The snow queen



First Story
Which Treats of a Mirror and of the Splinters

Now then, let us begin. When we are at the end of the story, we shall know more than we know now: but to begin.

Once upon a time 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 recognised; 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 rosetrees 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 delight fully. 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 honey-bees 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 melt."

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 house.

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 greet."

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 was.

"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 roses up.

"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 i 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 Witchcraft

But what became of little Gerda when Kay did not return? Where could he be? Nobody knew; nobody could give any intelligence. All the boys knew was, that they had seen him tie his sledge to another large and splendid one, which drove down the street and out of the town. Nobody knew where he was; many sad tears were shed, and little Gerda wept long and bitterly; at last she said he must be dead; that he had been drowned in the river which flowed close to the town. Oh! those were very long and dismal winter evenings!

At last spring came, with its warm sunshine.

"Kay is dead and gone!" said little Gerda.

"That I don't believe," said the Sunshine.

"Kay is dead and gone!" said she to the Swallows.

"That I don't believe," said they: and at last little Gerda did not think so any longer either.

"I'll put on my red shoes," said she, one morning; "Kay has never seen them, and then I'll go down to the river and ask there."

It was quite early; she kissed her old grandmother, who was still asleep, put on her red shoes, and went alone to the river.

"Is it true that you have taken my little playfellow? I will make you a present of my red shoes, if you will give him back to me."

And, as it seemed to her, the blue waves nodded in a strange manner; then she took off her red shoes, the most precious things she possessed, and threw them both into the river. But they fell close to the bank, and the little waves bore them immediately to land; it was as if the stream would not take what was dearest to her; for in reality it had not got little, Kay; but Gerda thought that she had not thrown the shoes out far enough, so she clambered into a boat which lay among the rushes, went to the farthest end, and threw out the shoes. But the boat was not fastened, and the motion which she occasioned, made it drift from the shore. She observed this, and hastened to get back; but before she could do so, the boat was more than a yard from the land, and was gliding quickly onward.

Little Gerda was very frightened, and began to cry; but no one heard her except the sparrows, and they could not carry her to land; but they flew along the bank, and sang as if to comfort her, "Here we are! Here we are!" The boat drifted with the stream, little Gerda sat quite still without shoes, for they were swimming behind the boat, but she could not reach them, because the boat went much faster than they did.

The banks on both sides were beautiful; lovely flowers, venerable trees, and slopes with sheep and cows, but not a human being was to be seen.

"Perhaps the river will carry me to little Kay," said she; and then she grew less sad. She rose, and looked for many hours at the beautiful green banks. Presently she sailed by a large cherry-orchard, where was a little cottage with curious red and blue windows; it was thatched, and before it two wooden soldiers stood sentry, and presented arms when anyone went past.

Gerda called to them, for she thought they were alive; but they, of course, did not answer. She came close to them, for the stream drifted the boat quite near the land.

Gerda called still louder, and an old woman then came out of the cottage, leaning upon a crooked stick. She had a large broad-brimmed hat on, painted with the most splendid flowers.

"Poor little child!" said the old woman. "How did you get upon the large rapid river, to be driven about so in the wide world!" And then the old woman went into the water, caught hold of the boat with her crooked stick, drew it to the bank, and lifted little Gerda out.

And Gerda was so glad to be on dry land again; but she was rather afraid of the strange old woman.

"But come and tell me who you are, and how you came here," said she.

And Gerda told her all; and the old woman shook her head and said, "A-hem! a-hem!" and when Gerda had told her everything, and asked her if she had not seen little Kay, the woman answered that he had not passed there, but he no doubt would come; and she told her not to be cast down, but taste her cherries, and look at her flowers, which were finer than any in a picture-book, each of which could tell a whole story. She then took Gerda by the hand, led her into the little cottage, and locked the door.

The windows were very high up; the glass was red, blue, and green, and the sunlight shone through quite wondrously in all sorts of colors. On the table stood the most exquisite cherries, and Gerda ate as many as she chose, for she had permission to do so. While she was eating, the old woman combed her hair with a golden comb, and her hair curled and shone with a lovely golden color around that sweet little face, which was so round and so like a rose.

"I have often longed for such a dear little girl," said the old woman. "Now you shall see how well we agree together"; and while she combed little Gerda's hair, the child forgot her foster-brother Kay more and more, for the old woman understood magic; but she was no evil being, she only practised witchcraft a little for her own private amusement, and now she wanted very much to keep little Gerda. She therefore went out in the garden, stretched out.her crooked stick towards the rose-bushes, which, beautifully as they were blowing, all sank into the earth and no one could tell where they had stood. The old woman feared that if Gerda should see the roses, she would then think of her own, would remember little Kay, and run away from her.

She now led Gerda into the flower-garden. Oh, what odour and what loveliness was there! Every flower that one could think of, and of every season, stood there in fullest bloom; no picture-book could be gayer or more beautiful. Gerda jumped for joy, and played till the sun set behind the tall cherry-tree; she then had a pretty bed, with a red silken coverlet filled with blue violets. She fell asleep, and had as pleasant dreams as ever a queen on her wedding-day.

The next morning she went to play with the flowers in the warm sunshine, and thus passed away a day. Gerda knew every flower; and, numerous as they were, it still seemed to Gerda that one was wanting, though she did not know which. One day while she was looking at the hat of the old woman painted with flowers, the most beautiful of them all seemed to her to be a rose. The old woman had forgotten to take it from her hat when she made the others vanish in the earth. But so it is when one's thoughts are not collected. "What!" said Gerda. "Are there no roses here?" and she ran about amongst the flowerbeds, and looked, and looked, but there was not one to be found. She then sat down and wept; but her hot tears fell just where a rose-bush had sunk; and when her warm tears watered the ground, the tree shot up suddenly as fresh and blooming as when it had been swallowed up. Gerda kissed the roses, thought of her own dear roses at home, and with them of little Kay.

"Oh, how long I have stayed!" said the little girl. "I intended to look for Kay! Don't you know where he is?" she asked of the roses. "Do you think he is dead and gone?"

"Dead he certainly is not," said the Roses. "We have been in the earth where all the dead are, but Kay was not there."

"Many thanks!" said little Gerda; and she went to the other flowers, looked into their cups, and asked, "Don't you know where little Kay is?"

But every flower stood in the sunshine, and dreamed its own fairy tale or its own story: and they all told her very many things, but not one knew anything of Kay.

Well, what did the Tiger-Lily say?

"Hearest thou not the drum? Bum! Bum! Those are the only two tones. Always bum! Bum! Hark to the plaintive song of the old woman, to the call of the priests! The Hindoo woman in her long robe stands upon the funeral pile; the flames rise around her and her dead husband, but the Hindoo woman thinks on the living one in the surrounding circle; on him whose eyes burn hotter than the flames – on him, the fire of whose eyes pierces her heart more than the flames which soon will burn her body to ashes. Can the heart's flame die in the flame of the funeral pile?"

"I don't understand that at all," said little Gerda.

"That is my story," said the Lily.

What did the Convolvulus say?

"Projecting over a narrow mountain-path there hangs an old feudal castle. Thick evergreens grow on the dilapidated walls, and around the altar, where a lovely maiden is standing: she bends over the railing and looks out upon the rose. No fresher rose hangs on the branches than she; no appleblossom carried away by the wind is more buoyant! How her silken robe is rustling! Is he not yet come?"

"Is it Kay that you mean?" asked little Gerda.

"I am speaking about my story – about my dream," answered the Convolvulus.

What did the Snowdrops say?

"Between the trees a long board is hanging – it is a swing. Two little girls are sitting in it, and swing themselves backwards and forwards; their frocks are as white as snow, and long green silk ribands flutter from their bonnets. Their brother, who is older than they are, stands up in the swing; he twines his arms round the cords to hold himself fast, for in one hand he has a little cup, and in the other a clay-pipe. He is blowing soap-bubbles. The swing moves, and the bubbles float in charming changing colors: the last is still hanging to the end of the pipe, and rocks in the breeze. The swing moves. The little black dog, as light as a soap-bubble, jumps up on his hind legs to try to get into the swing. It moves, the dog falls down, barks, and is angry. They tease him; the bubble bursts! A swing, a bursting bubble – such is my song!"

"What you relate may be very pretty, but you tell it in so melancholy a manner, and do not mention Kay."

What do the Hyacinths say?

"There were once upon a time three sisters, quite transparent, and very beautiful. The robe of the one was red, that of the second blue, and that of the third white. They danced hand in hand beside the calm lake in the clear moonshine. They were not elfin maidens, but mortal children. A sweet fragrance was smelt, and the maidens vanished in the wood; the fragrance grew stronger – three coffins, and in them three lovely maidens, glided out of the forest and across the lake: the shining glow-worms flew around like little floating lights. Do the dancing maidens sleep, or are they dead? The odour of the flowers says they are corpses; the evening bell tolls for the dead!"

"You make me quite sad," said little Gerda. "I cannot help thinking of the dead maidens. Oh! is little Kay really dead? The Roses have been in the earth, and they say no."

"Ding, dong!" sounded the Hyacinth bells. "We do not toll for little Kay; we do not know him. That is our way of singing, the only one we have."

And Gerda went to the Ranunculuses, that looked forth from among the shining green leaves.

"You are a little bright sun!" said Gerda. "Tell me if you know where I can find my playfellow."

And the Ranunculus shone brightly, and looked again at Gerda. What song could the Ranunculus sing? It was one that said nothing about Kay either.

"In a small court the bright sun was shining in the first days of spring. The beams glided down the white walls of a neighbor's house, and close by the fresh yellow flowers were growing, shining like gold in the warm sun-rays. An old grandmother was sitting in the air; her grand-daughter, the poor and lovely servant just come for a short visit. She knows her grandmother. There was gold, pure virgin gold in that blessed kiss. There, that is my little story," said the Ranunculus.

