Snail and the Rose Tree
By Hans Christian Andersen
Around the garden ran a hedge of hazels ;
beyond this hedge lay fields and meadows,
with cows and sheep ; but in the midst of
the garden stood a blooming Rose Tree ; and
under it lived a Snail, who had a good deal
in his shell namely, himself.
' Wait till my time comes ! ' he said : ' I
shall do something more than produce roses
and bear nuts ; or give milk, like the cows
and the sheep ! '
' I expect a great deal of you,' said the
Rose Tree. ; But may I ask when it will
appear ? '
' I take my time,' replied the Snail. '
the're always in such a hurry. You don't
rouse people's interest by suspense.'
Next year the Snail lay almost in the same
spot, in the sunshine under the Rose Tree,
which again bore buds that bloomed into
roses, always fresh, always new. And the
Snail crept half-way out, put out its horns
and then drew them in again.
' Everything looks just like last year.
There has been no progress. The Rose Tree
sticks to roses ; it gets no farther.'
The summer passed, the autumn came ; the
Rose Tree had always flowers and buds, until
the snow fell and the weather became raw and
cold ; then the Rose Tree bowed its head and
the Snail crept into the ground.
A new year began ; and the roses came out,
and the Snail came out also.
' You're an old Rose Tree now ! ' said the
Snail. ' You must make haste and come to an
end, for you have given the world all that
was in you : whether it was of any use is a
question that I have had no time to consider
; but so much is clear and plain, that you
have done nothing at all for your own
development, or you would have produced
something else. How can you answer for that
? In a little time you will be nothing at
all but a stick. Do you understand what I
say ? '
' You alarm me ! ' replied the Rose Tree. '
I never thought of that at all.'
' No, you have not taken the trouble to
Have you ever given an account to yourself,
why you bloomed, and how it is that your
blooming comes about why it is thus, and not
otherwise ? '
'No, answered the Rose Tree. ' I bloomed in
gladness, because I could not do anything
else. The sun was so warm, and the air so
refreshing. I drank the pure dew and the
fresh rain, and I lived, I breathed. Out of
the earth there arose a power within me,
from above there came down
a strength : I perceived a new
ever-increasing happiness, and consequently
I was obliged to bloom over and over again ;
that was my life ; I could not do otherwise.'
' You have led a very pleasant life,'
observed the Snail.
' Certainly. Everything was given to me,'
said the Rose Tree. ' But more still was
given to you. You are one of those deep
thoughtful characters, one of those highly
gifted spirits, which will cause the world
' I've no intention of doing anything of the
kind,' cried the Snail. ' The world is
nothing to me. What have I to do with the
world ? I have enough of myself and in
' But must we not all, here on earth, give
to others the best that we have, and offer
what lies in our power ? Certainly I have
only given roses. But you you who have been
so richly gifted what have you given to the
world ? what do you intend to give ? '
1 What have I given what do I intend to give
? I spit at it. It 's worth nothing. It 's
no business of mine. Continue to give your
roses, if you like : you can't do anything
better. Let the hazel bush bear nuts, and
the cows and ewes give milk : they have
their public ; but I have mine within myself
I retire within myself, and there I remain.
The world is nothing to me.'
And so the Snail retired into his house, and
closed up the entrance after him.
' That is very sad ! ' said the Rose Tree. '
I cannot creep into myself, even if I wish
it I must continue to produce roses. They
drop their leaves, and are blown away by the
wind. But I saw how a rose was laid in the
matron's hymn-book, and one of my roses had
a place on the bosom of a fair young girl,
and another was kissed by the lips of a
child in the full joy of life. That did me
good ; it was a real blessing. That 's my
remembrance my life ! '
And the Rose Tree went on blooming in
innocence, while the Snail lay idly in his
house the world did not concern him.
And years rolled by.
The Snail had become dust in the dust, and
the Rose Tree was earth in the earth ; the
rose of remembrance in the hymn-book was
faded, but in the garden bloomed fresh rose
trees, in the garden grew new snails ; and
these still crept into their houses, and
spat at the world, for it
did not concern them.
Suppose we begin the story again, and read
it right through. It will never alter.