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Fabulous Fairy Tales for children and adults. From our vast collection of old traditional fairy tales and fables.

The Snow Queen - Part 1

WHICH describes a looking-glass and the broken fragments.

You must attend to the commencement of this story, for
when we get to the end we shall know more than we do now about
a very wicked hobgoblin; he was one of the very worst, for he
was a real demon. One day, when he was in a merry mood, he
made a looking-glass which had the power of making everything
good or beautiful that was reflected in it almost shrink to
nothing, while everything that was worthless and bad looked
increased in size and worse than ever. The most lovely
landscapes appeared like boiled spinach, and the people became
hideous, and looked as if they stood on their heads and had no
bodies. Their countenances were so distorted that no one could
recognize them, and even one freckle on the face appeared to
spread over the whole of the nose and mouth. The demon said
this was very amusing. When a good or pious thought passed
through the mind of any one it was misrepresented in the
glass; and then how the demon laughed at his cunning
invention. All who went to the demon's school- for he kept a
school- talked everywhere of the wonders they had seen, and
declared that people could now, for the first time, see what
the world and mankind were really like. They carried the glass
about everywhere, till at last there was not a land nor a
people who had not been looked at through this distorted
mirror. They wanted even to fly with it up to heaven to see
the angels, but the higher they flew the more slippery the
glass became, and they could scarcely hold it, till at last it
slipped from their hands, fell to the earth, and was broken
into millions of pieces. But now the looking-glass caused more
unhappiness than ever, for some of the fragments were not so
large as a grain of sand, and they flew about the world into
every country. When one of these tiny atoms flew into a
person's eye, it stuck there unknown to him, and from that
moment he saw everything through a distorted medium, or could
see only the worst side of what he looked at, for even the
smallest fragment retained the same power which had belonged
to the whole mirror. Some few persons even got a fragment of
the looking-glass in their hearts, and this was very terrible,
for their hearts became cold like a lump of ice. A few of the
pieces were so large that they could be used as window-panes;
it would have been a sad thing to look at our friends through
them. Other pieces were made into spectacles; this was
dreadful for those who wore them, for they could see nothing
either rightly or justly. At all this the wicked demon laughed
till his sides shook- it tickled him so to see the mischief he
had done. There were still a number of these little fragments
of glass floating about in the air, and now you shall hear
what happened with one of them.

SECOND STORY
A LITTLE BOY AND A LITTLE GIRL

In a large town, full of houses and people, there is not
room for everybody to have even a little garden, therefore
they are obliged to be satisfied with a few flowers in
flower-pots. In one of these large towns lived two poor
children who had a garden something larger and better than a
few flower-pots. They were not brother and sister, but they
loved each other almost as much as if they had been. Their
parents lived opposite to each other in two garrets, where the
roofs of neighboring houses projected out towards each other
and the water-pipe ran between them. In each house was a
little window, so that any one could step across the gutter
from one window to the other. The parents of these children
had each a large wooden box in which they cultivated kitchen
herbs for their own use, and a little rose-bush in each box,
which grew splendidly. Now after a while the parents decided
to place these two boxes across the water-pipe, so that they
reached from one window to the other and looked like two banks
of flowers. Sweet-peas drooped over the boxes, and the
rose-bushes shot forth long branches, which were trained round
the windows and clustered together almost like a triumphal
arch of leaves and flowers. The boxes were very high, and the
children knew they must not climb upon them, without
permission, but they were often, however, allowed to step out
together and sit upon their little stools under the
rose-bushes, or play quietly. In winter all this pleasure came
to an end, for the windows were sometimes quite frozen over.
But then they would warm copper pennies on the stove, and hold
the warm pennies against the frozen pane; there would be very
soon a little round hole through which they could peep, and
the soft bright eyes of the little boy and girl would beam
through the hole at each window as they looked at each other.
Their names were Kay and Gerda. In summer they could be
together with one jump from the window, but in winter they had
to go up and down the long staircase, and out through the snow
before they could meet.