"My poor old grandmother!" sighed Gerda. "Yes, she is longing for me, no doubt: she is sorrowing for me, as she did for little Kay. But I will soon come home, and then I will bring Kay with me. It is of no use asking the flowers; they only know their own old rhymes, and can tell me nothing." And she tucked up her frock, to enable her to run quicker; but the Narcissus gave her a knock on the leg, just as she was going to jump over it. So she stood still, looked at the long yellow flower, and asked, "You perhaps know something?" and she bent down to the Narcissus. And what did it say?

"I can see myself – I can see myself I Oh, how odorous I am! Up in the little garret there stands, half-dressed, a little Dancer. She stands now on one leg, now on both; she despises the whole world; yet she lives only in imagination. She pours water out of the teapot over a piece of stuff which she holds in her hand; it is the bodice; cleanliness is a fine thing. The white dress is hanging on the hook; it was washed in the teapot, and dried on the roof. She puts it on, ties a saffron-colored kerchief round her neck, and then the gown looks whiter. I can see myself – I can see myself!"

"That's nothing to me," said little Gerda. "That does not concern me." And then off she ran to the further end of the garden.

The gate was locked, but she shook the rusted bolt till it was loosened, and the gate opened; and little Gerda ran off barefooted into the wide world. She looked round her thrice, but no one followed her. At last she could run no longer; she sat down on a large stone, and when she looked about her, she saw that the summer had passed; it was late in the autumn, but that one could not remark in the beautiful garden, where there was always sunshine, and where there were flowers the whole year round.

"Dear me, how long I have staid!" said Gerda. "Autumn is come. I must not rest any longer." And she got up to go further.

Oh, how tender and wearied her little feet were! All around it looked so cold and raw: the long willow-leaves were quite yellow, and the fog dripped from them like water; one leaf fell after the other: the sloes only stood full of fruit, which set one's teeth on edge. Oh, how dark and comfortless it was in the dreary world!

Fourth Story
The Prince and Princess

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 Kay.

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 husband.

"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 neighbor, 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 her."

"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 of it."

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 back."

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 heart."

"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 gingerbread.

"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.

Fifth Story
The Little Robber Maiden

They drove through the dark wood; but the carriage shone like a torch, and it dazzled the eyes of the robbers, so that they could not bear to look at it.

"'Tis gold! 'Tis gold!" they cried; and they rushed forward, seized the horses, knocked down the little postilion, the coachman, and the servants, and pulled little Gerda out of the carriage.

"How plump, how beautiful she is! She must have been fed on nut-kernels," said the old female robber, who had a long, scrubby beard, and bushy eyebrows that hung down over her eyes. "She is as good as a fatted lamb! How nice she will be!" And then she drew out a knife, the blade of which shone so that it was quite dreadful to behold.

"Oh!" cried the woman at the same moment. She had been bitten in the ear by her own little daughter, who hung at her back; and who was so wild and unmanageable, that it was quite amusing to see her. "You naughty child!" said the mother: and now she had not time to kill Gerda.

"She shall play with me," said the little robber child. "She shall give me her muff, and her pretty frock; she shall sleep in my bed!" And then she gave her mother another bite, so that she jumped, and ran round with the pain; and the Robbers laughed, and said, "Look, how she is dancing with the little one!"

"I will go into the carriage," said the little robber maiden; and she would have her will, for she was very spoiled and very headstrong. She and Gerda got in; and then away they drove over the stumps of felled trees, deeper and deeper into the woods. The little robber maiden was as tall as Gerda, but stronger, broader-shouldered, and of dark complexion; her eyes were quite black; they looked almost melancholy. She embraced little Gerda, and said, "They shall not kill you as long as I am not displeased with you. You are, doubtless, a Princess?"

"No," said little Gerda; who then related all that had happened to her, and how much she cared about little Kay.

The little robber maiden looked at her with a serious air, nodded her head slightly, and said, "They shall not kill you, even if I am angry with you: then I will do it myself"; and she dried Gerda's eyes, and put both her hands in the handsome muff, which was so soft and warm.

At length the carriage stopped. They were in the midst of the court-yard of a robber's castle. It was full of cracks from top to bottom; and out of the openings magpies and rooks were flying; and the great bull-dogs, each of which looked as if he could swallow a man, jumped up, but they did not bark, for that was forbidden.

In the midst of the large, old, smoking hall burnt a great fire on the stone floor. The smoke disappeared under the stones, and had to seek its own egress. In an immense caldron soup was boiling; and rabbits and hares were being roasted on a spit.

"You shall sleep with me to-night, with all my animals," said the little robber maiden. They had something to eat and drink; and then went into a corner, where straw and carpets were lying. Beside them, on laths and perches, sat nearly a hundred pigeons, all asleep, seemingly; but yet they moved a little when the robber maiden came. "They are all mine," said she, at the same time seizing one that was next to her by the legs and shaking it so that its wings fluttered. "Kiss it," cried the little girl, and flung the pigeon in Gerda's face. "Up there is the rabble of the wood," continued she, pointing to several laths which were fastened before a hole high up in the wall; "that's the rabble; they would all fly away immediately, if they were not well fastened in. And here is my dear old Bac"; and she laid hold of the horns of a reindeer, that had a bright copper ring round its neck, and was tethered to the spot. "We are obliged to lock this fellow in too, or he would make his escape. Every evening I tickle his neck with my sharp knife; he is so frightened at it!" and the little girl drew forth a long knife, from a crack in the wall, and let it glide over the Reindeer's neck. The poor animal kicked; the girl laughed, and pulled Gerda into bed with her.

"Do you intend to keep your knife while you sleep?" asked Gerda; looking at it rather fearfully.

"I always sleep with the knife," said the little robber maiden. "There is no knowing what may happen. But tell me now, once more, all about little Kay; and why you have started off in the wide world alone." And Gerda related all, from the very beginning: the Wood-pigeons cooed above in their cage, and the others slept. The little robber maiden wound her arm round Gerda's neck, held the knife in the other hand, and snored so loud that everybody could hear her; but Gerda could not close her eyes, for she did not know whether she was to live or die. The robbers sat round the fire, sang and drank; and the old female robber jumped about so, that it was quite dreadful for Gerda to see her.

Then the Wood-pigeons said, "Coo! Cool We have seen little Kay! A white hen carries his sledge; he himself sat in the carriage of the Snow Queen, who passed here, down just over the wood, as we lay in our nest. She blew upon us young ones; and all died except we two. Coo! Coo!"

"What is that you say up there?" cried little Gerda. "Where did the Snow Queen go to? Do you know anything about it?"

"She is no doubt gone to Lapland; for there is always snow and ice there. Only ask the Reindeer, who is tethered there."

"Ice and snow is there! There it is, glorious and beautiful!" said the Reindeer. "One can spring about in the large shining valleys! The Snow Queen has her summer-tent there; but her fixed abode is high up towards the North Pole, on the Island called Spitzbergen."

"Oh, Kay! Poor little Kay!" sighed Gerda.

"Do you choose to be quiet?" said the robber maiden. "If you don't, I shall make you."

In the morning Gerda told her all that the Wood-pigeons had said; and the little maiden looked very serious, but she nodded her head, and said, "That's no matter-that's no matter. Do you know where Lapland lies!" she asked of the Reindeer.

"Who should know better than I?" said the animal; and his eyes rolled in his head. "I was born and bred there – there I leapt about on the fields of snow."

"Listen," said the robber maiden to Gerda. "You see that the men are gone; but my mother is still here, and will remain. However, towards morning she takes a draught out of the large flask, and then she sleeps a little: then I will do something for you." She now jumped out of bed, flew to her mother; with her arms round her neck, and pulling her by the beard, said, "Good morrow, my own sweet nanny-goat of a mother." And her mother took hold of her nose, and pinched it till it was red and blue; but this was all done out of pure love.

When the mother had taken a sup at her flask, and was having a nap, the little robber maiden went to the Reindeer, and said, "I should very much like to give you still many a tickling with the sharp knife, for then you are so amusing; however, I will untether you, and help you out, so that you may go back to Lapland. But you must make good use of your legs; and take this little girl for me to the palace of the Snow Queen, where her playfellow is. You have heard, I suppose, all she said; for she spoke loud enough, and you were listening."

The Reindeer gave a bound for joy. The robber maiden lifted up little Gerda, and took the precaution to bind her fast on the Reindeer's back; she even gave her a small cushion to sit on. "Here are your worsted leggins, for it will be cold; but the muff I shall keep for myself, for it is so very pretty. But I do not wish you to be cold. Here is a pair of lined gloves of my mother's; they just reach up to your elbow. On with them! Now you look about the hands just like my ugly old mother!"

And Gerda wept for joy.

"I can't bear to see you fretting," said the little robber maiden. "This is just the time when you ought to look pleased. Here are two loaves and a ham for you, so that you won't starve." The bread and the meat were fastened to the Reindeer's back; the little maiden opened the door, called in all the dogs, and then with her knife cut the rope that fastened the animal, and said to him, "Now, off with you; but take good care of the little girl!"

And Gerda stretched out her hands with the large wadded gloves towards the robber maiden, and said, "Farewell!" and the Reindeer flew on over bush and bramble through the great wood, over moor and heath, as fast as he could go.

"Ddsa! Ddsa!" was heard in the sky. It was just as if somebody was sneezing.

"These are my old northern-lights," said the Reindeer, "look how they gleam!" And on he now sped still quicker – day and night on he went: the loaves were consumed, and the ham too; and now they were in Lapland.

Sixth Story
The Lapland Woman and the Finland Woman

Suddenly they stopped before a little house, which looked very miserable. The roof reached to the ground; and the door was so low, that the family were obliged to creep upon their stomachs when they went in or out. Nobody was at home except an old Lapland woman, who was dressing fish by the light of an oil lamp. And the Reindeer told her the whole of Gerda's history, but first of all his own; for that seemed to him of much greater importance. Gerda was so chilled that she could not speak.

