FAR down in the forest, where the warm sun and the fresh
air made a sweet resting-place, grew a pretty little fir-tree;
and yet it was not happy, it wished so much to be tall like
its companions- the pines and firs which grew around it. The
sun shone, and the soft air fluttered its leaves, and the
little peasant children passed by, prattling merrily, but the
fir-tree heeded them not. Sometimes the children would bring a
large basket of raspberries or strawberries, wreathed on a
straw, and seat themselves near the fir-tree, and say, 'Is it
not a pretty little tree?' which made it feel more unhappy
than before. And yet all this while the tree grew a notch or
joint taller every year; for by the number of joints in the
stem of a fir-tree we can discover its age. Still, as it grew,
it complained, 'Oh! how I wish I were as tall as the other
trees, then I would spread out my branches on every side, and
my top would over-look the wide world. I should have the birds
building their nests on my boughs, and when the wind blew, I
should bow with stately dignity like my tall companions.' The
tree was so discontented, that it took no pleasure in the warm
sunshine, the birds, or the rosy clouds that floated over it
morning and evening. Sometimes, in winter, when the snow lay
white and glittering on the ground, a hare would come
springing along, and jump right over the little tree; and then
how mortified it would feel! Two winters passed, and when the
third arrived, the tree had grown so tall that the hare was
obliged to run round it. Yet it remained unsatisfied, and
would exclaim, 'Oh, if I could but keep on growing tall and
old! There is nothing else worth caring for in the world!' In
the autumn, as usual, the wood-cutters came and cut down
several of the tallest trees, and the young fir-tree, which
was now grown to its full height, shuddered as the noble trees
fell to the earth with a crash. After the branches were lopped
off, the trunks looked so slender and bare, that they could
scarcely be recognized. Then they were placed upon wagons, and
drawn by horses out of the forest. 'Where were they going?
What would become of them?' The young fir-tree wished very
much to know; so in the spring, when the swallows and the
storks came, it asked, 'Do you know where those trees were
taken? Did you meet them?'
The swallows knew nothing, but the stork, after a little
reflection, nodded his head, and said, 'Yes, I think I do. I
met several new ships when I flew from Egypt, and they had
fine masts that smelt like fir. I think these must have been
the trees; I assure you they were stately, very stately.'
'Oh, how I wish I were tall enough to go on the sea,' said
the fir-tree. 'What is the sea, and what does it look like?'
'It would take too much time to explain,' said the stork,
flying quickly away.
'Rejoice in thy youth,' said the sunbeam; 'rejoice in thy
fresh growth, and the young life that is in thee.'
And the wind kissed the tree, and the dew watered it with
tears; but the fir-tree regarded them not.
Christmas-time drew near, and many young trees were cut
down, some even smaller and younger than the fir-tree who
enjoyed neither rest nor peace with longing to leave its
forest home. These young trees, which were chosen for their
beauty, kept their branches, and were also laid on wagons and
drawn by horses out of the forest.
'Where are they going?' asked the fir-tree. 'They are not
taller than I am: indeed, one is much less; and why are the
branches not cut off? Where are they going?'
'We know, we know,' sang the sparrows; 'we have looked in
at the windows of the houses in the town, and we know what is
done with them. They are dressed up in the most splendid
manner. We have seen them standing in the middle of a warm
room, and adorned with all sorts of beautiful things,- honey
cakes, gilded apples, playthings, and many hundreds of wax
'And then,' asked the fir-tree, trembling through all its
branches, 'and then what happens?'
'We did not see any more,' said the sparrows; 'but this
was enough for us.'
'I wonder whether anything so brilliant will ever happen
to me,' thought the fir-tree. 'It would be much better than
crossing the sea. I long for it almost with pain. Oh! when
will Christmas be here? I am now as tall and well grown as
those which were taken away last year. Oh! that I were now
laid on the wagon, or standing in the warm room, with all that
brightness and splendor around me! Something better and more
beautiful is to come after, or the trees would not be so
decked out. Yes, what follows will be grander and more
splendid. What can it be? I am weary with longing. I scarcely
know how I feel.'
'Rejoice with us,' said the air and the sunlight. 'Enjoy
thine own bright life in the fresh air.'
But the tree would not rejoice, though it grew taller
every day; and, winter and summer, its dark-green foliage
might be seen in the forest, while passers by would say, 'What
a beautiful tree!'
A short time before Christmas, the discontented fir-tree
was the first to fall. As the axe cut through the stem, and
divided the pith, the tree fell with a groan to the earth,
conscious of pain and faintness, and forgetting all its
anticipations of happiness, in sorrow at leaving its home in
the forest. It knew that it should never again see its dear
old companions, the trees, nor the little bushes and
many-colored flowers that had grown by its side; perhaps not
even the birds. Neither was the journey at all pleasant. The
tree first recovered itself while being unpacked in the
courtyard of a house, with several other trees; and it heard a
man say, 'We only want one, and this is the prettiest.'
