Little Ida's Flowers
By Hans Christian Andersen
"My poor flowers,you are wither'd!" said
little Ida. "Yesterday evening you were so
pretty, and now all your leaves are drooping!
What is the reason of it?" asked she of a
youth sitting on a sofa, and whom she liked
very much, because he told her the most
beautiful fairytales, and cut out pasteboard
houses for her, and such wonderful pictures
too; he could cut out hearts with little
ladies dancing in them; flowers he could cut
out, and castles with doors that would open.
He was a very charming youth.
" Why do these flowers look so faded?" asked
she again, showing him a withered nosegay.
"Don't you know what ails them? answered he;
"your flowers have been allnight at a ball,
and that's the reason they all hang their
"Flowers cannot dance!" exclaimed little
"Certainly they can ! When it is dark, and
we are all asleep, then they dance about
right merrily. They have a ball almost every
night !" said the youth.
" May children go to the flowers' ball too?"
asked little Ida.
"Yes," answered the youth. "Little tiny
daisies, and lilies of the valley."
"Where do the prettiest flowers dance?"
asked little Ida.
" Have you never been to the large castle,
just outside the gates, which is the King's
country-house, and where there is a
beautiful garden with so many flowers in it?
You have surely seen the swans that come
swimming towards you on the lake when you
throw them crumbs of bread ? The flowers
have regular balls there, I can tell you."
"I was in the garden yesterday with my
mother," said Ida; "but there were no leaves
on the trees, and I did not see a single
flower. Where were they, then? There were so
many of them there in summer!"
"They are in the palace now," said the youth.
"As soon as the King leaves his
summer-palace, and goes to town with his
court, all the flowers go directly out of
the garden into the palace, and make merry
there, and enjoy themselves famously. If you
could but see it once! The two most
beautiful roses seat themselves on the
throne, and play at King and Queen. Then the
red cockscombs range themselves in rows on
both sides, and make a lowbow; these are the
gentlemen of the bedchamber. Then the nicest
flowers enter, and the great ball begins.
The blue violets are midshipmen and cadets,
and they dance with hyacinths and crocuses,
which they call young ladies. The tulips and
great yellow lilies, they are old ladies who
look on and see that the dancing goes on
properly, and that all is conducted with
"But," said little Ida, quite astonished, "may
the flowers give a ball in the King's palace
in that way, and does nobody come in to
"No one in the palace knows anything about
it," answered the youth. "It's true,
sometimes the old inspector of the palace
comes up stairs in the night with his great
bunch of keys, to see if all is safe ; but
as soon as the flowers hear the rattling of
his keys, they keep quite still, and hide
themselves behind the long silken
windowcurtains, and peep out with their
little heads. 'I smell flowers here
somewhere about,' says the old inspector;
but he cannot find out where they are."
"That's very droll," said little Ida,
clapping her hands. " But could I not see
"Of course you can see them,"' answered the
youth. "Only peep in at the window when you
go again to the palace. I looked in to-day,
and I saw a long pale white lily reclining
on the sofa. That was a maid of honor." "Can
the flowers in the Botanic Garden go there
too?" asked she. " Are they able to go all
"Certainly, that you may believe," said the
youth, "for if the flowers choose, they can
fly. Have you not seen the pretty red and
yellow butterflies, and the white ones too,
that almost look like flowers, are in
reality nothing else. They have grown on
stalks, high up in the air, and then they
have leave given them to jump from their
stems, they move their leaves as if they
were wings, and so fly about; and as they
always behave well, they are allowed to
flutter hither and thither by day, instead
of sitting quietly on their stems, till at
last real wings grow out of their leaves.
Why, you have seen it often enough yourself.
However, it may be that the flowers in the
Botanic Garden did not know that there was
such merry-making in the King's palace of a
night, and so have never been there. But
I'll tell you something that will put the
Professor of Botany, who lives beside the
garden, into a perplexity: when you go there
again, you have only to whisper it to one
flower, that there is a ball to be given at
night at Friedricksburg, and one will tell
it to the other till they all know it, and
then all the flowers are sure to fly there.
Then when the Professor comes into the
garden, and does not find any of his flowers,
he will not be able to comprehend what is
become of them."
"Ah!" said little Ida, somewhat vexed at the
strange story, "how should the flowers be
able to tell each other what I say? Flowers
"No, they cannot properly talk: there you
are quite right," continued the youth; "but
they make themselves understood by gestures.
Have you not often seen how they bend to and
fro, and nod and move all their green leaves,
when there is the gentlest breeze? To them
this is as intelligible as words are to us."
"Does the Professor understand their
gestures, then?" said little Ida.
" To be sure he does. One morning he came
into the garden and remarked that a great
stinging-nettle was conversing on very
intimate terms with a pretty young carnation.
' You are so beautiful,' said the nettle to
the carnation,' and I love you so devotedly!'
