The Pine Tree
In line with our frequent suggestion that we
should all read more to children and youth (ages three to
ninety-three) here is a lesser-known story by Hans Christian
Andersen which is appropriate to the season. So out with any
embarrassment, scepticism or just plain old-fashioned cynicism you
may have, and invite some kids to pull up a floor ...
WHEN IT WAS LITTLE
OUT in the woods stood such a
nice little Pine Tree: he had a good place; the sun could get at him;
there was fresh air enough; and round him grew many big comrades, both
pines and firs. But the little Pine wanted so very much to be a grown-up
He did not think of the warm sun and of
the fresh air, he did not care for the little cottage-children who ran
about and prattled when they were looking for wild strawberries and
raspberries. Often they came with a whole jug full, or had their
strawberries strung on a straw, and sat down near the little Tree and
said, "Oh, what a nice little fellow!" This was what the Tree could not
bear to hear.
The year after, he had shot up a good
deal, and the next year after he was still bigger; for with pine trees
one can always tell by the shoots how many years old they are.
"Oh, were I but such a big tree as the
others are," sighed the little Tree. "Then I could spread my branches so
far, and with the tops look out into the wide world! Birds would build
nests among my branches; and when there was a breeze, I could nod as
grandly as the others there."
He had no delight at all in the
sunshine, or in the birds, or the red clouds which morning and evening
sailed above him.
When now it was winter and the snow all
around lay glittering white, a hare would often come leaping along, and
jump right over the little Tree. Oh, that made him so angry! But two
winters went by, and with the third the Tree was so big that the hare
had to go round it. "Oh, to grow, to grow, to become big and old, and be
tall," thought the Tree: "that, after all, is the most delightful thing
in the world!"
In autumn the wood-cutters always came
and felled some of the largest trees. This happened every year, and the
young Pine Tree, that was now quite well grown, trembled at the sight;
for the great stately trees fell to the earth with noise and cracking,
the branches were lopped off, and the trees looked quite bare, they were
so long and thin; you would hardly know them for trees, and then they
were laid on carts, and horses dragged them out of the wood.
Where did they go to? What became of
In spring, when the Swallow and the
Stork came, the Tree asked them, "Don't you know where they have been
taken? Have you not met them anywhere?"
The Swallow did not know anything about
it; but the Stork looked doubtful, nodded his head, and said, "Yes; I
have it; I met many new ships as I was flying from Egypt; on the ships
were splendid masts, and I dare say it was they that smelt so of pine. I
wish you joy, for they lifted themselves on high in fine style!"
"Oh, were I but old enough to fly
across the sea! How does the sea really look? and what is it like?"
"Aye, that takes a long time to tell,"
said the Stork, and away he went.
"Rejoice in thy youth!" said the
Sunbeams, "rejoice in thy hearty growth, and in the young life that is
And the Wind kissed the Tree, and the
Dew wept tears over him, but the Pine Tree understood it not.
CHRISTMAS IN THE WOODS
When Christmas came, quite young trees
were cut down; trees which were not even so large or of the same age as
this Pine Tree, who had no rest or peace, but always wanted to be off.
These young trees, and they were always the finest looking, always kept
their branches; they were laid on carts, and the horses drew them out of
"Where are they going to?" asked the
Pine Tree. "They are not taller than I; there was one, indeed, that was
much shorter; — and why do they keep all their branches? Where are they
carrying them to?"
"We know! we know!" chirped the
Sparrows. "We have peeped in at the windows down there in the town. We
know where they are carrying them to. Oh, they are going to where it is
as bright and splendid as you can think! We peeped through the windows,
and saw them planted in the middle of the warm room, and dressed with
the most splendid things, — with gilded apples, with gingerbread, with
toys and many hundred lights!"
"And then?" asked the Pine Tree, and he
trembled in every bough. "And then? What happens then?"
"We did not see anything more: it beat
"I wonder if I am to sparkle like
that!" cried the Tree, rejoicing. "That is still better than to go over
the sea! How I do suffer for very longing! Were Christmas but come! I am
now tall, and stretch out like the others that were carried off last
year! Oh, if I were already on the cart! I wish I were in the warm room
with all the splendor and brightness. And then? Yes; then will come
something better, something still grander, or why should they dress me
out so? There must come something better, something still grander, —
but what? Oh, how I long, how I suffer! I do not know myself what is the
matter with me!"
"Rejoice in us!" said the Air and the
Sunlight; "rejoice in thy fresh youth out here in the open air!"
But the Tree did not rejoice at all; he
grew and grew; and he stood there in all his greenery; rich green was he
winter and summer. People that saw him said, "That's a fine tree!" and
toward Christmas he was the first that was cut down. The axe struck deep
into the very pith; the Tree fell to the earth with a sigh: he felt a
pang — it was like a swoon; he could not think of happiness, for he was
sad at being parted from his home, from the place where he had sprung
up. He well knew that he should never see his dear old comrades, the
little bushes and flowers around him, any more; perhaps not even the
birds! The setting off was not at all pleasant.