Then came two servants in grand livery, and carried the
fir-tree into a large and beautiful apartment. On the walls
hung pictures, and near the great stove stood great china
vases, with lions on the lids. There were rocking chairs,
silken sofas, large tables, covered with pictures, books, and
playthings, worth a great deal of money,- at least, the
children said so. Then the fir-tree was placed in a large tub,
full of sand; but green baize hung all around it, so that no
one could see it was a tub, and it stood on a very handsome
carpet. How the fir-tree trembled! 'What was going to happen
to him now?' Some young ladies came, and the servants helped
them to adorn the tree. On one branch they hung little bags
cut out of colored paper, and each bag was filled with
sweetmeats; from other branches hung gilded apples and
walnuts, as if they had grown there; and above, and all round,
were hundreds of red, blue, and white tapers, which were
fastened on the branches. Dolls, exactly like real babies,
were placed under the green leaves,- the tree had never seen
such things before,- and at the very top was fastened a
glittering star, made of tinsel. Oh, it was very beautiful!
'This evening,' they all exclaimed, 'how bright it will
be!' 'Oh, that the evening were come,' thought the tree, 'and
the tapers lighted! then I shall know what else is going to
happen. Will the trees of the forest come to see me? I wonder
if the sparrows will peep in at the windows as they fly? shall
I grow faster here, and keep on all these ornaments summer and
winter?' But guessing was of very little use; it made his bark
ache, and this pain is as bad for a slender fir-tree, as
headache is for us. At last the tapers were lighted, and then
what a glistening blaze of light the tree presented! It
trembled so with joy in all its branches, that one of the
candles fell among the green leaves and burnt some of them.
'Help! help!' exclaimed the young ladies, but there was no
danger, for they quickly extinguished the fire. After this,
the tree tried not to tremble at all, though the fire
frightened him; he was so anxious not to hurt any of the
beautiful ornaments, even while their brilliancy dazzled him.
And now the folding doors were thrown open, and a troop of
children rushed in as if they intended to upset the tree; they
were followed more silently by their elders. For a moment the
little ones stood silent with astonishment, and then they
shouted for joy, till the room rang, and they danced merrily
round the tree, while one present after another was taken from
'What are they doing? What will happen next?' thought the
fir. At last the candles burnt down to the branches and were
put out. Then the children received permission to plunder the
Oh, how they rushed upon it, till the branches cracked,
and had it not been fastened with the glistening star to the
ceiling, it must have been thrown down. The children then
danced about with their pretty toys, and no one noticed the
tree, except the children's maid who came and peeped among the
branches to see if an apple or a fig had been forgotten.
'A story, a story,' cried the children, pulling a little
fat man towards the tree.
'Now we shall be in the green shade,' said the man, as he
seated himself under it, 'and the tree will have the pleasure
of hearing also, but I shall only relate one story; what shall
it be? Ivede-Avede, or Humpty Dumpty, who fell down stairs,
but soon got up again, and at last married a princess.'
'Ivede-Avede,' cried some. 'Humpty Dumpty,' cried others,
and there was a fine shouting and crying out. But the fir-tree
remained quite still, and thought to himself, 'Shall I have
anything to do with all this?' but he had already amused them
as much as they wished. Then the old man told them the story
of Humpty Dumpty, how he fell down stairs, and was raised up
again, and married a princess. And the children clapped their
hands and cried, 'Tell another, tell another,' for they wanted
to hear the story of 'Ivede-Avede;' but they only had 'Humpty
Dumpty.' After this the fir-tree became quite silent and
thoughtful; never had the birds in the forest told such tales
as 'Humpty Dumpty,' who fell down stairs, and yet married a
'Ah! yes, so it happens in the world,' thought the
fir-tree; he believed it all, because it was related by such a
nice man. 'Ah! well,' he thought, 'who knows? perhaps I may
fall down too, and marry a princess;' and he looked forward
joyfully to the next evening, expecting to be again decked out
with lights and playthings, gold and fruit. 'To-morrow I will
not tremble,' thought he; 'I will enjoy all my splendor, and I
shall hear the story of Humpty Dumpty again, and perhaps
Ivede-Avede.' And the tree remained quiet and thoughtful all
night. In the morning the servants and the housemaid came in.
'Now,' thought the fir, 'all my splendor is going to begin
again.' But they dragged him out of the room and up stairs to
the garret, and threw him on the floor, in a dark corner,
where no daylight shone, and there they left him. 'What does
this mean?' thought the tree, 'what am I to do here? I can
hear nothing in a place like this,' and he had time enough to
think, for days and nights passed and no one came near him,
and when at last somebody did come, it was only to put away
large boxes in a corner. So the tree was completely hidden
from sight as if it had never existed. 'It is winter now,'
thought the tree, 'the ground is hard and covered with snow,
so that people cannot plant me. I shall be sheltered here, I
dare say, until spring comes. How thoughtful and kind
everybody is to me! Still I wish this place were not so dark,
as well as lonely, with not even a little hare to look at. How
pleasant it was out in the forest while the snow lay on the
ground, when the hare would run by, yes, and jump over me too,
although I did not like it then. Oh! it is terrible lonely
'Squeak, squeak,' said a little mouse, creeping cautiously
towards the tree; then came another; and they both sniffed at
the fir-tree and crept between the branches.
