The Forest Full of Friends
HERE was once a little orphan girl named Elsa, who lived in
a lonely place by the side of a great forest, with an old
woman who was her only friend. Elsa's father and mother had
died when she was a baby, and this old woman had brought her
care for her, so they two had lived there together until
Elsa was ten years old.
But now the old woman was growing so old that she thought it
unlikely that she could live much longer, so she began to
look about for another place to which Elsa could go. There
was only one place she could think of, and that was the
king's palace. It stood in the capital city, and that was
not so far away but that one could walk to it; and although
the old woman had not been there for many years, she knew
what a beautiful palace it was, and that it was full, not
only of princes and princesses, but of courtiers and fine
ladies and pages and maids-of-honor.
Now on the first day of every year the king chose from
among the children of the kingdom a boy and a girl, the
best-looking and best-behaved that could be found, to be
kept at the palace and brought up among the pages and
maids-of-honor. The old woman knew that Elsa, although she
was a poor child and never had any fine clothing, was
growing to be very beautiful. She was also remarkably
well-behaved. For these reasons, she thought, Elsa might
be chosen as one of the children of the palace, and if only
she were, there would be no more care about her future.
So, when the next New Year was near at hand, the
 old woman explained to Elsa that, as she might not live much
longer, she wished to find her another home, and told her
that she intended to take her to the palace, in order to see
whether the king would not choose her to be a maid-of-honor.
Elsa was a little frightened at the thought, for she had
never been in a palace, and did not believe that she could
ever learn to live there. She thought it would be much more
pleasant to stay with the old woman. But the old woman
explained to her that that was only because she had never
been to the great city and seen what a beautiful place it
was. So Elsa let the old woman prepare the best dress that
she could find, and went with her to the city, starting very
early on the morning of New Year's Day.
Elsa had never imagined anything so beautiful as the great
city, with the palace standing in its center, surrounded by
a splendid park. Could it be possible, she said to
herself, that she would ever really live in such a place?
When they approached the gate, they saw many other children
coming, brought by their families and friends in the hope
that they would be chosen by the king; but, though they were
all dressed more finely than Elsa, the old woman said to
herself that there was none of them more beautiful. So she
still hoped for success.
 But when they came up to the palace door, and asked if they
might be admitted for the choosing of the children, the
porter said to Elsa:
"Where are your friends?"
"I have no friends," she answered, "except this old woman."
"Impossible!" said the porter. For he saw that she was
really very beautiful, and wished to admit her. "You must
have other friends. Do you not know that it is one of
the rules that every child coming to-day must bring five
friends to introduce him to the king? And the more rich and
powerful they are, the better pleased the king will be."
Then Elsa and the old woman noticed that all the other
children coming through the entrance were accompanied by
groups of friends, dressed quite as splendidly as the boys
and girls themselves. But it did them no good to learn of
this custom, for neither of them had a friend in the whole
"I am very sorry to have troubled you," said Elsa to the
porter, "but I have no other friends in the world."
And the porter, though he spoke very kindly to them, knew
that the king would not allow him to break the rules. So he
opened the gate for them, and they turned sadly away.
 When they reached home that night they were very tired, and
the little house at the edge of the forest seemed small and
lonely, after the sight of the great city and its people.
Still, Elsa was not sorry to be at home again, and to find
that she need not leave the old woman. There was only one
thing that made her sad: that was to think that she had no
other friends. She had never been troubled by this before,
but when she had seen the children playing together on the
city streets, and had been unable to think of any friends in
the whole world whom she might ask to introduce her at the
palace, she knew for the first time what it was to be really
lonesome. And for this reason the little yard of the old
woman's house was no longer as pleasant a place as it had
The old woman watched Elsa and knew why it was that she was
not happy. A day or two after their journey to the city she
called her into the house, and said to her:
"I think you had better go into the forest and play."
"Why, what do you mean?" said Elsa, for the forest was very big
and dark, and people were so afraid of what might be hidden
in it, that throughout all the kingdom it was called the
Forest Full of Fears.
 So Elsa said: "Why are you not afraid to have me go into
"Because," said the old woman, "you are old enough now to
know that there is nothing bad in the forest, if you take
nothing bad into it. And as I see that you are feeling
lonely, I think you might find some friends there."
This seemed even more strange to Elsa, that friends could be
found in that great, dark forest. But she believed that the
old woman must know what she was talking about, so she made
ready to go.
"Come here," said the old woman again, before
she had started. "I have something to give you.
These are very wonderful drops, that my father gave to me
before he died, and I have been keeping them for you all
these years, for there are not many of them left. You must
use only a drop or two at a time."
