IN very hot climates, where the heat of the sun has great
power, people are usually as brown as mahogany; and in the
hottest countries they are negroes, with black skins. A
learned man once travelled into one of these warm climates,
from the cold regions of the north, and thought he would roam
about as he did at home; but he soon had to change his
opinion. He found that, like all sensible people, he must
remain in the house during the whole day, with every window
and door closed, so that it looked as if all in the house were
asleep or absent. The houses of the narrow street in which he
lived were so lofty that the sun shone upon them from morning
till evening, and it became quite unbearable. This learned man
from the cold regions was young as well as clever; but it
seemed to him as if he were sitting in an oven, and he became
quite exhausted and weak, and grew so thin that his shadow
shrivelled up, and became much smaller than it had been at
home. The sun took away even what was left of it, and he saw
nothing of it till the evening, after sunset. It was really a
pleasure, as soon as the lights were brought into the room, to
see the shadow stretch itself against the wall, even to the
ceiling, so tall was it; and it really wanted a good stretch
to recover its strength. The learned man would sometimes go
out into the balcony to stretch himself also; and as soon as
the stars came forth in the clear, beautiful sky, he felt
revived. People at this hour began to make their appearance in
all the balconies in the street; for in warm climates every
window has a balcony, in which they can breathe the fresh
evening air, which is very necessary, even to those who are
used to a heat that makes them as brown as mahogany; so that
the street presented a very lively appearance. Here were
shoemakers, and tailors, and all sorts of people sitting. In
the street beneath, they brought out tables and chairs,
lighted candles by hundreds, talked and sang, and were very
merry. There were people walking, carriages driving, and mules
trotting along, with their bells on the harness, 'tingle,
tingle,' as they went. Then the dead were carried to the grave
with the sound of solemn music, and the tolling of the church
bells. It was indeed a scene of varied life in the street. One
house only, which was just opposite to the one in which the
foreign learned man lived, formed a contrast to all this, for
it was quite still; and yet somebody dwelt there, for flowers
stood in the balcony, blooming beautifully in the hot sun; and
this could not have been unless they had been watered
carefully. Therefore some one must be in the house to do this.
The doors leading to the balcony were half opened in the
evening; and although in the front room all was dark, music
could be heard from the interior of the house. The foreign
learned man considered this music very delightful; but perhaps
he fancied it; for everything in these warm countries pleased
him, excepting the heat of the sun. The foreign landlord said
he did not know who had taken the opposite house- nobody was
to be seen there; and as to the music, he thought it seemed
very tedious, to him most uncommonly so.
'It is just as if some one was practising a piece that he
could not manage; it is always the same piece. He thinks, I
suppose, that he will be able to manage it at last; but I do
not think so, however long he may play it.'
Once the foreigner woke in the night. He slept with the
door open which led to the balcony; the wind had raised the
curtain before it, and there appeared a wonderful brightness
over all in the balcony of the opposite house. The flowers
seemed like flames of the most gorgeous colors, and among the
flowers stood a beautiful slender maiden. It was to him as if
light streamed from her, and dazzled his eyes; but then he had
only just opened them, as he awoke from his sleep. With one
spring he was out of bed, and crept softly behind the curtain.
But she was gone- the brightness had disappeared; the flowers
no longer appeared like flames, although still as beautiful as
ever. The door stood ajar, and from an inner room sounded
music so sweet and so lovely, that it produced the most
enchanting thoughts, and acted on the senses with magic power.
Who could live there? Where was the real entrance? for, both
in the street and in the lane at the side, the whole ground
floor was a continuation of shops; and people could not always
be passing through them.
One evening the foreigner sat in the balcony. A light was
burning in his own room, just behind him. It was quite
natural, therefore, that his shadow should fall on the wall of
the opposite house; so that, as he sat amongst the flowers on
his balcony, when he moved, his shadow moved also.
'I think my shadow is the only living thing to be seen
opposite,' said the learned man; 'see how pleasantly it sits
among the flowers. The door is only ajar; the shadow ought to
be clever enough to step in and look about him, and then to
come back and tell me what he has seen. You could make
yourself useful in this way,' said he, jokingly; 'be so good
as to step in now, will you?' and then he nodded to the
shadow, and the shadow nodded in return. 'Now go, but don't
stay away altogether.'