The Tree only came to himself when he
was unloaded in a courtyard with other trees, and heard a man say, "That
one is splendid! we don't want the others." Then two servants came in
rich livery and carried the Pine Tree into a large and splendid room.
Portraits were hanging on the walls, and near the white porcelain stove
stood two large Chinese vases with lions on the covers. There, too, were
large easy-chairs, silken sofas, large tables full of picture-books, and
full of toys worth a hundred times a hundred dollars — at least so the
children said. And the Pine Tree was stuck upright in a cask filled with
sand: but no one could see that it was a cask, for green cloth was hung
all around it, and it stood on a gayly colored carpet. Oh, how the Tree
quivered! What was to happen? The servants, as well as the young ladies,
dressed it. On one branch there hung little nets cut out of colored
paper; each net was filled with sugar-plums; gilded apples and walnuts
hung as though they grew tightly there, and more than a hundred little
red, blue, and white tapers were stuck fast into the branches. Dolls
that looked for all the world like men — the Tree had never seen such
things before — fluttered among the leaves, and at the very top a large
star of gold tinsel was fixed. It was really splendid — splendid beyond
"This evening!" said they all; "how it
will shine this evening!"
"Oh," thought the Tree, "if it were
only evening! If the tapers were but lighted! And then I wonder what
will happen! I wonder if the other trees from the forest will come to
look at me! I wonder if the sparrows will beat against the window-panes!
I wonder if I shall take root here, and stand dressed so winter and
Aye, aye, much he knew about the
matter! but he had a real back-ache for sheer longing, and a back-ache
with trees is the same thing as a headache with us.
CHRISTMAS IN THE HOUSE
The candles were now lighted. What
brightness! What splendor! The Tree trembled so in every bough that one
of the tapers set fire to a green branch. It blazed up splendidly.
Now the Tree did not even dare to
tremble. That was a fright! He was so afraid of losing something of all
his finery, that he was quite confused amidst the glare and brightness;
and now both folding-doors opened, and a troop of children rushed in as
if they would tip the whole Tree over. The older folks came quietly
behind; the little ones stood quite still, but only for a moment, then
they shouted so that the whole place echoed their shouts, they danced
round the Tree, and one present after another was pulled off.
"What are they about?" thought the
Tree. "What is to happen now?" And the lights burned down to the very
branches, and as they burned down they were put out one after the other,
and then the children had leave to plunder the Tree. Oh, they rushed
upon it so that it cracked in all its limbs; if its tip-top with the
gold star on it had not been fastened to the ceiling, it would have
The children danced about with their
pretty toys; no one looked at the Tree except the old nurse, who peeped
in among the branches; but it was only to see if there was a fig or an
apple that had been forgotten.
"A story! a story!" cried the children,
and they dragged a little fat man toward the Tree. He sat down under it,
and said, "Now we are in the shade, and the Tree can hear very well too.
But I shall tell only one story. Now which will you have: that about
Ivedy-Avedy, or about Klumpy- Dumpy who tumbled downstairs, and came to
the throne after all, and married the princess?"
"Ivedy-Avedy," cried some; "Klumpy-
Dumpy," cried the others. There was such a bawling and screaming! — the
Pine Tree alone was silent, and he thought to himself, "Am I not to bawl
with the rest? — am I to do nothing whatever?" — for he was one of
them, and he had done what he had to do.
And the man told about Klumpy-Dumpy who
tumbled downstairs, and came to the throne after all, and married the
princess. And the children clapped their hands, and cried out, "Go on,
go on!" They wanted to hear about Ivedy-Avedy too, but the little man
only told them about Klumpy-Dumpy. The Pine Tree stood quite still and
thoughtful: the birds in the wood had never told anything like this. "Klumpy-Dumpy
fell downstairs, and yet he married the princess! Yes, yes, that's the
way of the world!" thought the Pine Tree, and he believed it all,
because it was such a nice man who told the story.
"Well, well! who knows, perhaps I may
fall downstairs, too, and so get a princess!" And he looked forward with
joy to the next day when he should be decked out with lights and toys,
fruits and tinsel.
"To-morrow I won't tremble!" thought
the Pine Tree. "I will enjoy to the full all my splendor! To-morrow I
shall hear again the story of Klumpy-Dumpy, and perhaps that of Ivedy-
Avedy too." And the whole night the Tree stood still in deep thought.
In the morning the servant and the maid
IN THE ATTIC
"Now all the finery will begin again,"
thought the Pine. But they dragged him out of the room, and up the
stairs into the attic; and here in a dark corner, where no daylight
could enter, they left him. "What's the meaning of this?" thought the
Tree. "What am I to do here? What shall I see and hear now, I wonder?"
And he leaned against the wall and stood and thought and thought. And
plenty of time he had, for days and nights passed, and nobody came up;
and when at last somebody did come, it was only to put some great trunks
in the corner. There stood the Tree quite hidden; it seemed as if he had
been entirely forgotten.
"'T is now winter out-of-doors!"
thought the Tree. "The earth is hard and covered with snow; men cannot
plant me now; therefore I have been put up here under cover till spring!
