THE SNOW QUEEN
IN SEVEN STORIES
WHICH TREATS OF THE MIRROR AND FRAGMENTS
LOOK You, now we're going to begin. When we are at the end of the story we shall know more than we do now,for he was a bad goblin. He was one of the very worst, for he was the devil himself. One day he was in very high spirits, for he had made a mirror which had this peculiarity, that everything good and beautiful that was reflected in it shrank together into almost nothing, but that whatever was worthless and looked ugly became prominent and looked worse than ever. The most lovely landscapes seen in this mirror looked like boiled spinach, and the best people became hideous, or stood on their heads and had no stomachs; their faces were so distorted as to be unrecognizable,and a single freckle was shown spread out over nose and mouth.
That was very amusing, the devil said. When a good pious thought passed through any person's mind, there came a grin in the mirror, so that the devil chuckled at his artistic invention. Those who went to the goblin school----for he kept a goblin school----declared everywhere that a wonder had been wrought. For now, they asserted, one could see, for the first time, how the world and the people in it really looked. They ran about with the mirror, and at last there was not a single country or person that had not been distorted in it. Now they wanted to fly up to heaven,to sneer and scoff at the angels themselves. The higher they flew with the mirror, the more it grinned; they could scarcely hold it fast. They flew higher and higher, and then the mirror trembled so terribly amid its grinning that it fell down out of their hands to the earth, where it was shattered into a hundred million million and more fragments. And now this mirror occasioned much more unhappiness than before; for some of the fragments were scarcely so large as a barleycorn, and these flew about in the world, and whenever they flew into any one's eye they stuck there,and those people saw everything wrongly, or had only eyes for the bad side of a thing, for every little fragment of the mirror had retained the same power which the whole glass possessed. A few persons even got a fragment of the mirror into their hearts, and that was terrible indeed, for such a heart became a block of ice. A few fragments of the mirror were so large that they were used as windowpanes, but it was a bad thing to look at one's friends through these panes; other pieces were made into spectacles, and then it went badly when people put on these spectacles to see rightly and to be just; and the demon laughed till his paunch shook, for it tickled him so. But without, some little fragments of glass still floated about in the air----and now we shall hear.
A LITTLE BOY AND A LITTLE GIRL
IN the great town, where there are many houses and so many people that there is not room enough for every one to have a little garden, and where consequently most persons are compelled to be content with some flowers in flower-pots, were two poor children who possessed a garden somewhat larger than a flower-pot. They were not brother and sister, but they loved each other quite as much as if they had been. Their parents lived just opposite each other in two garrets, there where the roof of one neighbour's house joined that of another; and where the water-pipe ran between the two houses was a little window; one had only to step across the pipe to get from one window to the other.
The parents of each child had a great box, in which grew kitchen herbs that they used, and a little rose bush;there was one in each box, and they grew famously. Now, it occurred to the parents to place the boxes across the pipe, so that they reached from one window to another, and looked quite like two embankments of flowers. Pea plants hung down over the boxes, and the rose bushes shot forth long twigs, which clustered round the windows and bent down towards each other: it was almost like a triumphal arch of flowers and leaves. As the boxes were very high, and the children knew that they might not creep upon them, they often obtained permission to step out upon the roof behind the boxes, and to sit upon their little stools under the roses, and there they could play capitally.
In the winter there was an end of this amusement.The windows were sometimes quite frozen all over. But then they warmed copper farthings on the stove, and held the warm coins against the frozen pane; and this made a capital peep-hole, so round, so round! and behind it gleamed a pretty, mild eye at each window; and these eyes belonged to the little boy and the little girl. His name was Kay and the little girl's was Gerda.
In the summer they could get to one another at one bound; but in the winter they had to go down and up the long staircase, while the snow was pelting without.
“Those are the white bees swarming,”said the old grandmother.
“Have they a Queen-bee?”asked the little boy. For he knew that there is one among the real bees.
“Yes, they have one,”replied grandmamma. “She always flies where they swarm thickest. She is the largest of them all, and never remains quiet upon the earth; she flies up again into the black cloud. Many a midnight she is flying through the streets of the town, and looks in at the windows, and then they freeze in such a strange way, and look like flowers.”
“Yes, I've seen that!”cried both the children; and now they knew that it was true.
“Can the Snow Queen come in here?”asked the little girl.
“Only let her come,”cried the boy;“I'll set her upon the warm stove, and then she'll melt.”
But grandmother smoothed his hair, and told some other tales.
In the evening, when little Kay was at home and half undressed, he clambered upon the chair by the window, and looked through the little hole. A few flakes of snow were falling outside, and one of them, the largest of them all, remained lying on the edge of one of the flower-boxes. The snowflake grew larger and larger, and at last became a maiden clothed in the finest white gauze, made out of millions of starry flakes. She was beautiful and delicate, but of ice----of shining, glittering ice. Yet she was alive; her eyes flashed like two clear stars, but there was no peace or rest in them. She nodded towards the window, and beckoned with her hand. The little boy was frightened, and sprang down from the chair; then it seemed as if a great bird flew by outside, in front of the window.
Next day there was a clear frost, then there was a thaw, and then the spring came; the sun shone, the green sprouted forth, the swallows built nests, the windows were opened, and the little children again sat in their garden high up in the roof, over all the floors.
How splendidly the roses bloomed this summer! The little girl had learned a psalm, in which mention was made of roses; and, in speaking of roses, she thought of her own; and she sang it to the little boy, and he sang, too----
The roses in the ualleys grow
Where we the infant Christ shall know.
And the little ones held each other by the hand, kissed the roses, looked at God's bright sunshine, and spoke to it, as if the Christ-child were there. What splendid summer days those were! How beautiful it was without, among the fresh rose bushes, which seemed as if they would never leave off blooming!
Kay and Gerda sat and looked at the picture-book of beasts and birds. Then it was, while the clock was just striking five on the church tower, that Kay said,
“Oh! something struck my heart and pricked me in the eye.”
The little girl fell upon his neck; he blinked his eyes. No, there was nothing at all to be seen.
“I think it is gone,”said he; but it was not gone.It was just one of those glass fragments which sprang from the mirror----the magic mirror that we remember well, the ugly glass that made everything great and good which was mirrored in it to seem small and mean, but in which the mean and the wicked things were brought out in relief, and every fault was noticeable at once.Poor little Kay had also received a splinter just in his heart, and that will now soon become like a lump of ice. It did not hurt him now, but the splinter was still there.
