THE FIR TREE
UT in the woods stood a nice little Fir-tree. The
place he had was a very good one; the sun shone on him;
as to fresh air, there was enough of that, and round
him grew many large-sized comrades, pines as well as
firs. But the little Fir wanted so very much to be a
He did not think of the warm sun and of the fresh air;
he did not care for the little cottage-children that
ran about and prattled when they were in the woods
looking for wild strawberries. The children often came
with a whole pitcher full of berries, or a long row of
them threaded on a straw, and sat down near the young
Tree and said, "O, how pretty he is! What a nice little
fir!" But this was the Tree that could not bear to
At the end of a year he had shot up a good deal, and
after another year he was another long bit taller; for
with fir-trees one can always tell by the shoots how
many years old they are.
"O, were I but such a high tree as the others are,"
sighed he. "Then I should be able to spread out my
branches, and with the tops to look into the wide
world! Then would the birds build nests among my
branches; and when there was a breeze, I could bend with
as much stateliness as the others!"
 Neither the sunbeams, nor the birds, nor the red clouds
which morning and evening sailed above him, gave the
little Tree any pleasure.
In winter, when the snow lay glittering on the ground,
a hare would often come leaping along, and jump right
over the little Tree. O, that made him so angry! But
two winters were past, and in the third the Tree was so
large that the hare was obliged to go round it. "To
grow and grow, to get older 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 Fir-tree, that had now grown to a very comely
size, trembled at the sight; for the magnificent great
trees fell to the earth with noise and cracking, the
branches were lopped off, and the trees looked long and
bare: they were hardly to be recognized; and then they
were laid in carts, and the horses dragged them out of
Where did they go to? What became of them?
In spring, when the Swallows and the Storks came, the
Tree asked them, "Don't you know where they have been
taken? Have you not met them anywhere?"
The Swallows did not know anything about it; but the
Stork looked musing, nodded his head, and said, "Yes; I
think I know; I met many ships as I was flying hither
from Egypt; on the ships were magnificent masts, and I
venture to assert that it was they that smelt so of
fir. I may congratulate you, for they lifted
themselves on high most majestically!"
"O, were I but old enough to fly across the sea! But
how does the sea look in reality? What is it like?"
"That would take a long time to explain," said the
Stork, and with these words off he went.
"Rejoice in thy growth!" said the Sunbeams, "rejoice in
thy vigorous growth, and in the fresh life that moveth
And the Wind kissed the Tree, and the Dew wept tears
over him; but the Fir understood it not.
When Christmas came, quite young trees were cut down;
trees which often were not even as large or of the same
 this Fir-tree, who could never rest, but always wanted
to be off. These young trees, and they were always the
finest looking, retained their branches; they were laid
on carts, and the horses drew them out of the wood.
"Where are they going to?" asked the Fir. "They are
not taller than I; there was one indeed that was
considerably shorter;—and why do they retain all
their branches? Whither are they taken?"
"We know! We know!" chirped the Sparrows. "We have
peeped in at the windows in the town below! We know
whither they are taken! The greatest splendor and the
greatest magnificence one can imagine await them. We
peeped through the windows, and saw them planted in the
middle of the warm room, and ornamented with the most
splendid things,—with gilded apples, with
gingerbread, with toys, and many hundred lights!"
"And then?" asked the Fir-tree, trembling in every
bough. "And then? What happens then?"
"We did not see anything more: it was incomparably
"I would fain know if I am destined for so glorious a
career," cried the Tree, rejoicing. "That is still
better than to cross the sea! What a longing do I
suffer! Were Christmas but come! I am now tall, and
my branches spread like the others that were carried
off last year! O, were I but already on the cart!
Were I in the warm room with all the splendor and
magnificence! Yes; then something better, something
still grander, will surely follow, or wherefore should
they thus ornament me? Something better, something
still grander, must follow—but what? O,
how I long, how I suffer! I do not know myself what is
the matter with me!"
"Rejoice in our presence!" said the Air and the
Sunlight; "rejoice in thy own fresh youth!"
But the Tree did not rejoice at all; he grew and grew,
and was green both winter and summer. People that saw
him said, "What a fine tree!" and towards Christmas he
was one of the first that was cut down. The axe struck
deep into the very pith; the tree fell to the earth
with a sign: he felt a page—it was like a swoon;
he could not think of happiness, for he
 was sorrowful at being separated 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 departure was not at all
The Tree only came to himself when he was unloaded in a
court-yard with the 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
Fir-tree into a large and splendid drawing-room.
