The Fir Tree
by Hans Christian Andersen
Out in the woods stood a nice little Fir-tree. The place he
had was a very good one; the sun shone on him; as to fresh air,
there was enough of that, and round him grew many large-sized
comrades, pines as well as firs. But the little Fir wanted so
very much to be a grown-up tree.
He did not think of the warm sun and
of the fresh air; he did not care for the little cottage children
that ran about and prattled when they were in the woods looking
for wild strawberries. The children often came with a whole
pitcher full of berries, or a long row of them threaded on
a straw, and sat down near the young tree and said, "Oh, how pretty he is! what a nice
little fir!" But this was what the Tree could not bear to
At the end of a year he had shot up a good deal, and after another
year he was another long bit taller; for with fir-trees one can
always tell by the shoots how many years old they are.
"Oh, were I but such a high tree as the others are!" sighed
he. "Then I should be able to spread out my branches, and
with the tops to look into the wide world! Then would the birds
build nests among my branches; and when there was a breeze, I
could bend with as much stateliness as the others!"
Neither the sunbeams, nor the birds, nor the red clouds, which
morning and evening sailed above them, gave the little Tree any
In winter, when the snow lay glittering
on the ground, a hare would often come leaping along, and jump
right over the little Tree. Oh, that made him so angry! But
two winters were past, and in the third the tree was so large
that the hare was obliged to go round it. "To grow and grow, to get older and be tall," thought
the Tree--"that, after all, is the most delightful thing
in the world!"
In autumn the wood-cutters always came and felled some of the
largest trees. This happened every year; and the young Fir-tree,
that had now grown to a very comely size, trembled at the sight;
for the magnificent great trees fell to the earth with noise
and cracking, the branches were lopped off, and the trees looked
long and bare; they were hardly to be recognized; and then they
were laid in carts, and the horses dragged them out of the woods.
Where did they go to? What became of them?
In spring, when the Swallows and the
Storks came, the Tree asked them, "Don't you know where
they have been taken? Have you not met them anywhere?"
The Swallows did not know anything
about it; but the Stork looked musing, nodded his head, and
said: "Yes, I think I know;
I met many ships as I was flying hither from Egypt; on the ships
were magnificent masts, and I venture to assert that it was they
that smelt so of fir. I may congratulate you, for they lifted
themselves on high most majestically!"
"Oh, were I but old enough to
fly across the sea! But how does the sea look in reality? What
is it like?"
"That would take a long time to explain," said
the Stork, and with these words off he went.
"Rejoice in thy growth!" said the Sunbeams, "rejoice
in thy vigorous growth, and in the fresh life that moveth within
And the Wind kissed the Tree, and the Dew wept tears over him;
but the Fir understood it not.
When Christmas came, quite young trees were cut down; trees
which often were not even as large or of the same age as this
Fir-tree, who could never rest, but always wanted to be off.
These young trees, and they were always the finest looking, retained
their branches; they were laid on carts, and the horses drew
them out of the woods.
"Where are they going to?" asked the Fir. "They
are not taller than I; there was one indeed that was considerably
shorter; and why do they retain all their branches? Whither are
"We know! we know!" chirped the Sparrows. "We
have peeped in at the windows in the town below! We know whither
they are taken! The greatest splendour and the greatest magnificence
one can imagine await them. We peeped through the windows, and
saw them planted in the middle of the warm room, and ornamented
with the most splendid things--with gilded apples, with gingerbread,
with toys, and many hundred lights!"
"And then?" asked the Fir-tree, trembling in every
bough. "And then? What happens then?"
"We did not see anything more:
it was incomparably beautiful."
"I would fain know if I am destined for so glorious a career," cried
the Tree, rejoicing. "That is still better than to cross
the sea! What a longing do I suffer! Were Christmas but come!
I am now tall, and my branches spread like the others that were
carried off last year! Oh, were I but already on the cart. Were
I in the warm room with all the splendour and magnificence! Yes;
then something better, something still grander, will surely follow,
or wherefore should they thus ornament me? Something better,
something still grander, MUST follow--but what? Oh,
how I long, how I suffer! I do not know myself what is the matter
"Rejoice in our presence!" said the Air and the Sunlight; "rejoice
in thy own fresh youth!"
But the Tree did not rejoice at all;
he grew and grew, and was green both winter and summer. People
that saw him said, "What
a fine tree!" and toward Christmas he was one of the first
that was cut down. The axe struck deep into the very pith; the
tree fell to the earth with a sigh: he felt a pang--it was like
a swoon; he could not think of happiness, for he was sorrowful
at being separated from his home, from the place where he had
sprung up. He knew well that he should never see his dear old
comrades, the little bushes and flowers around him, any more;
perhaps not even the birds! The departure was not at all agreeable.
