By Hans Christian Andersen
Very often, after a violent thunder-storm, a
field of buckwheat appears blackened and
singed, as if a flame of fire had passed
over it. The country people say that this
appearance is caused by lightning; but I
will tell you what the sparrow says, and the
sparrow heard it from an old willow-tree
which grew near a field of buckwheat, and is
there still. It is a large venerable tree,
though a little crippled by age. The trunk
has been split, and out of the crevice grass
and brambles grow. The tree bends for-ward
slightly, and the branches hang quite down
to the ground just like green hair. Corn
grows in the surrounding fields, not only
rye and barley, but oats,-pretty oats that,
when ripe, look like a number of little
golden canary-birds sitting on a bough. The
corn has a smiling look and the heaviest and
richest ears bend their heads low as if in
pious humility. Once there was also a field
of buckwheat, and this field was exactly
opposite to old willow-tree. The buckwheat
did not bend like the other grain, but
erected its head proudly and stiffly on the
stem. "I am as valuable as any other corn,"
said he, "and I am much handsomer; my
flowers are as beautiful as the bloom of the
apple blossom, and it is a pleasure to look
at us. Do you know of anything prettier than
we are, you old willow-tree?"
And the willow-tree nodded his head, as if
he would say, "Indeed I do."
But the buckwheat spread itself out with
pride, and said, "Stupid tree; he is so old
that grass grows out of his body."
There arose a very terrible storm. All the
field-flowers folded their leaves together,
or bowed their little heads, while the storm
passed over them, but the buckwheat stood
erect in its pride. "Bend your head as we
do," said the flowers.
"I have no occasion to do so," replied the
"Bend your head as we do," cried the ears of
corn; "the angel of the storm is coming; his
wings spread from the sky above to the earth
beneath. He will strike you down before you
can cry for mercy."
"But I will not bend my head," said the
"Close your flowers and bend your leaves,"
said the old willow-tree. "Do not look at
the lightning when the cloud bursts; even
men cannot do that. In a flash of lightning
heaven opens, and we can look in; but the
sight will strike even human beings blind.
What then must happen to us, who only grow
out of the earth, and are so inferior to
them, if we venture to do so?"
"Inferior, indeed!" said the buckwheat. "Now
I intend to have a peep into heaven."
Proudly and boldly he looked up, while the
lightning flashed across the sky as if the
whole world were in flames.
When the dreadful storm had passed, the
flowers and the corn raised their drooping
heads in the pure still air, refreshed by
the rain, but the buckwheat lay like a weed
in the field, burnt to blackness by the
lightning. The branches of the old
willow-tree rustled in the wind, and large
water-drops fell from his green leaves as if
the old willow were weeping. Then the
sparrows asked why he was weeping, when all
around him seemed so cheerful. "See," they
said, "how the sun shines, and the clouds
float in the blue sky. Do you not smell the
sweet perfume from flower and bush?
Wherefore do you weep, old willow-tree?"
Then the willow told them of the haughty
pride of the buckwheat, and of the
punishment which followed in consequence.
This is the story told me by the sparrows
one evening when I begged them to relate
some tale to me.