But the Professor would not suffer any thing
of the sort, and tapped the nettle on his
leaves - for those are its fingers; but they
stung him so that from that day forward he
has never ventured to meddle with a
" Ha ! ha ! ha! that was good fun indeed."
laughed little Ida.
" What's the meaning of this," said the
Professor of Mathematics, who had just come
to pay a visit, "to tell the child such
nonsense !" He could not bear the young man.
and always scolded when he saw him cutting
out pasteboard figures - as, for example, a
man on the gallows with a heart in his hand,
which was meant for a stealer of hearts; or
an old witch riding on a broomstick,
carrying her husband on the tip of her nose.
The cross Professor could not bear any of
these, and then he used to say as he did now,
" What's the meaning of that - to teach the
child such nonsense! That's your stupid
Imagination, I suppose!"
But little Ida thought it was very amusing,
and could not leave off thinking of what the
youth had told her about the flowers. No
doubt her flowers did hang their heads
because they really had been to the ball
yesterday. She therefore carried them to the
table where all sorts of toys were nicely
arranged, and in the drawer were many pretty
things besides. Her doll lay in a little
bed, to go to sleep ; but Ida said to her, "Really,
Sophie, you must get up, and be satisfied
with the drawer for tonight; for the poor
flowers are ill, and must sleep in your bed.
Then perhaps they may be well by to-morrow."
So she took the doll out of bed; but the
good lady did not say a single word, she
only made a wry face at being obliged to
leave her bed for the sake of the old
Ida laid the withered flowers in her doll's
bed, covered them up with the counterpane,
tucked them in very nicely, and told them to
lie quite still, and in the meantime she
would make some tea for them to drink, that
they might be quite well by to-morrow
morning. And she drew the curtains close all
round the bed, so that the sun might not
shine in their eyes.
The whole evening she kept on thinking of
what she had heard, and just before going to
bed she ran to the window where her mother's
tulips and hyacinths were standing, and she
whispered quite softly to them, "I know very
well that you are going to the ball to-night."
But the flowers seemed as if they heard
nothing, and moved not a leaf; but little
Ida knew what she knew.
When she was in bed she lay for a long time
thinking how delightful it would be to see
the flowers dancing at the King's palace.
"Have my flowers really been there?" But
before she could think about the answer, she
had fallen asleep. She awoke again in the
night; she had dreamed of the youth and the
flowers, and the professor of Mathematics,
who always said the youth stuffed her head
with nonsense, and that she believed every
thing. It was quite still in the
sleeping-room ; the night-lamp burnt on the
table, and her father and mother were fast
"I wonder if my flowers are still in
Sophie's bed!" said she. "I should like so
much to know!"
She sat up in her bed, looked towards the
door which was half open, and there lay the
flowers and her playthings all as she had
left them. She listened, and it seemed to
her as if some one was playing on the piano
in the next room, but quite softly, and yet
so beautifully that she thought she had
never heard the like.
"Now, then, my flowers are all dancing for
certain!" said she. "Oh, how I should like
to go and see them !" But she did not dare
to get up, for fear of awaking her father
"If they would but come in here!" said she.
But the flowers did not come, and the music
continued to sound so sweetly. At last she
could bear it no longer, it was so
delightful - see the dance she must; so she
crept noiselessly out of bed, and glided
towards the door of the drawing-room. And
what wonders did she behold !
The night-lamp burned no longer; and yet it
was quite light in the room, because the
moon shone through the window and
illuminated the whole floor, so it was
almost as light as day. All the hyacinths
and tulips stood in two rows in the
drawingroom, and before the windows was
nothing but the empty flower-pots. The
flowers danced figures, one round another on
the floor; they made a regular chain and
held each other by the long leaves.
At the piano sat a large yellow lily, that
Ida thought she had seen before; for she
remembered that the youth had once told her
that this lily was like Miss Laura, and that
every body had laughed at him for saying so.
Now, it seemed to her that the tall lily
really was like the young lady, and that she
had quite the same manners when she played;
for now she bent her long sallow face first
on one side and then on the other, and
nodded with her head to keep time; Ida stood
looking in upon them, but not one of them
Now a large blue crocus sprang upon the
table where Ida's toys were lying, went
straight to the bed, and drew aside the
curtains. There lay the sick flowers; but
they got up directly and saluted the other
flowers, who begged them to join the dance.
The old snapdragon, whose under lip was
broken off, stood up and bowed to the pretty
flowers. The sick flowers really did get up
looked no longer ill, and danced merrily
with the rest.
Suddenly a dull sound was heard, as if
something had fallen from the table. Ida
cast her eyes in that direction, and saw
that it was the Easter-wand she had found
lying on her bed one shrovetide morning, and
which now wanted to be looked upon as a
flower. It was indeed a charming rod; for at
the top a little wax figure was hidden, with
a broad-brimmed hat on like the Professor:
and it was tied with red and blue ribands.