"Poor thing," said the Lapland woman, "you have far to run still. You have more than a hundred miles to go before you get to Finland; there the Snow Queen has her country-house, and burns blue lights every evening. I will give you a few words from me, which I will write on a dried haberdine, for paper I have none; this you can take with you to the Finland woman, and she will be able to give you more information than I can."

When Gerda had warmed herself, and had eaten and drunk, the Lapland woman wrote a few words on a dried haberdine, begged Gerda to take care of them, put her on the Reindeer, bound her fast, and away sprang the animal. "Ddsa! Ddsa!" was again heard in the air; the most charming blue lights burned the whole night in the sky, and at last they came to Finland. They knocked at the chimney of the Finland woman; for as to a door, she had none.

There was such a heat inside that the Finland woman herself went about almost naked. She was diminutive and dirty. She immediately loosened little Gerda's clothes, pulled off her thick gloves and boots; for otherwise the heat would have been too great – and after laying a piece of ice on the Reindeer's head, read what was written on the fish-skin. She read it three times: she then knew it by heart; so she put the fish into the cupboard – for it might very well be eaten, and she never threw anything away.

Then the Reindeer related his own story first, and afterwards that of little Gerda; and the Finland woman winked her eyes, but said nothing.

"You are so clever," said the Reindeer; "you can, I know, twist all the winds of the world together in a knot. If the seaman loosens one knot, then he has a good wind; if a second, then it blows pretty stiffly; if he undoes the third and fourth, then it rages so that the forests are upturned. Will you give the little maiden a potion, that she may possess the strength of twelve men, and vanquish the Snow Queen?"

"The strength of twelve men!" said the Finland woman. "Much good that would be!" Then she went to a cupboard, and drew out a large skin rolled up. When she had unrolled it, strange characters were to be seen written thereon; and the Finland woman read at such a rate that the perspiration trickled down her forehead.

But the Reindeer begged so hard for little Gerda, and Gerda looked so imploringly with tearful eyes at the Finland woman, that she winked, and drew the Reindeer aside into a corner, where they whispered together, while the animal got some fresh ice put on his head.

"'Tis true, little Kay is at the Snow Queen's, and finds everything there quite to his taste; and he thinks it the very best place in the world; but the reason of that is, he has a splinter of glass in his eye, and in his heart. These must be got out first; otherwise he will never go back to mankind, and the Snow Queen will retain her power over him."

"But can you give little Gerda nothing to take which will endue her with power over the whole?"

"I can give her no more power than what she has already." - "Don't you see how great it is? Don't you see how men and animals are forced to serve her; how well she gets through the world barefooted? She must not hear of her power from us; that power lies in her heart, because she is a sweet and innocent child! If she cannot get to the Snow Queen by herself, and rid little Kay of the glass, we cannot help her. Two miles hence the garden of the Snow Queen begins; thither you may carry the little girl. Set her down by the large bush with red berries, standing in the snow; don't stay talking, but hasten back as fast as possible." And now the Finland woman placed little Gerda on the Reindeer's back, and off he ran with all imaginable speed.

"Oh! I have not got my boots! I have not brought my gloves!" cried little Gerda. She remarked she was without them from the cutting frost; but the Reindeer dared not stand still; on he ran till he came to the great bush with the red berries, and there he set Gerda down, kissed her mouth, while large bright tears flowed from the animal's eyes, and then back he went as fast as possible. There stood poor Gerda now, without shoes or gloves, in the very middle of dreadful icy Finland.

She ran on as fast as she could. There then came a whole regiment of snow-flakes, but they did not fall from above, and they were quite bright and shining from the Aurora Borealis. The flakes ran along the ground, and the nearer they came the larger they grew. Gerda well remembered how large and strange the snow-flakes appeared when she once saw them through a magnifying-glass; but now they were large and terrific in another manner – they were all alive. They were the outposts of the Snow Queen. They had the most wondrous shapes; some looked like large ugly porcupines; others like snakes knotted together, with their heads sticking out; and others, again, like small fat bears, with the hair standing on end: all were of dazzling whiteness – all were living snow-flakes.

Little Gerda repeated the Lord's Prayer. The cold was so intense that she could see her own breath, which came like smoke out of her mouth. It grew thicker and thicker, and took the form of little angels, that grew more and more when they touched the earth. All had helms on their heads, and lances and shields in their hands; they increased in numbers; and when Gerda had finished the Lord's Prayer, she was surrounded by a whole legion. They thrust at the horrid snow-flakes with their spears, so that they flew into a thousand pieces; and little Gerda walked on bravely and in security. The angels patted her hands and feet; and then she felt the cold less, and went on quickly towards the palace of the Snow Queen.

But now we shall see how Kay fared. He never thought of Gerda, and least of all that she was standing before the palace.

Seventh Story
What Took Place in the Palace of the Snow Queen, and what Happened Afterward

The walls of the palace were of driving snow, and the windows and doors of cutting winds. There were more than a hundred halls there, according as the snow was driven by the winds. The largest was many miles in extent; all were lighted up by the powerful Aurora Borealis, and all were so large, so empty, so icy cold, and so resplendent! Mirth never reigned there; there was never even a little bear-ball, with the storm for music, while the polar bears went on their hindlegs and showed off their steps. Never a little tea-party of white young lady foxes; vast, cold, and empty were the halls of the Snow Queen. The northern-lights shone with such precision that one could tell exactly when they were at their highest or lowest degree of brightness. In the middle of the empty, endless hall of snow, was a frozen lake; it was cracked in a thousand pieces, but each piece was so like the other, that it seemed the work of a cunning artificer. In the middle of this lake sat the Snow Queen when she was at home; and then she said she was sitting in the Mirror of Understanding, and that this was the only one and the best thing in the world.

Little Kay was quite blue, yes nearly black with cold; but he did not observe it, for she had kissed away all feeling of cold from his body, and his heart was a lump of ice. He was dragging along some pointed flat pieces of ice, which he laid together in all possible ways, for he wanted to make something with them; just as we have little flat pieces of wood to make geometrical figures with, called the Chinese Puzzle. Kay made all sorts of figures, the most complicated, for it was an ice-puzzle for the understanding. In his eyes the figures were extraordinarily beautiful, and of the utmost importance; for the bit of glass which was in his eye caused this. He found whole figures which represented a written word; but he never could manage to represent just the word he wanted – that word was "eternity"; and the Snow Queen had said, "If you can discover that figure, you shall be your own master, and I will make you a present of the whole world and a pair of new skates." But he could not find it out.

"I am going now to warm lands," said the Snow Queen. "I must have a look down into the black caldrons." It was the volcanoes Vesuvius and Etna that she meant. "I will just give them a coating of white, for that is as it ought to be; besides, it is good for the oranges and the grapes." And then away she flew, and Kay sat quite alone in the empty halls of ice that were miles long, and looked at the blocks of ice, and thought and thought till his skull was almost cracked. There he sat quite benumbed and motionless; one would have imagined he was frozen to death.

Suddenly little Gerda stepped through the great portal into the palace. The gate was formed of cutting winds; but Gerda repeated her evening prayer, and the winds were laid as though they slept; and the little maiden entered the vast, empty, cold halls. There she beheld Kay: she recognised him, flew to embrace him, and cried out, her arms firmly holding him the while, "Kay, sweet little Kay! Have I then found you at last?"

But he sat quite still, benumbed and cold. Then little Gerda shed burning tears; and they fell on his bosom, they penetrated to his heart, they thawed the lumps of ice, and consumed the splinters of the looking-glass; he looked at her, and she sang the hymn:

"The rose in the valley is blooming so sweet,
And angels descend there the children to greet."

Hereupon Kay burst into tears; he wept so much that the splinter rolled out of his eye, and he recognised her, and shouted, "Gerda, sweet little Gerda! Where have you been so long? And where have I been?" He looked round him. "How cold it is here!" said he. "How empty and cold!" And he held fast by Gerda, who laughed and wept for joy. It was so beautiful, that even the blocks of ice danced about for joy; and when they were tired and laid themselves down, they formed exactly the letters which the Snow Queen had told him to find out; so now he was his own master, and he would have the whole world and a pair of new skates into the bargain.

Gerda kissed his cheeks, and they grew quite blooming; she kissed his eyes, and they shone like her own; she kissed his hands and feet, and he was again well and merry. The Snow Queen might come back as soon as she liked; there stood his discharge written in resplendent masses of ice.

They took each other by the hand, and wandered forth out of the large hall; they talked of their old grandmother, and of the roses upon the roof; and wherever they went, the winds ceased raging, and the sun burst forth. And when they reached the bush with the red berries, they found the Reindeer waiting for them. He had brought another, a young one, with him, whose udder was filled with milk, which he gave to the little ones, and kissed their lips. They then carried Kay and Gerda – first to the Finland woman, where they warmed themselves in the warm room, and learned what they were to do on their journey home; and they went to the Lapland woman, who made some new clothes for them and repaired their sledges.

The Reindeer and the young hind leaped along beside them, and accompanied them to the boundary of the country. Here the first vegetation peeped forth; here Kay and Gerda took leave of the Lapland woman. "Farewell! Farewell!" they all said. And the first green buds appeared, the first little birds began to chirrup; and out of the wood came, riding on a magnificent horse, which Gerda knew (it was one of the leaders in the golden carriage), a young damsel with a bright-red cap on her head, and armed with pistols. It was the little robber maiden, who, tired of being at home, had determined to make a journey to the north; and afterwards in another direction, if that did not please her. She recognised Gerda immediately, and Gerda knew her too. It was a joyful meeting.

"You are a fine fellow for tramping about," said she to little Kay; "I should like to know, faith, if you deserve that one should run from one end of the world to the other for your sake?"

