fingers mustn't get cold.
Here are my mother's big mittens, which will come right up to your
elbows. Pull them on. Now your hands look just like my ugly mother's
And Gerda shed happy tears.
"I don't care to see you blubbering," said the
little robber girl. "You ought to look pleased now. Here, take these
two loaves of bread and this ham along, so that you won't starve."
When these provisions were tied on the back of
the reindeer, the little robber girl opened the door and called in
all the big dogs. Then she cut the tether with her knife and said to
the reindeer, "Now run, but see that you take good care of the
Gerda waved her big mittens to the little
robber girl, and said good-by. then the reindeer bounded away, over
stumps and stones, straight through the great forest, over swamps
and across the plains, as fast as he could run. The wolves howled,
the ravens shrieked, and ker-shew, ker-shew! the red
streaks of light ripped through the heavens, with a noise that
sounded like sneezing.
"Those are my old Northern Lights," said the
reindeer. "See how they flash." And on he ran, faster than ever, by
night and day. The loaves were eaten and the whole ham was eaten-and
there they were in Lapland.
The Lapp Woman and the Finn Woman
They stopped in front of the little hut, and a
makeshift dwelling it was. The roof of it almost touched the ground,
and the doorway was so low that the family had to lie on their
stomachs to crawl in it or out of it. No one was at home except an
old Lapp woman, who was cooking fish over a whale-oil lamp. The
reindeer told her Gerda's whole story, but first he told his own,
which he thought was much more important. Besides, Gerda was so cold
that she couldn't say a thing.
"Oh, you poor creatures," the Lapp woman said,
"you've still got such a long way to go. Why, you will have to
travel hundreds of miles into the Finmark. For it's there that the
Snow Queen is taking a country vacation, and burning her blue
fireworks every evening. I'll jot down a message on a dried codfish,
for I haven't any paper. I want you to take it to the Finn woman who
lives up there. She will be able to tell you more about it than I
As soon as Gerda had thawed out, and had had
something to eat and drink, the Lapp woman wrote a few words on a
dried codfish, told Gerda to take good care of it, and tied her
again on the back of the reindeer. Off he ran, and all night long
the skies crackled and swished as the most beautiful Northern Lights
flashed over their heads. At last they came to the Finmark, and
knocked at the Finn woman's chimney, for she hadn't a sign of a
door. It was so hot inside that the Finn woman went about almost
naked. She was small and terribly dowdy, but she at once helped
little Gerda off with her mittens and boots, and loosened her
clothes. Otherwise the heat would have wilted her. Then the woman
put a piece of ice on the reindeer's head, and read what was written
on the codfish. She read it three times and when she knew it by
heart, she put the fish into the kettle of soup, for they might as
well eat it. She never wasted anything.
The reindeer told her his own story first, and
then little Gerda's. The Finn woman winked a knowing eye, but she
didn't say anything.
"You are such a wise woman," said the
reindeer, "I know that you can tie all the winds of the world
together with a bit of cotton thread. If the sailor unties one knot
he gets a favorable wind. If he unties another he gets a stiff gale,
while if he unties the third and fourth knots such a tempest rages
that it flattens the trees in the forest. Won't you give this little
girl something to drink that will make her as strong as twelve men,
so that she may overpower the Snow Queen?"
"Twelve strong men," the Finn woman sniffed. "
Much good that would be."
She went to the shelf, took down a big
rolled-up skin, and unrolled it. On this skin strange characters
were written, and the Finn woman read them until the sweat rolled
down her forehead.
The reindeer again begged her to help Gerda,
and little Gerda looked at her with such tearful, imploring eyes,
that the woman began winking again. She took the reindeer aside in a
corner, and while she was putting another piece of ice on his head
she whispered to him:
"Little Kay is indeed with the Snow Queen, and
everything there just suits him fine. He thinks it is the best place
in all the world, but that's because he has a splinter of glass in
his heart and a small piece of it in his eye. Unless these can be
gotten out, he will never be human again, and the Snow Queen will
hold him in her power."
"But can't you fix little Gerda something to
drink which will give her more power than all those things?"
"No power that I could give could be as great
as that which she already has. Don't you see how men and beasts are
compelled to serve her, and how far she has come in the wide world
since she started out in her naked feet? We mustn't tell her about
this power. Strength lies in her heart, because she is such a sweet,
innocent child. If she herself cannot reach the Snow Queen and rid
little Kay of those pieces of glass, then there's no help that we
can give her. The Snow Queen's garden lies about eight miles from
here. You may carry the little girl there, and put her down by the
big bush covered with red berries that grows on the snow. Then don't
you stand there gossiping, but hurry to get back here."?
