Table of Contents
The Marsh-King's Daughter
The Wicked Prince
Pen and Inkstand
Little Claus and Big Claus
The Girl Who Trod upon Bread
The Emperor's new Clothes
The Little Sea-maid
The Farm-yard Cock and the Weather-cock
The Elfin Mound
Soup made of a Sausage-stick
The Wild Swans
The Galoshes of Fortune
Twelve by the Mail
The Garden of Paradise
The Constant Tin Soldier
The Stone of the Wise Men
The Snow Man
The Silver Shilling
The Naughty Boy
The Nis and the Dame
The Neighboring Families
The Happy Family
The Old House
In the Duck-yard
In the Nursery
The Red Shoes
The Snail and the Rose-tree
Little Ida's Flowers
The False Collar
The Flying Trunk
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HERE was once a woman who wished for a very little
child, but she did not know where she should get one.
So she went to an old witch and said,—
"I do so very much wish for a little child; can you not
tell me where I can get one?"
"O, that's easily managed," said the Witch. "Here is a
barleycorn; it is not of the kind which grows in the
country-man's field, and which the chickens get to eat.
Put that into a flower-pot, and you shall see what you
"Thank-you," said the Woman; and she gave the Witch
twelve skillings, went home and planted the barleycorn,
and immediately there grew up a great handsome flower,
which looked like a tulip; but the leaves were tightly
closed, as though it were still a bud.
"That is a beautiful flower," said the Woman; and she
kissed its yellow and red leaves; and as she kissed it
the flower gave a loud snap! and opened. It was a real
tulip, as one could now see; but in the middle of the
flower there sat upon the green velvet stamens a little
maiden, delicate and graceful to behold. She was
scarcely half a thumb's length in height, and therefore
she was called Thumbling.
 A neat polished walnut-shell served Thumbling for a
cradle, blue violet-leaves were her mattresses, with a
rose-leaf for a coverlet. There she slept at night;
but in the day-time she played upon the table, where
the woman had put a plate with a wreath of flowers
around it, whose stalks stood in water; on the water
swam a great tulip-leaf, and on this the little maiden
could sit, and row from one side of the plate to the
other, with two white horse-hairs for oars. That
looked pretty indeed! She could also sing, and,
indeed, so delicately and sweetly, that the like had
never been heard.
Once, as she lay at night in her pretty bed, there came
an old Toad creeping through the window, in which one
pane was broken. The Toad was very ugly, big, and
damp: it hopped straight down upon the table, where
Thumbling lay sleeping under the rose-leaf.
"That would be a handsome wife for my son," said the
Toad; and she took up the walnut-shell in which
Thumbling lay asleep, and hopped with it through the
window down into the garden.
There ran a great broad brook; but the margin was
swampy and soft, and here the Toad dwelt with her son.
Ugh! he was ugly, and looked as old as his mother.
"Croak! croak! brek-kek-kex!" that was all he could say
when he saw the graceful little maiden in the
"Don't speak so loud, or she will awake," said the old
Toad. "She might run away from us, for she is as light
as a bit of swan's-down. We will put her out in the
brook upon one of the broad water-lily leaves. That
will be just like an island for her, she is so small
and light. Then she can't get away, while we put the
state room under the marsh in order, where you are to
live and and keep house together."
Out in the brook there grew many water-lilies with
broad green leaves, which looked as if they were
floating on the water. The leaf which lay farthest out
was also the greatest of all, and to that the old Toad
swam out and laid the walnut shell upon it with
Thumbling. The poor little unfortunate woke early in
the morning, and when she saw where she was, she began
to cry very bitterly; for there was water on every side
of the great green leaf, and she could not get to land
 all. The old Toad sat down in the marsh,
decking out her room with rushes and yellow
weed—it was to be made very pretty for the new
daughter-in-law; then she swam out with her ugly son,
to the leaf on which Thumbling was. They wanted to
take her pretty bed, which was to be put in the bridal
chamber before she went in there herself. The old Toad
bowed low before her, and said, "Here is my son; he
will be your husband, and you will live splendidly
together in the marsh."