But Gerda patted her cheeks, and inquired for the Prince and Princess.

"They are gone abroad," said the other.

"But the Raven?" asked little Gerda.

"Oh! The Raven is dead," she answered. "His tame sweetheart is a widow, and wears a bit of black worsted round her leg; she laments most piteously, but it's all mere talk and stuff! Now tell me what you've been doing and how you managed to catch him."

And Gerda and Kay both told their story.

And "Schnipp-schnapp-schnurre-basselurre," said the robber maiden; and she took the hands of each, and promised that if she should some day pass through the town where they lived, she would come and visit them; and then away she rode. Kay and Gerda took each other's hand: it was lovely spring weather, with abundance of flowers and of verdure. The church-bells rang, and the children recognised the high towers, and the large town; it was that in which they dwelt. They entered and hastened up to their grandmother's room, where everything was standing as formerly. The clock said "tick! tack!" and the finger moved round; but as they entered, they remarked that they were now grown up. The roses on the leads hung blooming in at the open window; there stood the little children's chairs, and Kay and Gerda sat down on them, holding each other by the hand; they both had forgotten the cold empty splendor of the Snow Queen, as though it had been a dream. The grandmother sat in the bright sunshine, and read aloud from the Bible: "Unless ye become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven."

And Kay and Gerda looked in each other's eyes, and all at once they understood the old hymn:

"The rose in the valley is blooming so sweet,
And angels descend there the children to greet."

There sat the two grown-up persons; grown-up, and yet children; children at least in heart; and it was summer-time; summer, glorious summer!
Første historie,
der handler om spejlet og stumperne.

Se så! nu begynder vi. Når vi er ved enden af historien, ved vi mere, end vi nu ved, for det var en ond trold! det var en af de allerværste, det var "djævelen"! En dag var han i et rigtigt godt humør, thi han havde gjort et spejl, der havde den egenskab, at alt godt og smukt, som spejlede sig deri, svandt der sammen til næsten ingenting, men hvad der ikke duede og tog sig ilde ud, det trådte ret frem og blev endnu værre. De dejligste landskaber så ud deri som kogt spinat, og de bedste mennesker blev ækle eller stod på hovedet uden mave, ansigterne blev så fordrejede, at de var ikke til at kende, og havde man en fregne, så kunne man være så vis på, at den løb ud over næse og mund. Det var udmærket morsomt, sagde "djævelen." Gik der nu en god from tanke gennem et menneske, da kom der et grin i spejlet, så trolddjævelen måtte le af sin kunstige opfindelse. Alle de som gik i troldskole, for han holdt troldskole, de fortalte rundt om, at der var sket et mirakel; nu kunne man først se, mente de, hvorledes verden og menneskene rigtigt så ud. De løb omkring med spejlet, og til sidst var der ikke et land eller et menneske, uden at det havde været fordrejet deri. Nu ville de også flyve op mod Himmelen selv for at gøre nar af englene og "Vorherre." Jo højere de fløj med spejlet, des stærkere grinede det, de kunne næppe holde fast på det; højere og højere fløj de, nærmere Gud og englene; da sitrede spejlet så frygteligt i sit grin, at det fór dem ud af hænderne og styrtede ned mod jorden, hvor det gik i hundrede millioner, billioner og endnu flere stykker, og da just gjorde det megen større ulykke end før; thi nogle stykker var knap så store som et sandkorn, og disse fløj rundt om i den vide verden, og hvor de kom folk i øjnene, der blev de siddende, og da så de mennesker alting forkert, eller havde kun øjne for hvad der var galt ved en ting, thi hvert lille spejlgran havde beholdt samme kræfter, som det hele spejl havde; nogle mennesker fik endogså en lille spejlstump ind i hjertet, og så var det ganske grueligt, det hjerte blev ligesom en klump is. Nogle spejlstykker var så store, at de blev brugt til rudeglas, men gennem den rude var det ikke værd at se sine venner; andre stykker kom i briller, og så gik det dårligt, når folk tog de briller på for ret at se og være retfærdige; den onde lo, så hans mave revnede, og det kildede ham så dejligt. Men ude fløj endnu små glasstumper om i luften. Nu skal vi høre!
Anden historie.
En lille dreng og en lille pige.

Inde i den store by, hvor der er så mange huse og mennesker, så at der ikke bliver plads nok til, at alle folk kan få en lille have, og hvor derfor de fleste må lade sig nøje med blomster i urtepotter, der var dog to fattige børn som havde en have noget større end en urtepotte. De var ikke broder og søster, men de holdt lige så meget af hinanden, som om de var det. Forældrene boede lige op til hinanden; de boede på to tagkamre; der, hvor taget fra det ene nabohus stødte op til det andet og vandrenden gik langs med tagskæggene, der vendte fra hvert hus et lille vindue ud; man behøvede kun at skræve over renden, så kunne man komme fra det ene vindue til det andet.

Forældrene havde udenfor hver en stor trækasse, og i den voksede køkkenurter, som de brugte, og et lille rosentræ; der var ét i hver kasse, det voksede så velsignet. Nu fandt forældrene på at stille kasserne således tværs over renden, at de næsten nåede fra det ene vindue til det andet og så ganske livagtig ud som to blomstervolde. Ærterankerne hang ned over kasserne, og rosentræerne skød lange grene, snoede sig om vinduerne, bøjede sig mod hinanden: Det var næsten som en æresport af grønt og af blomster. Da kasserne var meget høje, og børnene vidste, at de ikke måtte krybe op, så fik de tit lov hver at stige ud til hinanden, sidde på deres små skamler under roserne, og der legede de nu så prægtigt.

Om vinteren var jo den fornøjelse forbi. Vinduerne var tit ganske tilfrosne, men så varmede de kobberskillinger på kakkelovnen, lagde den hede skilling på den frosne rude, og så blev der et dejligt kighul, så rundt, så rundt; bag ved tittede et velsignet mildt øje, et fra hvert vindue; det var den lille dreng og den lille pige. Han hed Kay og hun hed Gerda. Om sommeren kunne de i ét spring komme til hinanden, om vinteren måtte de først de mange trapper ned og de mange trapper op; ude føg sneen.

"Det er de hvide bier, som sværmer," sagde den gamle bedstemoder.

"Har de også en bidronning?" spurgte den lille dreng, for han vidste, at imellem de virkelige bier er der sådan en.

"Det har de!" sagde bedstemoderen. "Hun flyver der, hvor de sværmer tættest! hun er størst af dem alle, og aldrig bliver hun stille på jorden, hun flyver op igen i den sorte sky. Mangen vinternat flyver hun gennem byens gader og kigger ind af vinduerne, og da fryser de så underligt, ligesom med blomster."

"Ja, det har jeg set!" sagde begge børnene og så vidste de, at det var sandt.

"Kan snedronningen komme herind?" spurgte den lille pige.

"Lad hende kun komme," sagde drengen, "så sætter jeg hende på den varme kakkelovn, og så smelter hun."

Men bedstemoderen glattede hans hår og fortalte andre historier.

Om aftnen da den lille Kay var hjemme og halv afklædt, krøb han op på stolen ved vinduet og tittede ud af det lille hul; et par snefnug faldt derude, og en af disse, den allerstørste, blev liggende på kanten af den ene blomsterkasse; snefnugget voksede mere og mere, den blev til sidst til et helt fruentimmer, klædt i de fineste, hvide flor, der var som sammensat af millioner stjerneagtige fnug. Hun var så smuk og fin, men af is, den blændende, blinkende is, dog var hun levende; øjnene stirrede som to klare stjerner, men der var ingen ro eller hvile i dem. Hun nikkede til vinduet og vinkede med hånden. Den lille dreng blev forskrækket og sprang ned af stolen, da var det, som der udenfor fløj en stor fugl forbi vinduet.

Næste dag blev det klar frost, - og så kom foråret, solen skinnede, det grønne pippede frem, svalerne byggede rede, vinduerne kom op, og de små børn sad igen i deres lille have højt oppe i tagrenden over alle etagerne.

Roserne blomstrede den sommer så mageløst; den lille pige havde lært en salme, og i den stod der om roser, og ved de roser tænkte hun på sine egne; og hun sang den for den lille dreng, og han sang den med:

"Roserne vokser i dale,
der får vi barn Jesus i tale!"

Og de små holdt hinanden i hænderne, kyssede roserne og så ind i Guds klare solskin og talte til det, som om Jesusbarnet var der. Hvor det var dejlige sommerdage, hvor det var velsignet at være ude ved de friske rosentræer, der aldrig syntes at ville holde op med at blomstre.

Kay og Gerda sad og så i billedbogen med dyr og fugle, da var det - klokken slog akkurat fem på det store kirketårn, - at Kay sagde: "Av! det stak mig i hjertet! og nu fik jeg noget ind i øjet!"

Den lille pige tog ham om halsen; han plirede med øjnene; nej, der var ikke noget at se.

"Jeg tror, det er borte!" sagde han; men borte var det ikke. Det var just sådant et af disse glaskorn, der sprang fra spejlet, troldspejlet, vi husker det nok, det fæle glas, som gjorde at alt stort og godt, der afspejlede sig deri, blev småt og hæsligt, men det onde og slette trådte ordentlig frem, og hver fejl ved en ting blev straks til at bemærke. Den stakkels Kay han havde også fået et gran lige ind i hjertet. Det ville snart blive ligesom en isklump. Nu gjorde det ikke ondt mere, men det var der.

"Hvorfor græder du?" spurgte han. "Så ser du styg ud! jeg fejler jo ikke noget! Fy!" råbte han lige med ét: "Den rose dér er gnavet af en orm! og se, den dér er jo ganske skæv! det er i grunden nogle ækle roser! de ligner kasserne, de står i!" og så stødte han med foden hårdt imod kassen og rev de to roser af.

