The Snow Queen – A Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Andersen
Gerda was obliged to rest herself again, when, exactly opposite to her, a large Raven
came hopping over the white snow. He had long been looking at Gerda and shaking
his head; and now he said, “Caw! Caw!” Good day! Good day! He could not say it
better; but he felt a sympathy for the little girl, and asked her where she was going all
alone. The word “alone” Gerda understood quite well, and felt how much was
expressed by it; so she told the Raven her whole history, and asked if he had not seen
The Raven nodded very gravely, and said, “It may be, it may be!”
“What, do you really think so?” cried the little girl; and she nearly squeezed the Raven
to death, so much did she kiss him.
“Gently, gently,” said the Raven. “I think I know; I think that it may be little Kay. But
now he has forgotten you for the Princess.”
“Does he live with a Princess?” asked Gerda.
“Yes, listen,” said the Raven; “but it will be difficult for me to speak your language. If
you understand the Raven language I can tell you better.”
“No, I have not learnt it,” said Gerda; “but my grandmother understands it, and she
can speak gibberish too. I wish I had learnt it.”
“No matter,” said the Raven; “I will tell you as well as I can; however, it will be bad
enough.” And then he told all he knew.
“In the kingdom where we now are there lives a Princess, who is extraordinarily
clever; for she has read all the newspapers in the whole world, and has forgotten them
again, so clever is she. She was lately, it is said, sitting on her throne, which is not
very amusing after all, when she began humming an old tune, and it was just, ‘Oh,
why should I not be married?’ ‘That song is not without its meaning,’ said she, and so
then she was determined to marry; but she would have a husband who knew how to
give an answer when he was spoken to, not one who looked only as if he were a great
personage, for that is so tiresome. She then had all the ladies of the court drummed
together; and when they heard her intention, all were very pleased, and said, ‘We are
very glad to hear it; it is the very thing we were thinking of.’ You may believe every
word I say,” said the Raven; “for I have a tame sweetheart that hops about in the
palace quite free, and it was she who told me all this.
“The newspapers appeared forthwith with a border of hearts and the initials of the
Princess; and therein you might read that every good-looking young man was at
liberty to come to the palace and speak to the Princess; and he who spoke in such wise
as showed he felt himself at home there, that one the Princess would choose for her
“Yes, Yes,” said the Raven, “you may believe it; it is as true as I am sitting here.
People came in crowds; there was a crush and a hurry, but no one was successful
either on the first or second day. They could all talk well enough when they were out
in the street; but as soon as they came inside the palace gates, and saw the guard richly
dressed in silver, and the lackeys in gold on the staircase, and the large illuminated
saloons, then they were abashed; and when they stood before the throne on which the
Princess was sitting, all they could do was to repeat the last word they had uttered, and
to hear it again did not interest her very much. It was just as if the people within were
under a charm, and had fallen into a trance till they came out again into the street; for
then, oh, then, they could chatter enough. There was a whole row of them standing
from the town-gates to the palace. I was there myself to look,” said the Raven. “They
grew hungry and thirsty; but from the palace they got nothing whatever, not even a
glass of water. Some of the cleverest, it is true, had taken bread and butter with them:
but none shared it with his neighbour, for each thought, ‘Let him look hungry, and
then the Princess won’t have him.”‘
“But Kay, little Kay,” said Gerda, “when did he come? Was he among the number?”
“Patience, patience; we are just come to him. It was on the third day when a little
personage without horse or equipage, came marching right boldly up to the palace; his
eyes shone like yours, he had beautiful long hair, but his clothes were very shabby.”
“That was Kay,” cried Gerda, with a voice of delight. “Oh, now I’ve found him!” and
she clapped her hands for joy.
“He had a little knapsack at his back,” said the Raven.
“No, that was certainly his sledge,” said Gerda; “for when he went away he took his
sledge with him.”
“That may be,” said the Raven; “I did not examine him so minutely; but I know from
my tame sweetheart, that when he came into the court-yard of the palace, and saw the
body-guard in silver, the lackeys on the staircase, he was not the least abashed; he
nodded, and said to them, ‘It must be very tiresome to stand on the stairs; for my part,
I shall go in.’ The saloons were gleaming with lustres, privy councillors and
excellencies were walking about barefooted, and wore gold keys; it was enough to
make any one feel uncomfortable. His boots creaked, too, so loudly, but still he was
not at all afraid.”
“That’s Kay for certain,” said Gerda. “I know he had on new boots; I have heard them
creaking in grandmama’s room.”
“Yes, they creaked,” said the Raven. “And on he went boldly up to the Princess, who
was sitting on a pearl as large as a spinning-wheel. All the ladies of the court, with
their attendants and attendants’ attendants, and all the cavaliers, with their gentlemen
and gentlemen’s gentlemen, stood round; and the nearer they stood to the door, the
prouder they looked. It was hardly possible to look at the gentleman’s gentleman, so
very haughtily did he stand in the doorway.”
“It must have been terrible,” said little Gerda. “And did Kay get the Princess?”
“Were I not a Raven, I should have taken the Princess myself, although I am
promised. It is said he spoke as well as I speak when I talk Raven language; this I
learned from my tame sweetheart. He was bold and nicely behaved; he had not come
to woo the Princess, but only to hear her wisdom. She pleased him, and he pleased
“Yes, yes; for certain that was Kay,” said Gerda. “He was so clever; he could reckon
fractions in his head. Oh, won’t you take me to the palace?”