The Finn woman lifted little Gerda onto the
reindeer, and he galloped away as fast as he could.
"Oh!" cried Gerda, "I forgot my boots and I
forgot my mittens." She soon felt the need of them in that
knife-like cold, but the reindeer did not dare to stop. He galloped
on until they came to the big bush that was covered with red
berries. Here he set Gerda down and kissed her on the mouth, while
big shining tears ran down his face. Then he ran back as fast as he
could. Little Gerda stood there without boots and without mittens,
right in the middle of icy Finmark.
She ran as fast as ever she could. A whole
regiment of snowflakes swirled toward her, but they did not fall
from the sky, for there was not a cloud up there, and the Northern
Lights were ablaze.
The flakes skirmished along the ground, and
the nearer they came the larger they grew. Gerda remembered how
large and strange they had appeared when she looked at them under
the magnifying glass. But here they were much more monstrous and
terrifying. They were alive. They were the Snow Queen's advance
guard, and their shapes were most strange. Some looked like ugly,
overgrown porcupines. Some were like a knot of snakes that stuck out
their heads in every direction, and others were like fat little
bears with every hair a-bristle. All of them were glistening white,
for all were living snowflakes.
It was so cold that, as little Gerda said the
Lord's Prayer, she could see her breath freezing in front of her
mouth, like a cloud of smoke. It grew thicker and thicker, and took
the shape of little angels that grew bigger and bigger the moment
they touched the ground. All of them had helmets on their heads and
they carried shields and lances in their hands. Rank upon rank, they
increased, and when Gerda had finished her prayer she was surrounded
by a legion of angels. They struck the dread snowflakes with their
lances and shivered them into a thousand pieces. Little Gerda walked
on, unmolested and cheerful. The angels rubbed her hands and feet to
make them warmer, and she trotted briskly along to the Snow Queen's
But now let us see how little Kay was getting
on. Little Gerda was furthest from his mind, and he hadn't the
slightest idea that she was just outside the palace.
What Happened in The Snow Queen's Palace and
What Came of it
The walls of the palace were driven snow. The
windows and doors were the knife-edged wind. There were more than a
hundred halls, shaped as the snow had drifted, and the largest of
these extended for many a mile. All were lighted by the flare of the
Northern Lights. All of the halls were so immense and so empty, so
brilliant and so glacial! There was never a touch of gaiety in them;
never so much as a little dance for the polar bears, at which the
storm blast could have served for music, and the polar bears could
have waddled about on their hind legs to show off their best
manners. There was never a little party with such games as
blind-bear's buff or hide the paw-kerchief for the cubs, nor even a
little afternoon coffee over which the white fox vixens could
gossip. Empty, vast, and frigid were the Snow Queen's halls. The
Northern Lights flared with such regularity that you could time
exactly when they would be at the highest and lowest. In the middle
of the vast, empty hall of snow was a frozen lake. It was cracked
into a thousand pieces, but each piece was shaped so exactly like
the others that it seemed a work of wonderful craftsmanship. The
Snow Queen sat in the exact center of it when she was at home, and
she spoke of this as sitting on her "Mirror of Reason." She said
this mirror was the only one of its kind, and the best thing in all
Little Kay was blue, yes, almost black, with
the cold. But he did not feel it, because the Snow Queen had kissed
away his icy tremblings, and his heart itself had almost turned to
He was shifting some sharp, flat pieces of ice
to and fro, trying to fit them into every possible pattern, for he
wanted to make something with them. It was like the Chinese puzzle
game that we play at home, juggling little flat pieces of wood about
into special designs. Kay was cleverly arranging his pieces in the
game of ice-cold reason. To him the patterns were highly remarkable
and of the utmost importance, for the chip of glass in his eye made
him see them that way. He arranged his pieces to spell out many
words; but he could never find the way to make the one word he was
so eager to form. The word was "Eternity." The Snow Queen had said
to him, "If you can puzzle that out you shall be your own master,
and I'll give you the whole world and a new pair of skates." But he
could not puzzle it out.
"Now I am going to make a flying trip to the
warm countries," the Snow Queen told him. "I want to go and take a
look into the black caldrons." She meant the volcanos of Etna and
Vesuvius. "I must whiten them up a bit. They need it, and it will be
such a relief after all those yellow lemons and purple grapes."
And away she flew. Kay sat all alone in that
endless, empty, frigid hall, and puzzled over the pieces of ice
until he almost cracked his skull. He sat so stiff and still that
one might have thought he was frozen to death.