"Kay, hvad gør du!" råbte den lille pige; og da han så hendes forskrækkelse, rev han endnu en rose af og løb så ind af sit vindue bort fra den velsignede lille Gerda.

Når hun siden kom med billedbogen, sagde han, at den var for pattebørn, og fortalte bedstemoderen historier, kom han altid med et men - kunne han komme til det, så gik han bag efter hende, satte briller på og talte ligesom hun; det var ganske akkurat, og så lo folk af ham. Han kunne snart tale og gå efter alle mennesker i hele gaden. Alt, hvad der var aparte hos dem og ikke kønt, det vidste Kay at gøre bagefter, og så sagde folk: "Det er bestemt et udmærket hoved, han har den dreng!" men det var det glas, han havde fået i øjet, det glas der sad i hjertet, derfor var det, han drillede selv den lille Gerda, som med hele sin sjæl holdt af ham.

Hans lege blev nu ganske anderledes end før, de var så forstandige: - En vinterdag, som snefnuggene føg, kom han med et stort brændglas, holdt sin blå frakkeflig ud og lod snefnuggene falde på den.

"Se nu i glasset, Gerda!" sagde han, og hvert snefnug blev meget større og så ud, som en prægtig blomst eller en tikantet stjerne; det var dejligt at se på.

"Ser du, hvor kunstigt!" sagde Kay, "det er meget interessantere end med de virkelige blomster! og der er ikke en eneste fejl ved dem, de er ganske akkurate, når de blot ikke smelter!"

Lidt efter kom Kay med store handsker og sin slæde på ryggen, han råbte Gerda lige ind i ørene: "Jeg har fået lov at køre på den store plads, hvor de andre leger!" og af sted var han.

Derhenne på pladsen bandt tit de kækkeste drenge deres slæde fast ved bondemandens vogn og så kørte de et godt stykke med. Det gik just lystigt. Som de bedst legede, kom der en stor slæde; den var ganske hvidmalet, og der sad i den en, indsvøbt i en lodden hvid pels og med hvid lodden hue; slæden kørte pladsen to gange rundt, og Kay fik gesvindt sin lille slæde bundet fast ved den, og nu kørte han med. Det gik raskere og raskere lige ind i den næste gade; den, som kørte, drejede hovedet, nikkede så venligt til Kay, det var ligesom om de kendte hinanden; hver gang Kay ville løsne sin lille slæde, nikkede personen igen, og så blev Kay siddende; de kørte lige ud af byens port. Da begyndte sneen således at vælte ned, at den lille dreng ikke kunne se en hånd for sig, men han fór af sted, da slap han hurtigt snoren, for at komme løs fra den store slæde, men det hjalp ikke, hans lille køretøj hang fast, og det gik med vindens fart. Da råbte han ganske højt, men ingen hørte ham, og sneen føg og slæden fløj af sted; imellem gav den et spring, det var, som om han fór over grøfter og gærder. Han var ganske forskrækket, han ville læse sit fadervor, men han kunne kun huske den store tabel.

Snefnuggene blev større og større, til sidst så de ud, som store hvide høns; med ét sprang de til side, den store slæde holdt, og den person, som kørte i den, rejste sig op, pelsen og huen var af bare sne; en dame var det, så høj og rank, så skinnende hvid, det var snedronningen.

"Vi er kommet godt frem!" sagde hun, "men er det at fryse! kryb ind i min bjørnepels!" og hun satte ham i slæden hos sig, slog pelsen om ham, det var, som om han sank i en snedrive.

"Fryser du endnu!" spurgte hun, og så kyssede hun ham på panden. Uh! det var koldere end is, det gik ham lige ind til hans hjerte, der jo dog halvt var en isklump; det var, som om han skulle dø; - men kun et øjeblik, så gjorde det just godt; han mærkede ikke mere til kulden rundt om.

"Min slæde! glem ikke min slæde!" det huskede han først på; og den blev bundet på en af de hvide høns, og den fløj bagefter med slæden på ryggen. Snedronningen kyssede Kay endnu en gang, og da havde han glemt lille Gerda og bedstemoder og dem alle derhjemme.

"Nu får du ikke flere kys!" sagde hun, "for så kyssede jeg dig ihjel!"

Kay så på hende, hun var så smuk, et klogere, dejligere ansigt kunne han ikke tænke sig, nu syntes hun ikke af is, som dengang hun sad uden for vinduet og vinkede ad ham; for hans øjne var hun fuldkommen, han følte sig slet ikke bange, han fortalte hende at han kunne hovedregning, og det med brøk, landenes kvadratmil og "hvor mange indvånere," og hun smilte altid; da syntes han, det var dog ikke nok, hvad han vidste, og han så op i det store, store luftrum og hun fløj med ham, fløj højt op på den sorte sky, og stormen susede og brusede, det var, som sang den gamle viser. De fløj over skove og søer, over have og lande; nedenunder susede den kolde blæst, ulvene hylede, sneen gnistrede, hen over den fløj de sorte skrigende krager, men ovenover skinnede månen så stor og klar, og på den så Kay den lange, lange vinternat; om dagen sov han ved snedronningens fødder.
Tredje historie.
Blomsterhaven hos konen, som kunne trolddom.

Men hvorledes havde den lille Gerda det, da Kay ikke mere kom? Hvor var han dog? - Ingen vidste det, ingen kunne give besked. Drengene fortalte kun, at de havde set ham binde sin lille slæde til en prægtig stor, der kørte ind i gaden og ud af byens port. Ingen vidste, hvor han var, mange tårer flød, den lille Gerda græd så dybt og længe; - så sagde de, at han var død, han var sunket i floden, der løb tæt ved byen; oh, det var ret lange, mørke vinterdage.

Nu kom våren med varmere solskin.

"Kay er død og borte!" sagde den lille Gerda.

"Det tror jeg ikke!" sagde solskinnet.

"Han er død og borte!" sagde hun til svalerne.

"Det tror jeg ikke!" svarede de, og til sidst troede den lille Gerda det ikke heller.

"Jeg vil tage mine nye, røde sko på," sagde hun en morgenstund, "dem Kay aldrig har set, og så vil jeg gå ned til floden og spørge den ad!"

Og det var ganske tidligt; hun kyssede den gamle bedstemoder, som sov, tog de røde sko på og gik ganske ene ud af porten til floden.

"Er det sandt, at du har taget min lille legebroder? Jeg vil forære dig mine røde sko, dersom du vil give mig ham igen!"

Og bølgerne, syntes hun, nikkede så underligt; da tog hun sine røde sko, det kæreste hun havde, og kastede dem begge to ud i floden, men de faldt tæt inde ved bredden, og de små bølger bare dem straks i land til hende, det var ligesom om floden ikke ville tage det kæreste hun havde, da den jo ikke havde den lille Kay; men hun troede nu, at hun ikke kastede skoene langt nok ud, og så krøb hun op i en båd, der lå i sivene, hun gik helt ud i den yderste ende og kastede skoene; men båden var ikke bundet fast, og ved den bevægelse, hun gjorde, gled den fra land; hun mærkede det og skyndte sig for at komme bort, men før hun nåede tilbage, var båden over en alen ude, og nu gled den hurtigere af sted.

Da blev den lille Gerda ganske forskrækket og gav sig til at græde, men ingen hørte hende uden gråspurvene, og de kunne ikke bære hende i land, men de fløj langs med bredden og sang, ligesom for at trøste hende: "Her er vi! her er vi!" Båden drev med strømmen; den lille Gerda sad ganske stille i de bare strømper; hendes små røde sko flød bagefter, men de kunne ikke nå båden, den tog stærkere fart.

Smukt var der på begge bredder, dejlige blomster, gamle træer og skrænter med får og køer, men ikke et menneske at se.

"Måske bærer floden mig hen til lille Kay," tænkte Gerda og så blev hun i bedre humør, rejste sig op og så i mange timer på de smukke grønne bredder; så kom hun til en stor kirsebærhave, hvor der var et lille hus med underlige røde og blå vinduer, forresten stråtag og udenfor to træsoldater, som skuldrede for dem, der sejlede forbi.

Gerda råbte på dem, hun troede, at de var levende, men de svarede naturligvis ikke; hun kom dem ganske nær, floden drev båden lige ind imod land.

Gerda råbte endnu højere, og så kom ud af huset en gammel, gammel kone, der støttede sig på en krogkæp; hun havde en stor solhat på, og den var bemalet med de dejligste blomster.

"Du lille stakkels barn!" sagde den gamle kone; "hvorledes er du dog kommet ud på den store, stærke strøm, drevet langt ud i den vide verden!" og så gik den gamle kone helt ud i vandet, slog sin krogkæp fast i båden, trak den i land og løftede den lille Gerda ud.

Og Gerda var glad ved at komme på det tørre, men dog lidt bange for den fremmede, gamle kone.

"Kom dog og fortæl mig, hvem du er, og hvorledes du kommer her!" sagde hun.

Og Gerda fortalte hende alting; og den gamle rystede med hovedet og sagde "Hm! hm!" og da Gerda havde sagt hende alting og spurgt om hun ikke havde set lille Kay, sagde konen, at han var ikke kommet forbi, men han kom nok, hun skulle bare ikke være bedrøvet, men smage hendes kirsebær, se hendes blomster, de var smukkere end nogen billedbog, de kunne hver fortælle en hel historie. Så tog hun Gerda ved hånden, de gik ind i det lille hus, og den gamle kone lukkede døren af.

Vinduerne sad så højt oppe og glassene var røde, blå og gule; dagslyset skinnede så underligt derinde med alle kulører, men på bordet stod de dejligste kirsebær, og Gerda spiste så mange hun ville, for det turde hun. Og mens hun spiste, kæmmede den gamle kone hendes hår med en guldkam, og håret krøllede og skinnede så dejligt gult rundt om det lille, venlige ansigt, der var så rundt og så ud som en rose.