“Why do you cry? he asked.“You look ugly like that.There's nothing the matter with me. Oh, fie!”he suddenly exclaimed, “that rose is worm-eaten,and this one is quite crooked. After all, they're ugly roses. They're like the box in which they stand.”
And then he kicked the box with his foot, and tore both the roses off.
“Kay, what are you about?”cried the little girl.
And when he noticed her fright he tore off another rose, and then sprang in at his own window, away from pretty little Gerda.
When she afterwards came with her picture-book,he said it was only fit for babies in arms; and when grandmother told stories he always came in with a but; and when he could manage it, he would get behind her, put on a pair of spectacles, and talk just as she did; he could do that very cleverly, and the people laughed at him. Soon he could mimic the speech and the gait of everybody in the street. Everything that was peculiar or ugly about them Kay could imitate; and people said, “That boy must certainly have a remarkable head.” But it was the glass he had got in his eye, the glass that stuck deep in his heart; so it happened that he even teased little Gerda, who loved him with all her heart.
His games now became quite different from what they were before; they became quite sensible. One winter's day when it snowed he came out with a great burning-glass, held up the blue tail of his coat, and let the snowflakes fall upon it.
“Now look at the glass, Gerda,”said he.
And every flake of snow was magnified, and looked like a splendid flower, or a star with ten points: it was beautiful to behold.
“See how clever that is,”said Kay.“That's much more interesting than real flowers; and there is not a single fault in it----they're quite regular until they begin to melt.”
Soon after Kay came in thick gloves, and with his sledge upon his back. He called up to Gerda,“I've got leave to go into the great square, where the other boys play,”and he was gone.
In the great square the boldest among the boys often tied their sledges to the country people's carts, and thus rode with them a good way. They went capitally. When they were in the midst of their playing there came a great sledge. It was painted quite white, and in it sat somebody wrapped in a rough white fur, and with a white rough cap on his head. The sledge drove twice round the square,and Kay bound his little sledge to it, and so he drove on with it. It went faster and faster, straight into the next street. The man who drove turned round and nodded in a friendly way to Kay; it was as if they knew one another: each time when Kay wanted to cast loose his little sledge,the stranger nodded again, and then Kay remained where he was, and thus they drove out at the town gate. Then the snow began to fall so rapidly that the boy could not see a hand's breadth before him, but still he drove on.Now he hastily dropped the cord, so as to get loose from the great sledge, but that was no use, for his sledge was fast bound to the other, and they went on like the wind.Then he called out quite loudly, but nobody heard him;and the snow beat down, and the sledge flew onward; every now and then it gave a jump, and they seemed to be flying over hedges and ditches. The boy was quite frightened. He wanted to say his prayers, but could remember nothing but the multiplication table.
The snowflakes became larger and larger, at last they looked like great white fowls. All at once they sprang aside and the great sledge stopped, and the person who had driven it rose up. The fur and the cap were made altogether of ice. It was a lady, tall and slender, and brilliantly white: it was the Snow Queen.
“We have driven well!”said she.“But why do you tremble with cold? Creep into my fur.”
And she seated him beside her in her own sledge,and wrapped the fur round him, and he felt as if he sank into a snow-drift.
“Are you still cold?”asked she, and then she kissed him on the forehead.
Oh, that was colder than ice; it went quite through to his heart, half of which was already a lump of ice: he felt as if he were going to die; but only for a moment; for then he seemed quite well, and he did not notice the cold all about him.
“My sledge! don't forget my sledge.”
That was the first thing he thought of; and it was bound fast to one of the white chickens, and this chicken flew behind him with the sledge upon its back. The Snow Queen kissed Kay again, and then he had forgotten little Gerda, his grandmother, and all at home.
“Now you shall have no more kisses,”said she,“for if you did I should kiss you to death.”
Kay looked at her. She was so beautiful, he could not imagine a more sensible or lovely face; she did not appear to him to be made of ice now as before, when she sat at the window and beckoned to him. In his eyes she was perfact; he did not feel at all afraid. He told her that he could do mental arithmetic as far as fractions, that he knew the number of square miles, and the number of inhabitants in the country. And she always smiled, and then it seemed to him that what he knew was not enough, and he looked up into the wide sky, and she flew with him high up upon the black cloud, and the storm blew and whistled; it seemed as though the wind sang old songs. They flew over woods and lakes, over sea and land: below them roared the cold wind, the wolves howled, the snow crackled; over them flew the black screaming crows; but above all the moon shone bright and clear, and Kay looked at the long, long winter night; by day he slept at the feet of the Queen.
THE FLOWER GARDEN OF THE
WOMAN WHO COULD CONJURE
BUT how did it fare with little Gerda when Kay did not return? What could have become of him? No one knew, no one could give information. The boys only told that they had seen him bind his sledge to another very large one, which had driven along the street and out at the town gate. Nobody knew what had become of him; many tears were shed, and little Gerda especially wept long and bitterly: then they said he was dead----he had been drowned in the river which flowed close by their town. Oh, those were very dark long winter days!
But now spring came, with warmer sunshine.
“Kay is dead and gone,”said little Gerda.
“I don't believe it,”said the Sunshine.
“He is dead and gone,”said she to the Swallows.
“We don't believe it,”they replied; and at last little Gerda did not believe it herself.
“I will put on my new red shoes,”she said one morning,“those that Kay has never seen; and then I will go down to the river, and ask for him.”
It was still very early; she kissed the old grandmother, who was still asleep, put on her red shoes, and went quite alone out of the town gate towards the river.
“Is it true that you have taken away my little playmate from me? I will give you my red shoes if you will give him back to me!”
And it seemed to her as if the waves nodded quite strangely; and then she took her red shoes, that she liked best of anything she possessed, and threw them both into the river; but they fell close to the shore, and the little wavelets carried them back to her, to the land. It seemed as if the river would not take from her the dearest things she possessed because it had not her little Kay; but she thought she had not thrown the shoes far enough out; so she crept into a boat that lay among the reeds; she went to the other end of the boat, and threw the shoes from thence into the water; but the boat was not bound fast, and at the movement she made it glided away from the shore. She noticed it, and hurried to get back, but before she reached the other end the boat was a yard from the bank, and it drifted away faster than before.
Then little Gerda was very much frightened, and be gan to cry; but no one heard her except the Sparrows, and they could not carry her to land; but they flew along by the shore, and sang, as if to console her,“Here we are! here we are!”The boat drove on with the stream, and little Gerda sat quite still, with only her stockings on her feet;her little red shoes floated along behind her, but they could not come up to the boat, for that made more way.