"And what are they for?" asked Elsa.
"To put on your ears," said the old woman, "so that you may
understand any one who speaks in a different language from
your own. I think you may find some friends in the
forest that you could not understand without them. So take
them with you." And she gave Elsa a tiny bottle, which the
 girl hid inside her dress with the greatest care. It seemed
very strange to her to be really walking in the Forest Full
of Fears, but she did not feel afraid. It was a bright day,
so that the sunshine came through the thick branches of the
trees, and made beautiful shadows on the ground. There was
also a little breeze blowing through the forest, that made
the leaves rustle in a whispering way, as if they were
talking to Elsa. Indeed, the more she listened to them, the
more it seemed to her as if they were really trying to speak
"I wonder," she said to herself, "if the little bottle could
help me to understand them?" Since it would do no harm to
try, she took it out, and touched each of her ears with a
drop of what was in it.
Immediately a very strange thing happened. The leaves seemed
to rustle just as they had before, but Elsa now knew just
what they were saying. It was:
"Welcome to the Forest Full
"Dear me!" said Elsa. "Is that what you have
been saying all along? Why, I supposed this was the Forest
Full of Fears."
This time the leaves said: "No, no, no, no, no!" and
then repeated what they had rustled before: "Welcome to the
Forest Full of Friends!"
 "Well," said Elsa, "if that is really its name, I am glad I
came to it, for friends are the very things I want most."
She had not gone far into the forest before she heard
another sound, that of a brown bird that sat singing on the
branch of a tree. It did not occur to her that his
song could have any particular meaning, but as she came
nearer to him he did not fly away, like the birds she had
seen outside the forest, but stopped his song and chirped at
her as if he had something to tell her.
"Is it possible," said Elsa, "that I can understand the
bird too?" She took out her little bottle again, and
put another tiny drop on each of her ears. Sure enough!
Though the bird's voice sounded just as it had before, what
he was saying was now perfectly plain. It was:
"Good morning! good morning! It's a beautiful morning!"
"Good morning," said Elsa politely. "It is a lovely
morning, that's true. Do you live here in the forest?"
"Yes, indeed! yes, indeed! yes, indeed!" said the bird.
"I'm very glad to see you."
"Thank you," said Elsa. "I'm very glad to see
 you, too, but you must not let me interrupt your singing."
For she did not quite know what else one could talk about to
a bird, yet she wanted to be as polite as possible. The bird
understood, and went on with another verse of his song.
Elsa walked on into the forest, now and then picking a
pretty flower, and sometimes sitting down to rest on a mossy
bank. While she was sitting in this way at the foot of a
tree, a squirrel came down from one of the branches over her
head, and began chirruping merrily at her. He was a very gay
little squirrel, with laughing eyes and a tail that shook
when he laughed, like a fat man's sides. Elsa was very sure
she wanted to understand the squirrel, and indeed she found
that she could do so without putting any more drops on her
ears. He was saying:
"Jolly old forest, isn't it? Jolly old forest, isn't it?
You've no idea where my nuts are, have you? But you're
perfectly welcome to any you can find."
He seemed to think this was such a good joke that Elsa
laughed, too, as she answered:
"Thank you. I should like a nut or two pretty soon, for
my walk has made me a little hungry."
The squirrel did not
make any answer, but ran up the side of the tree again, and
Elsa was wondering
 whether she could have offended him, when a big nut fell
straight into her lap. She looked up and saw the squirrel's
eyes twinkling at her. Then he threw down another nut, and
another, until she called to him that she could not possibly
eat any more.
Surely there was never a forest with more polite or more
friendly people in it. After she had left the squirrel's
tree, Elsa met a very pleasant little chipmunk, and a frog
who lived in the brook, and a wood-mouse whose home was at
the roots of an oak tree, besides I do not know how many
more cheerful birds. She was delighted to find that she
could understand all of them, by the help of the old woman's
wonderful gift; and they told her that they did not need any
magical drops to help them to understand her, for they had
ways of understanding boys and girls that they had known for
hundreds of years. By the time it was growing dark, and Elsa
began to hurry back toward home, she felt as if she had made
more friends that day than in all her life before. And
indeed she had.
From that time the old woman never saw her looking lonely.
The forest was always close at hand, and there were always
new friends to make, as well as old ones to visit with.
Elsa often took crumbs of
 bread and cake into the forest, as gifts to her friends
there, and they showed her all their secret stores, and let
her take whatever she wanted, knowing that she would never
really rob them or wish them any harm. So before many months
had gone by, Elsa had actually forgotten that there had ever
been such a place as the Forest Full of Fears.