"Sådan en sød lille pige har jeg rigtig længtes efter," sagde den gamle. "Nu skal du se, hvor vi to godt skal komme ud af det!" og alt som hun kæmmede den lille Gerdas hår, glemte Gerda mere og mere sin plejebroder Kay; for den gamle kone kunne trolddom, men en ond trold var hun ikke, hun troldede bare lidt for sin egen fornøjelse, og nu ville hun gerne beholde den lille Gerda. Derfor gik hun ud i haven, strakte sin krogkæp ud mod alle rosentræerne, og, i hvor dejligt de blomstrede, sank de dog alle ned i den sorte jord og man kunne ikke se, hvor de havde stået. Den gamle var bange for, at når Gerda så roserne, skulle hun tænke på sine egne og da huske lille Kay og så løbe sin vej.

Nu førte hun Gerda ud i blomsterhaven. - Nej! hvor her var en duft og dejlighed! alle de tænkelige blomster, og det for enhver årstid, stod her i det prægtigste flor; ingen billedbog kunne være mere broget og smuk. Gerda sprang af glæde, og legede, til solen gik ned bag de høje kirsebærtræer, da fik hun en dejlig seng med røde silkedyner, de var stoppet med blå violer, og hun sov og drømte der så dejligt, som nogen dronning på sin bryllupsdag.

Næste dag kunne hun lege igen med blomsterne i det varme solskin, - således gik mange dage. Gerda kendte hver blomst, men i hvor mange der var, syntes hun dog, at der manglede en, men hvilken vidste hun ikke. Da sidder hun en dag og ser på den gamle kones solhat med de malede blomster, og just den smukkeste der var en rose. Den gamle havde glemt at få den af hatten, da hun fik de andre ned i jorden. Men således er det, ikke at have tankerne med sig!

"Hvad!" sagde Gerda, "er her ingen roser!" og sprang ind imellem bedene, søgte og søgte, men der var ingen at finde; da satte hun sig ned og græd, men hendes hede tårer faldt netop der, hvor et rosentræ var sunket, og da de varme tårer vandede jorden, skød træet med ét op, så blomstrende, som da det sank, og Gerda omfavnede det, kyssede roserne og tænkte på de dejlige roser hjemme og med dem på den lille Kay.

"Oh, hvor jeg er blevet sinket!" sagde den lille pige. "Jeg skulle jo finde Kay! - Ved I ikke hvor han er?" spurgte hun roserne. "Tror I at han er død og borte?"

"Død er han ikke," sagde roserne. "Vi har jo været i jorden, der er alle de døde, men Kay var der ikke!"

"Tak skal I have!" sagde den lille Gerda og hun gik hen til de andre blomster og så ind i deres kalk og spurgte: "Ved I ikke, hvor lille Kay er?"

Men hver blomst stod i solen og drømte sit eget eventyr eller historie, af dem fik lille Gerda så mange, mange, men ingen vidste noget om Kay.

Og hvad sagde da ildliljen?

"Hører du trommen: bum! bum! det er kun to toner, altid bum! bum! hør kvindernes sørgesang! hør præsternes råb! - I sin lange røde kjortel står hindukonen på bålet, flammerne slår op om hende og hendes døde mand; men hindukonen tænker på den levende her i kredsen, ham, hvis øjne brænder hedere end flammerne, ham, hvis øjnes ild når mere hendes hjerte, end de flammer, som snart brænder hendes legeme til aske. Kan hjertets flamme dø i bålets flammer?"

"Det forstår jeg slet ikke!" sagde den lille Gerda.

"Det er mit eventyr!" sagde ildliljen.

Hvad siger konvolvolus?

"Ud over den snævre fjeldvej hænger en gammel ridderborg; Det tætte eviggrønt vokser op om de gamle røde mure, blad ved blad, hen om altanen, og der står en dejlig pige; hun bøjer sig ud over rækværket og ser ned ad vejen. Ingen rose hænger friskere fra grenene, end hun, ingen æbleblomst, når vinden bærer den fra træet, er mere svævende, end hun; hvor rasler den prægtige silkekjortel. 'Kommer han dog ikke!'

"Er det Kay, du mener," spurgte lille Gerda.

"Jeg taler kun om mit eventyr, min drøm," svarede konvolvolus.

Hvad siger den lille sommergæk?

"Mellem træerne hænger i snore det lange bræt, det er en gynge; to nydelige småpiger, - kjolerne er hvide som sne, lange grønne silkebånd flagrer fra hattene, - sidder og gynger; broderen, der er større end de, står op i gyngen, han har armen om snoren for at holde sig, thi i den ene hånd har han en lille skål, i den anden en kridtpibe, han blæser sæbebobler; gyngen går, og boblerne flyver med dejlige, vekslende farver; den sidste hænger endnu ved pibestilken og bøjer sig i vinden; gyngen går. Den lille sorte hund, let som boblerne, rejser sig på bagbenene og vil med i gyngen, den flyver; hunden dumper, bjæffer og er vred; den gækkes, boblerne brister, - et gyngende bræt, et springende skumbillede er min sang!"

"Det kan gerne være, at det er smukt, hvad du fortæller, men du siger det så sørgeligt og nævner slet ikke Kay. Hvad siger hyacinterne?"

"Der var tre dejlige søstre, så gennemsigtige og fine; den enes kjortel var rød, den andens var blå, den tredjes ganske hvid; hånd i hånd dansede de ved den stille sø i det klare måneskin. De var ikke elverpiger, de var menneskebørn. Der duftede så sødt, og pigerne svandt i skoven; duften blev stærkere; - tre ligkister, i dem lå de dejlige piger, gled fra skovens tykning hen over søen; sankthansorme fløj skinnende rundt om, som små svævende lys. Sover de dansende piger, eller er de døde? - Blomsterduften siger, de er lig; aftenklokken ringer over de døde!"

"Du gør mig ganske bedrøvet," sagde den lille Gerda. "Du dufter så stærkt; jeg må tænke på de døde piger! ak, er da virkelig lille Kay død? Roserne har været nede i jorden, og de siger nej!"

"Ding, dang!" ringede hyacintens klokker. "Vi ringer ikke over lille Kay, ham kender vi ikke! vi synger kun vor vise, den eneste, vi kan!"

Og Gerda gik hen til smørblomsten, der skinnede frem imellem de glinsende, grønne blade.

"Du er en lille klar sol!" sagde Gerda. "Sig mig, om du ved, hvor jeg skal finde min legebroder?"

Og smørblomsten skinnede så smukt og så på Gerda igen. Hvilken vise kunne vel smørblomsten synge? Den var heller ikke om Kay.

"I en lille gård skinnede Vorherres sol så varmt den første forårsdag; strålerne gled ned ad naboens hvide væg, tæt ved groede de første gule blomster, skinnende guld i de varme solstråler; gamle bedstemoder var ude i sin stol, datterdatteren den fattige, kønne tjenestepige, kom hjem et kort besøg; hun kyssede bedstemoderen. Det var guld, hjertets guld i det velsignede kys. Guld på munden, guld i grunden, guld deroppe i morgenstunden! Se, det er min lille historie!" sagde smørblomsten.

"Min gamle stakkels bedstemoder!" sukkede Gerda. "Ja hun længes vist efter mig, er bedrøvet for mig, ligesom hun var for lille Kay. Men jeg kommer snart hjem igen, og så bringer jeg Kay med. - Det kan ikke hjælpe, at jeg spørger blomsterne, de kan kun deres egen vise, de siger mig ikke besked!" og så bandt hun sin lille kjole op, for at hun kunne løbe raskere; men pinseliljen slog hende over benet, i det hun sprang over den; da blev hun stående, så på den lange gule blomst og spurgte: "Ved du måske noget?" og hun bøjede sig lige ned til pinseliljen. Og hvad sagde den?

"Jeg kan se mig selv! jeg kan se mig selv!" sagde pinseliljen. "Oh, oh, hvor jeg lugter! - Oppe på det lille kvistkammer, halv klædt på, står en lille danserinde, hun står snart på ét ben, snart på to, hun sparker af den hele verden, hun er bare øjenforblindelse. Hun hælder vand af tepotten ud på et stykke tøj, hun holder, det er snørlivet; - renlighed er en god ting! den hvide kjole hænger på knagen, den er også vasket i tepotten og tørret på taget; den tager hun på, det safrangule tørklæde om halsen, så skinner kjolen mere hvid. Benet i vejret! se hvor hun knejser på en stilk! jeg kan se mig selv! jeg kan se mig selv!"

"Det bryder jeg mig slet ikke om!" sagde Gerda. "Det er ikke noget at fortælle mig!" og så løb hun til udkanten af haven.

Døren var lukket, men hun vrikkede i den rustne krampe, så den gik løs, og døren sprang op, og så løb den lille Gerda på bare fødder ud i den vide verden. Hun så tre gange tilbage, men der var ingen, som kom efter hende; til sidst kunne hun ikke løbe mere og satte sig på en stor sten, og da hun så sig rundt om, var sommeren forbi, det var sent på efteråret, det kunne man slet ikke mærke derinde i den dejlige have, hvor der var altid solskin og alle årstiders blomster.

"Gud! hvor jeg har sinket mig!" sagde den lille Gerda: "Det er jo blevet efterår! så tør jeg ikke hvile!" og hun rejste sig for at gå.

Oh, hvor hendes små fødder var ømme og trætte, og rundt om så det koldt og råt ud; de lange pileblade var ganske gule og tågen dryppede i vand fra dem, et blad faldt efter et andet, kun slåentornen stod med frugt, så stram og til at rimpe munden sammen. Oh hvor det var gråt og tungt i den vide verden.
Fjerde historie.
Prins og prinsesse.

