By Hans Christian Andersen
The Flax stood in blossom ; it had pretty
little blue flowers, smooth as a moth's
wings, and even more delicate. The sun shone
on the Flax, and the rain clouds moistened
it, and this was just as good for it as it
is for little children when they are washed,
and afterwards get a kiss from their mother
; they become much prettier, and so did the
' The people say that I stand uncommonly
well,' said the Flax, c and that I'm fine
and long, and shall make a capital piece of
linen. How happy I am ! I'm certainly the
happiest of beings. How well off I am ! And
I may come to something ! How the sunshine
gladdens, and the rain tastes good and
refreshes me ! I'm wonderfully happy ; I'm
the happiest of beings.'
' Yes, yes, yes ! ' said the Hedge-stake.
You don't know the world, but we do, for we
have knots in us ; ' and then it creaked out
The song is done.'
' No, it is not done,' said the Flax. '
To-morrow the sun will shine, or the rain
will refresh us. I feel that I'm growing, I
feel that I'm in blossom ! I'm the happiest
But one day the people came and took the
Flax by the head and pulled it up by the
root. That hurt ; and it was laid in water
as if they were going to drown it, and then
put on the fire as if it was going to be
roasted. It was quite fearful !
' One can't always have good times,' said
the Flax. ' One must make one's experiences,
and so one gets to know something.'
But bad times certainly came. The Flax was
bruised and scutched, and broken and hackled.
Yes, it did not even know what the
operations were called that they did with
it. It was put on the spinning-wheel whirr !
whirr ! whirr ! it was not possible to
collect one's thoughts. ' I have been
uncommonly happy ! ' it thought in all its
pain. " One must be content with the good
enjoyed ! Contented ! contented ! Oh ! ' And
it continued to say so even when it was put
into the loom, and till it became a large
beautiful piece of linen. All the flax, to
the last stalk, was used in making one piece.
' But this is quite remarkable ! I should
never have believed it ! How favourable
fortune is to me ! The Hedge-stake was well
informed, truly, with its
The song is not done by any means. Now it 's
beginning in earnest. That 's quite
remarkable ! If I've suffered something,
I've been made into something ! I'm the
happiest of all ! How strong and fine I am,
how white and long ! That 's something
different from being a mere plant, even if
one has a flower. One is not attended to,
and only gets watered when it rains. Now I'm
to and cherished ; the maid turns me over
every morning, and I get a shower bath from
the watering-pot every evening. Yes, the
clergyman's wife has even made a speech
about me, and says I'm the best piece in the
whole parish. I cannot be happier ! '
Now the Linen was taken into the house, and
put under the scissors : how they cut and
tore it, and then pricked it with needles !
That was not pleasant ; but twelve pieces of
body linen of a kind not often mentioned by
name, but indispensable to all people, were
made of it a whole
' Just look ! Now something has really been
made of me ! So, that was my destiny. That
's a real blessing. Now I shall be of some
use in the world, and that 's right, that 's
a true pleasure ! We've been made into
twelve things, but yet we're all one and the
same ; we're just a dozen : how remarkably
charming that is ! '
Years rolled on, and now they would hold
together no longer.
' It must be over one day,' said each piece.
' I would gladly have held together a little
longer, but one must not expect
They were now torn intc pieces and
fragments. They thought it was all over now,
for they were hacked to shreds, and softened
and boiled ; yes, they themselves did not
know all that was done to them ; and then
they became beautiful white paper.
' Now, that is a surprise, and a glorious
surprise I ' said the Paper. ' Now I'm finer
than before, and I shall be written on :
that is remarkably good fortune.
And really the most beautiful stories and
verses were written upon it, and the people
heard what was upon it ; it was sensible and
good, and made people much more sensible and
good : there was a great blessing in the
words that were on this Paper.
' That is more than I ever imagined when I
was a little blue flower in the fields. How
could I fancy that I should ever spread joy
and knowledge among men ? I can't yet
understand it myself, but it is really so. I
have done nothing myself but what I was
obliged with my weak powers to do for my own
preservation, and yet I have been promoted
from one joy and honour to another. Each
time when I think " the song is done," it
begins again in a higher and better way. Now
I shall certainly be sent about to journey
through the world, so that all people may
read me. That is the only probable thing.
I've splendid thoughts, as many as I had
pretty flowers in the old times. I'm the
happiest of beings.
But the Paper was not sent on its travels,
it was sent to the printer, and everything
that was written upon it was set up in type
for a book, or rather for many hundreds of
books, for in this way a very far greater
number could derive pleasure and profit from
the book than if the one
paper on which it was written had run about
the world, to be worn out before it had got
1 Yes, that is certainly the wisest way,'
thought the Written Paper. ' I really did
not think of that. I shall stay at home, and
be held in honour, just like an old
grandfather. It was on me the writing was
done ; the words flowed from the pen right
into me. I remain here and the books run
about. Now something can really be done. I
am the happiest of all.
Then the Paper was tied together in a bundle,
and put on a shelf.
' It 's good resting after work,' said the
Paper. ' It is very right that one should
collect one's thoughts. Now I'm able for the
first time to think of what is in me, and to
know oneself is true progress. What will be
done with me now ? At any rate I shall go
forward again : I'm always
One day all the paper was laid on the hearth
in order to be burnt, for it must not be
sold to the grocer to wrap up butter and
sugar. And all the children in the house
stood round ; they wanted to see it blaze,
they wanted to see among the ashes the many
red sparks, which seemed to dart off and go
out, one after the other, so quickly. These
are the children going out of school, and
the last spark of all is the schoolmaster :
one often thinks he has gone already, but he
always comes a little after all the others.
All the old Paper, the whole bundle, was
laid upon the fire, and it was soon alight.
' Ugh ! ' it said, and burst out into bright
flame that mounted up higher than the Flax
had ever been able to lift its little blue
flowers, and glittered as the white Linen
had never been able to glitter. All the
written letters turned for a moment quite
red, and all the words and thoughts turned
' Now I'm mounting straight up to the sun,'
said a voice in the flame ; and it was as if
a thousand voices said this in unison ; and
the flames mounted up through the chimney
and out at the top, and more delicate than
the flames, invisible to human eyes, little
tiny beings floated there, as many as there
had been blossoms on the Flax. They were
lighter even than the flame from which they
were born ; and when the flame was
extinguished, and nothing remained of the
Paper but black ashes, they danced over it
once more, and where they touched the black
mass the little red sparks appeared. The
children came out of school, and the
schoolmaster was the last of all. That
was fun ! and the children sang over the
The song is done.'
But the little invisible beings all said, '
The song is never done, that is the best of
all. I know
it, and therefore I'm the happiest of all.
But the children could neither hear that nor
understand it, nor ought they, for children
must not know everything.