'See there are the white bees swarming,' said Kay's old
grandmother one day when it was snowing.

'Have they a queen bee?' asked the little boy, for he knew
that the real bees had a queen.

'To be sure they have,' said the grandmother. 'She is
flying there where the swarm is thickest. She is the largest
of them all, and never remains on the earth, but flies up to
the dark clouds. Often at midnight she flies through the
streets of the town, and looks in at the windows, then the ice
freezes on the panes into wonderful shapes, that look like
flowers and castles.'

'Yes, I have seen them,' said both the children, and they
knew it must be true.

'Can the Snow Queen come in here?' asked the little girl.

'Only let her come,' said the boy, 'I'll set her on the
stove and then she'll melt.'

Then the grandmother smoothed his hair and told him some
more tales. One evening, when little Kay was at home, half
undressed, he climbed on a chair by the window and peeped out
through the little hole. A few flakes of snow were falling,
and one of them, rather larger than the rest, alighted on the
edge of one of the flower boxes. This snow-flake grew larger
and larger, till at last it became the figure of a woman,
dressed in garments of white gauze, which looked like millions
of starry snow-flakes linked together. She was fair and
beautiful, but made of ice- shining and glittering ice. Still
she was alive and her eyes sparkled like bright stars, but
there was neither peace nor rest in their glance. She nodded
towards the window and waved her hand. The little boy was
frightened and sprang from the chair; at the same moment it
seemed as if a large bird flew by the window. On the following
day there was a clear frost, and very soon came the spring.
The sun shone; the young green leaves burst forth; the
swallows built their nests; windows were opened, and the
children sat once more in the garden on the roof, high above
all the other rooms. How beautiful the roses blossomed this
summer. The little girl had learnt a hymn in which roses were
spoken of, and then she thought of their own roses, and she
sang the hymn to the little boy, and he sang too:-

'Roses bloom and cease to be,
But we shall the Christ-child see.'

Then the little ones held each other by the hand, and kissed
the roses, and looked at the bright sunshine, and spoke to it
as if the Christ-child were there. Those were splendid summer
days. How beautiful and fresh it was out among the
rose-bushes, which seemed as if they would never leave off
blooming. One day Kay and Gerda sat looking at a book full of
pictures of animals and birds, and then just as the clock in
the church tower struck twelve, Kay said, 'Oh, something has
struck my heart!' and soon after, 'There is something in my
eye.'

The little girl put her arm round his neck, and looked
into his eye, but she could see nothing.

'I think it is gone,' he said. But it was not gone; it was
one of those bits of the looking-glass- that magic mirror, of
which we have spoken- the ugly glass which made everything
great and good appear small and ugly, while all that was
wicked and bad became more visible, and every little fault
could be plainly seen. Poor little Kay had also received a
small grain in his heart, which very quickly turned to a lump
of ice. He felt no more pain, but the glass was there still.
'Why do you cry?' said he at last; 'it makes you look ugly.
There is nothing the matter with me now. Oh, see!' he cried
suddenly, 'that rose is worm-eaten, and this one is quite
crooked. After all they are ugly roses, just like the box in
which they stand,' and then he kicked the boxes with his foot,
and pulled off the two roses.

'Kay, what are you doing?' cried the little girl; and
then, when he saw how frightened she was, he tore off another
rose, and jumped through his own window away from little
Gerda.