It was very pretty on both shores. There were beautiful flowers, old trees, and slopes with sheep and cows; but not one person was to be seen.
“Perhaps the river will carry me to little Kay,”thought Gerda.
And then she became more cheerful, and rose up,and for many hours she watched the charming green banks; then she came to a great cherry orchard, in which stood a little house with remarkable blue and red windows; it had a thatched roof, and without stood two wooden soldiers, who presented arms to those who sailed past.
Gerda called to them, for she thought they were alive, but of course they did not answer. She came quite close to them; the river carried the boat towards the shore.
Gerda called still louder, and then there came out of the house an old, old woman leaning on a crutch: she had on a great sun-hat, painted over with the finest flowers.
“You poor little child!”said the old woman, “how did you manage to come on the great rolling river, and to float thus far out into the world?”
And then the old woman went quite into the water, seized the boat with her crutch-stick, drew it to land, and lifted little Gerda out. And Gerda was glad to be on dry land again, though she felt a little afraid of the strange old woman.
“Come and tell me who you are, and how you came here,”said the old lady. And Gerda told her everything; and the old woman shook her head, and said,“Hem! hem!”And when Gerda had told everything, and asked if she had not seen little Kay, the woman said that he had not yet come by, but that he probably would soon come.Gerda was not to be sorrowful, but to look at the flowers and taste the cherries, for they were better than any picture-book, for each one of them could tell a story. Then she took Gerda by the hand and led her into the little house, and the old woman locked the door.
The windows were very high, and the panes were red, blue, and yellow; the daylight shone in a remarkable way, with different colours. On the table stood the finest cherries, and Gerda ate as many of them as she liked, for she had leave to do so. While she was eating them, the old lady combed her hair with a golden comb, and the hair hung in ringlets of pretty yellow round the friendly little face, which looked as blooming as a rose.
“I have long wished for such a dear little girl as you,”said the old lady.“Now you shall see how well we shall live with one another.”
And as the ancient dame combed her hair, Gerda forgot her adopted brother Kay more and more; for this old woman could conjure, but she was not a wicked witch. She only practised a little magic for her own amusement, and wanted to keep little Gerda. Therefore she went into the garden, stretched out her crutch towards all the rosebushes, and, beautiful as they were, they all sank into the earth, and one could not tell where they had stood. The old woman was afraid that if the little girl saw roses, she would think of her own, and remember little Kay, and run away.
Now Gerda was led out into the flower-garden. What fragrance was there, and what loveliness! Every conceivable flower was there in full bloom; there were some for every season: no picture-book could be gayer and prettier.Gerda jumped high for joy, and played till the sun went down behind the high cherry-trees; then she was put into a lovely bed with red silk pillows stuffed with blue violets,and she slept there, and dreamed as gloriously as a Queen on her wedding-day.
One day she played again with the flowers in the warm sunshine; and thus many days went by. Gerda knew every flower; but, as many as there were of them, it still seemed to her as if one were wanting, but which one she did not know. One day she sat looking at the old lady's hat with the painted flowers, and the prettiest of them all was a rose. The old lady had forgotten to take it out of her hat when she caused the others to disappear. But so it always is when one does not keep one's wits about one.
“What, are there no roses here?”cried Gerda.
And she went among the beds, and searched and searched, but there was not one to be found. Then she sat down and wept: her tears fell just upon a spot where a rose-bush lay buried, and when the warm tears moistened the earth, the bush at once sprouted up as blooming as when it had sunk; and Gerda embraced it, and kissed the Roses, and thought of the beautiful roses at home, and also of little Kay.
“Oh, how I have been detained!”said the little girl.“I wanted to seek for little Kay! Do you not know where he is?”she asked the Roses.“Do you think he is dead?”
“He is not dead,”the Roses answered.“We have been in the ground. All the dead people are there, but Kay is not there.”
“Thank You, said little Gerda; and she went to the other flowers, looked into their cups, and asked,“Do you not know where little Kay is?”
But every flower stood in the sun thinking only of her own story or fairy tale: Gerda heard many, many of them;but not one knew anything of Kay.
And what did the Tiger-Lily say?
“Do you hear the drum‘Rub-dub’? There are only two notes, always‘rub-dub!’Hear the mourning song of the women, hear the call of the priests. The Hindoo widow stands in her long red mantle on the funeral pile;the flames rise up around her and her dead husband; but the Hindoo woman is thinking of the living one here in the circle, of him whose eyes burn hotter than flames, whose fiery glances have burned in her soul more ardently than the flames themselves, which are soon to burn her body to ashes. Can the flame of the heart die in the flame of the funeral pile?”
“I don't understand that at all!”said little Gerda.
“That's my story,”said the Lily.
What says the Convolvulus?
“Over the narrow road looms an old knightly castle: thickly the ivy grows over the crumbling red walls, leaf by leaf up to the balcony, and there stands a beautiful girl; she bends over the balustrade and looks down at the road.No rose on its branch is fresher than she; no apple blossom wafted onward by the wind floats more lightly along. How her costly silks rustle!‘Come she not yet?’”
“Is it Kay whom you mean?”asked little Gerda.
“I'm only speaking of my own story----my dream,”replied the Convolvulus.
What said the little Snowdrop?
“Between the trees a long board hangs by ropes; that is a swing. Two pretty little girls, with clothes white as snow and long green silk ribbons on their hats, are sitting upon it, swinging; their brother, who is greater than they,stands in the swing, and has slung his arm round the rope to hold himself, for in one hand he has a little saucer,and in the other a clay pipe; he is blowing bubbles. The swing flies, and the bubbles rise with beautiful changing colours; the last still hangs from the pipe-bowl, swaying in the wind. The swing flies on: the little black dog, light as the bubbles, stands up on his hind legs and wants to be taken into the swing; it flies on, and the dog falls, barks,and grows angry, for he is teased, and the bubble bursts.A swinging board and a bursting bubble----that is my song.”
“It may be very pretty, what you're telling, but you speak it so mournfully, and you don't mention little Kay at all.”
What do the Hyacinths say?
“There were three beautiful sisters, transparent and delicate. The dress of one was red, that of the second blue, and that of the third quite white; hand in hand they danced by the calm lake in the bright moonlight.They were not elves, they were human beings. It was so sweet and fragrant there! The girls disappeared in the forest, and the sweet fragrance became stronger: three coffins, with the three beautiful maidens lying in them,glided from the wood-thicket across the lake; the glowworms flew gleaming about them like little hovering lights.Are the dancing girls sleeping, or are they dead? The flower-scent says they are dead and the evening bell tolls their knell.”