So it hopped about among the flowers, and
stamped away right merrily with its feet;
for it was the mazourka that it was dancing,
and this the flowers could not dance, for
they were much too lightfooted.
All at once the wax figure in the rod became
a tall and stout giant, and cried out with a
loud voice, "What's the meaning of this - to
teach the child such nonsense! But this is
your stupid Imagination, I suppose!" And now
the doll grew just like the Professor, and
looked as yellow and cross as he did : they
were as like as two peas. But the paper
flowers with which the rod was ornamented
pinched his thin lanky legs, and then he
shrunk together and was a tiny wax doll
Little Ida thought this scene so funny that
she burst out a laughing, which, however,
the company did not remark; for the rod kept
on stamping, till at last the Professor of
Mathematics was obliged to dance too,
whether he made himself stout or thin, big
or little, he was forced to keep on, till at
last the flowers begged for him, and the rod
then left him in peace.
A loud knocking was now heard in the drawer
where the doll lay; and with this the
snap-dragon run up to the corner of the
table and opened the drawer a little. It was
Sophie, who, putting out her head, looked
around quite astonished:
"Is there a ball here?" said she "why was I
not told of it?"
"Will you dance with me?" said the
"A fine sort of person indeed to dance with!"
said Sophie, turning her back on him. She
seated herself on the drawer, and thought
that some one of the flowers would certainly
come and engage her to dance. But no one
came. So she coughed a little: "A-hem! a-hem!"
Still none came. Then the nutcrackers began
dancing alone, and he performed his steps by
no means badly.
When Sophie saw that not one of the flowers
came to offer himself as partner, she
suddenly slipped down on the floor, so that
there was a terrible fuss, and all the
flowers came running up and gathered around
her to inquire if she had hurt or bruised
herself. She was not hurt at all; but all
the flowers were very complaisant,
particularly those belonging to Ida, who
took this opportunity to thank her for the
nice bed in which they had slept.so quietly;
and then they paid her so much attention and
they took her by the hand, and led her to
the dance, while all the other flowers stood
round in a circle. Sophie was now quite
happy, and begged Ida's flowers to make use
of her bed after the ball, as she, for her
part, did not at all mind sleeping one night
in the drawer.
But the flowers said: "We are very much
obliged to you indeed ; but we shall not
live so long, for to-morrow we shall be
quite withered. But now tell little Ida that
she must bury us down in her garden near her
canary-bird; there we shall appear again
next summer, and grow more beautiful than we
were this year."
"No, you shall not die!" continued Sophie
vehemently, kissing the flowers.
Suddenly the door of the drawing-room opened,
arid a great crowd of beautiful flowers came
dancing in. Ida could not comprehend where
these flowers came from, unless they were
the flowers from the King's pleasure-grounds.
First of all entered two magnificent roses
with golden crowns on, they were a King and
a Queen ; and then followed stocks and pinks
bowing on every side. They had too a band of
music with them: large poppies and peonies
blew upon peashells till they were red in
the face, and lilies of the valley and
biuebells joined their tinkling sounds, and
rung as if they were musical* bells. It was
Then came a crowd of the most various
flowers, all dancing, - violets, daisies,
convolvuluses, hyacinths; and they all moved
and turned about so prettily, and kissed one
another, that it was quite a charming sight.
At last the happy flowers wished each other
good night; and now little Ida slipped into
the bed again, and dreamed of all the
splendid things she had just beheld.
The following morning, as soon as she was up
and dressed, she went to the table where her
playthings were, to see if her flowers were
still there. She drew the bedcurtains aside,
and - yes! the flowers were there, but they
were much more withered than they were
yesterday. Sophie, too, was in the drawer,
but she looked dreadfully sleepy.
"Can't you remember what you had to say
tome?" asked little Ida. Sophie, however,
only looked very stupid, and did not answer
"You are not at all good," said Ida, "and
yet all the flowers asked you to dance with
Then she chose a little box of pasteboard
from among her playthings; it was painted
with birds, and in it she laid the withered
"That shall be your coffin," she said; "and
when my cousins from Norway come to see me,
they shall go to your funeral in the garden;
so that next summer you may bloom again, and
grow more beautiful than you were this year."
The cousins from Norway were two merry boys,
Jonas and Esben. Their father had just made
each of them a present of a bow and arrows,
which they brought with them to show to Ida.
She told them all about the poor flowers
that were dead, and that she was going to
bury in the garden. The two boys went before
with the bows on their shoulders, and little
Ida followed with the dead flowers in the
pretty little box. A grave was dug in the
garden. Ida kissed the flowers once more,
put the box into the earth, and Jonas and
Esben shot over the grave with their bows,
for they had no guns or cannons.