How thoughtful that is! How good men are, after all! If it were not so
dark here, and so terribly lonely! Not even a hare. Out there it was so
pleasant in the woods, when the snow was on the ground, and the hare
leaped by; yes — even when he jumped over me; but I did not like it
then. It is terribly lonely here!"
"Squeak! squeak!" said a little Mouse
at the same moment, peeping out of his hole. And then another little one
came. They snuffed about the Pine Tree, and rustled among the branches.
"It is dreadfully cold," said the
little Mouse. "But for that, it would be delightful here, old Pine,
"I am by no means old," said the Pine
Tree. "There are many a good deal older than I am."
"Where do you come from?" asked the
Mice; "and what can you do?" They were so very curious. "Tell us about
the most beautiful spot on earth. Have you been there? Were you ever in
the larder, where cheeses lie on the shelves, and hams hang from above;
where one dances about on tallow candles; where one goes in lean and
comes out fat?"
"I don't know that place," said the
Tree. "But I know the wood where the sun shines, and where the little
And then he told his story from his
youth up; and the little Mice had never heard the like before; and they
listened and said, "Well, to be sure! How much you have seen! How happy
you must have been!"
"I!" said the Pine Tree, and he thought
over what he had himself told. "Yes, really those were happy times." And
then he told about Christmas Eve, when he was decked out with cakes and
"Oh," said the little Mice, "how lucky
you have been, old Pine Tree!"
"I am not at all old," said he. "I came
from the wood this winter; I am in my prime, and am only rather short of
"What delightful stories you know!"
said the Mice: and the next night they came with four other little Mice,
who were to hear what the Tree had to tell; and the more he told, the
more plainly he remembered all himself; and he thought: "That was a
merry time! But it can come! it can come! Klumpy-Dumpy fell down stairs,
and yet he got a princess! Maybe I can get a princess too!" And all of a
sudden he thought of a nice little Birch Tree growing out in the woods:
to the Pine, that would be a really charming princess.
"Who is Klumpy-Dumpy?" asked the little
So then the Pine Tree told the whole
fairy tale, for he could remember every single word of it; and the
little Mice jumped for joy up to the very top of the Tree. Next night
two more Mice came, and on Sunday two Rats, even; but they said the
stories were not amusing, which vexed the little Mice, because they,
too, now began to think them not so very amusing either.
"Do you know only that one story?"
asked the Rats.
"Only that one!" answered the Tree. "I
heard it on my happiest evening; but I did not then know how happy I
"It is a very stupid story! Don't you
know one about bacon and tallow candles? Can't you tell any
"No," said the Tree.
"Thank you, then," said the Rats; and
they went home.
At last the little Mice stayed away
also; and the Tree sighed: "After all, it was very pleasant when the
sleek little Mice sat round me and heard what I told them. Now that too
is over. But I will take good care to enjoy myself when I am brought out
But when was that to be? Why, it was
one morning when there came a number of people and set to work in the
loft. The trunks were moved, the tree was pulled out and thrown down;
they knocked him upon the floor, but a man drew him at once toward the
stairs, where the daylight shone.
OUT OF DOORS AGAIN
"Now life begins again," thought the
Tree. He felt the fresh air, the first sunbeam, — and now he was out in
the courtyard. All passed so quickly that the Tree quite forgot to look
to himself, there was so much going on around him. The court adjoined a
garden, and all was in flower; the roses hung over the fence, so fresh
and smelling so sweetly; the lindens were in blossom, the Swallows flew
by, and said, "Quirre-virre-vit! my husband is come!" But it was not the
Pine Tree that they meant.
"Now, I shall really live," said he
with joy, and spread out his branches; dear! dear! they were all dry and
yellow. It was in a corner among weeds and nettles that he lay. The
golden star of tinsel was still on top of the Tree, and shone in the
In the courtyard a few of the merry
children were playing who had danced at Christmas round the Tree, and
were so glad at the sight of him. One of the littlest ran and tore off
the golden star.
"See what is still on the ugly old
Christmas Tree!" said he, and he trampled on the branches, so that they
cracked under his feet.
And the Tree saw all the beauty of the
flowers, and the freshness in the garden; he saw himself, and he wished
he had stayed in his dark corner in the attic: he thought of his fresh
youth in the wood, of the merry Christmas Eve, and of the little Mice
who had heard so gladly the story of Klumpy-Dumpy.
"Gone! gone!" said the poor Tree. "Had
I but been happy when I could be. Gone! gone!"
And the gardener's boy came and chopped
the Tree into small pieces; there was a whole heap lying there. The wood
flamed up finely under the large brewing kettle, and it sighed so
deeply! Each sigh was like a little shot. So the children ran to where
it lay and sat down before the fire, and peeped in at the blaze, and
shouted "Piff! paff!" But at every snap there was a deep sigh. The Tree
was thinking of summer days in the wood, and of winter nights when the
stars shone; it was thinking of Christmas Eve and Klumpy- Dumpy, the
only fairy tale it had heard and knew how to tell, — and so the Tree
The boys played about in the court, and
the youngest wore the gold star on his breast which the Tree had worn on
the happiest evening of his life. Now, that was gone, the Tree was gone,
and gone too was the story. All, all was gone, and that's the way with