When she afterwards brought out the picture book, he said,
'It was only fit for babies in long clothes,' and when
grandmother told any stories, he would interrupt her with
'but;' or, when he could manage it, he would get behind her
chair, put on a pair of spectacles, and imitate her very
cleverly, to make people laugh. By-and-by he began to mimic
the speech and gait of persons in the street. All that was
peculiar or disagreeable in a person he would imitate
directly, and people said, 'That boy will be very clever; he
has a remarkable genius.' But it was the piece of glass in his
eye, and the coldness in his heart, that made him act like
this. He would even tease little Gerda, who loved him with all
her heart. His games, too, were quite different; they were not
so childish. One winter's day, when it snowed, he brought out
a burning-glass, then he held out the tail of his blue coat,
and let the snow-flakes fall upon it. 'Look in this glass,
Gerda,' said he; and she saw how every flake of snow was
magnified, and looked like a beautiful flower or a glittering
star. 'Is it not clever?' said Kay, 'and much more interesting
than looking at real flowers. There is not a single fault in
it, and the snow-flakes are quite perfect till they begin to
melt.'

Soon after Kay made his appearance in large thick gloves,
and with his sledge at his back. He called up stairs to Gerda,
'I've got to leave to go into the great square, where the
other boys play and ride.' And away he went.

In the great square, the boldest among the boys would
often tie their sledges to the country people's carts, and go
with them a good way. This was capital. But while they were
all amusing themselves, and Kay with them, a great sledge came
by; it was painted white, and in it sat some one wrapped in a
rough white fur, and wearing a white cap. The sledge drove
twice round the square, and Kay fastened his own little sledge
to it, so that when it went away, he followed with it. It went
faster and faster right through the next street, and then the
person who drove turned round and nodded pleasantly to Kay,
just as if they were acquainted with each other, but whenever
Kay wished to loosen his little sledge the driver nodded
again, so Kay sat still, and they drove out through the town
gate. Then the snow began to fall so heavily that the little
boy could not see a hand's breadth before him, but still they
drove on; then he suddenly loosened the cord so that the large
sled might go on without him, but it was of no use, his little
carriage held fast, and away they went like the wind. Then he
called out loudly, but nobody heard him, while the snow beat
upon him, and the sledge flew onwards. Every now and then it
gave a jump as if it were going over hedges and ditches. The
boy was frightened, and tried to say a prayer, but he could
remember nothing but the multiplication table.

The snow-flakes became larger and larger, till they
appeared like great white chickens. All at once they sprang on
one side, the great sledge stopped, and the person who had
driven it rose up. The fur and the cap, which were made
entirely of snow, fell off, and he saw a lady, tall and white,
it was the Snow Queen.

'We have driven well,' said she, 'but why do you tremble?
here, creep into my warm fur.' Then she seated him beside her
in the sledge, and as she wrapped the fur round him he felt as
if he were sinking into a snow drift.

'Are you still cold,' she asked, as she kissed him on the
forehead. The kiss was colder than ice; it went quite through
to his heart, which was already almost a lump of ice; he felt
as if he were going to die, but only for a moment; he soon
seemed quite well again, and did not notice the cold around
him.

'My sledge! don't forget my sledge,' was his first
thought, and then he looked and saw that it was bound fast to
one of the white chickens, which flew behind him with the
sledge at its back. The Snow Queen kissed little Kay again,
and by this time he had forgotten little Gerda, his
grandmother, and all at home.

'Now you must have no more kisses,' she said, 'or I should
kiss you to death.'

Kay looked at her, and saw that she was so beautiful, he
could not imagine a more lovely and intelligent face; she did
not now seem to be made of ice, as when he had seen her
through his window, and she had nodded to him. In his eyes she
was perfect, and she did not feel at all afraid. He told her
he could do mental arithmetic, as far as fractions, and that
he knew the number of square miles and the number of
inhabitants in the country. And she always smiled so that he
thought he did not know enough yet, and she looked round the
vast expanse as she flew higher and higher with him upon a
black cloud, while the storm blew and howled as if it were
singing old songs. They flew over woods and lakes, over sea
and land; below them roared the wild wind; the wolves howled
and the snow crackled; over them flew the black screaming
crows, and above all shone the moon, clear and bright,- and so
Kay passed through the long winter's night, and by day he
slept at the feet of the Snow Queen.