Then the foreigner stood up, and the shadow on the
opposite balcony stood up also; the foreigner turned round,
the shadow turned; and if any one had observed, they might
have seen it go straight into the half-opened door of the
opposite balcony, as the learned man re-entered his own room,
and let the curtain fall. The next morning he went out to take
his coffee and read the newspapers.
'How is this?' he exclaimed, as he stood in the sunshine.
'I have lost my shadow. So it really did go away yesterday
evening, and it has not returned. This is very annoying.'
And it certainly did vex him, not so much because the
shadow was gone, but because he knew there was a story of a
man without a shadow. All the people at home, in his country,
knew this story; and when he returned, and related his own
adventures, they would say it was only an imitation; and he
had no desire for such things to be said of him. So he decided
not to speak of it at all, which was a very sensible
In the evening he went out again on his balcony, taking
care to place the light behind him; for he knew that a shadow
always wants his master for a screen; but he could not entice
him out. He made himself little, and he made himself tall; but
there was no shadow, and no shadow came. He said, 'Hem,
a-hem;' but it was all useless. That was very vexatious; but
in warm countries everything grows very quickly; and, after a
week had passed, he saw, to his great joy, that a new shadow
was growing from his feet, when he walked in the sunshine; so
that the root must have remained. After three weeks, he had
quite a respectable shadow, which, during his return journey
to northern lands, continued to grow, and became at last so
large that he might very well have spared half of it. When
this learned man arrived at home, he wrote books about the
true, the good, and the beautiful, which are to be found in
this world; and so days and years passed- many, many years.
One evening, as he sat in his study, a very gentle tap was
heard at the door. 'Come in,' said he; but no one came. He
opened the door, and there stood before him a man so
remarkably thin that he felt seriously troubled at his
appearance. He was, however, very well dressed, and looked
like a gentleman. 'To whom have I the honor of speaking?' said
'Ah, I hoped you would recognize me,' said the elegant
stranger; 'I have gained so much that I have a body of flesh,
and clothes to wear. You never expected to see me in such a
condition. Do you not recognize your old shadow? Ah, you never
expected that I should return to you again. All has been
prosperous with me since I was with you last; I have become
rich in every way, and, were I inclined to purchase my freedom
from service, I could easily do so.' And as he spoke he
rattled between his fingers a number of costly trinkets which
hung to a thick gold watch-chain he wore round his neck.
Diamond rings sparkled on his fingers, and it was all real.
'I cannot recover from my astonishment,' said the learned
man. 'What does all this mean?'
'Something rather unusual,' said the shadow; 'but you are
yourself an uncommon man, and you know very well that I have
followed in your footsteps ever since your childhood. As soon
as you found that I have travelled enough to be trusted alone,
I went my own way, and I am now in the most brilliant
circumstances. But I felt a kind of longing to see you once
more before you die, and I wanted to see this place again, for
there is always a clinging to the land of one's birth. I know
that you have now another shadow; do I owe you anything? If
so, have the goodness to say what it is.'
'No! Is it really you?' said the learned man. 'Well, this
is most remarkable; I never supposed it possible that a man's
old shadow could become a human being.'
'Just tell me what I owe you,' said the shadow, 'for I do
not like to be in debt to any man.'
'How can you talk in that manner?' said the learned man.
'What question of debt can there be between us? You are as
free as any one. I rejoice exceedingly to hear of your good
fortune. Sit down, old friend, and tell me a little of how it
happened, and what you saw in the house opposite to me while
we were in those hot climates.'
'Yes, I will tell you all about it,' said the shadow,
sitting down; 'but then you must promise me never to tell in
this city, wherever you may meet me, that I have been your
shadow. I am thinking of being married, for I have more than
sufficient to support a family.'
'Make yourself quite easy,' said the learned man; 'I will
tell no one who you really are. Here is my hand,- I promise,
and a word is sufficient between man and man.'
'Between man and a shadow,' said the shadow; for he could
not help saying so.
It was really most remarkable how very much he had become
a man in appearance. He was dressed in a suit of the very
finest black cloth, polished boots, and an opera crush hat,
which could be folded together so that nothing could be seen
but the crown and the rim, besides the trinkets, the gold
chain, and the diamond rings already spoken of. The shadow
was, in fact, very well dressed, and this made a man of him.