'Oh, it is very cold,' said the little mouse, 'or else we
should be so comfortable here, shouldn't we, you old
'I am not old,' said the fir-tree, 'there are many who are
older than I am.'
'Where do you come from? and what do you know?' asked the
mice, who were full of curiosity. 'Have you seen the most
beautiful places in the world, and can you tell us all about
them? and have you been in the storeroom, where cheeses lie on
the shelf, and hams hang from the ceiling? One can run about
on tallow candles there, and go in thin and come out fat.'
'I know nothing of that place,' said the fir-tree, 'but I
know the wood where the sun shines and the birds sing.' And
then the tree told the little mice all about its youth. They
had never heard such an account in their lives; and after they
had listened to it attentively, they said, 'What a number of
things you have seen? you must have been very happy.'
'Happy!' exclaimed the fir-tree, and then as he reflected
upon what he had been telling them, he said, 'Ah, yes! after
all those were happy days.' But when he went on and related
all about Christmas-eve, and how he had been dressed up with
cakes and lights, the mice said, 'How happy you must have
been, you old fir-tree.'
'I am not old at all,' replied the tree, 'I only came from
the forest this winter, I am now checked in my growth.'
'What splendid stories you can relate,' said the little
mice. And the next night four other mice came with them to
hear what the tree had to tell. The more he talked the more he
remembered, and then he thought to himself, 'Those were happy
days, but they may come again. Humpty Dumpty fell down stairs,
and yet he married the princess; perhaps I may marry a
princess too.' And the fir-tree thought of the pretty little
birch-tree that grew in the forest, which was to him a real
'Who is Humpty Dumpty?' asked the little mice. And then
the tree related the whole story; he could remember every
single word, and the little mice was so delighted with it,
that they were ready to jump to the top of the tree. The next
night a great many more mice made their appearance, and on
Sunday two rats came with them; but they said, it was not a
pretty story at all, and the little mice were very sorry, for
it made them also think less of it.
'Do you know only one story?' asked the rats.
'Only one,' replied the fir-tree; 'I heard it on the
happiest evening of my life; but I did not know I was so happy
at the time.'
'We think it is a very miserable story,' said the rats.
'Don't you know any story about bacon, or tallow in the
'No,' replied the tree.
'Many thanks to you then,' replied the rats, and they
The little mice also kept away after this, and the tree
sighed, and said, 'It was very pleasant when the merry little
mice sat round me and listened while I talked. Now that is all
passed too. However, I shall consider myself happy when some
one comes to take me out of this place.' But would this ever
happen? Yes; one morning people came to clear out the garret,
the boxes were packed away, and the tree was pulled out of the
corner, and thrown roughly on the garret floor; then the
servant dragged it out upon the staircase where the daylight
shone. 'Now life is beginning again,' said the tree, rejoicing
in the sunshine and fresh air. Then it was carried down stairs
and taken into the courtyard so quickly, that it forgot to
think of itself, and could only look about, there was so much
to be seen. The court was close to a garden, where everything
looked blooming. Fresh and fragrant roses hung over the little
palings. The linden-trees were in blossom; while the swallows
flew here and there, crying, 'Twit, twit, twit, my mate is
coming,'- but it was not the fir-tree they meant. 'Now I shall
live,' cried the tree, joyfully spreading out its branches;
but alas! they were all withered and yellow, and it lay in a
corner amongst weeds and nettles. The star of gold paper still
stuck in the top of the tree and glittered in the sunshine. In
the same courtyard two of the merry children were playing who
had danced round the tree at Christmas, and had been so happy.
The youngest saw the gilded star, and ran and pulled it off
the tree. 'Look what is sticking to the ugly old fir-tree,'
said the child, treading on the branches till they crackled
under his boots. And the tree saw all the fresh bright flowers
in the garden, and then looked at itself, and wished it had
remained in the dark corner of the garret. It thought of its
fresh youth in the forest, of the merry Christmas evening, and
of the little mice who had listened to the story of 'Humpty
Dumpty.' 'Past! past!' said the old tree; 'Oh, had I but
enjoyed myself while I could have done so! but now it is too
late.' Then a lad came and chopped the tree into small pieces,
till a large bundle lay in a heap on the ground. The pieces
were placed in a fire under the copper, and they quickly
blazed up brightly, while the tree sighed so deeply that each
sigh was like a pistol-shot. Then the children, who were at
play, came and seated themselves in front of the fire, and
looked at it and cried, 'Pop, pop.' But at each 'pop,' which
was a deep sigh, the tree was thinking of a summer day in the
forest; and of Christmas evening, and of 'Humpty Dumpty,' the
only story it had ever heard or knew how to relate, till at
last it was consumed. The boys still played in the garden, and
the youngest wore the golden star on his breast, with which
the tree had been adorned during the happiest evening of its
existence. Now all was past; the tree's life was past, and the
story also,- for all stories must come to an end at last.