THIRD STORY
THE FLOWER GARDEN OF THE WOMAN
WHO COULD CONJURE

But how fared little Gerda during Kay's absence? What had
become of him, no one knew, nor could any one give the
slightest information, excepting the boys, who said that he
had tied his sledge to another very large one, which had
driven through the street, and out at the town gate. Nobody
knew where it went; many tears were shed for him, and little
Gerda wept bitterly for a long time. She said she knew he must
be dead; that he was drowned in the river which flowed close
by the school. Oh, indeed those long winter days were very
dreary. But at last spring came, with warm sunshine. 'Kay is
dead and gone,' said little Gerda.

'I don't believe it,' said the sunshine.

'He is dead and gone,' she said to the sparrows.

'We don't believe it,' they replied; and at last little
Gerda began to doubt it herself. 'I will put on my new red
shoes,' she said one morning, 'those that Kay has never seen,
and then I will go down to the river, and ask for him.' It was
quite early when she kissed her old grandmother, who was still
asleep; then she put on her red shoes, and went quite alone
out of the town gates toward the river. 'Is it true that you
have taken my little playmate away from me?' said she to the
river. 'I will give you my red shoes if you will give him back
to me.' And it seemed as if the waves nodded to her in a
strange manner. Then she took off her red shoes, which she
liked better than anything else, and threw them both into the
river, but they fell near the bank, and the little waves
carried them back to the land, just as if the river would not
take from her what she loved best, because they could not give
her back little Kay. But she thought the shoes had not been
thrown out far enough. Then she crept into a boat that lay
among the reeds, and threw the shoes again from the farther
end of the boat into the water, but it was not fastened. And
her movement sent it gliding away from the land. When she saw
this she hastened to reach the end of the boat, but before she
could so it was more than a yard from the bank, and drifting
away faster than ever. Then little Gerda was very much
frightened, and began to cry, but no one heard her except the
sparrows, and they could not carry her to land, but they flew
along by the shore, and sang, as if to comfort her, 'Here we
are! Here we are!' The boat floated with the stream; little
Gerda sat quite still with only her stockings on her feet; the
red shoes floated after her, but she could not reach them
because the boat kept so much in advance. The banks on each
side of the river were very pretty. There were beautiful
flowers, old trees, sloping fields, in which cows and sheep
were grazing, but not a man to be seen. Perhaps the river will
carry me to little Kay, thought Gerda, and then she became
more cheerful, and raised her head, and looked at the
beautiful green banks; and so the boat sailed on for hours. At
length she came to a large cherry orchard, in which stood a
small red house with strange red and blue windows. It had also
a thatched roof, and outside were two wooden soldiers, that
presented arms to her as she sailed past. Gerda called out to
them, for she thought they were alive, but of course they did
not answer; and as the boat drifted nearer to the shore, she
saw what they really were. Then Gerda called still louder, and
there came a very old woman out of the house, leaning on a
crutch. She wore a large hat to shade her from the sun, and on
it were painted all sorts of pretty flowers. 'You poor little
child,' said the old woman, 'how did you manage to come all
this distance into the wide world on such a rapid rolling
stream?' And then the old woman walked in the water, seized
the boat with her crutch, drew it to land, and lifted Gerda
out. And Gerda was glad to feel herself on dry ground,
although she was rather afraid of the strange old woman. 'Come
and tell me who you are,' said she, 'and how came you here.'