All of a sudden, little Gerda walked up to the
palace through the great gate which was a knife-edged wind. But
Gerda said her evening prayer. The wind was lulled to rest, and the
little girl came on into the vast, cold, empty hall. Then she saw
Kay. She recognized him at once, and ran to throw her arms around
him. She held him close and cried, "Kay, dearest little Kay! I've
found you at last!"
But he sat still, and stiff, and cold. Gerda
shed hot tears, and when they fell upon him they went straight to
his heart. They melted the lump of ice and burned away the splinter
of glass in it. He looked up at her, and she sang:
"Where roses bloom so sweetly in the vale,
There shall you find the Christ Child, without
Kay burst into tears. He cried so freely that
the little piece of glass in his eye was washed right out. "Gerda!"
He knew her, and cried out in his happiness, "My sweet little Gerda,
where have you been so long? And where have I been?" He looked
around him and said, "How cold it is here! How enormous and empty!"
He held fast to Gerda, who laughed until happy tears rolled down her
cheeks. Their bliss was so heavenly that even the bits of glass
danced about them and shared in their happiness. When the pieces
grew tired, they dropped into a pattern which made the very word
that the Snow Queen had told Kay he must find before he became his
own master and received the whole world and a new pair of skates.
Gerda kissed his cheeks, and they turned pink
again. She kissed his eyes, and they sparkled like hers. She kissed
his hands and feet, and he became strong and well. The Snow Queen
might come home now whenever she pleased, for there stood the order
for Kay's release, written in letters of shining ice.
Hand in hand, Kay and Gerda strolled out of
that enormous palace. They talked about Grandmother, and about the
roses on their roof. Wherever they went, the wind died down and the
sun shone out. When they came to the bush that was covered with red
berries, the reindeer was waiting to meet them. He had brought along
a young reindeer mate who had warm milk for the children to drink,
and who kissed them on the mouth. Then these reindeer carried Gerda
and Kay first to the Finn woman. They warmed themselves in her hot
room, and when she had given them directions for their journey home
they rode on to the Lapp woman. She had made them new clothes, and
was ready to take them along in her sleigh.
Side by side, the reindeer ran with them to
the limits of the North country, where the first green buds were to
be seen. Here they said good-by to the two reindeer and to the Lapp
woman. "Farewell," they all said.
Now the first little birds began to chirp, and
there were green buds all around them in the forest. Through the
woods came riding a young girl on a magnificent horse that Gerda
recognized, for it had once been harnessed to the golden carriage.
The girl wore a bright red cap on her head, and a pair of pistols in
her belt. She was the little robber girl, who had grown tired of
staying at home, and who was setting out on a journey to the North
country. If she didn't like it there, why, the world was wide, and
there were many other places where she could go. She recognized
Gerda at once, and Gerda knew her too. It was a happy meeting.
"You're a fine one for gadding about," she
told little Kay. "I'd just like to know whether you deserve to have
someone running to the end of the earth for your sake."
But Gerda patted her cheek and asked her about
the Prince and the Princess.
"They are traveling in foreign lands," the
girl told her.
"And the crow?"
"Oh, the crow is dead," she answered. "His
tame ladylove is now a widow, and she wears a bit of black wool
wrapped around her leg. She takes great pity on herself, but that's
all stuff and nonsense. Now tell me what has happened to you and how
you caught up with Kay."
Gerda and Kay told her their story.
"Snip snap snurre, basse lurre," said
the robber girl. "So everything came out all right." She shook them
by the hand, and promised that if ever she passed through their town
she would come to see them. And then she rode away.
Kay and Gerda held each other by the hand. And
as they walked along they had wonderful spring weather. The land was
green and strewn with flowers, church bells rang, and they saw the
high steeples of a big town. It was the one where they used to live.
They walked straight to Grandmother's house, and up the stairs, and
into the room, where everything was just as it was when they left
it. And the clock said tick-tock, and its hands were
telling the time. But the moment they came in the door they noticed
one change. They were grown-up now.
The roses on the roof looked in at the open
window, and their two little stools were still out there. Kay and
Gerda sat down on them, and held each other by the hand. Both of
them had forgotten the icy, empty splendor of the Snow Queen's
palace as completely as if it were some bad dream. Grandmother sat
in God's good sunshine, reading to them from her Bible:
"Except ye become as little children, ye shall
not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."
Kay and Gerda looked into each other's eyes,
and at last they understood the meaning of their old hymn:
"Where roses bloom so sweetly in the vale,
There shall you find the Christ Child, without
And they sat there, grown-up, but children
still-children at heart. And it was summer, warm, glorious summer.