By Hans Christian Andersen
Outside the factory lay heaps of clouts
piled up in stacks, gathered together from
far and wide ; every rag had its story,
every one was telling his own tale, but one
cannot listen to them altogether. Some rags
were native, others came from foreign
countries. Here a Danish rag lay close to a
Norwegian rag ; real Danish was the one, and
thoroughly Norwegian the other, and that was
the amusing thing about the two of them,
every sensible Norwegian and Dane will
They knew each other by their speech,
although each of these, said the Norwegian,
was as different as French and Hebrew. ' We
do our best to get ours raw and original,
while the Dane makes his sickly-sweet
flavourless language for himself.
The rags talked, and a rag is a rag in every
country ; they only count for something in
'I am Norwegian,' said the Norwegian rag, '
and when I say I am Norwegian, I think I
have said enough I I am of firm stuff, like
the ancient hills in old Norway, the country
which has a constitution like free America !
It tickles me in my threads, to think what I
am, and to let my thoughts ring out in
' But we have a literature,' said the Danish
rag. ' Do you understand what that is ? '
' Understand ! ' repeated the Norwegian. '
Inhabitant of a flat land, shall I lift him
to the mountains and let the Northern Lights
shine on him, rag that he is ! When the ice
melts before the Norwegian sun, then Danish
fruitboats come up to us with butter and
cheese, very appetizing
wares ! and there comes as ballast Danish
literature. We do not need it ! one prefers
to dispense with flat ale where the fresh
spring bubbles, and here it is a well which
is not bored, not gossipped into European
fame by newspapers and authors' travels in
foreign countries. I speak
freely from the lungs, and the Dane must
accustom himself to the free sound, and that
he will do in his Scandinavian clinging to
our proud, rocky country, the primaeval
clump of the world.'
'A Danish rag could never talk like that/
said the Danish rag. ' It is not our nature.
I know myself, and all our rags are like me
; we are so good-natured, so modest ; we
have too little confidence in ourselves, and
one gains nothing by that, but I like it all
the same, I think it so charming ! As a
matter of fact, I can assure you I know to
the full my own good qualities, but I do not
them, no one shall be able to blame me for
such a mistake. I am soft and tractable,
bear with everything, envy none, speak good
of all, although there is not much good to
be said of most of the others, but let that
be their affair. I only laugh at it all,
being so gifted as I am.'
' Don't speak that flat-land's soft pasty
language to me, it makes me sick,' said the
Norwegian rag, and lifted itself in the wind
from the heap and went over into another one.
Both of them were made into paper, and as
chance would have it, the Norwegian rag
became paper, on which a Norwegian wrote a
faithful love-letter to a Danish girl, and
the Danish rag became the manuscript for a
Danish ode in praise of Norway's strength
Something good can come even out of rags,
when they have been on the clothes-heap and
the transformation into truth and beauty has
taken place ; then they shine in good
understanding, and in that there, , is
That is the
story ; it is quite enjoyable, and need
offend no one except the rags.