Fairy tales and stories (Andersen, Tegner)/The Pine-Tree
FAR IN THE FOREST STOOD A PRETTY PINE-TREE.
FAR in the forest stood a very pretty pine-tree; it had plenty of space; the sunshine could reach it and it had plenty of air. Round about grew many bigger companions, both pines and firs; but the little pine-tree was in such a hurry to grow, it did not think of the warm sunshine and the fresh air. It did not even trouble itself about the peasant children who ran about chattering when they came to gather wild strawberries and raspberries.
They would often come with a whole jar full of berries, or with the strawberries threaded on a straw, and sit down by the little tree and exclaim: "Oh, what a pretty little one!" The pine did not at all like this. The next year it was a long joint taller, and the following year it had grown still a joint longer, for you can always tell by the joints on a pine-tree how many years it has been growing.
"Oh, if I were only such a big tree as the others!" sighed the little tree, "then I might spread my branches out tar around me, and from the top look out over the whole world ! The birds would then build their nests among my branches, and when the wind was blowing I could make my bow just as grandly as the others over there!"
It took no pleasure in the sunshine, in the birds, or the red clouds which sailed over it morning and evening.
If it happened to be winter, and the snow lay glittering white all around it, a hare would often come running along and jump right over the little tree — oh, it was irritating! But two winters passed, and in the third the tree had grown so big that the hare had to run round it. " Oh, to grow, to grow, to become big and old, that is the only thing worth living for in this world!" thought the tree.
In the autumn the wood-cutters always came and felled some of the largest trees. This was done every year, and the young pine-tree, which had now grown fairly big, trembled at the thought of it ; for the big noble trees fell to the ground with a crash and a groan, the branches were cut off, the trees looked quite naked, long, and lanky — they could hardly be recognized. They were then put on carts and drawn by horses out of the forest.
Where were they going? What was going to be done with them?
In the spring, when the swallows and the storks came, the tree asked them: "Do you know where they have been taken to? Did you meet them?"
The swallows did not know anything, but the stork, looking serious, nodded his head and said: "Yes, I think so. I met many new ships on my way from Egypt. They had stately masts. I think I may say they were your trees, for there was a smell of the pine about them. I bring you greetings from them; they looked stately, quite stately."
"Oh, if I were only big enough to fly across the ocean! But what is the ocean and what is it like?"
"Well, that 's too long a story to explain," said the stork, and walked away.
"Rejoice in your youth," said the sunbeams; "rejoice in your fresh growth and the young life you possess."
And the wind kissed the tree and the dew wept tears over it; but the pine-tree did not understand that.As Christmas-time was drawing near, many young trees were cut down; some of them were not even as big or as old as the pine-tree which was so restless and impatient, and always wanting to get away. These young trees, which were always the most beautiful, were not denuded of their branches; they were placed on a cart and drawn by horses out of the forest.
"Where are they going to?" asked the pine-tree. "They are not bigger than I ; there was even one which was much smaller. Why were they allowed to keep all their branches? Where are they being taken to?"
"We know! we know!" twittered the sparrows. "We have looked in at the windows down in the town ! We know where they are going to! Ah! they are going to the greatest glory and splendor one can think of. We have looked in at the windows and seen that they are placed in the middle of the warm room and decorated with most beautiful things — gilt apples, honey-cakes, toys, and many hundreds of candles."
"And then?" asked the pine-tree, trembling in all its branches. "And then? What happens then?"
"Well, we have n't seen anything else. It was really wonderful!"
"I wonder if I came into existence to have such a glorious career?" cried the pine-tree in exultation. "That would be even better than going across the ocean. How painful this longing is ! If only it were Christmas! Now I am tall and have big branches like those which were taken away last year. Oh, how I wish that I was already in the cart, that I was in the warm parlor with all that glory and splendor around me ! And then? Well, then something still better must follow, something still more glorious. But what? Oh, how I suffer! How I am longing! I do not know myself what has taken possession of me."
"Rejoice in us," said the air and the sunshine; "rejoice in your fresh youth in the open!"
But the tree did not at all rejoice. It grew and grew ; green, dark green, it stood there winter and summer; people who saw it said: "There's a fine tree! "And at Christmas-time it was the first to be felled. The ax cut deeply into its marrow ; the tree fell to the ground with a sigh; it felt a pain, a faintness ; it was unable to think of any happiness; it was sad at parting from its home, from the spot where it had sprung up; it knew it would never again see the dear old comrades, the little bushes and the flowers round about, perhaps not even the birds. To take leave of all this was not at all pleasant. The tree came to itself only when it was being unloaded in the yard and heard a man say: "That's a beauty! That's the one we'll use!"