Gerda måtte igen hvile sig; da hoppede der på sneen, lige over for hvor hun sad, en stor krage, den havde længe siddet, set på hende og vrikket med hovedet; nu sagde den: "Kra! kra! - go' da'! go' da'!" Bedre kunne den ikke sige det, men den mente det så godt med den lille pige og spurgte, hvorhen hun gik så alene ude i den vide verden. Det ord: alene forstod Gerda meget godt og følte ret, hvor meget der lå deri, og så fortalte hun kragen sit hele liv og levned og spurgte, om den ikke havde set Kay.

Og kragen nikkede ganske betænksomt og sagde: "Det kunne være! det kunne være!"

"Hvad, tror du!" råbte den lille pige og havde nær klemt kragen ihjel, således kyssede hun den.

"Fornuftig, fornuftig!" sagde kragen. "Jeg tror, jeg ved, - jeg tror, det kan være den lille Kay! men nu har han vist glemt dig for prinsessen!"

"Bor han hos en prinsesse?" spurgte Gerda.

"Ja hør!" sagde kragen, "men jeg har så svært ved at tale dit sprog. Forstår du kragemål så skal jeg bedre fortælle!"

"Nej, det har jeg ikke lært!" sagde Gerda, "men bedstemoder kunne det, og p-mål kunne hun. Bare jeg havde lært det!"

"Gør ikke noget!" sagde kragen, "jeg skal fortælle, så godt jeg kan, men dårligt bliver det alligevel," og så fortalte den, hvad den vidste.

"I dette kongerige, hvor vi nu sidder, bor en prinsesse, der er så uhyre klog, men hun har også læst alle aviser, der er til i verden, og glemt dem igen, så klog er hun. Forleden sidder hun på tronen, og det er ikke så morsomt endda, siger man, da kommer hun til at nynne en vise, det var netop den: 'Hvorfor skulle jeg ikke gifte mig!' 'Hør, det er der noget i,' siger hun, og så ville hun gifte sig, men hun ville have en mand, der forstod at svare, når man talte til ham, en der ikke stod og kun så fornem ud, for det er så kedeligt. Nu lod hun alle hofdamerne tromme sammen, og da de hørte, hvad hun ville, blev de så fornøjede, 'det kan jeg godt lide!' sagde de, 'sådant noget tænkte jeg også på forleden!' - Du kan tro, at det er sandt hvert ord jeg siger!" sagde kragen. "Jeg har en tam kæreste, der går frit om på slottet, og hun har fortalt mig alt!"

Det var naturligvis også en krage hans kæreste, for krage søger mage, og det er altid en krage.

"Aviserne kom straks ud med en kant af hjerter og prinsessens navnetræk; man kunne læse sig til, at det stod enhver ung mand, der så godt ud, frit for at komme op på slottet og tale med prinsessen, og den, som talte, så at man kunne høre han var hjemme der, og talte bedst, ham ville prinsessen tage til mand! - Ja, ja!" sagde kragen, "du kan tro mig, det er så vist, som jeg sidder her, folk strømmede til, der var en trængsel og en løben, men det lykkedes ikke, hverken den første eller anden dag. De kunne alle sammen godt tale, når de var ude på gaden, men når de kom ind af slotsporten og så garden i sølv, og op ad trapperne lakajerne i guld og de store oplyste sale, så blev de forbløffet; og stod de foran tronen, hvor prinsessen sad, så vidste de ikke at sige uden det sidste ord, hun havde sagt, og det brød hun sig ikke om at høre igen. Det var ligesom om folk derinde havde fået snustobak på maven og var faldet i dvale, indtil de kom ud på gaden igen, ja, så kunne de snakke. Der stod en række lige fra byens port til slottet. Jeg var selv inde at se det!" sagde kragen. "De blev både sultne og tørstige, men fra slottet fik de ikke engang så meget, som et glas lunket vand. Vel havde nogle af de klogeste taget smørrebrød med, men de delte ikke med deres nabo, de tænkte, som så: Lad ham kun se sulten ud, så tager prinsessen ham ikke!"

"Men Kay, lille Kay!" spurgte Gerda. "Når kom han? Var han mellem de mange?"

"Giv tid! giv tid! nu er vi lige ved ham! det var den tredje dag, da kom der en lille person, uden hest eller vogn, ganske frejdig marcherende lige op til slottet; hans øjne skinnede som dine, han havde dejlige lange hår, men ellers fattige klæder!"

"Det var Kay!" jublede Gerda. "Oh, så har jeg fundet ham!" og hun klappede i hænderne.

"Han havde en lille ransel på ryggen!" sagde kragen.

"Nej, det var vist hans slæde!" sagde Gerda, "for med slæden gik han bort!"

"Det kan gerne være!" sagde kragen, "jeg så ikke så nøje til! men det ved jeg af min tamme kæreste, at da han kom ind af slotsporten og så livgarden i sølv og opad trappen lakajerne i guld, blev han ikke det bitterste forknyt, han nikkede og sagde til dem: "Det må være kedeligt at stå på trappen, jeg går hellere indenfor!" Der skinnede salene med lys; gehejmeråder og excellencer gik på bare fødder og bar guldfade; man kunne nok blive højtidelig! hans støvler knirkede så frygtelig stærkt, men han blev dog ikke bange!"

"Det er ganske vist Kay!" sagde Gerda, "jeg ved, han havde nye støvler, jeg har hørt dem knirke i bedstemoders stue!"

"Ja knirke gjorde de!" sagde kragen, "og frejdig gik han lige ind for prinsessen, der sad på en perle, så stor som et rokkehjul; og alle hofdamerne med deres piger og pigers piger, og alle kavalererne med deres tjenere og tjeneres tjenere, der holder dreng, stod opstillet rundt om; og jo nærmere de stod ved døren, jo stoltere så de ud. Tjenernes tjeneres dreng, der altid går i tøfler, er næsten ikke til at se på, så stolt står han i døren!"

"Det må være grueligt!" sagde den lille Gerda. "Og Kay har dog fået prinsessen!"

"Havde jeg ikke været en krage, så havde jeg taget hende, og det uagtet jeg er forlovet. Han skal have talt lige så godt, som jeg taler, når jeg taler kragemål, det har jeg fra min tamme kæreste. Han var frejdig og nydelig; han var slet ikke kommet for at fri, bare alene kommet for at høre prinsessens klogskab, og den fandt han god, og hun fandt ham god igen!"

"Ja, vist! det var Kay!" sagde Gerda, "han var så klog, han kunne hovedregning med brøk! - Oh, vil du ikke føre mig ind på slottet!"

"Ja, det er let sagt!" sagde kragen. "Men hvorledes gør vi det? Jeg skal tale derom med min tamme kæreste; hun kan vel råde os; thi det må jeg sige dig, sådan en lille pige, som du, får aldrig lov at komme ordentlig ind!"

"Jo, det gør jeg!" sagde Gerda. "Når Kay hører jeg er her, kommer han straks ud og henter mig!"

"Vent mig ved stenten der!" sagde kragen, vrikkede med hovedet og fløj bort.

Først da det var mørk aften kom kragen igen tilbage: "Rar! rar!" sagde den. "Jeg skal hilse dig fra hende mange gange! og her er et lille brød til dig, det tog hun i køknet, der er brød nok og du er vist sulten! - Det er ikke muligt, at du kan komme ind på slottet, du har jo bare fødder; garden i sølv og lakajerne i guld vil ikke tillade det; men græd ikke, du skal dog nok komme derop. Min kæreste ved en lille bagtrappe, som fører til sovekamret, og hun ved, hvor hun skal tage nøglen!"

Og de gik ind i haven, i den store allé, hvor det ene blad faldt efter det andet, og da på slottet lysene slukkedes, det ene efter det andet, førte kragen lille Gerda hen til en bagdør, der stod på klem.

Oh, hvor Gerdas hjerte bankede af angst og længsel! det var ligesom om hun skulle gøre noget ondt, og hun ville jo kun have at vide, om det var lille Kay; jo, det måtte være ham; hun tænkte så levende på hans kloge øjne, hans lange hår; hun kunne ordentlig se, hvorledes han smilede, som da de sad hjemme under roserne. Han ville vist blive glad ved at se hende, høre hvilken lang vej, hun havde gået for hans skyld, vide, hvor bedrøvet de alle hjemme havde været, da han ikke kom igen. Oh, det var en frygt og en glæde.

Nu var de på trappen; der brændte en lille lampe på et skab; midt på gulvet stod den tamme krage og drejede hovedet til alle sider og betragtede Gerda, der nejede, som bedstemoder havde lært hende.

"Min forlovede har talt så smukt om Dem, min lille frøken," sagde den tamme krage, "Deres vita, som man kalder det, er også meget rørende! - Vil De tage lampen, så skal jeg gå foran. Vi går her den lige vej, for der træffer vi ingen!"

"Jeg synes her kommer nogen lige bagefter!" sagde Gerda, og det susede forbi hende; det var ligesom skygger hen ad væggen, heste med flagrende manker og tynde ben, jægerdrenge, herrer og damer til hest.

"Det er kun drømmene!" sagde kragen, "de kommer og henter det høje herskabs tanker til jagt, godt er det, så kan De bedre betragte dem i sengen. Men lad mig se, kommer De til ære og værdighed, at De da viser et taknemmeligt hjerte!"

"Det er jo ikke noget at snakke om!" sagde kragen fra skoven.

Nu kom de ind i den første sal, den var af rosenrødt atlask med kunstige blomster opad væggen; her susede dem allerede drømmene forbi, men de fór så hurtigt, at Gerda ikke fik set det høje herskab. Den ene sal blev prægtigere end den anden; jo man kunne nok blive forbløffet, og nu var de i sovekamret. Loftet herinde lignede en stor palme med blade af glas, kostbart glas, og midt på gulvet hang i en tyk stilk af guld to senge, der hver så ud som liljer: Den ene var hvid, i den lå prinsessen; den anden var rød, og i den var det at Gerda skulle søge lille Kay; hun bøjede et af de røde blade til side og da så hun en brun nakke. - Oh, det var Kay! - Hun råbte ganske højt hans navn, holdt lampen hen til ham - drømmene susede til hest ind i stuen igen - han vågnede, drejede hovedet og – – det var ikke den lille Kay.

