By Hans Christian Andersen
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 tapers."
"And then," asked the fir-tree, trembling
through all its branches, "and then what
"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 it.
"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
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
"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 fir-tree?"
"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
"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 beautiful princess.
"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
"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 storeroom."
"No," replied the tree.
"Many thanks to you then," replied the rats,
and they marched off.
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.