HE flax stood in bloom. It had pretty little blue flowers, delicate as a
moth's wing, and even more delicate. The sun shone on the flax, and
the rain clouds moistened it, and this was just as good for it as it is for
little children when they are washed, and afterwards get a kiss from their
mother; they become much prettier, and so did the flax.
"The people say that I stand uncommonly well," said the flax, "and
that I am fine and long, and shall make a capital piece of linen. How happy
I am! I'm certainly the happiest of beings! How well I am off! And I
may come to something! How the sunshine gladdens, and the rain tastes
good, and refreshes me! I'm wonderfully happy; I'm the happiest of
"Yes, yes, yes," said the stalk; "you don't know the work that we
do, for we have knots in us;" and then it creaked out mournfully—"Snip,
snap, snurre, bassellurie! The song is done."
"No, it is not done," said the flax; "to-morrow the sun will shine, or
the rain will refresh us. I feel that I am growing. I feel that I'm in
blossom. I'm the happiest of beings."
But one day the people came, and took the flax by the head, and
pulled it up by the roots. That hurt! and it was laid in water, as if they
were going to drown it, and then put on the fire, as if it was going to be
roasted. It was quite fearful!
"One can't always have good times," said the flax; "one must make
one's experiences, and so one gets to know something."
But bad times certainly came. The flax was moistened, and roasted,
and broken, and hacked. Yes, it did not even know what the operations
were called that they did with it. It was put on the spinning-wheel—whirr,
whirr, whirr—it was not possible to collect one's thoughts.
"I have been uncommonly happy," it thought, in all its pain. "One
 must be content with the good one has enjoyed. Contented, contented!
Oh!" And it continued to say that, when it was put into the loom, until
it became a large, beautiful piece of linen. All the flax, to the last stalk,
was used in making one piece.
"But this is quite remarkable! I should never have believed it! How
favorable fortune is to me! The hedge-stalk was well informed, truly, with
its 'Snip, snap, snurre, bassellurie!' The song is not done, by any means.
Now, it's beginning in earnest. That's quite remarkable. If I've suffered
something, I've been made into something. I'm the happiest of all! How
strong and fine I am; how white and long. That's something different from
being a mere plant. Even if one bears flowers, one is not attended to, and
only gets watered when it rains. Now, I am attended to, and cherished.
The maid turns me every morning, and I get a shower-bath from the watering-pot
every evening. Yes, the clergyman's wife has even made a speech about
me, and says I'm the best piece in the whole parish. I cannot be happier."
Now the linen was taken bito the house, and put under the scissors.
How they cut it and tore it, and then pricked it with needles. That was
not pleasant, but twelve pieces of body linen, (of a kind not often mentioned
by name, but indispensable to all people,) were made of it—a whole
"Just look, now; something has really been made of me. So that was
my destiny. That's a real blessing! Now I shall be of some use in the
world, and that's right, that's a true pleasure! We've been made into
twelve things, yet we're all one and the same; we're just a dozen. How
remarkably charming that is!"
Years rolled on, and now they would hold together no longer.
"It must be over, one day," said each piece, "I would gladly have
held together a little longer, but one must not expect impossibilities."
They were now torn into pieces and fragments. They thought it
was all over, for they were hacked into shreds and softened and boiled.
Yes, they themselves did not know all that was done to them, and then
they were beautiful white paper.
 "Now, that is a surprise, and a glorious surprise," said the paper.
"Now I'm finer than before, and I shall be written on."
And really the most beautiful stories and verses were written upon it,
and only once there came a blot; that was certainly remarkably good
fortune. And the pen heard what was upon it; it was sensible and good,
and made people more sensible and better. There was a great blessing
in the words that were on this paper.
"That is more than I ever imagined, when I was a little blue flower
in the fields. How could I ever fancy that I should spread joy and
knowledge among men! I can't yet understand it myself, but it is really so. I
have done nothing myself except, what I was obliged to do with my weak
powers for my own preservation, and yet I've been promoted from one joy
and honor to another. Each time when I think 'the song is done,' it begins
again in a higher and better way. Now I shall certainly be sent about to
journey through the world, in order that all people may read me. That
cannot be otherwise; it is the only probable thing. I've splendid thoughts,
as many as I had flowers in the old times. I'm the happiest of beings."
But the paper was not sent on its travels, it was sent to the printer and
everything that was written upon it was set up in type for a book, or
rather for many hundreds of books, for in this way a far greater number of
people could derive pleasure and profit from the book, than if the one paper
on which it was written, had run about the world to be worn out before it
got half way.
"Yes, that is certainly the wisest way," thought the paper. "I really
did not think of that. I shall stay at home and be held in honor, just
like an old grandfather, and I am really the grandfather of all these
books. Now something can be effected. I could not have wandered about
thus. He who wrote all this looked at me. Every word from his pen flowed
right unto me. I'm the happiest of all."
Thus the paper was tied together in a bundle, and thrown into a tub
that stood in the wash-house.
 "It's good, resting after work," thought the paper. "It is very right
that one should collect one's thoughts. Now I'm able, for the first time, to
think of what is in me, and to know one's self is true progress. What
will be done with me now? At any rate, I shall go forward again. I'm
always going forward, I've found that out."
Now, one day all the paper was taken out and laid by on the hearth;
it was to be burned, so it might not be sold to the hucksters, to be used
as a covering for butter and sugar, they said. And all the children in the
house stood round about, for they wanted to see the paper burn, that
flamed up so merrily, and afterwards one could see so many red sparks
among the ashes, here and there. One after another faded out, as quick as
wind, and that they called seeing the children come out of school; and the
last spark the schoolmaster. One of them thought he had already gone,
but the next moment there came another spark. "There goes the
school-master," they said. Yes, they all knew about it. They should have known
who it was who went there. We shall get to know it, but they did not.
All the old paper, the whole bundle, was laid upon the fire, and it was soon
"Ugh!" it said, and burst out into a bright flame. "Ugh! that was
not very agreeable." But when the whole was wrapped in bright flames,
they mounted up higher than the flax had ever been able to lift its head,
and its little blue flames, and glittered as the white linen had never been
able to glitter. All the written letters turned for a moment quite red, and
all the words and thoughts turned to flame.
"Now, I'm mounting straight up to the sun," said a voice in the
flames, and it was as if a thousand voices said this in unison, and the
flames mounted up through the chimney, and out at the top; more
delicate than the flames, invisible to the human eye, little tiny beings
floated there, as many as there had been blossoms on the flax. They were
lighter even than the flame from which they came, and when the name
was extinguished, and nothing remained of the paper but ashes, they danced
over it once more; and when they touched the black mass the little red
 sparks appeared. The children came out of school, and the schoolmaster
was the last of all. That was fun, and the children sang over the dead
"Snip, snap, snurre, Bassellurie. The song is done."
But the little invisible beings all said:
The song is never done; that is the best of it all. I know it,
therefore I am the happiest of all."
But the children could neither hear nor understand it; nor ought they,
for children must not know everything.