"Croak! croak! brek-kek-kex!" that was all the son
They took the delicate little bed, and swam away with
it; but Thumbling sat all alone upon the green leaf and
wept, for she did not like to live at the nasty Toad's,
and have her ugly son for a husband. The little fishes
swimming in the water below had both seen the Toad, and
had also heard what she said; therefore they stretched
forth their heads, for they wanted to see the little
girl. So soon as they saw her, they thought her so
pretty that they felt very sorry she should have to go
down to the ugly Toad. No, that must never be! They
got together in the water around the green stalk which
held the leaf upon which the little maiden stood, and
with their teeth they gnawed away the stalk, and so the
leaf swam down the stream; and away went Thumbling, far
away, where the Toad could not get at her.
Thumbling sailed past many cities, and the little birds
which sat in the bushes saw her, and said, "What a
lovely little girl!" The leaf swam away with them,
farther and farther; so Thumbling travelled out of the
A graceful little white Butterfly always fluttered
round her, and at last alighted upon the leaf.
Thumbling pleased him, and she was very glad of this,
for now the Toad could not reach them; and it was so
beautiful where she was floating along—the sun
shone upon the water, and the water glistened like the
most splendid gold. She took her girdle and bound one
end of it round the butterfly, fastening the other end
of the ribbon to the leaf. The leaf now glided on much
faster, and Thumbling, too, for she stood upon the
There came a big May-bug flying up; and he saw her, and
 immediately clasped his claws round her slender
waist, and flew with her into a tree. The green leaf
was swimming down the brook, and the Butterfly with it;
for he was fastened to the leaf, and could not get away
Mercy! how frightened poor little Thumbling was when
the May-bug flew with her up into the tree! But
especially she was sorry for the fine white Butterfly
whom she had bound to the leaf, for, if he could not
free himself from it, he would be obliged to starve.
The May-bug, however, did not trouble himself at all
about this. He seated himself with her upon the
biggest green leaf of the tree, gave her the sweet part
of the flowers to eat, and declared that she was very
pretty, though she did not in the least resemble a
may-bug. Afterwards came all the other may-bugs who
lived in the tree to pay a visit; they looked at
Thumbling, and said,—
"Why, she has not even more than two legs! that has a
"She has not any feelers!" cried another.
"Her waist is quite slender—fie! she looks like a
human creature—how ugly she is!" said all the
And yet Thumbling was very pretty. Even the May-bug
who had carried her off saw that; but when all the
others declared she was ugly, he believed it at last,
and would not have her at all—she might go wither
she liked. Then they flew down with her from the tree,
and set her upon a daisy, and she wept, because she was
so ugly that the may-bugs would have nothing to say to
her; and yet she was the loveliest little being one
could imagine, and as tender and delicate as a
The whole summer through poor Thumbling lived quite
alone in the great wood. She wove herself a bed out of
blades of grass, and hung it up under a shamrock, so
that she was protected from the rain; she plucked the
honey out of the flowers for food, and drank of the dew
which stood every morning upon the leaves. Thus summer
and autumn passed away; but now came winter, the cold,
long winter. All the birds who had sung so sweetly
before her flew away; trees and flowers shed their
leaves; the great shamrock under which she had lived
shriveled up, and there remained nothing
 of it but
a yellow, withered stalk; and she was dreadfully cold,
for her clothes were torn, and she herself was so frail
and delicate—poor little Thumbling! she was
nearly frozen. It began to snow, and every snow-flake
that fell upon her was like a whole shovelful thrown
upon one of us, for we are tall, and she was only an
inch long. Then she wrapped herself in a dry leaf, and
that tore in the middle, and would not warm
her—she shivered with cold.
Close to the wood into which she had now come lay a
great corn-field, but the corn was gone long ago; only
the naked, dry stubble stood up out of the frozen
ground. These were just like a great forest for her to
wander through; and O! how she trembled with cold.