At last nearly a whole year had passed since the old woman
had taken her to the city, and Elsa remembered that it
would soon be time for the king to make another choice of
children for the palace. She reminded the old woman of this,
and laughingly said to her:
"In those days I had no friend but you. Now I have
plenty of them, if the king only knew it."
"Sure enough!" said the old woman. "I think we had
better go again to the palace, and tell the porter that you
have a Forest Full of Friends, if he will come here to see
The old woman was thinking again that she had not much
longer to live, and she was also very sure that Elsa had
been growing more and more beautiful all the year, so she
fancied that in some way they might be able to get admission
to the king, and persuade him to take her as one of the
children of the
 palace. She took out the dress which Elsa had worn the year
before, and made it large enough for her to wear again. Then
she told her that they would make another journey to the
city on New Year's Day.
When the old woman awoke on the
morning of the great day, she found Elsa already dressed for
the journey, but to her astonishment she saw that the child
had with her a squirrel, a bird, a frog, a butterfly, and a
cricket—some of them perched on her shoulder, the others in
"Why, what in the world is all this?" asked the old woman.
"These are my five friends from the forest," said Elsa. "I
do not want to go to the palace again without any friends to
introduce me, and so I went into the forest very early, and
asked them if they would be willing to go with us. And when
they found the reason, they were all delighted to come."
The old woman did not quite know what to say to this, but
she followed the wise rule of saying nothing in such cases.
So they set out on the road to the city, with Elsa's five
friends for company.
Everything in the city looked just as it had the year
before: there was the same crowd entering the palace gates,
and the same porter at the door. When
 he saw Elsa and the old woman, he remembered them at once,
and he was certain that Elsa was twice as beautiful as she
had been a year ago.
"But," he said, "why have you all these creatures with you?
Are they presents for the king?"
"No," said Elsa, "they are the five friends that you said I
must have to introduce me. Last year I had only one friend,
but now I have plenty."
"Very good," said the porter. "But I do not see how these
friends can introduce you to the king, when they can not
speak his language."
"If you will only let me take them in to the king," said
Elsa, "I will promise that he shall understand what they
say." For she had brought her little bottle along, and knew
that it would do for the king what it had done for her.
At last the porter threw open the door, for although he had
no idea what Elsa meant, he was sure the king would wish to
see such a beautiful girl. So he led her, and the old
woman, and the squirrel, and the bird, and the frog, and the
butterfly, and the cricket, to the room where the king sat
on his throne.
"If your Majesty pleases," said Elsa, "I have brought five
friends to introduce me, as the porter told me I must do. If
you will only touch your
 ears with two drops from my little bottle, you will know
what they are saying."
I have brought five friends to introduce me
The king was so much surprised that he did not know what to
answer. But Elsa was so beautiful that he thought she might
perhaps be a fairy child, so he took the drops which she
offered him, and touched then to his two ears. Then the bird
began to chirp, and the squirrel began to chatter, and the
frog began to croak, and the cricket began to sing, and the
butterfly flew close to the king's ear and whispered so low
that no one else could have heard him, even if the room had
been very still. No one but the king knew what the five
friends said—not even Elsa, for she had not taken any of the
drops for herself. But she was sure that her friends would
say only pleasant things about her, for they all loved her
dearly. The king was so much pleased to be able to
understand them, and to hear what they said, that he
beckoned to Elsa to come to him, and then drew her close and
set her on his knee—a thing that no king had ever been
known to do before.
"So you want to come to live in the palace, and be brought
up as a maid-of-honor, or perhaps a princess?" he said.
"Yes," said Elsa, "if your Majesty wants me, and
 if my oldest friend, who has taken care of me all my life,
can come to stay here, too, as long as she lives."
be done!" said the king. And he sent word to the
porter that he need not admit any other little girls to be
chosen until next New Year's Day.
So they showed Elsa and
the old woman to their rooms in the palace, where they were
to live happily for many a long day. But first, Elsa
asked leave to take her five friends to a gate in the palace
wall, from which they could easily find their way back to
"Would you not like to keep some of them here with you?"
asked the king. "I should really like to have them for my
"You may easily have them for your friends," said Elsa,
"but they would not be happy away from their own forest. And
I do not think I can be happy, either, unless I can often go
back there to visit them."
"You shall do so," said the king.
And he gave orders that the map of the kingdom should be
changed, so that the Forest Full of Fears should now be
known everywhere as the Forest Full of Friends.