“You make me quite sorrowful,”said little Gerda.“You scent so strongly, I cannot help thinking of the dead maidens. Ah! Is little Kay really dead? The roses have been down in the earth, and they say no.”
“Kling! klang!”tolled the Hyacinth Bells.“We are not tolling for little Kay----we don't know him; we only sing our song, the only one we know.”
And Gerda went to the Buttercup, gleaming forth from the green leaves.
“You are a little bright sun,”said Gerda.“Tell me, if you know, where I may find my companion.”
And the Buttercup shone so gaily, and looked back at Gerda. What song might the Buttercup sing? It was not about Kay.
“In a little courtyard the clear sun shone warm on the first day of spring. The sunbeams glided down the white wall of the neighbouring house; close by grew the first yellow flower, glancing like gold in the bright sun's ray. The old grandmother sat out of doors in her chair; her granddaughter, a poor handsome maidservant,was coming home for a short visit: she kissed her grandmother. There was gold, heart's gold, in that blessed kiss, gold in the mouth, gold in the south, gold in the morning hour. See, that's my little story,”said the Buttercup.
“My poor old grandmother!”sighed Gerda.“Yes,she is surely longing for me and grieving for me, just as she did for little Kay. But I shall soon go home and take Kay with me. There is no use of my asking the flowers,they only know their own song, and give me no information.”And then she tied her little frock round her, that she might run the faster; but the Jonquil struck against her leg as she sprang over it, and she stopped to look at the tall yellow flower, and asked,“Do you, perhaps, know anything of little Kay?”
And she bent quite down to the flower, and what did it say?
“I can see myself! I can see myself!”said the Jonquil.“Oh! oh! how I smell! Up in the little room in the gable stands a little dancing girl: she stands sometimes on one foot, sometimes on both; she seems to tread on all the world. She's nothing but an ocular delusion: she pours water out of a teapot on a bit of stuff----it is her bodice.‘Cleanliness is a fine thing,’she says; her white frock hangs on a hook; it has been washed in the teapot too, and dried on the roof: she puts it on and ties her saffron handkerchief round her neck, and the dress looks all the whiter. Point your toes! Look how she seems to stand on a stalk. I can see myself! I can see myself!”
“I don't care at all about that,”said Gerda.“That is nothing to tell me about.”
And then she ran to the end of the garden. The door was locked, but she pressed against the rusty lock, and it broke off, the door sprang open, and little Gerda ran with naked feet out into the wide world. She looked back three times, but no one was there to pursue her; at last she could run no longer, and seated herself on a great stone,and when she looked round the summer was oven----it was late in autumn: one could not notice that in the beautiful garden, where there was always sunshine, and the flowers of every season always bloomed.
“Alas! how I have loitered!”said little Gerda.“Autumn has come. I may not rest again.”
And she rose up to go on. Oh! how sore and tired her little feet were. All around it looked cold and bleak; the long willow leaves were quite yellow, and the mist dropped from them like water; one leaf after another dropped; only the sloe-thorn still bore fruit, but the sloes were sour, and set the teeth on edge. Oh! how grey and gloomy it looked, the wide world!
THE PRINCE AND PRINCESS
GERDA was compelled to rest again; then there came hopping across the snow, just opposite the spot where she was sitting, a great Crow. This Crow had long been sitting looking at her, nodding its head----now it said,“Krah! krah! Good day! good day!”It could not pronounce better, but it felt friendly towards the little girl, and asked where she was going all alone in the wide world. The word“alone”Gerda understood very well, and felt how much it expressed; and she told the Crow the whole story of her life and fortunes, and asked if it had not seen Kay.
And the Crow nodded very gravely, and said,
“That may be! that may be!”
“What, do you think so?”cried the little girl, and nearly pressed the Crow to death, she kissed it so.
“Gently, gently!”said the Crow.“I think I know: I believe it may be little Kay, but he has certainly forgotten you, with the Princess.”
“Does he live with a Princess?”asked Gerda.
“Yes; listen,”said the Crow.“But it's so difficult for me to speak your language. If you know the Crows' Language, I can tell it much better.”
“No, I never learned it,”said Gerda;“but my grand mother understood it, and could speak the language too. I only wish I had learned it.”
“That doesn't matter,”said the Crow.“I shall tell you as well as I can.”
And then the Crow told what it knew.
“In the country in which we now are, lives a Princess who is quite wonderfully clever, but then she has read all the newspapers in the world, and has forgotten them again, she is so clever. Lately she was sitting on the throne----and that's not so pleasant as is generally supposed----and she began to sing a song, and it was just this, ‘Why should I not marry now?’You see, there was something in that,”said the Crow.“And so she wanted to marly, but she wished for a husband who could answer when he was spoken to, not one who only stood and looked handsome, for that is so tiresome. And so she had all her maids of honour summoned, and when they heard her intention they were very glad.‘I like that,’said they;‘I thought the very same thing the other day.’You may be sure that every word I am telling you is true,”added the Crow.“I have a tame sweetheart who goes about freely in the castle, and she told me everything.”
Of course the sweetheart was a crow, for one crow always finds out another, and birds of a feather flock together.
“Newspapers were published directly, with a border of hearts and the Princess's initials. One could read in them that every young man who was good-looking might come to the castle and speak with the Princess, and him who spoke so that one could hear he was at home there, and who spoke best, the Princess would choose for her husband. Yes, yes,”said the Crow,“you may believe me. It's as true as I sit here. Young men came flocking in; there was a great crowding and much running to and fro, but no one succeeded the first or second day. They could all speak well when they were out in the streets, but when they entered at the palace gates, and saw the guards standing in their silver lace, and went up the staircase, and saw the lackeys in their golden liveries, and the great lighted halls, they became confused. And when they stood before the throne itself, on which the Princess sat, they could do nothing but repeat the last word she had spoken, and she did not care to hear her own words again. It was just as if the people in there had taken some narcotic and fallen asleep, till they got into the street again, for not till then were they able to speak. There stood a whole row of them, from the town gate to the palace gate. I went in myself to see it,”said the Crow.“They were hungry and thirsty, but in the palace they did not receive so much as a glass of lukewarm water. A few of the wisest had brought bread and butter with them, but they would not share with their neighbours, for they thought,‘Let him look hungry, and the Princess won't have him.’”
“But Kay, little Kay?”asked Gerda.“When did he come? Was he among the crowd?”
“Wait, wait! We're just coming to him. It was on the third day that there came a little personage, without horse or carriage, walking quite merrily up to the castle;his eyes sparkled like yours, he had fine long hair, but his clothes were shabby.”