Then she arrived at the door of the Field-mouse. This
mouse had a little hole under the stubble. There the
Field-Mouse lived, warm and comfortable, and had a
whole roomful of corn—a glorious kitchen and
larder. Poor Thumbling stood at the door just like a
poor beggar girl, and begged for a little bit of
barleycorn, for she had not the smallest morsel to eat
for the last two days.
"You poor little creature," said the
Field-mouse—for after all she was a good old
Field-mouse—"come into my warm room and dine with
As she was pleased with Thumbling, she said, "If you
like, you may stay with me through the winter, but you
must keep my room clean and neat, and tell me pretty
little stories, because I am very fond of hearing
And Thumbling did as the kind old Field-mouse bade her,
and had a very good time of it.
"Now we shall soon have a visitor," said the
Field-mouse. "My neighbor is in the habit of visiting
me once a week. He is even better off than I am, has
great rooms, and a beautiful black, velvety fur. If
you could only get him for your husband, you would be
well provided for. You must tell him the prettiest
stories you know."
But Thumbling did not care about this; she thought
nothing of the neighbor, for he was a mole. He came
and paid his visits in his black velvet coat. The
Field-mouse told how rich and how learned he was, and
how his house was more
 than twenty times larger
than hers; that he had learning, but that he did not
like the sun and beautiful flowers, for he had never
Thumbling had to sing, and she sang, "Lady-bug,
lady-bug, fly away home," and "When the parson goes
afield." Then the Mole fell in love with her, because
of her delicious voice; but he said nothing, for he was
a very sedate person.
A short time before, he had dug a long passage through
the earth from his own house to theirs; and Thumbling
and the Field-mouse obtained leave to walk in this
passage as much as they wished. But he begged them not
to be afraid of the dead bird which was lying in the
passage. It was an entire bird, with wings and a beak.
It certainly must have died only a short time before,
and was now buried just where the Mole had made his
The Mole took a bit of decayed wood in his mouth, and
it glimmered like fire in the dark; and then he went
first and lighted them through the long, dark passage.
When they came where the dead bird lay, the Mole thrust
up his broad nose against the ceiling, so that a great
hole was made, through which the daylight could shine
down. In the middle of the floor lay a dead swallow,
his beautiful wings pressed close against his sides,
and his head and feet drawn back under his feathers:
the poor bird had certainly died of cold. Thumbling
was very sorry for this; she was very fond of all the
little birds, who had sung and twittered so prettily
before her through the summer; but the Mole gave him a
push with his crooked legs, and said, "Now he doesn't
pipe anymore. It must be miserable to be born a little
bird. I'm thankful that none of my children can be
that: such a bird has nothing but his 'tweet-weet,' and
has to starve in the winter!"
"Yes, you may well say that, as a clever man," observed
the Mouse. "Of what use is all this 'tweet-weet' to a
bird when the winter comes? He must starve and freeze.
But they say that's aristocratic."
Thumbling said nothing; but when the two others turned
their backs on the bird, she bent down, put the
feathers aside which covered his head, and kissed him
upon his closed eyes.
"Perhaps it was he who sang so prettily before me in
 summer," she thought. "How much pleasure he
gave me, the dear, beautiful bird!"
The Mole now closed up the hole through which the
daylight shone in, and accompanied the ladies home.
But at night Thumbling could not sleep at all; so she
got up out of her bed, and wove a large beautiful
carpet of hay, and carried it and spread it over the
dead bird, and laid the thin stamens of flowers, soft
as cotton, which she had found in the Field-mouse's
room, at the bird's sides, so that he might lie soft in
"Farewell, you pretty little bird!" said she.
"Farewell! and thanks to you for your beautiful song in
the summer, when all the trees were green, and the sun
shone down warmly upon us." And then she laid the
bird's head upon her heart. But the bird was not dead;
he was only lying there torpid with cold; and now he
had been warmed, and came to life again.
In autumn all the swallows fly away to warm countries;
but if one happens to be belated, it becomes so cold
that it falls down as if dead, and lies where it fell,
and then the cold snow covers it.
Thumbling fairly trembled, she was so startled; for the
bird was large, very large, compared with her, who was
only an inch in height. But she took courage, laid the
cotton closer round the poor bird, and brought a leaf
that she had used as her own coverlet, and laid it over
the bird's head.