Then Gerda told her everything, while the old woman shook
her head, and said, 'Hem-hem;' and when she had finished,
Gerda asked if she had not seen little Kay, and the old woman
told her he had not passed by that way, but he very likely
would come. So she told Gerda not to be sorrowful, but to
taste the cherries and look at the flowers; they were better
than any picture-book, for each of them could tell a story.
Then she took Gerda by the hand and led her into the little
house, and the old woman closed the door. The windows were
very high, and as the panes were red, blue, and yellow, the
daylight shone through them in all sorts of singular colors.
On the table stood beautiful cherries, and Gerda had
permission to eat as many as she would. While she was eating
them the old woman combed out her long flaxen ringlets with a
golden comb, and the glossy curls hung down on each side of
the little round pleasant face, which looked fresh and
blooming as a rose. 'I have long been wishing for a dear
little maiden like you,' said the old woman, 'and now you must
stay with me, and see how happily we shall live together.' And
while she went on combing little Gerda's hair, she thought
less and less about her adopted brother Kay, for the old woman
could conjure, although she was not a wicked witch; she
conjured only a little for her own amusement, and now, because
she wanted to keep Gerda. Therefore she went into the garden,
and stretched out her crutch towards all the rose-trees,
beautiful though they were; and they immediately sunk into the
dark earth, so that no one could tell where they had once
stood. The old woman was afraid that if little Gerda saw roses
she would think of those at home, and then remember little
Kay, and run away. Then she took Gerda into the flower-garden.
How fragrant and beautiful it was! Every flower that could be
thought of for every season of the year was here in full
bloom; no picture-book could have more beautiful colors. Gerda
jumped for joy, and played till the sun went down behind the
tall cherry-trees; then she slept in an elegant bed with red
silk pillows, embroidered with colored violets; and then she
dreamed as pleasantly as a queen on her wedding day. The next
day, and for many days after, Gerda played with the flowers in
the warm sunshine. She knew every flower, and yet, although
there were so many of them, it seemed as if one were missing,
but which it was she could not tell. One day, however, as she
sat looking at the old woman's hat with the painted flowers on
it, she saw that the prettiest of them all was a rose. The old
woman had forgotten to take it from her hat when she made all
the roses sink into the earth. But it is difficult to keep the
thoughts together in everything; one little mistake upsets all
our arrangements.

'What, are there no roses here?' cried Gerda; and she ran
out into the garden, and examined all the beds, and searched
and searched. There was not one to be found. Then she sat down
and wept, and her tears fell just on the place where one of
the rose-trees had sunk down. The warm tears moistened the
earth, and the rose-tree sprouted up at once, as blooming as
when it had sunk; and Gerda embraced it and kissed the roses,
and thought of the beautiful roses at home, and, with them, of
little Kay.

'Oh, how I have been detained!' said the little maiden, 'I
wanted to seek for little Kay. Do you know where he is?' she
asked the roses; 'do you think he is dead?'

And the roses answered, 'No, he is not dead. We have been
in the ground where all the dead lie; but Kay is not there.'

'Thank you,' said little Gerda, and then she went to the
other flowers, and looked into their little cups, and asked,
'Do you know where little Kay is?' But each flower, as it
stood in the sunshine, dreamed only of its own little fairy
tale of history. Not one knew anything of Kay. Gerda heard
many stories from the flowers, as she asked them one after
another about him.

And what, said the tiger-lily? 'Hark, do you hear the
drum? - 'turn, turn,'- there are only two notes, always,
'turn, turn.' Listen to the women's song of mourning! Hear the
cry of the priest! In her long red robe stands the Hindoo
widow by the funeral pile. The flames rise around her as she
places herself on the dead body of her husband; but the Hindoo
woman is thinking of the living one in that circle; of him,
her son, who lighted those flames. Those shining eyes trouble
her heart more painfully than the flames which will soon
consume her body to ashes. Can the fire of the heart be
extinguished in the flames of the funeral pile?'

'I don't understand that at all,' said little Gerda.

'That is my story,' said the tiger-lily.

What, says the convolvulus? 'Near yonder narrow road
stands an old knight's castle; thick ivy creeps over the old
ruined walls, leaf over leaf, even to the balcony, in which
stands a beautiful maiden. She bends over the balustrades, and
looks up the road. No rose on its stem is fresher than she; no
apple-blossom, wafted by the wind, floats more lightly than
she moves. Her rich silk rustles as she bends over and
exclaims, 'Will he not come?'

'Is it Kay you mean?' asked Gerda.

'I am only speaking of a story of my dream,' replied the
flower.


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