Who Was the Luckiest?
By Hans Christian Andersen
' What lovely roses ! ' said the sunshine. '
And every bud will unfold, and be equally
beautiful. They are my children ! I have
kissed them into life ! '
' They are my children!' said the dew. ' I
have suckled them with my tears.'
I should think that I am their mother ! '
said the rosehedge. ' You others are only
god-parents, who gave christening gifts,
according to your means and good will.'
' My lovely rose-children ! ' said all three
of them, and wished every blossom the
greatest luck, but only one could be the
luckiest, and one must be also the least
lucky ; but which of them ? '
' That I shall find out ! ' said the wind. '
I travel far and wide, force myself through
the narrowest chink ; I know about
everything outside and inside.'
Every blossomed rose heard what had been
said, every swelling bud caught it.
Then there came through the garden a
sorrowful, loving mother, dressed in black ;
she plucked one of the roses, which was just
half -blown, fresh and full ; it seemed to
her to be the most beautiful of them all.
She took the blossom into the quiet, silent
chamber, where only a few
days ago the young, happy daughter had
romped about, but now lay there, like a
sleeping marble figure, stretched out in the
black coffin. The mother kissed the dead
child, then kissed the half -blown rose, and
laid it on the breast of the young girl, as
if it by its freshness and a mother's kiss
could make the heart beat again.
It was as if the rose were swelling ; every
leaf quivered with delight at the thought, '
What a career of love was granted to me ! I
become like a child of man, receive a
mother's kiss and words of blessing, and go
into the unknown kingdom, dreaming on the
breast of the dead !
Assuredly I am the luckiest among all my
sisters ! ' In the garden, where the
rose-tree stood, walked the old
weeding-woman ; she also gazed at the glory
of the tree, and fixed her eyes on the
biggest full-blown rose. One drop of dew,
and one warm day more, and the leaves would
fall ; the woman saw that, and thought that
as it had fulfilled its mission of beauty,
now it should serve its purpose of
usefulness. And so she plucked it, and put
it in a newspaper ; it was to go home with
her to other leafstripped roses, and be
preserved with them and become pot-pourri,
to be mixed with the little blue boys which
are called lavender, and be embalmed with
salt. Only roses and kings are embalmed.
' I am the most honoured ! ' said the rose,
as the woman took it. 'I am the luckiest ! I
shall be embalmed ! '
There came into the garden two young men,
one was a painter, the other a poet ; each
of them plucked a rose, beautiful to behold.
And the painter made a picture of the rose
on canvas, so that it thought it saw itself
in a mirror.
'In that way ', said the painter, 'it shall
live for many generations, during which many
millions and millions of roses will wither
and die ! '
' I have been the most favoured ! I have won
the greatest happiness ! '
The poet gazed at his rose, and wrote a poem
about it, a whole mystery, all that he read,
leaf by leaf, in the rose. ' Love's
Picture-book ; ' it was an immortal poem.
* I am immortal with that/ said the rose, I
am the luckiest ! '
There was yet, amongst the display of roses,
one which was almost hidden by the others ;
accidentally, fortunately perhaps, it had a
blemish, it did not sit straight on its
stalk, and the leaves on one side did not
match those on the other ; and in the middle
of the rose itself, grew a little, deformed,
green leaf ; that happens with roses !
' Poor child ! ' said the wind, and kissed
it on the cheek.
The rose thought it was a greeting, a homage
; it had a feeling that it was a little
differently formed from the other roses,
that there grew a green leaf out of its
interior, and it looked upon that as a
distinction. A butterfly flew down upon it,
and kissed its leaves. This was a wooer ;
she let him fly away again. There came an
immensely big grasshopper ; he sat himself
certainly upon another rose, and rubbed his
shin-bone in amorous mood that is the sign
of love with grasshoppers. The rose he sat
qn did not understand it, but the rose with
the distinction did, for the grasshopper
looked at her with eyes which said, I could
eat you up out of sheer love ! ' and no
farther can love ever go ; then the one is
absorbed by the other ! But the rose would
not be absorbed by the jumper. The
nightingale sang in the clear starry night.
' It is for me alone ! ' said the rose with
the blemish or distinction. ' Why should I
thus in every respect be distinguished above
all my sisters ? Why did I get this
peculiarity, which makes me the luckiest ? '
Then two gentlemen smoking cigars came into
the garden ; they talked about roses and
about tobacco ; roses, it was said, could
not stand smoke, they lose their colour and
become green ; it was worth trying. They had
not the heart to take one of the very finest
roses, they took the one with the blemish.
' What a new distinction ! ' it said, ' I am
exceedingly lucky ! The very luckiest ! '
And it became green with self -consciousness
and tobacco smoke.
One rose, still half -blown, perhaps the
finest on the tree, got the place of honour
in the gardener's tastefully arranged
bouquet ; it was brought to the young,
lordly master of the house, and drove with
him in the carriage ; it sat as a flower of
beauty among other flowers and lovely green
leaves ; it went to a splendid gathering,
where men and women sat in fine attire
illuminated by a thousand lamps ; music
sounded ; it was in the sea of light which
filled the theatre ; and when amidst the
storm of applause the celebrated young
dancer fluttered forward on the stage,
bouquet after bouquet flew like a rain of
flowers before her feet. There fell the
bouquet in which the lovely rose sat like a
gem. It felt the fullness of its
indescribable good fortune, the honour and
splendour into which it floated ; and as it
touched the floor, it danced too, it sprang,
and flew along the boards, breaking its
stalk as it fell. It did not come into the
hands of the favourite, it rolled behind the
scenes, where a scene-shifter took it up,
saw how beautiful it was, how full of
fragrance it was, but there was no stalk on
it. So he put it in his pocket, and when he
went home in the evening it was in a
dram-glass, and lay there in water the whole
night. Early in the morning it was set
before the grandmother, who sat in her
armchair, old and frail. She looked at the
lovely broken rose, and rejoiced in its
beauty and its scent.
' Yes, you did not go to the rich and fine
lady's table, but to the poor old woman ;
but here you are like a whole rose-tree ;
how lovely you are ! '
And she looked with childlike delight at the
flower, and thought, no doubt, of her own
long -past youthful days.
' There was a hole in the pane,' said the
wind, I easily got in, and saw the old
woman's eyes, youthfully shining, and the
lovely, broken rose in the dram-glass. The
luckiest of all ! I know it ! I can tell it
Each rose on the tree had its story. Each
rose believed and thought itself to be the
luckiest, and faith makes blessed. The last
rose, however, was the luckiest of all, in
its own opinion.
' I outlived them all ! I am the last, the
only one, mother's dearest child ! '
' And I am the mother of them ! ' said the
' I am that ! ' said the sunshine.
' And I/ said wind and weather.
* Each has a share in them ! ' said the
wind, and each shall get a share in them ! '
and so the wind strewed the leaves out over
the hedge, where the dew-drops lay, where
the sun shone. I, also, will get my share/
said the wind. ' I got all the stories of
all the roses, which I will tell out
in the wide world ! Tell me now, which was
the luckiest of them all ? Yes, you must say
that ; I have said enough ! '