“That is very easily said,” answered the Raven. “But how are we to manage it? I’ll
speak to my tame sweetheart about it: she must advise us; for so much I must tell you,
such a little girl as you are will never get permission to enter.”
“Oh, yes I shall,” said Gerda; “when Kay hears that I am here, he will come out
directly to fetch me.”
“Wait for me here on these steps,” said the Raven. He moved his head backwards and
forwards and flew away.
The evening was closing in when the Raven returned. “Caw, caw!” said he. “She
sends you her compliments; and here is a roll for you. She took it out of the kitchen,
where there is bread enough. You are hungry, no doubt. It is not possible for you to
enter the palace, for you are barefooted: the guards in silver, and the lackeys in gold,
would not allow it; but do not cry, you shall come in still. My sweetheart knows a
little back stair that leads to the bedchamber, and she knows where she can get the key
And they went into the garden in the large avenue, where one leaf was falling after the
other; and when the lights in the palace had all gradually disappeared, the Raven led
little Gerda to the back door, which stood half open.
Oh, how Gerda’s heart beat with anxiety and longing! It was just as if she had been
about to do something wrong; and yet she only wanted to know if little Kay was there.
Yes, he must be there. She called to mind his intelligent eyes, and his long hair, so
vividly, she could quite see him as he used to laugh when they were sitting under the
roses at home. “He will, no doubt, be glad to see you, to hear what a long way you
have come for his sake; to know how unhappy all at home were when he did not come
Oh, what a fright and a joy it was!
They were now on the stairs. A single lamp was burning there; and on the floor stood
the tame Raven, turning her head on every side and looking at Gerda, who bowed as
her grandmother had taught her to do.
“My intended has told me so much good of you, my dear young lady,” said the tame
Raven. “Your tale is very affecting. If you will take the lamp, I will go before. We
will go straight on, for we shall meet no one.”
“I think there is somebody just behind us,” said Gerda; and something rushed past: it
was like shadowy figures on the wall; horses with flowing manes and thin legs,
huntsmen, ladies and gentlemen on horseback.
“They are only dreams,” said the Raven. “They come to fetch the thoughts of the high
personages to the chase; ’tis well, for now you can observe them in bed all the better.
But let me find, when you enjoy honor and distinction, that you possess a grateful
“Tut! That’s not worth talking about,” said the Raven of the woods.
They now entered the first saloon, which was of rose-colored satin, with artificial
flowers on the wall. Here the dreams were rushing past, but they hastened by so
quickly that Gerda could not see the high personages. One hall was more magnificent
than the other; one might indeed well be abashed; and at last they came into the
bedchamber. The ceiling of the room resembled a large palm-tree with leaves of glass,
of costly glass; and in the middle, from a thick golden stem, hung two beds, each of
which resembled a lily. One was white, and in this lay the Princess; the other was red,
and it was here that Gerda was to look for little Kay. She bent back one of the red
leaves, and saw a brown neck. Oh! that was Kay! She called him quite loud by name,
held the lamp towards him, the dreams rushed back again into the chamber, he awoke,
turned his head, and, it was not little Kay!
The Prince was only like him about the neck; but he was young and handsome. And
out of the white lily leaves the Princess peeped, too, and asked what was the matter.
Then little Gerda cried, and told her her whole history, and all that the Ravens had
done for her.
“Poor little thing!” said the Prince and the Princess. They praised the Ravens very
much, and told them they were not at all angry with them, but they were not to do so
again. However, they should have a reward. “Will you fly about here at liberty,” asked
the Princess; “or would you like to have a fixed appointment as court ravens, with all
the broken bits from the kitchen?”
And both the Ravens nodded, and begged for a fixed appointment; for they thought of
their old age, and said, “It is a good thing to have a provision for our old days.”
And the Prince got up and let Gerda sleep in his bed, and more than this he could not
do. She folded her little hands and thought, “How good men and animals are!” and she
then fell asleep and slept soundly. All the dreams flew in again, and they now looked
like the angels; they drew a little sledge, in which little Kay sat and nodded his head;
but the whole was only a dream, and therefore it all vanished as soon as she awoke.
The next day she was dressed from head to foot in silk and velvet. They offered to let
her stay at the palace, and lead a happy life; but she begged to have a little carriage
with a horse in front, and for a small pair of shoes; then, she said, she would again go
forth in the wide world and look for Kay.
Shoes and a muff were given her; she was, too, dressed very nicely; and when she was
about to set off, a new carriage stopped before the door. It was of pure gold, and the
arms of the Prince and Princess shone like a star upon it; the coachman, the footmen,
and the outriders, for outriders were there, too, all wore golden crowns. The Prince
and the Princess assisted her into the carriage themselves, and wished her all success.
The Raven of the woods, who was now married, accompanied her for the first three
miles. He sat beside Gerda, for he could not bear riding backwards; the other Raven
stood in the doorway, and flapped her wings; she could not accompany Gerda,
because she suffered from headache since she had had a fixed appointment and ate so
much. The carriage was lined inside with sugar-plums, and in the seats were fruits and
“Farewell! Farewell!” cried Prince and Princess; and Gerda wept, and the Raven wept.
Thus passed the first miles; and then the Raven bade her farewell, and this was the
most painful separation of all. He flew into a tree, and beat his black wings as long as
he could see the carriage, that shone from afar like a sunbeam.
To be continued….