'Now I will relate to you what you wish to know,' said the
shadow, placing his foot with the polished leather boot as
firmly as possible on the arm of the new shadow of the learned
man, which lay at his feet like a poodle dog. This was done,
it might be from pride, or perhaps that the new shadow might
cling to him, but the prostrate shadow remained quite quiet
and at rest, in order that it might listen, for it wanted to
know how a shadow could be sent away by its master, and become
a man itself. 'Do you know,' said the shadow, 'that in the
house opposite to you lived the most glorious creature in the
world? It was poetry. I remained there three weeks, and it was
more like three thousand years, for I read all that has ever
been written in poetry or prose; and I may say, in truth, that
I saw and learnt everything.'
'Poetry!' exclaimed the learned man. 'Yes, she lives as a
hermit in great cities. Poetry! Well, I saw her once for a
very short moment, while sleep weighed down my eyelids. She
flashed upon me from the balcony like the radiant aurora
borealis, surrounded with flowers like flames of fire. Tell
me, you were on the balcony that evening; you went through the
door, and what did you see?'
'I found myself in an ante-room,' said the shadow. 'You
still sat opposite to me, looking into the room. There was no
light, or at least it seemed in partial darkness, for the door
of a whole suite of rooms stood open, and they were
brilliantly lighted. The blaze of light would have killed me,
had I approached too near the maiden myself, but I was
cautious, and took time, which is what every one ought to do.'
'And what didst thou see?' asked the learned man.
'I saw everything, as you shall hear. But- it really is
not pride on my part, as a free man and possessing the
knowledge that I do, besides my position, not to speak of my
wealth- I wish you would say you to me instead of thou.'
'I beg your pardon,' said the learned man; 'it is an old
habit, which it is difficult to break. You are quite right; I
will try to think of it. But now tell me everything that you
'Everything,' said the shadow; 'for I saw and know
'What was the appearance of the inner rooms?' asked the
scholar. 'Was it there like a cool grove, or like a holy
temple? Were the chambers like a starry sky seen from the top
of a high mountain?'
'It was all that you describe,' said the shadow; 'but I
did not go quite in- I remained in the twilight of the
ante-room- but I was in a very good position,- I could see and
hear all that was going on in the court of poetry.'
'But what did you see? Did the gods of ancient times pass
through the rooms? Did old heroes fight their battles over
again? Were there lovely children at play, who related their
'I tell you I have been there, and therefore you may be
sure that I saw everything that was to be seen. If you had
gone there, you would not have remained a human being, whereas
I became one; and at the same moment I became aware of my
inner being, my inborn affinity to the nature of poetry. It is
true I did not think much about it while I was with you, but
you will remember that I was always much larger at sunrise and
sunset, and in the moonlight even more visible than yourself,
but I did not then understand my inner existence. In the
ante-room it was revealed to me. I became a man; I came out in
full maturity. But you had left the warm countries. As a man,
I felt ashamed to go about without boots or clothes, and that
exterior finish by which man is known. So I went my own way; I
can tell you, for you will not put it in a book. I hid myself
under the cloak of a cake woman, but she little thought who
she concealed. It was not till evening that I ventured out. I
ran about the streets in the moonlight. I drew myself up to my
full height upon the walls, which tickled my back very
pleasantly. I ran here and there, looked through the highest
windows into the rooms, and over the roofs. I looked in, and
saw what nobody else could see, or indeed ought to see; in
fact, it is a bad world, and I would not care to be a man, but
that men are of some importance. I saw the most miserable
things going on between husbands and wives, parents and
children,- sweet, incomparable children. I have seen what no
human being has the power of knowing, although they would all
be very glad to know- the evil conduct of their neighbors. Had
I written a newspaper, how eagerly it would have been read!
Instead of which, I wrote directly to the persons themselves,
and great alarm arose in all the town I visited. They had so
much fear of me, and yet how dearly they loved me. The
professor made me a professor. The tailor gave me new clothes;
I am well provided for in that way. The overseer of the mint
struck coins for me. The women declared that I was handsome,
and so I became the man you now see me. And now I must say
adieu. Here is my card. I live on the sunny side of the
street, and always stay at home in rainy weather.' And the