“That was Kay!”cried Gerda, rejoicingly. “Oh, then I have found him!”And she clapped her hands.
“He had a little knapsack on his back,”observed the Crow.
“No, that must certainly have been his sledge,”said Gerda,“for he went away with a sledge.”
“That may well be,”said the Crow,“for I did not look to it very closely. But this much I know from my tame sweetheart, that when he passed under the palace gate and saw the Life Guards in silver, and mounted the stair case and saw the lackeys in gold, he was not in the least embarrassed. He nodded, and said to them, ‘It must be tedious work standing on the stairs----I'd rather go in’The halls shone full of lights; privy councillors and Excellencies walked about with bare feet, and carried golden vessels; any one might have become solemn; and his boots creaked most noisily, but he was not embarrassed.”
“That is certainly Kay!” cried Gerda. “He had new boots on; I've heard them creak in grandmother's room.”
“Yes, certainly they creaked,”resumed the Crow.“And he went boldly in to the Princess herself, who sat on a pearl that was as big as a spinning-wheel; and all the maids of honour with their attendants, and the attendants' attendants, and all the cavaliers with their followers, and the followers of their followers, who themselves kept a page apiece, were standing round; and the nearer they stood to the door, the prouder they looked. 'The followers' followers' pages, who always went in slippers, could hardly be looked at, so proudly did they stand in the doorway!”
“That must be terrible!” faltered little Gerda. “And yet Kay won he Princess?”
“If I had not been a crow, I would have married her myself, notwithstanding that I am engaged. They say he spoke as well as I can when I speak the crows' language; I heard that from my tame sweet-heart. He was merry and agreeable; he had not come to woo, but only to hear the wisdom of the Princess; and he approved of her, and she of him.”
“Yes, certainly that was Kay!”said Gerda.“He was so clever, he could do mental arithmetic cup to fractions.Oh! won't you lead me to the castle too?”
“That's easily said,”replied the Crow.“But how are we to manage it? I'll talk it over with my tame sweet heart; she can probably advise us; for this I must tell you----a little girl like yourself will never get leave to go quite in.”
“Yes, I shall get leave,”said Gerda.“When Kay hears that I'm there he'll come out directly, and bring me in.”
“Wait for me yonder at the stile,”said the Crow; and it wagged its head and flew away.
It was already late in the evening when the Crow came back.
“Rare! Rare!”it said.“I'm to greet you kindly from my sweetheart, and here's a little loaf for You. She took it from the kitchen. There's plenty of bread there, and you must be hungry. You can't possibly get into the palace, for you are barefoot, and the guards in silver and the lackeys in gold would not allow it. But don't cry; you shall go up. My sweetheart knows a little back staircase that leads up to the bedroom, and she knows where she can get the key.”
And they went into the garden, into the great avenue,where one leaf was falling down after another; and when the lights were extinguished in the palace one after the other, the Crow led Gerda to a back door, which stood ajar.
Oh, how Gerda's heart beat with fear and longing! It was just as if she had been going to do something wicked;and yet she only wanted to know if it was little Kay. Yes,it must be he. She thought so deeply of his clear eyes and his long hair, she could fancy she saw how he smiled as he had smiled at home when they sat among the roses. He would certainly be glad to see her; to hear what a long distance she had come for his sake; to know how sorry they had all been at home when he did not come back. Oh, what a fear and what a joy that was!
Now they were on the staircase. A little lamp was burning upon a cupboard, and in the middle of the floor stood the tame Crow turning her head on every side and looking at Gerda, who curtsied as her grandmother had taught her to do.
“My betrothed has spoken to me very favourably of you, my little lady,”said the tame Crow.“Your history,as it may be called, is very moving. Will you take the lamp? then I will precede you. We will go the straight way, for we shall meet nobody.”
“I feel as if some one were coming after us,”said Gerda, as something rushed by her: it seemed like shadows on the wall; horses with flying manes and thin legs, hunters, and ladies and gentlemen on horseback.
“These are only dreams,”said the Crow; “they are coming to carry the high masters thoughts out hunting. That's all the better, for you may look at them the more closely, in bed. But I hope,when you come to honour and dignity, you will show a grateful heart.”
“Of that we may be sure!”observed the Crow from the wood.
Now they came into the first hall: it was hung with rose-coloured satin, and artificial flowers were worked on the walls; and here the dreams already came flitting by them, but they moved so quickly that Gerda could not see the high-born lords and ladies. Each hall was more splendid than the last; yes, one could almost become bewildered! Now they were in the bedchamber. Here the ceiling was like a great palm-tree with leaves of glass, of costly glass, and in the middle of the floor two beds hung on a thick stalk of gold, and each of them looked like a lily.One of them was white, and in that lay the Princess; the other was red, and in that Gerda was to seek little Kay. She bent one of the red leaves aside, and then she saw a little brown neck. Oh, that was Kay! She called out his name quite loud,and held the lamp towards him. The dreams rushed into the room again on horseback----he awoke,turned his head and----it was not little Kay!
The prince was only like him in the neck; but he was young and good-looking, and the Princess looked up, blinking,from the white lily,and asked who was there. Then little Gerda wept, and told her whole history, and all that the Crows had done for her.
“You poor child!”said the Prince and Princess.
And they praised the Crows, and said that they were not angry with them at all, but the Crows were not to do it again. However, they should be rewarded.
“Will you fly out free?”asked the Princess,“or will you have fixed positions as court crows, with the right to everything that is left in the kitchen?”
And the two Crows bowed, and begged for fixed positions, for they thought of their old age, and said,“It is so good to have some provisions for one's old days, as they called them.”
And the Prince got up out of his bed, and let Gerda sleep in it, and he could not do more than that. She folded her little hands, and thought,“How good men and animals are!”and then she shut her eyes and went quietly to sleep.All the dreams came flying in again, looking like angels, and they drew a little sledge, on which Kay sat nodding;but all this was only a dream, and therefore it was gone again as soon as she awoke.
The next day she was clothed from head to foot in silk and velvet; and an offer was made her that she should stay in the castle and enjoy pleasant times; but she only begged for a little carriage, with a horse to draw it, and a pair of little boots; then she would drive out into the world and seek for Kay.