Two grandly dressed servants then came and carried the pine-tree into a large, beautiful room. On the walls around hung portraits, and near the great stove stood Chinese vases with lions on the lids. There were rocking-chairs, silken sofas, large tables covered with picture-books and toys, — -many hundred dollars' worth, — at least that's what the children said. And the tree was placed in a great tub filled with sand, but nobody could see it was a tub, for it was covered up with some green cloth and was standing on a large, brightly colored carpet. How the tree trembled! What was going to take place? Both the servants and the ladies of the house were busy decorating it. On the branches they hung little nets cut out of colored paper; each net they filled with sweets; gilt apples and walnuts hung from it as if they had grown there, and over a hundred red, blue, and white little candles were fastened to the branches. Dolls, which looked exactly like live beings — the tree had never seen any before — hung suspended from the green branches, and at the very top of the tree was fixed a great star of tinsel gold; it was splendid, it was quite magnificent.
"To-night," they all said; "to-night it will look glorious!" "Oh," thought the tree, "I wish it were evening! It only the candles could be lighted soon! And what will happen then? Will the trees from the forest come and look at me? Will the sparrows fly past the window? I wonder if I shall grow fast here and remain decorated winter and summer."
Yes, it seems to know all about it; but it suffered from a terrible barkache from all the longing, and barkache is just as bad for a tree as a backache is to us.
The candles were now lighted. What joy, hat splendor' the tree trembled in all its branches at the sight of it, so that one of the candles set fire to a branch and singed it badly.
"Goodness gracious!" cried the young ladies, and set to work in all haste to put out the fire.
The tree did not even dare to tremble. Oh, it was terrible! It was so afraid of losing any of its finery that it was quite beside itself in all this splendor, when suddenly the folding doors were opened and a crowd of children rushed into the room as if they were going to upset the tree; the older people followed in a more dignified manner. The little ones stood quite silent, but only for a moment, then they shouted again till the room rang; they danced round the tree, and one present after another was plucked from it.
"What are they doing?" thought the tree. "What's going to happen?" The candles were beginning to burn down to the branches, and were then put out one after the other. The children were now allowed to strip it; they rushed at it so that all its branches creaked, and had it not been fastened to the ceiling by the top and the golden star, it would have been overturned.
The children danced round the room with their pretty toys; nobody looked at the tree except the old nurse who was looking about between the branches, but it was only to see if a fig or an apple had been forgotten."A story! a story!" cried the children, and dragged a fat little man toward the tree. He sat down just under it. "For then we shall be in the greenwood," he said, "and it may please the tree to listen to the story; but I will tell you only one story. Will you have the one about Ivede-Avede, or that one about Lumpy-Dumpy, who fell down the stairs, but after all came on the throne and married the princess?"
THE FOLDING DOORS WERE OPENED AND A CROWD OF CHILDREN RUSHED INTO THE ROOM; THE OLDER PEOPLE FOLLOWED IN A MORE DIGNIFIED MANNER.
"Ivede-Avede!" cried some, "Lumpy-Dumpy!" cried others. There was such a crying and shouting, only the pine-tree remained quite silent and thought: "Am I not to join in it, not do anything at all?" It had already been in it and had done all it should do.
And the man told them about Lumpy-Dumpy, who fell down the stairs, and after all came on the throne and married the princess. "The princess!" The children clapped their hands and cried: "Go on! go on!" They wanted to hear "Ivede-Avede" also, but they got only "Lumpy-Dumpy." The pine-tree stood quite silent and thoughtful: the birds in the forest had never told such stories. "Lumpv-Dumpy fell down the stairs and got the princess after all. Ah, well! that's the way of the world," thought the pine-tree, believing it was all true because it was such a nice old man who had told it. "Ah, well, who knows! perhaps I may fall down the stairs too and marry a princess." And it looked forward with pleasure to being decorated again next day with lights and toys, with gold and fruits.
"To-morrow I shall not tremble," it thought. "I'll enjoy myself thoroughly in the midst of all my glory. To-morrow I shall again hear the story about Lumpy-Dumpy and perhaps the one about Ivede-Avede." And the tree remained quiet and thoughtful the whole night.
In the morning the man-servant and the chambermaid came into the room.
"Now the fun is going to begin again!" thought the tree; but they dragged it out of the room, up the stairs and into the garret, and there they put it away in a dark corner where the daylight could not reach. "What is the meaning of this?" thought the tree; "I wonder what I am going to do here, and what I shall hear?" And it leaned against the wall and stood thinking and thinking. It had plenty of time to do so, for days and nights passed and nobody came near it, and when somebody at last came it was only to put some big boxes away in the corner. The tree stood quite hidden and one would think it had been quite forgotten.
"Now it 's winter outside!" thought the tree. "The ground is hard and covered with snow and they cannot plant me; therefore I suppose I must stand here in the shelter till the spring. How thoughtful! How kind people are! If it were only not so dark here and so terribly lonely ! Not even a little hare ! It was so jolly out there in the forest, when the snow was on the ground, and the hare was running about; yes, even when he jumped over me, but I did not like it at the time. I'p here it is terribly lonely! "
"Squeak, squeak!" said a tiny mouse just then, and crept out of its hole: and then came another. They sniffed at the pine-tree and crept up among its branches."It is terribly cold!" said the little mice. "Otherwise it's very nice here! Don't you think so, you old pine-tree?"