The Tree only came to himself when
he was unloaded in a courtyard with the other trees, and heard
a man say, "That one is
splendid! we don't want the others." Then two servants came
in rich livery and carried the Fir-tree into a large and splendid
drawing-room. Portraits were hanging on the walls, and near the
white porcelain stove stood two large Chinese vases with lions
on the covers. There, too, were large easy chairs, silken sofas,
large tables full of picture-books, and full of toys worth hundreds
and hundreds of crowns--at least the children said
so. And the Fir-tree was stuck upright in a cask that was filled
with sand: but no one could see that it was a cask, for green
cloth was hung all around it, and it stood on a large gayly coloured
carpet. Oh, how
the Tree quivered! What was to happen? The servants, as well
as the young ladies, decorated it. On one branch there hung little
nets cut out of coloured paper, and each net was filled with
among the other boughs gilded apples and walnuts were suspended,
looking as though they had grown there, and little blue and white
tapers were placed among the leaves. Dolls that looked for all
the world like men--the Tree had never beheld such before--were
seen among the foliage, and at the very top a large star of gold
tinsel was fixed. It was really splendid--beyond description
"This evening!" said they all; "how
it will shine this evening!"
"Oh," thought the Tree, "if
the evening were but come! If the tapers were but lighted!
And then I wonder what will happen! Perhaps the other trees
from the forest will come to look at me! Perhaps the sparrows
will beat against the window-panes! I wonder if I shall take
root here, and winter and summer stand covered with ornaments!"
He knew very much about the matter! but he was so impatient
that for sheer longing he got a pain in his back, and this with
trees is the same thing as a headache with us.
The candles were now lighted. What brightness! What splendour!
The Tree trembled so in every bough that one of the tapers set
fire to the foliage. It blazed up splendidly.
"Help! Help!" cried the young
ladies, and they quickly put out the fire.
Now the Tree did not even dare tremble. What a state he was
in! He was so uneasy lest he should lose something of his splendour,
that he was quite bewildered amidst the glare and brightness;
when suddenly both folding-doors opened, and a troop of children
rushed in as if they would upset the Tree. The older persons
followed quietly; the little ones stood quite still. But it was
only for a moment; then they shouted so that the whole place
reechoed with their rejoicing; they danced round the tree, and
one present after the other was pulled off.
"What are they about?" thought the Tree. "What
is to happen now?" And the lights burned down to the very
branches, and as they burned down they were put out, one after
the other, and then the children had permission to plunder the
tree. So they fell upon it with such violence that all its branches
cracked; if it had not been fixed firmly in the cask, it would
certainly have tumbled down.
The children danced about with their beautiful playthings: no
one looked at the Tree except the old nurse, who peeped between
the branches; but it was only to see if there was a fig or an
apple left that had been forgotten.
"A story! a story!" cried the children, drawing a
little fat man toward the tree. He seated himself under it, and
said: "Now we are in the shade, and the Tree can listen,
too. But I shall tell only one story. Now which will you have:
that about Ivedy-Avedy, or about Klumpy-Dumpy who tumbled downstairs,
and yet after all came to the throne and married the princess?"
"Ivedy-Avedy!" cried some; "Klumpy-Dumpy" cried
the others. There was such a bawling and screaming--the Fir-tree
alone was silent, and he thought to himself, "Am I not to
bawl with the rest?--am I to do nothing whatever?" for he
was one of the company, and had done what he had to do.
And the man told about Klumpy-Dumpy
that tumbled down, who notwithstanding came to the throne,
and at last married the princess. And the children clapped
their hands, and cried out, "Oh, go on!
Do go on!" They wanted to hear about Ivedy-Avedy, too, but
the little man only told them about Klumpy-Dumpy. The Fir-tree
stood quite still and absorbed in thought; the birds in the woods
had never related the like of this. "Klumpy-Dumpy fell downstairs,
and yet he married the princess! Yes! Yes! that's the way of
the world!" thought the Fir-tree, and believed it all, because
the man who told the story was so good-looking. "Well, well!
who knows, perhaps I may fall downstairs, too, and get a princess
as wife!" And he looked forward with joy to the morrow,
when he hoped to be decked out again with lights, playthings,
fruits, and tinsel.
"I won't tremble to-morrow," thought the Fir-tree. "I
will enjoy to the full all my splendour. To-morrow I shall hear
again the story of Klumpy-Dumpy, and perhaps that of Ivedy-Avedy,
too." And the whole night the Tree stood still and in deep
In the morning the servant and the housemaid came in.
"Now, then, the splendour will begin again," thought
the Fir. But they dragged him out of the room, and up the stairs
into the loft; and here in a dark corner, where no daylight could
enter, they left him. "What's the meaning of this?" thought
the Tree. "What am I to do here? What shall I hear now,
I wonder?" And he leaned against the wall, lost in reverie.
Time enough had he, too, for his reflections; for days and nights
passed on, and nobody came up; and when at last somebody did
come, it was only to put some great trunks in a corner out of
the way. There stood the Tree quite hidden; it seemed as if he
had been entirely forgotten.