And she received not only boots, but a muff likewise,and was neatly dressed; and when she was ready to depart a coach made of pure gold stopped before the door. Upon it shone like a star the coat of arms of the Prince and Princess; coachman, footmen, and outriders----for there were outriders too----sat on horseback with gold crowns on their heads. The Prince and Princess themselves helped her into the carriage, and wished her all good fortune. The forest Crow, who was now married, accompanied her the first three miles; he sat by Gerda's side, for he could not bear riding backwards: the other Crow stood in the doorway flapping her wings; she did not go with them, for she suffered from headache, that had come on since she had obtained a fixed position and was allowed to eat too much. The coach was lined with sugar-biscuits, and in the seat there were gingerbread-nuts and fruit.
“Farewell, farewell!”cried the Prince and Princess;and little Gerda wept, and the Crow wept. So they went on for the first three miles; and then the Crow said good-bye,and that was the heaviest parting of all. The Crow flew up on a tree, and beat his black wings as long as he could see the coach, which glittered like the bright sunshine.
THE LITTLE ROBBER GIRL
THEY drove on through the thick forest, but the coach gleamed like a torch, dazzling the robbers' eyes, so that they could not bear it.
“That is gold! that is gold!”cried they, and rushed forward, and seized the horses, killed the postilions, the coachman, and the footmen, and then pulled little Gerda out of the carriage.
“She is fat----she is pretty----she is fed with nut-kernels!”said the old robber woman, who had a very long stiff beard, and shaggy eyebrows that hung down over her eyes.“She's as good as a little pet lamb; how I shall relish her!”
And she drew out her shining knife, that gleamed in a horrible way.
“Oh!”screamed the old woman at the same moment;for her own daughter who hung at her back bit her ear in a very naughty and spiteful manner.“You ugly brat!”screamed the old woman; and she had not time to kill Gerda.
“She shall play with me!”said the little robber girl.“She shall give me her muff and her pretty dress, and sleep with me in my bed!”
And then the girl gave another bite, so that the woman jumped high up, and turned right round, and all the robbers laughed, and said,
“Look how she dances with her calf.”
“I want to go into the carriage,”said the little robber girl.
And she would have her own way, for she was spoiled, and very obstinate; and she and Gerda sat in the carriage, and drove over stock and stone deep into the forest. The little robber girl was as big as Gerda. but stronger and more broad-shouldered; and she had a brown skin; her eyes were quite black, and they looked almost mournful.She clasped little Gerda round the waist, and said,
“They shall not kill you as long as I am not angry with you. I suppose you are a Princess?”
“No,”replied Gerda. And she told all that had happened to her, and how fond she was of little Kay.
The robber girl looked at her seriously, nodded slightly, and said,
“They shall not kill you even if I do get angry with you, for then I will do it myself.”
And then she dried Gerda's eyes, and put her two hands into the beautiful muff that was so soft and warm.
Now the coach stopped, and they were in the courtyard of a robber castle. It had split from the top to the bottom; ravens and crows flew out of the great holes, and big bulldogs----each of which looked as if he could devour a man----jumped high up, but they did not bark, for that was forbidden.
In the great old smoky hall a bright fire burned upon the stone floor; the smoke passed along under the ceiling, and had to seek an exit for itself. A great cauldron of soup was boiling and hares and rabbits were roasting on the spit.
“You shall sleep tonight with me and all my little animals,”said the robber girl.
They got something to eat and drink, and then went to a corner, where straw and carpets were spread out. Above these sat on laths and perches more than a hundred pigeons, that all seemed asleep, but they turned a little when the two little girls came.
“All these belong to me,”said the little robber girl;and she quickly seized one of the nearest, held it by the feet, and shook it so that it flapped its wings.“Kiss it!”she cried, and beat it in Gerda's face.“There sit the wood rascals,”she continued, pointing to a number of laths that had been nailed in front of a hole in the wall.“Those are wood rascals, those two; they fly away directly if one does not keep them well locked up. And here's my old sweetheart‘Ba’.”And she pulled out by the horn a Reindeer, that was tied up, and had a polished copper ring round its neck.“We're obliged to keep him tight too, or he'd run away from us. Every evening I tickle his neck with a sharp knife, and he's very frightened at that.”
And the little girl drew a long knife from a cleft in the wall, and let it glide over the Reindeer's neck; the poor creature kicked out its legs, and the little robber girl laughed, and drew Gerda into bed with her.“Do you keep the knife beside you while you're asleep?”asked Gerda, and looked at it in rather a frightened way.
“I always sleep with my knife,”replied the robber girl.“One does not know what may happen. But now tell me again what you told me just now about little Kay, and why you came out into the wide world.”
And Gerda told it again from the beginning; and the Wood Pigeons cooed above them in their cage, and the other pigeons slept. The little robber girl put her arm round Gerda's neck, held her knife in the other hand, and slept so that one could hear her; but Gerda could not close her eyes at all----she did not know whether she was to live or die.
The robbers sat round the fire, singing and drinking,and the old robber woman tumbled about. It was quite terrible for a little girl to behold.
Then the Wood Pigeons said,“Coo! coo! we have seen little Kay. A white hen was carrying his sledge: he sat in the Snow Queen's carriage, which drove close by the forest as we lay in our nests. She blew upon us young pigeons, and all died except us two. Coo! coo!”
“What are you saying there?”asked Gerda.“Whither was the Snow Queen travelling? Do you know anything about it?”
“She was probably journeying to Lapland, for there they have always ice and snow. Ask the Reindeer that is tied up with the cord.”
“There is ice and snow yonder, and it is glorious and fine,”said the Reindeer.“There one may run about free in great glittering plains. There the Snow Queen has her summer tent; but her strong castle is up towards the North Pole. on the island that's called Spitzbergen.”
“Oh, Kay, little Kay!”cried Gerda.
“You must lie still,”exclaimed the robber girl,“or I shall thrust my knife into your body.”
In the morning Gerda told her all that the Wood Pigeons had said, and the robber girl looked quite serious,and nodded her head and said,
“That's all the same, that's all the same!”
“Do you know where Lapland is?”she asked the Reindeer.
“Who should know better than I?”the creature replied, and its eyes sparkled in its head.“I was born and bred there; I ran about there in the snow-fields.”
“Listen!”said the robber girl to Gerda.“You see all our men have gone away. Only mother is here still,and she'll stay; but towards noon she drinks out of the big bottle, and then she sleeps for a little while; then I'll do something for you.”
Then she sprang out of bed, and clasped her mother round the neck and pulled her beard, crying
“Good morning, my own old nanny-goat.”And her mother filliped her nose till it was red and blue; but it was all done for pure love.