"I am not at all old!" said the pine-tree; "there are many much older than I."
"Where do you come from?" asked the mice, "and what do you know?" They were so dreadfully inquisitive. "Tell us about the prettiest spot on earth. Have you been there? Have you been in the larder, where there are cheeses on the shelves and hams hanging from the ceiling, where one can dance on tallow candles, and where one goes in thin and comes out fat?"
"I don't know anything about that," said the tree; "but I know the forest, where the sun shines and where the birds sing." And then it told them everything from its youth onward, and the little mice had never heard anything like it before ; they listened attentively and said:
"Dear, dear! How much you must have seen! How happy you must have been!"
"I?" said the pine-tree, and thought over what it had been telling them. "Well, they were very jolly times, after all!" And then it went on to tell them about Christmas Eve, when it was decorated with cakes and candles.
"Ah!" said the little mice, "how happy you must have been, you old pine-tree!"
"I am not at all old," said the tree; "it is only this winter that I came from the forest. I am in my full prime, I am only a little stunted in my growth."
"How delightfully you do tell stories!" said the little mice, and the next night they came with four other little mice, to hear the tree tell stories; and the more it went on telling the more distinctly it remembered everything, and it thought to itself: "They were very jolly times, after all! But they may come again, they may come again! Lumpy-Dumpy fell down the stairs and still got the princess; perhaps I can get a princess too." And the pine-tree thought of a pretty little birch-tree which grew out in the forest and which to the pine-tree was as good as a real princess.
"Who is Lumpy-Dumpy?" asked the little mice. And then the pine-tree told them the whole story; it remembered every single word of it, and the little mice were so delighted with it that they were ready to jump to the top of the tree. The following night there came a great many more mice and on the Sunday even two rats; but they said the story was not funny, and the little mice were sorry to hear this, for now they also thought less of it.
"Do you know only that one story?" asked the rats.
"Only that one," answered the tree. "I heard it on the happiest evening of my life, but I did not then know how happy I was."
"It's a very poor story! Don't you know any one with bacon andtallow candles in it — any story from the larders?"
"No," said the tree.
"Ah, well, thanks all the same," answered the rats, and went off to their holes.
The little mice also disappeared at last, and the tree sighed: "It was rather pleasant to have the tiny little mice sitting round me and listening to what I told them! Now that's all over as well! but I shall take care to enjoy myself when I am brought out again!"
But when did that happen? Well, early one morning some people came and rummaged about in the garret ; the boxes were moved about and the tree was dragged out of its corner and thrown somewhat roughly on the floor, but one of the men dragged it toward the staircase where there was bright sunshine.
"Now life is beginning again!" thought the tree as it felt the fresh air and the first sunbeam — and then it found itself in the yard. Everything happened so quickly that the tree forgot to take a look at itself. There was so much to see all round. The yard adjoined the garden, where everything was in full bloom; the roses hung so fresh and fragrant over the little palings; the linden-trees were in blossom, and the swallows flew about and said: " Quirre-virre-vit, my husband's come home!" but it was not the pine-tree they meant.
"Now I shall enjoy life!" it shouted joyously, spreading its branches far out; alas! they were all withered and yellow, and it was lying in a corner amongst weeds and nettles. The tinsel star was still fixed on the top and glittered in the sunshine.
Two of the merry children who had danced round the tree at Christmas and been so fond of it were playing in the yard. The smallest rushed at it and tore off the golden star.
"Just look what is still sticking to the ugly old Christmas-tree!" he said, and began trampling upon the branches till they crackled under his feet.
And the tree looked at all the splendor and freshness of the flowers in the garden and then at itself, and wished it had remained in its dark corner in the garret. It thought of its bright young days in the forest, of the merry Christmas Eve, and of the little mice which had listened so pleased to the story about Lumpy-Dumpy.
"It's all over!" said the poor tree. "If I had only enjoyed myself when I had the chance! It's all over! All over!"And the servant man came and chopped the tree into small pieces; it made quite a large bundle. It blazed up brightly under the large copper kettle, and sighed so deeply that every sigh was like the report of a small gun, and the children who were at play came in and seated themselves in front of the fire, looked at it and shouted, "Pop! pop!" But at each report, which was really a deep sigh, the tree was thinking of a summer day in the forest, or a winter night out there while the stars were shining.
It thought of Christmas Eve and Lumpy-Dumpy, the only story it had heard and knew how to tell—and so the tree was burned to ashes.
The boys were playing in the yard, and the youngest was wearing the tinsel star on his breast, which the tree had worn on the happiest evening of its existence. Now all that had come to an end, and so had the tree; and the story as well came to an end, to an end—and so do all stories!