Portraits were hanging on the walls, and near the white
porcelain stove stood two large Chinese cases with
lions on the covers. There, too, were large
easy-chairs, silken sofas, large tables full of
picture-books, and full of toys worth hundreds and
hundreds of crowns—at least the children said so.
And the Fir-tree was stuck upright in a cask that was
filled with sand: but no one could see that it was a
cask, for green cloth was hung all round it, and it
stood on a large gaily-colored carpet. O, how the tree
quivered! What was to happen? The servants, as well
as the young ladies, decorated it. On one branch there
hung little nets cut out of colored paper, and each net
was filled with sugar-plums; and among the other boughs
gilded apples and walnuts were suspended, looking as
though they had grown there, and little blue and white
tapers were placed among the leaves. Dolls that looked
for all the world like men—the Tree had never
beheld such before—were seen among the foliage,
and at the very top a large star of gold tinsel was
fixed. It was really splendid—beyond description
"This evening!" said they all; "how it will shine this
"O," thought the Tree, "if the evening were but come!
If the tapers were but lighted! And then I wonder what
will happen! Perhaps the other trees from the forest
will come to look at me! Perhaps the sparrows will
beat against the window-panes! I wonder if I shall
take root here, and winter and summer stand covered
He knew very much about the matter! but he was so
impatient that for sheer longing he got a pain in his
back, and this with trees is the same thing as a
headache with us.
 The candles were now lighted. What brightness! What
splendor! The Tree trembled so in every bough that one
of the tapers set fire to the foliage. It blazed up
"Help! help!" cried the young ladies, and they quickly
put out the fire.
Now the Tree did not even dare tremble. What a state
he was in! He was so uneasy lest he should lose
something of his splendor, that he was quite bewildered
amidst the glare and brightness; when suddenly both
folding-doors opened, and a troop of children rushed in
as if they would upset the Tree. The older persons
followed quietly; the little ones stood quite still.
But it was only for a moment; then they shouted so that
the whole place reechoed with their rejoicing; they
danced round the Tree, and one present after the other
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 permission
to plunder the Tree. So they fell upon it with such
violence that all its branches cracked; if it had not
been fixed firmly in the cask, it would certainly have
The children danced about with their beautiful
playthings: no one looked at the Tree except the old
nurse, who peeped between the branches; but it was only
to see if there was a fig or an apple left that had
"A story! a story!" cried the children. drawing a
little fat man towards the Tree. He seated himself
under it, and said, "Now we are in the shade, and the
Tree can listen too. But I shall tell only one story.
Now which will you have; that about Ivedy-Avedy, or
about Klumpy-Dumpy who tumbled down-stairs, and yet
after all came to the throne and married the princess?"
"Ivedy Avedy," cried some; "Klumpy-Dumpy," cried the
others. There was such a bawling and
screaming!—the Fir-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 the company, and had done what he had to do.
And the man told about Klumpy-Dumpy that tumbled down,
who notwithstanding came to the throne, and at last
 the princess. And the children clapped their hands,
and cried out, "O, go on! Do go on!" They wanted to
hear about Ivedy-Avedy too, but the little man only
told them about Klumpy-Dumpy. The Fir-tree stood quite
still and absorbed in thought: the birds in the wood
had never related the like of this. "Klumpy-Dumpy fell
down-stairs, and yet he married the princess! Yes,
yes! that's the way of the world!" thought the
Fir-tree, and believed it all, because the man who told
the story was so good-looking. "Well, well! who knows,
perhaps I may fall down-stairs too, and get a princess
as wife!" And he looked forward with joy to the
morrow, when he hoped to be decked out again with
lights, playthings, fruits, and tinsel.
"I won't tremble to-morrow!" thought the Fir-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 and in deep thought.
In the morning the servant and the housemaid came in.
"Now then the splendor will begin again," thought the
Fir. But they dragged him out of the room, and up the
stairs into the loft; 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 hear now, I wonder?" And he leaned
against the wall, lost in reverie. Time enough had he
too for his reflections; for days and nights passed on,
and nobody came up; and when at last somebody did come,
it was only to put some great trunks in a corner out of
the way. There stood the Tree quite hidden; it seemed
as if he had been entirely forgotten.