The next night she crept out to him again—and now
he was alive, but quite weak; he could only open his
eyes for a moment, and look at Thumbling, who stood
before him with a bit of decayed wood in her hand, for
she had not a lantern.
"I thank you, you pretty little child," said the sick
Swallow; "I have been nicely warmed. Soon I shall get
my strength back again, and I shall be able to fly
about in the warm sunshine."
"O," she said, "it is so cold without. It snows and
freezes. Stay in your warm bed, and I will nurse you."
Then she brought the Swallow water in the petal of a
flower; and the Swallow drank, and told her how he had
torn one of his wings in a thorn-bush, and thus had not
 to fly so fast as the other swallows,
which had sped away, far away, to the warm countries.
So at last he had fallen to the ground, but he could
remember nothing more, and did not know at all how he
had come where she had found him.
The whole winter the Swallow remained there, and
Thumbling nursed and tended him heartily. Neither the
Field-mouse nor the Mole heard anything about it, for
they did not like the poor Swallow. So soon as the
spring came, and the sun warmed the earth, the Swallow
bade Thumbling farewell, and she opened the hole which
the Mole had made in the ceiling. The sun shone in
upon them gloriously, and the Swallow asked if
Thumbling would go with him; she could sit upon his
back, and they would fly away far into the green wood.
But Thumbling knew that the old Field-mouse would be
grieved if she left her.
"No, I cannot!" said Thumbling.
"Farewell, farewell, you good, pretty girl!" said the
Swallow; and he flew out in the sunshine. Thumbling
looked after him, and the tears came into her eyes, for
she was heartily and sincerely fond of the poor
"Tweet-weet! tweet-weet!" said the bird, and flew into
the green forest. Thumbling felt very sad. She did
not get permission to go out into the warm sunshine.
The corn which was sown in the field over the house of
the Field-mouse grew up high into the air; it was quite
a thick wood for the poor girl, who was only an inch in
"You are betrothed now, Thumbling," said the
Field-mouse. "My neighbor has proposed for you. What
great fortune for a poor child like you! Now you must
work at your outfit, woolen and linen clothes both; for
you must lack nothing when you have become the Mole's
Thumbling had to turn the spindle, and the Mole hired
four spiders to weave for her day and night. Every
evening the Mole paid her a visit; and he was always
saying that when the summer should draw to a close the
sun would not shine nearly so hot, for that now it
burned the earth almost as hard as a stone. Yes, when
the summer should have gone, then he would keep his
wedding-day with Thumbling. But she was not glad at
all, for she did not like the tiresome Mole.
morning when the sun rose, and every evening when it
went down, she crept out at the door; and when the wind
blew the corn ears apart, so that she could see the
blue sky, she thought how bright and beautiful it was
out here, and wished heartily to see her dear swallow
again. But the Swallow did not come back; he had
doubtless flown far away, in the fair, green forest.
When autumn came on, Thumbling had all her outfit
"In four weeks you shall celebrate your wedding," said
the Field-mouse to her.
But Thumbling wept, and declared she would not have the
"Nonsense," said the Field-mouse; "don't be obstinate,
or I will bite you with my white teeth. He is a very
fine man whom you will marry. The Queen herself has
not such a black velvet fur; and his kitchen is full.
Be thankful for your good fortune."
Now the wedding was to be held. The Mole had already
come to fetch Thumbling; she was to live with him, deep
under the earth, and never to come out into the warm
sunshine, for that he did not like. The poor little
thing was very sorrowful; she was now to say farewell
to the glorious sun, which, after all, she had been
allowed by the Field-mouse to see from the threshold of
"Farewell, thou bright sun!" she said, and stretched
out her arms towards it, and walked a little way forth
from the house of the Field-mouse, for now the corn had
been reaped, and only the dry stubble stood in the
fields. "Farewell!" she repeated, twining her arms
round a little red flower which still bloomed there.
"Greet the Swallow from me, if you see him again."
