First Story – Which Treats of a Mirror and of the Splinters
There was a wicked sprite, indeed he was the most mischievous of all sprites. One day
he was in a very good humor, for he had made a mirror with the power of causing all
that was good and beautiful when it was reflected therein, to look poor and mean; but
that which was good-for-nothing and looked ugly was shown magnified and increased
in ugliness. In this mirror the most beautiful landscapes looked like boiled spinach,
and the best persons were turned into frights, or appeared to stand on their heads; their
faces were so distorted that they were not to be recognized; and if anyone had a mole,
you might be sure that it would be magnified and spread over both nose and mouth.
“That’s glorious fun!” said the sprite. If a good thought passed through a man’s mind,
then a grin was seen in the mirror, and the sprite laughed heartily at his clever
discovery. All the little sprites who went to his school, for he kept a sprite school, told
each other that a miracle had happened; and that now only, as they thought, it would
be possible to see how the world really looked. They ran about with the mirror; and at
last there was not a land or a person who was not represented distorted in the mirror.
So then they thought they would fly up to the sky, and have a joke there. The higher
they flew with the mirror, the more terribly it grinned: they could hardly hold it fast.
Higher and higher still they flew, nearer and nearer to the stars, when suddenly the
mirror shook so terribly with grinning, that it flew out of their hands and fell to the
earth, where it was dashed in a hundred million and more pieces. And now it worked
much more evil than before; for some of these pieces were hardly so large as a grain
of sand, and they flew about in the wide world, and when they got into people’s eyes,
there they stayed; and then people saw everything perverted, or only had an eye for
that which was evil. This happened because the very smallest bit had the same power
which the whole mirror had possessed. Some persons even got a splinter in their heart,
and then it made one shudder, for their heart became like a lump of ice. Some of the
broken pieces were so large that they were used for windowpanes, through which one
could not see one’s friends. Other pieces were put in spectacles; and that was a sad
affair when people put on their glasses to see well and rightly. Then the wicked sprite
laughed till he almost choked, for all this tickled his fancy. The fine splinters still flew
about in the air: and now we shall hear what happened next.
Second Story – A Little Boy and a Little Girl
In a large town, where there are so many houses, and so many people, that there is no
roof left for everybody to have a little garden; and where, on this account, most
persons are obliged to content themselves with flowers in pots; there lived two little
children, who had a garden somewhat larger than a flower-pot. They were not brother
and sister; but they cared for each other as much as if they were. Their parents lived
exactly opposite. They inhabited two garrets; and where the roof of the one house
joined that of the other, and the gutter ran along the extreme end of it, there was to
each house a small window: one needed only to step over the gutter to get from one
window to the other.
The children’s parents had large wooden boxes there, in which vegetables for the
kitchen were planted, and little rose trees besides: there was a rose in each box, and
they grew splendidly. They now thought of placing the boxes across the gutter, so that
they nearly reached from one window to the other, and looked just like two walls of
flowers. The tendrils of the peas hung down over the boxes; and the rose-trees shot up
long branches, twined round the windows, and then bent towards each other: it was
almost like a triumphant arch of foliage and flowers. The boxes were very high, and
the children knew that they must not creep over them; so they often obtained
permission to get out of the windows to each other, and to sit on their little stools
among the roses, where they could play delightfully. In winter there was an end of this
pleasure. The windows were often frozen over; but then they heated copper farthings
on the stove, and laid the hot farthing on the windowpane, and then they had a capital
peep-hole, quite nicely rounded; and out of each peeped a gentle friendly eye, it was
the little boy and the little girl who were looking out. His name was Kay, hers was
Gerda. In summer, with one jump, they could get to each other; but in winter they
were obliged first to go down the long stairs, and then up the long stairs again: and
out-of-doors there was quite a snow-storm.
“It is the white bees that are swarming,” said Kay’s old grandmother.
“Do the white bees choose a queen?” asked the little boy; for he knew that the honeybees always have one.
“Yes,” said the grandmother, “she flies where the swarm hangs in the thickest clusters.
She is the largest of all; and she can never remain quietly on the earth, but goes up
again into the black clouds. Many a winter’s night she flies through the streets of the
town, and peeps in at the windows; and they then freeze in so wondrous a manner that
they look like flowers.”
“Yes, I have seen it,” said both the children; and so they knew that it was true.
“Can the Snow Queen come in?” said the little girl.
“Only let her come in!” said the little boy. “Then I’d put her on the stove, and she’d
And then his grandmother patted his head and told him other stories.
In the evening, when little Kay was at home, and half undressed, he climbed up on the
chair by the window, and peeped out of the little hole. A few snow-flakes were
falling, and one, the largest of all, remained lying on the edge of a flower-pot.
The flake of snow grew larger and larger; and at last it was like a young lady, dressed
in the finest white gauze, made of a million little flakes like stars. She was so beautiful
and delicate, but she was of ice, of dazzling, sparkling ice; yet she lived; her eyes
gazed fixedly, like two stars; but there was neither quiet nor repose in them. She
nodded towards the window, and beckoned with her hand. The little boy was
frightened, and jumped down from the chair; it seemed to him as if, at the same
moment, a large bird flew past the window.
The next day it was a sharp frost, and then the spring came; the sun shone, the green
leaves appeared, the swallows built their nests, the windows were opened, and the
little children again sat in their pretty garden, high up on the leads at the top of the
That summer the roses flowered in unwonted beauty. The little girl had learned a
hymn, in which there was something about roses; and then she thought of her own
flowers; and she sang the verse to the little boy, who then sang it with her:
“The rose in the valley is blooming so sweet, And angels descend there the children to
And the children held each other by the hand, kissed the roses, looked up at the clear
sunshine, and spoke as though they really saw angels there. What lovely summer-days
those were! How delightful to be out in the air, near the fresh rose-bushes, that seem
as if they would never finish blossoming!