"'Tis now winter out of doors!" thought the Tree. "The
earth is hard and covered with snow; men cannot plant me now,
and therefore I have been put up here under shelter till the
springtime comes! How thoughtful that is! How kind man is, after
all! If it only were not so dark here, and so terribly lonely!
Not even a hare. And out in the
woods it was so pleasant, when the snow was on the ground, and
the hare leaped by; yes--even when he jumped over me; but I did
not like it then. It is really terribly lonely here!"
"Squeak! squeak!" said a
little Mouse at the same moment, peeping out of his hole. And
then another little one came. They sniffed about the Fir-tree,
and rustled among the branches.
"It is dreadfully cold," said the Mouse. "But
for that, it would be delightful here, old Fir, wouldn't it?"
"I am by no means old," said the Fir-tree. "There's
many a one considerably older than I am."
"Where do you come from," asked the Mice; "and
what can you do?" They were so extremely curious. "Tell
us about the most beautiful spot on the earth. Have you never
been there? Were you never in the larder, where cheeses lie on
the shelves, and hams hang from above; where one dances about
on tallow-candles; that place where one enters lean, and comes
out again fat and portly?"
"I know no such place," said the Tree, "but I
know the woods, where the sun shines, and where the little birds
sing." And then he told all about his youth; and the little
Mice had never heard the like before; and they listened and said:
"Well, to be sure! How much you
have seen! How happy you must have been!"
"I?" said the Fir-tree, thinking over what he had
himself related. "Yes, in reality those were happy times." And
then he told about Christmas Eve, when he was decked out with
cakes and candles.
"Oh," said the little Mice, "how
fortunate you have been, old Fir-tree!"
"I am by no means old," said he. "I
came from the woods this winter; I am in my prime, and am only
rather short for my age."
"What delightful stories you know!" said the Mice:
and the next night they came with four other little Mice, who
were to hear what the tree recounted; and the more he related,
the more plainly he remembered all himself; and it appeared as
if those times had really been happy times. "But they may
still come--they may still come. Klumpy-Dumpy fell downstairs
and yet he got a princess," and he thought at the moment
of a nice little Birch-tree growing out in the woods; to the
Fir, that would be a real charming princess.
"Who is Klumpy-Dumpy?" asked
the Mice. So then the Fir-tree told the whole fairy tale, for
he could remember every single word of it; and the little Mice
jumped for joy up to the very top of the Tree. Next night two
more Mice came, and on Sunday two Rats, even; but they said
the stories were not interesting, which vexed the little Mice;
and they, too, now began to think them not so very amusing
"Do you know only one story?" asked
"Only that one," answered the Tree. "I
heard it on my happiest evening; but I did not then know how
happy I was."
"It is a very stupid story. Don't
you know one about bacon and tallow candles? Can't you tell
any larder stories?"
"No," said the Tree.
"Then good-bye," said the
Rats; and they went home.
At last the little Mice stayed away
also; and the Tree sighed: "After
all, it was very pleasant when the sleek little Mice sat around
me and listened to what I told them. Now that too is over. But
I will take good care to enjoy myself when I am brought out again."
But when was that to be? Why, one morning there came a quantity
of people and set to work in the loft. The trunks were moved,
the Tree was pulled out and thrown--rather hard, it is true--down
on the floor, but a man drew him toward the stairs, where the
"Now a merry life will begin again," thought the Tree.
He felt the fresh air, the first sunbeam--and now he was out
in the courtyard. All passed so quickly, there was so much going
on around him, that the Tree quite forgot to look to himself.
The court adjoined a garden, and all was in flower; the roses
hung so fresh and odorous over the balustrade, the lindens were
in blossom, the Swallows flew by, and said, "Quirre-vit!
my husband is come!" but it was not the Fir-tree that they
"Now, then, I shall really enjoy life," said
he, exultingly, and spread out his branches; but, alas! they
were all withered and yellow. It was in a corner that he lay,
among weeds and nettles. The golden star of tinsel was still
on the top of the Tree, and glittered in the sunshine.
In the courtyard some of the merry children were playing who
had danced at Christmas round the Fir-tree, and were so glad
at the sight of him. One of the youngest ran and tore off the
"Only look what is still on the ugly old Christmas tree!" said
he, trampling on the branches, so that they all cracked beneath
his feet. And the Tree beheld all the beauty of the flowers,
and the freshness in the garden; he beheld himself, and wished
he had remained in his dark corner in the loft; he thought of
his first youth in the woods, of the merry Christmas Eve, and
of the little Mice who had listened with so much pleasure to
the story of Klumpy-Dumpy.
"'Tis over--'tis past!" said the poor Tree. "Had
I but rejoiced when I had reason to do so! But now 'tis past,
And the gardener's boy chopped the Tree into small pieces; there
was a whole heap lying there. The wood flamed up splendidly under
the large brewing copper, and it sighed so deeply! Each sigh
was like a shot.
The boys played about in the court, and the youngest wore the
gold star on his breast which the Tree had had on the happiest
evening of his life. However, that was over now--the Tree gone,
the story at an end. All, all was over; every tale must end at