When the mother had drunk out of her bottle and had gone to sleep upon it, the robber girl went to the Reindeer, and said,
“I should like very much to tickle you a few times more with the knife, for you are very funny then; but it's all the same. I'll loosen your cord and help you out,so that you may run to Lapland; but you must use your legs well, and carry this little girl to the palace of the Snow Queen, where her playfellow is. You've heard what she told me, for she spoke loud enough, and you were listening.”
The Reindeer sprang up high for joy. The robber girl lifted little Gerda on its back, and had the forethought to tie her fast, and even to give her a little cushion as a saddle.
“There are your fur boots for you,”she said,“for it's growing cold; but I shall keep the muff, for that's so very pretty. Still, you shall not be cold, for all that:here's my mother's big mufflers----they'll just reach up to your elbows. Now your hands look just like my ugly mother's.”
And Gerda wept for joy.
“I can't bear to see you whimper,”said the little robber girl.“No, you just ought to look very glad. And here are two loaves and a ham for you, so you won't be hungry.”
These were tied on the Reindeer's back. The little robber girl opened the door, coaxed in all the big dogs, and then cut the rope with her sharp knife, and said to the Reindeer,“Now run, but take good care of the little girl.”
And Gerda stretched out her hands with the big mufflers towards the little robber girl, and said,“Farewell!”And the Reindeer ran over stock and stone, away through the great forest, over marshes and steppes, as quick as it could go. The wolves howled and the ravens croaked.“Hiss! hiss!”it went in the air. It seemed as if the sky were flashing fire.
“Those are my old Northern Lights,”said the Reindeer.“Look how they glow!”And then it ran on faster than ever, day and night.
The loaves were eaten, and the ham as well, and then they were in Lapland.
THE LAPLAND WOMAN AND
THE FINLAND WOMAN
AT a little hut they stopped. It was very humble; the roof sloped down almost to the ground, and the door was so low that the family had to creep on their stomachs when they wanted to go in or out. No one was in the house but an old Lapland woman, cooking fish on a train-oil lamp; and the Reindeer told Gerda's whole history, but it related its own first, for this seemed to the Reindeer the more important of the two. Gerda was so exhausted by the cold that she could not speak.
“Oh, you poor things,”said the Lapland woman,“you've a long way to run yet! You must go more than a hundred miles into Finmark, for the Snow Queen is there, staying in the country, and burning Bengal lights every evening. I'll write a few words on a dried cod, for I have no paper, and I'll give you that as a letter to the Finland woman; she can give you better information than I.”
And when Gerda had been warmed and refreshed with food and drink, the Lapland woman wrote a few words on a dried codfish, and telling Gerda to take care of it, tied her again on the Reindeer, and the Reindeer sprang away.Flash! flash! it went high in the air; the whole night long the most beautiful blue Northern Lights were burning.
And then they got to Finmark,and knocked at the chimney of the Finland woman,for she had not even a door.
There was such a heat in the chimney that the woman herself went about almost naked.She was little and very dirty.She at once loosened little Gerda's dress and took off the child's mufflers and boots;otherwise it would have been too hot for her to bear.Then she laid a piece of ice on the Reindeer's head,and read what was written on the codfish;she read it three times,and when she knew it by heart,she popped the fish into the soup-cauldron,for it was eatable,and she never wasted anything.
Now the Reindeer first told his own history,and then little Gerda's;and the Finland woman blinked with her clever eyes,but said nothing.
“You are very clever,”said the Reindeer:“I know you can tie all the winds of the world together with a bit of twine:if the seaman unties one knot,he has a good wind;if he loosens the second,it blows hard;but if he unties the third and the fourth,there comes such a tempest that the forests are thrown down.Won't you give the little girl a draught,so that she may get twelve men's power,and overcome the Snow Queen?”
“Twelve men's power!”repeated the Finland woman.“Great use that would be!”
And she went to a shelf,and brought out a great rolled-up fur,and unrolled it;wonderful characters were written upon it,and the Finland woman read until the water ran down over her forehead.
But the Reindeer again begged so hard for little Gerda,and Gerda looked at the Finland woman with such beseeching eyes full of tears,that she began to blink again with her own,and drew the Reindeer into a corner,and whispered to him,while she laid fresh ice upon his head,
“Little Kay is certainly at the Snow Queen's,and finds everything there to his taste and liking,and thinks it the best place in the world;but that is because he has a splinter of glass in his eye,and a little fragment in his heart;but these must be got out,or he will never be a human being again,and the Snow Queen will keep her power over him.”
“But cannot you give something to little Gerda,so as to give her power over all this?”
“I can give her no greater power than she possesses already:don't you see how great that is?Don't you see how men and animals are obliged to serve her,and how she gets on so well in the world,with her naked feet?She must not learn her power from us:it consists in this,that she is a dear innocent child.If she herself cannot penetrate to the Snow Queen and get the glass out of little Kay,we can be of no use!Two miles from here the Snow Queen's garden begins;you can carry the little girl thither:set her down by the great bush that stands with its red berries in the snow.Don't stand gossiping,but make haste,and get back here!”
And then the Finland woman lifted little Gerda on the Reindeer,which ran as fast as it could.
“Oh,I haven't my boots!I haven't my mufflers!”cried Gerda.
She soon noticed that she was in the cutting cold;but the Reindeer dare not stop:it ran till it came to the bush with the red berries;there it set Gerda down,and kissed her on the mouth,and great bright tears ran over the creature's cheeks;and then it ran back,as fast as it could.There stood poor Gerda without shoes,without gloves,in the midst of the terrible cold Finmark.
She ran forward as fast as possible;then came a whole regiment of snowflakes;but they did not fall down from the sky,for that was quite bright,and shone with the Northern Lights:the snowflakes ran along the ground,and the nearer they came the larger they grew.Gerda still remembered how large and beautiful the snowflakes had appeared when she looked at them through the burning-glass.But here they were certainly far longer and much more terrible----they were alive.They were the advanced posts of the Snow Queen,and had the strangest shapes.A few looked like ugly great porcupines;others like knots formed of snakes,which stretched forth their heads;and others like little fat bears,whose hair stood on end:all were brilliantly white,all were living snowflakes.
Then little Gerda said her prayer;and the cold was so great that she could see her own breath,which went forth out of her mouth like smoke.The breath became thicker and thicker,and formed itself into little angels,who grew and grew whenever they touched the earth;and all had helmets on their heads and shields and spears in their hands;their number increased more and more,and when Gerda had finished her prayer a whole legion stood round about her,and struck with their spears at the terrible snowflakes,so that these were shattered into a thousand pieces;and little Gerda could go forward afresh,with good courage.The angels stroked her hands and feet,and then she felt less how cold it was,and hastened on to the Snow Queen's palace.