Kay and Gerda looked at the picture-book full of beasts and of birds; and it was then,
the clock in the church-tower was just striking five, that Kay said, “Oh! I feel such a
sharp pain in my heart; and now something has got into my eye!”
The little girl put her arms around his neck. He winked his eves; now there was
nothing to be seen.
“I think it is out now,” said he; but it was not. It was just one of those pieces of glass
from the magic mirror that had got into his eye; and poor Kay had got another piece
right in his heart. It will soon become like ice. It did not hurt any longer, but there it
“What are you crying for?” asked he. “You look so ugly! There’s nothing the matter
with me. Ah,” said he at once, “that rose is cankered! And look, this one is quite
crooked! After all, these roses are very ugly! They are just like the box they are
planted in!” And then he gave the box a good kick with his foot, and pulled both the
“What are you doing?” cried the little girl; and as he perceived her fright, he pulled up
another rose, got in at the window, and hastened off from dear little Gerda.
Afterwards, when she brought her picture-book, he asked, “What horrid beasts have
you there?” And if his grandmother told them stories, he always interrupted her;
besides, if he could manage it, he would get behind her, put on her spectacles, and
imitate her way of speaking; he copied all her ways, and then everybody laughed at
him. He was soon able to imitate the gait and manner of everyone in the street.
Everything that was peculiar and displeasing in them, that Kay knew how to imitate:
and at such times all the people said, “The boy is certainly very clever!” But it was the
glass he had got in his eye; the glass that was sticking in his heart, which made him
tease even little Gerda, whose whole soul was devoted to him.
His games now were quite different to what they had formerly been, they were so very
knowing. One winter’s day, when the flakes of snow were flying about, he spread the
skirts of his blue coat, and caught the snow as it fell.
“Look through this glass, Gerda,” said he. And every flake seemed larger, and
appeared like a magnificent flower, or beautiful star; it was splendid to look at!
“Look, how clever!” said Kay. “That’s much more interesting than real flowers! They
are as exact as possible; there is not a fault in them, if they did not melt!”
It was not long after this, that Kay came one day with large gloves on, and his little
sledge at his back, and bawled right into Gerda’s ears, “I have permission to go out
into the square where the others are playing”; and off he was in a moment.
There, in the market-place, some of the boldest of the boys used to tie their sledges to
the carts as they passed by, and so they were pulled along, and got a good ride. It was
so capital! Just as they were in the very height of their amusement, a large sledge
passed by: it was painted quite white, and there was someone in it wrapped up in a
rough white mantle of fur, with a rough white fur cap on his head. The sledge drove
round the square twice, and Kay tied on his sledge as quickly as he could, and off he
drove with it. On they went quicker and quicker into the next street; and the person
who drove turned round to Kay, and nodded to him in a friendly manner, just as if
they knew each other. Every time he was going to untie his sledge, the person nodded
to him, and then Kay sat quiet; and so on they went till they came outside the gates of
the town. Then the snow began to fall so thickly that the little boy could not see an
arm’s length before him, but still on he went: when suddenly he let go the string he
held in his hand in order to get loose from the sledge, but it was of no use; still the
little vehicle rushed on with the quickness of the wind. He then cried as loud as he
could, but no one beard him; the snow drifted and the sledge flew on, and sometimes
it gave a jerk as though they were driving over hedges and ditches. He was quite
frightened, and he tried to repeat the Lord’s Prayer; but all he could do, he was only
able to remember the multiplication table.
The snow-flakes grew larger and larger, till at last they looked just like great white
fowls. Suddenly they flew on one side; the large sledge stopped, and the person who
drove rose up. It was a lady; her cloak and cap were of snow. She was tall and of
slender figure, and of a dazzling whiteness. It was the Snow Queen.
“We have travelled fast,” said she; “but it is freezingly cold. Come under my
bearskin.” And she put him in the sledge beside her, wrapped the fur round him, and
he felt as though he were sinking in a snow-wreath.
“Are you still cold?” asked she; and then she kissed his forehead. Ah! it was colder
than ice; it penetrated to his very heart, which was already almost a frozen lump; it
seemed to him as if he were about to die, but a moment more and it was quite
congenial to him, and he did not remark the cold that was around him.
“My sledge! Do not forget my sledge!” It was the first thing he thought of. It was
there tied to one of the white chickens, who flew along with it on his back behind the
large sledge. The Snow Queen kissed Kay once more, and then he forgot little Gerda,
grandmother, and all whom he had left at his home.
“Now you will have no more kisses,” said she, “or else I should kiss you to death!”
Kay looked at her. She was very beautiful; a more clever, or a more lovely
countenance he could not fancy to himself; and she no longer appeared of ice as
before, when she sat outside the window, and beckoned to him; in his eyes she was
perfect, he did not fear her at all, and told her that he could calculate in his head and
with fractions, even; that he knew the number of square miles there were in the
different countries, and how many inhabitants they contained; and she smiled while he
spoke. It then seemed to him as if what he knew was not enough, and he looked
upwards in the large huge empty space above him, and on she flew with him; flew
high over the black clouds, while the storm moaned and whistled as though it were
singing some old tune. On they flew over woods and lakes, over seas, and many lands;
and beneath them the chilling storm rushed fast, the wolves howled, the snow
crackled; above them flew large screaming crows, but higher up appeared the moon,
quite large and bright; and it was on it that Kay gazed during the long long winter’s
night; while by day he slept at the feet of the Snow Queen.
Third Story – Of the Flower Garden at the Old Woman’s Who Understood Witchcraf
To be continued…..