" 'Tis now winter out-of-doors!" thought the Tree. "The
earth is hard and covered with snow; men cannot plant me
now, and therefore I have been put up here under
shelter till the spring-time comes! How thoughtful
that is! How kind man is, after all! If it only were
not so dark here, and so terribly lonely! Not even a
hare. And out in the woods it was so pleasant, 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 really terribly lonely here!"
"Squeak! squeak!" said a little Mouse at the same
moment, peeping out of his hole. And then another
 came. They snuffed about the Fir-tree, and rustled
among the branches.
"It is dreadfully cold," said the Mouse. "But for
that, it would be delightful here, old Fir, wouldn't it?"
"I am by no means old," said the Fir-tree. "There's
many a one considerably older than I am."
"Where do you come from," asked the Mice; "and what can
you do?" They were so extremely curious. "Tell us
about the most beautiful spot on the earth. Have you
never been there? Were you never in the larder, where
cheeses lie on the shelves , and hams hang from above;
where one dances about on tallow candles; that place
where one enters lean, and comes out again fat and
"I know no such place," said the Tree. "But I know the
wood, where the sun shines, and where the little birds
sing." And then he told all about his youth; 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 Fir-tree, thinking over what he had
himself related. "Yes, in reality those were happy
times." And then he told about Christmas Eve, when he
was decked out with cakes and candles.
"O," said the little Mice, "how fortunate you have
been, old Fir-tree!"
"I am by no means old," said he. "I came from the wood
this winter; I am in my prime, and am only rather short
for my age."
"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 recounted; and the more
he related, the more plainly he remembered all himself;
and it appeared as if those times had really been happy
times. "But they may still come—they may still
come. Humpy-Dumpy fell down-stairs, and yet he got a
princess!" and he thought at the moment of a nice
little Birch-tree growing out in the woods: to the Fir,
that would be a real charming princess.
"Who is Humpy-Dumpy?"
asked the Mice. So then the
Fir-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
in, and on Sunday two Rats, even; but they said the
stories were not interesting, which vexed the little
Mice; and they, too, now began to think them not so
very amusing either.
"Do you know only one story?" asked the Rats.
"Only that one," answered the Tree. "I heard it on my
happiest evening; but I did not know how happy I was."
"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.
"Then good-by," 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 listened to what I told
them. Now that too is over. But I will take good care
to enjoy myself when I am brought out again."
But when was that to be? Why, one morning there came a
quantity of people and set to work in the loft. The
trunks were moved, the tree was pulled out and
thrown—rather hard, it is true—down on the
floor, but a man drew him towards the stairs, where the
"Now a merry life will begin again," thought the Tree.
He felt the fresh air, the first sunbeam,—and now
he was out in the court-yard. All passed so quickly,
there was so much going on around him, that the Tree
quite forgot to look at himself. The court adjoined a
garden, and all was in flower; the roses hung so fresh
and odorous over the balustrade, the lindens were in
blossom, the Swallows flew by, and said "Quirre-vit! my
husband is come!" but it was not the Fir-tree that they
"Now, then, I shall really enjoy life," said he,
exultingly, and spread out his branches; but, alas!
they were all withered and yellow. It was in a corner
that he lay, among weeds and nettles. The golden star
of tinsel was still on the top of the Tree, and
glittered in the sunshine.
In the court-yard some of the merry children were
playing who had danced at Christmas round the Fir-tree,
and were so glad at the sight of him. One of the
youngest ran and tore off the golden star.
 "Only look what is still on the ugly old Christmas
tree!" said he, trampling on the branches, so that they
all cracked beneath his feet.
And the Tree beheld all the beauty of the flowers, and
the freshness in the garden; he beheld himself, and
wished he had remained in his dark corner in the loft:
he thought of his first youth in the wood, of the merry
Christmas Eve, and of the little Mice who had listened
with so much pleasure to the story of Humpy-Dumpy.
" 'Tis over—'tis past!" said the poor Tree. "Had
I but rejoiced when I had reason to do so! But now
'tis past, 'tis past!"
And the gardener's boy chopped the Tree into small
pieces; there was a whole heap lying there. The wood
flamed up splendidly under the large brewing copper,
and it sighed so deeply! Each sigh was like a shot.
The boys played about in the court, and the youngest
wore the gold star on his breast which the Tree had had
on the happiest evening of his life. However, that was
over now,—the Tree gone, the story at an end.
All, all was over; every tale must end at last.
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