By Hans Christian Andersen
Beside the lordly manor-house lay a lovely,
well-kept garden with rare trees and flowers
; the guests of the house expressed their
admiration of it ; the people of the
district, from town and country, came on
Sundays and holidays and begged permission
to see the garden, even whole schools came
to visit it.
Outside the garden, close to the palings
beside the fieldpath, stood a huge thistle ;
it was very big and spread from the root in
several branches, so that it might be called
a thistle-bush. No one looked at it except
the old ass which drew the milk-cart. It
stretched out its neck to the thistle, and
said, ' You are lovely ! I could eat you ! '
but the halter was not long enough for the
ass to get near enough to eat it.
There was a great deal of company at the
manor-house- some very noble people from the
capital, young pretty girls, and amongst
them a young lady who came from a distance ;
she came from Scotland, was of high birth,
rich in lands and gold, a bride worth
winning, more than one young gentleman said,
and their mothers said the same thing.
The young people amused themselves on the
lawn and played croquet ; they walked about
amongst the flowers, and each of the young
girls picked a flower and put it in the
button-hole of one of the young gentlemen.
But the young Scottish lady looked round for
a long time, rejecting
one after the other ; none of the flowers
seemed to please her ; then she looked over
the paling, outside stood the great thistle
-bush with its strong, purple flowers ; she
saw it, she smiled and begged the son of the
house to pick one of them for her.
' It is the flower of Scotland ! ' said she,
' it blooms in the scutcheon of the country,
give it to me ! '
And he brought her the most beautiful of the
thistles, and pricked his fingers, as if it
were the most prickly rosebush that it grew
She fastened the thistle-flower in the
button-hole of the young man, and he felt
himself highly honoured. Each of the other
young men would willingly have given his own
beautiful flower to have worn the one given
by the Scottish girl's fair hand. And if the
son of the house felt himself
honoured, what did not the thistle-bush feel
? It seemed as if the dew and the sunshine
were going through it.
' I am something more than I thought ! ' it
said to itself. ' I really belong inside the
paling and not outside ! One is strangely
placed in the world ! but now I have one of
mine over the paling, and even in a
button-hole ! '
Every bud which came forth and unfolded was
told of this event, and not many days went
past before the thistlebush heard, not from
people, nor from the twittering of the birds,
but from the air itself, which preserves and
carries sound, from the most retired walks
of the garden and the
rooms of the house, where the doors and
windows stood open, that the young gentleman
who got the thistle-flower from the fair
Scottish girl's hand, had now got her hand
and heart as well. They were a handsome pair
it was a good match.
I have brought that about ! ' thought the
thistle -bush, and thought of the flower it
had given for a button-hole. Each flower
that opened heard of this occurrence.
I shall certainly be planted in the garden !
' thought the thistle ; ' perhaps put in a
pot which pinches : that is the greatest
honour of all ! '
And the thistle thought of this so strongly
that it said with full conviction, I shall
be put in a pot ! '
It promised every little thistle -flower
which opened that it also should be put in a
pot, perhaps in a button-hole the highest
honour that was to be attained ; but none of
them was put in a pot, to say nothing of a
button -hole ; they drank in the air and the
light, licked the sunshine by day and the
dew by night, bloomed, were visited by bees
and hornets which searched for the dowry,
the honey in the flowers, and they took the
honey and left the flower standing. ' The
thieving pack ! ' said the thistle, ' if I
could only stab them ! But I cannot ! '
The flowers hung their heads and faded, but
new ones came again.
' You come in good time ! ' said the thistle,
; every minute I expect to get across the
A few innocent daisies and narrow-leaved
plantains stood and listened with deep
admiration, and believed everything that was
The old ass of the milk-cart looked along
from the wayside to the thistle-bush, but
the halter was too short to reach it.
And the thistle thought so long of the
Scottish thistle to whose family it thought
it belonged, that at last it believed it
came from Scotland and that its parents had
been put into the national scutcheon. It was
a great thought, but great thistles can have
great thoughts !
' One is often of such a noble family, that
one dare not know it ! ' said the nettle,
which grew close by ; it also had an idea
that it might turn into nettle -cloth if it
were properly handled. And the summer passed
and the autumn passed ; the leaves fell off
the trees, the flowers got strong colours
and less scent. The gardener's apprentice
sang in the garden, across the fence :
Up the hill and down the hill,
That is all the
The young fir-trees in the wood began to
long for Christmas, but it was a long time
' Here I stand still ! ' said the thistle.
It seems as if no one thought about me, and
yet / have made the match ; they were
betrothed, and they held their wedding eight
days ago. I won't take a step, for I cannot.'
Some more weeks went past ; the thistle
stood with its last single flower, big and
full, it had shot up close by the root. The
wind blew cold over it, the colours went,
the splendour vanished, the calyx of the
flower, big as that of an artichoke bloom,
looked like a silver sunflower. Then the
young couple, now man and wife, came into
the garden ; they went along by the paling,
and the young wife looked across it.
' There stands the big thistle yet ! ' said
she ; now it has no more flowers !
' Yes, there is the ghost of the last one !
' said he, and pointed to the silvery
remains of the flower, itself a flower.
' It is lovely ! ' said she, ' such a one
must be carved round about the frame of our
picture ! '
And the young man had to climb the paling
again to break off the calyx of the thistle.
It pricked him in the fingers, he had called
it a ghost '. And it came into the garden,
into the house, and into the drawing-room ;
there stood a picture ' the young couple '.
In the bridegroom's button-hole was painted
a thistle. They talked about this and about
the thistle-flower they brought, the last
thistle- flower now gleaming like silver, a
copy of which was to be carved on the frame.
And the breeze carried what was said, away,
' What one can experience ! ' said the
thistle-bush. ' My firstborn was put in a
button-hole, my last in a frame ! Where
shall / go ? '
And the ass stood by the road-side and
looked long at the thistle.
' Come to me, my kitchen-love ! I cannot
come to you, the halter is not long enough !
But the thistle did not answer ; it became
more and more thoughtful ; it thought, and
it thought, right up to Christmas-time, and
then the thought came into flower:
' If one's children have got inside, a
mother can be content to stand outside the
fence ! '
That is an honourable thought ! ' said the
' You shall also get a good place ! '
' In a pot or in a frame ? ' asked the
' In a story ! ' said the sunbeam. And here
it is !