"Tweet-weet! tweet-weet!" a voice sounded suddenly over
her head. She looked up; it was the little Swallow,
who was just flying by. When he saw Thumbling he was
very glad; and she told him how loath she was to have
the ugly Mole for her husband, and that she was to live
deep under the earth, where the sun never shone. And
she could not refrain from weeping.
"The cold weather is coming now," said the Swallow; "I
 am going to fly far away into the warm countries.
Will you come with me? You can sit upon my back; then
we shall fly from the ugly Mole and his dark
room—away, far away, over the mountains, to the
warm countries, where the sun shines warmer than here,
where it is always summer, and there are lovely
flowers. Only fly with me, you dear little Thumbling,
you who have saved my life when I lay frozen in the
dark, earthy passage."
"Yes, I will go with you!" said Thumbling, and she
seated herself on the bird's back, with her feet on his
outspread wing, and bound her girdle fast to one of his
strongest feathers; then the Swallow flew up into the
air, over forest and over sea, high up over the great
mountains, where the snow always lies; and Thumbling
felt cold in the bleak air, but then she hid under the
bird's warm feathers, and only put out her little head
to admire all the beauties beneath her.
At last they came to the warm countries. There the sun
shone far brighter than here; the sky seemed twice as
high; in ditches and on the hedges grew the most
beautiful blue and green grapes; lemons and oranges
hung in the woods; the air was fragrant with myrtles
and balsams, and on the roads the loveliest children
ran about, playing with the gay butterflies. But the
Swallow flew still farther, and it became more and more
beautiful. Under the most glorious green trees by the
blue lake stood a palace of dazzling white marble from
the olden time. Vines clustered all around the lofty
pillars; at the top were many swallows' nests, and in
one of these the Swallow lived who carried Thumbling.
"That is my house," said the Swallow; "but it is not
right that you should live there. It is not yet
properly arranged, by a great deal, and you will not be
content with it. Select for yourself one of the
splendid flowers which grow down yonder, then I will
put you into it, and you shall have everything as nice
as you can wish."
"This is delightful," cried she, clapping her hands.
A great marble pillar lay there, which had fallen to
the ground and had been broken into three pieces; but
between these pieces grew the most beautiful great
white flowers. The Swallow flew down with Thumbling,
and set her upon
 one of the broad leaves. But what
was the little maid's surprise? There sat a little man
in the midst of the flower, as white and transparent as
if he had been made of glass: he wore the neatest of
gold crowns on his head, and the brightest wings on his
shoulders; he himself was not bigger than Thumbling.
He was the angel of the flower. In each of the flowers
dwelt such a little man or woman, but this one was King
over them all.
"Heavens! how beautiful he is!" whispered Thumbling to
The little Prince was very much frightened at the
Swallow; for it was quite a gigantic bird to him, who
was so small. But when he saw Thumbling, he became
very glad; she was the prettiest maiden he had ever
seen. Therefore he took off his golden crown, and put
it upon her, and asked her name, and if she would be
his wife, and then she should be Queen of all the
flowers. Now this was truly a different kind of man to
the son of the Toad, and the Mole with the black velvet
fur. She therefore said "Yes" to the charming Prince.
And out of every flower came a lady or a lord, so
pretty to behold that it was a delight; each one
brought Thumbling a present; but the best gift was a
pair of beautiful wings which had belonged to a great
white fly; these were fastened to Thumbling's back, and
now she could fly from flower to flower. Then there
was much rejoicing; and the little Swallow sat above
them in his nest, and was to sing the marriage song,
which he accordingly did as well as he could; but yet
in his heart he was sad, for he was so fond, O! so fond
of Thumbling, and would have liked never to part from
"You shall not be called Thumbling," said the Flower
Angel to her; "that is an ugly name, and you are too
fair for it; we will call you Maia."
"Farewell, farewell!" said the little Swallow, with a
heavy heart; and he flew away again from the warm
countries, far away back to Denmark. There he had a
little nest over the window of the man who can tell
fairy tales. Before him he sang, "Tweet-weet!
tweet-weet!" and from him we have the whole story.