But now we must see what Kay is doing.He certainly was not thinking of little Gerda,and least of all that she was standing in front of the palace.
OF THE SNOW QUEEN'S CASTLE,
AND WHAT HAPPENED THERE AT LAST
THE walls of the palace were formed of the drifting snow,and the windows and doors of the cutting winds.There were more than a hundred halls,all blown together by the snow:the greatest of these extended for several miles;the strong Northern Lights illumined them all,and how great and empty,how icily cold and shining they all were!Never was merriment there,not even a little bears'ball,at which the storm could have played the music,while the the bears walked about on their hind legs and showed off their pretty manners;never any little coffee gossip among the young lady white foxes.Empty,vast,and cold were the halls of the Snow Queen.The Northern Lights flamed so brightly that one could count them where they stood highest and lowest.In the midst of this immense empty snow hall was a frozen lake,which had burst into a thousand pieces;but each piece was like the rest,so that it was a perfect work of art;and in the middle of the lake sat the Snow Queen when she was at home,and then she said that she sat in the mirror of reason,and that this was the only one,and the best in the world.
Little Kay was quite blue with cold----indeed,almost black,but he did not notice it,for she had kissed the cold shudderings away from him;and his heart was like a lump of ice.He dragged a few sharp flat pieces of ice to and fro,joining them together in all kinds of ways,for he wanted to achieve something with them.It was just like when we have little tablets of wood,and lay them together to form figures----what we call the Chinese puzzle.Kay also went and laid figures,and,indeed,very artistic ones.That was the icy game of reason.In his eyes these figures were very remarkable and of the highest importance;that was because of the fragment of glass sticking in his eye.He laid out the figures so that they formed a word----but he could never manage to lay down the word as he wished to have it----the word “Eternity”.And the Snow Queen had said,
“If you can find out this figure,you shall be your own master,and I will give you the whole world and a new pair of skates.”
But he could not.
“Now I'll hasten away to the warm lands,”said the Snow Queen.“I will go and look into the black pots”:these were the volcanoes,Etna and Vesuvius,as they are called.“I shall make them a little white! That's necessary;that will do the grapes said lemons good.”
And the Snow Queen flew away,and Kay sat quite alone in the great icy hall that was miles in extent,and looked at his pieces of ice,and thought so deeply that cracks were heard inside him:he sat quite stiff and still,one would have thought that he was frozen to death.
Then it happened that little Gerda stepped through the great gate into the wide hall.Here reigned cutting winds,but she prayed a prayer,and the winds lay down as it they would have gone to sleep;and she stepped into the great empty cold halls,and beheld Kay;she knew him,and flew to him and embraced him,and held him fast,and called out,
“Kay,dear little Kay!at last I have found you!”
But he sat quite still,stiff and cold.Then little Gerda wept hot tears,that fell upon his breast;they penetrated into his heart,they thawed the lump of ice,and consumed the little piece of glass in it.He looked at her,and she sang:
Roses bloom and roses decay,
But we the Christ-child shall see one day.
Then Kay burst into tears;he wept so that the splinter of glass came out of his eye.Now he recognized her,and cried rejoicingly,
“Gerda,dear Gerda! Where have you been all this time?And where have I been?”And he looked all around him.“How cold it is here!How large and empty!”
And he clung to Gerda,and she laughed and wept for joy.It was so glorious that even the pieces of ice round about danced for joy;and when they were tired and lay down,they formed themselves just into the letters of which the Snow Queen had said that if he found them out he should be his own master,and she would give him the whole world and a new pair of skates.
And Gerda kissed his cheeks,and they became blooming;she kissed his eyes,and they shone like her own;she kissed his hands and feet,and he became well and merry.The Snow Queen might now come home;his letter of release stood written in shining characters of ice.
And they took one another by the hand,and wandered forth from the great palace of ice.They spoke of the grandmother,and of the roses on the roof;and where they went the winds rested and the sun burst forth;and when they came to the bush with the red berries,the Reindeer was standing there waiting:it had brought another young reindeer,which gave the children warm milk,and kissed them on the mouth.Then tney carried Kay and Gerda,first to the Finnish woman,where they warmed themselves thoroughly in the hot room,and received instructions for their journey home,and then to the Lapland woman,who had made their new clothes and put their sledge in order.
The Reindeer and the young one sprang at their side,and followed them as far as the boundary of the country.There the first green sprouted forth,and there they took leave of the two reindeer and the Lapland woman.“Farewell!”said all.And the first little birds began to twitter,the forest was decked with green buds,and out of it on a beautiful horse(which Gerda knew,for it was the same that had drawm her golden coach)a young girl came riding,with a shining red cap on her head and a pair of pistols in the holsters.This was the little robber girl,who had grown tired of staying at home,and wished to go first to the north,and if that did not suit her,to some other region.She knew Gerda at once,and Gerda knew her too;and it was a right merry meeting.
“You are a fine fellow to gad about!”she said to little Kay.“I should like to know if you deserve that one should run to the end of the world after you?”
But Gerda patted her cheeks,and asked after the Prince and Princess.
“They've gone to foreign countries,”said the robber girl.
“But the Crow?”said Gerda.
“Why,the Crow is dead,”answered the other.“The tame one has become a widow,and goes about with an end of black worsted thread round her leg.She complains most lamentably,but it's all talk.But now tell me how you have fared,and how you caught him.
And Gerda and Kay told their story.
“Snip-snap-snurre-basse-lurre!”said the robber girl.
And she took them both by the hand,and promised that if she ever came through their town,she would come up and pay them a visit.And then she rode away into the wide world.But Gerda and Kay went hand in hand,and as they went it became beautiful spring,with green and with flowers.The church bells sounded,and they recognized the high steeples and the great town:it was the one in which they lived;and they went to the grandmother's door,and up the stairs,and into the room,where everything remained in its usual place.The big clock was going “Tick!tack!”and the hands were turning;but as they went through the rooms they noticed that they had become grown-up people.The roses out on the roof gutter were blooming in at the open window,and there stood the little children's chairs,and Kay and Gerda sat each upon their own,and held each other by the hand.They had forgotten the cold empty splendour at the Snow Queen's like a heavy dream.The grandmother was sitting in God's bright sunshine,and read aloud out of the Bible,“Except ye become as little children,ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of God.”
And Kay and Gerda looked into each other's eyes,and all at once they understood the old hymn----
Roses bloom and roses decay,
But we the Christ-child shall see one day.
There they both sat,grown up,and yet children----children in heart----and it was summer,warm,delightful summer.