Prinsen lignede ham kun på nakken, men ung og smuk var han. Og fra den hvide liljeseng tittede prinsessen ud, og spurgte hvad det var. Da græd den lille Gerda og fortalte hele sin historie og alt, hvad kragerne havde gjort for hende.

"Din lille stakkel!" sagde prinsen og prinsessen, og de roste kragerne og sagde, at de var slet ikke vrede på dem, men de skulle dog ikke gøre det oftere. Imidlertid skulle de have en belønning.

"Vil I flyve frit?" spurgte prinsessen, "eller vil I have fast ansættelse som hofkrager med alt, hvad der falder af i køknet?"

Og begge kragerne nejede og bad om fast ansættelse; for de tænkte på deres alderdom og sagde, "det var så godt at have noget for den gamle mand," som de kalder det.

Og prinsen stod op af sin seng og lod Gerda sove i den, og mere kunne han ikke gøre. Hun foldede sine små hænder og tænkte: "Hvor dog mennesker og dyr er gode," og så lukkede hun sine øjne og sov så velsignet. Alle drømmene kom igen flyvende ind, og da så de ud som Guds engle, og de trak en lille slæde, og på den sad Kay og nikkede; men det hele var kun drømmeri, og derfor var det også borte igen, så snart hun vågnede.

Næste dag blev hun klædt på fra top til tå i silke og fløjl; hun fik tilbud at blive på slottet og have gode dage, men hun bad alene om at få en lille vogn med en hest for og et par små støvler, så ville hun igen køre ud i den vide verden og finde Kay.

Og hun fik både støvler og muffe; hun blev så nydeligt klædt på, og da hun ville af sted, holdt ved døren en ny karet af purt guld; prinsens og prinsessens våben lyste fra den som en stjerne; kusk, tjenere og forridere, for der var også forridere, sad klædt i guldkroner. Prinsen og prinsessen hjalp hende selv i vognen og ønskede hende al lykke. Skovkragen, der nu var blevet gift, fulgte med de første tre mil; den sad ved siden af hende, for den kunne ikke tåle at køre baglæns; den anden krage stod i porten og slog med vingerne, den fulgte ikke med, thi den led af hovedpine, siden den havde fået fast ansættelse og for meget at spise. Indeni var kareten foret med sukkerkringler, og i sædet var frugter og pebernødder.

"Farvel! farvel!" råbte prins og prinsesse, og lille Gerda græd, og kragen græd; - således gik de første mil; da sagde også kragen farvel, og det var den tungeste afsked; den fløj op i et træ og slog med sine sorte vinger, så længe den kunne se vognen, der strålede, som det klare solskin.
Femte historie.
Den lille røverpige.

De kørte gennem den mørke skov, men kareten skinnede som et blus, det skar røverne i øjnene, det kunne de ikke tåle.

"Det er guld! det er guld!" råbte de, styrtede frem, tog fat i hestene, slog de små jockeyer, kusken og tjenerne ihjel, og trak nu den lille Gerda ud af vognen.

"Hun er fed, hun er nydelig, hun er fedet med nøddekerne!" sagde den gamle røverkælling, der havde et langt, stridt skæg og øjenbryn, der hang hende ned over øjnene. "Det er så godt som et lille fedelam! nå, hvor hun skal smage!" og så trak hun sin blanke kniv ud og den skinnede, så at det var grueligt.

"Av!" sagde kællingen lige i det samme, hun blev bidt i øret af sin egen lille datter, der hang på hendes ryg og var så vild og uvorn, så det var en lyst. "Din lede unge!" sagde moderen og fik ikke tid til at slagte Gerda.

"Hun skal lege med mig!" sagde den lille røverpige. "Hun skal give mig sin muffe, sin smukke kjole, sove hos mig i min seng!" og så bed hun igen, så røverkællingen sprang i vejret og drejede sig rundt, og alle røverne lo og sagde: "Se, hvor hun danser med sin unge!"

"Jeg vil ind i kareten!" sagde den lille røverpige og hun måtte og ville have sin vilje, for hun var så forkælet og så stiv. Hun og Gerda sad ind i den, og så kørte de over stub og tjørn dybere ind i skoven. Den lille røverpige var så stor som Gerda, men stærkere, mere bredskuldret og mørk i huden; øjnene var ganske sorte, de så næsten bedrøvede ud. Hun tog den lille Gerda om livet og sagde: "De skal ikke slagte dig, så længe jeg ikke bliver vred på dig! Du er sagtens en prinsesse?"

"Nej," sagde lille Gerda og fortalte hende alt, hvad hun havde oplevet, og hvor meget hun holdt af lille Kay.

Røverpigen så ganske alvorlig på hende, nikkede lidt med hovedet og sagde: "De skal ikke slagte dig, selv om jeg endogså bliver vred på dig, så skal jeg nok selv gøre det!" og så tørrede hun Gerdas øjne og puttede så begge sine hænder ind i den smukke muffe, der var så blød og så varm.

Nu holdt kareten stille; de var midt inde i gården af et røverslot; det var revnet fra øverst til nederst, ravne og krager fløj ud af de åbne huller, og de store bulbidere, der hver så ud til at kunne sluge et menneske, sprang højt i vejret, men de gøede ikke, for det var forbudt.

I den store, gamle, sodede sal brændte midt på stengulvet en stor ild; røgen trak hen under loftet og måtte selv se at finde ud; en stor bryggerkedel kogte med suppe, og både harer og kaniner vendtes på spid.

"Du skal sove i nat med mig her hos alle mine smådyr!" sagde røverpigen. De fik at spise og drikke og gik så hen i et hjørne, hvor der lå halm og tæpper. Ovenover sad på lægter og pinde næsten hundrede duer, der alle syntes at sove, men drejede sig dog lidt, da småpigerne kom.

"Det er alle sammen mine!" sagde den lille røverpige og greb rask fat i en af de nærmeste, holdt den ved benene og rystede den, så at den slog med vingerne. "Kys den!" råbte hun og baskede Gerda med den i ansigtet. "Der sidder skovkanaljerne!" blev hun ved og viste bag en mængde tremmer, der var slået for et hul i muren højt oppe. "Det er skovkanaljer, de to! de flyver straks væk, har man dem ikke rigtigt låset; og her står min gamle kæreste Bæh!" og hun trak ved hornet et rensdyr, der havde en blank kobberring om halsen og var bundet. "Ham må vi også have i klemme, ellers springer han med fra os. Hver evige aften kilder jeg ham på halsen med min skarpe kniv, det er han så bange for!" og den lille pige trak en lang kniv ud af en sprække i muren og lod den glide over rensdyrets hals; det stakkels dyr slog ud med benene, og røverpigen lo og trak så Gerda med ned i sengen.

"Vil du have kniven med, når du skal sove?" spurgte Gerda og så lidt bange til den.

"Jeg sover altid med kniv!" sagde den lille røverpige. "Man ved aldrig, hvad der kan komme. Men fortæl mig nu igen, hvad du fortalte før om lille Kay, og hvorfor du er gået ud i den vide verden." Og Gerda fortalte forfra, og skovduerne kurrede deroppe i buret, de andre duer sov. Den lille røverpige lagde sin arm om Gerdas hals, holdt kniven i den anden hånd og sov, så man kunne høre det; men Gerda kunne slet ikke lukke sine øjne, hun vidste ikke, om hun skulle leve eller dø. Røverne sad rundt om ilden, sang og drak, og røverkællingen slog kolbøtter. Oh! det var ganske grueligt for den lille pige at se på.

Da sagde skovduerne: "Kurre, kurre! vi har set den lille Kay. En hvid høne bar hans slæde, han sad i snedronningens vogn, der fór lavt hen over skoven, da vi lå i rede; hun blæste på os unger, og alle døde de uden vi to; kurre! kurre!"

"Hvad siger I deroppe?" råbte Gerda, "hvor rejste snedronningen hen? Ved I noget derom?"

"Hun rejste sagtens til Lapland, for der er altid sne og is! spørg bare rensdyret, som står bundet i strikken."

"Der er is og sne, der er velsignet og godt!" sagde rensdyret; "der springer man frit om i de store skinnende dale! der har snedronningen sit sommertelt, men hendes faste slot er oppe mod Nordpolen, på den ø, som kaldes Spitsberg!"

"Oh Kay, lille Kay!" sukkede Gerda.

"Nu skal du ligge stille!" sagde røverpigen, "ellers får du kniven op i maven!"

Om morgnen fortalte Gerda hende alt, hvad skovduerne havde sagt, og den lille røverpige så ganske alvorlig ud, men nikkede med hovedet og sagde: "Det er det samme! det er det samme. - Ved du, hvor Lapland er?" spurgte hun rensdyret.

"Hvem skulle bedre vide det end jeg," sagde dyret, og øjnene spillede i hovedet på det. "Der er jeg født og båret, der har jeg sprunget på snemarken!"

"Hør!" sagde røverpigen til Gerda, "du ser, at alle vore mandfolk er borte, men mutter er her endnu, og hun bliver, men op ad morgenstunden drikker hun af den store flaske og tager sig så en lille lur ovenpå; - så skal jeg gøre noget for dig!" Nu sprang hun ud af sengen, fór hen om halsen på moderen, trak hende i mundskægget og sagde: "min egen søde gedebuk, god morgen!" Og moderen knipsede hende under næsen, så den blev rød og blå, men det var alt sammen af bare kærlighed.

Da så moderen havde drukket af sin flaske og fik sig en lille lur, gik røverpigen hen til rensdyret og sagde: "Jeg kunne have besynderlig lyst til endnu at kilde dig mange gange med den skarpe kniv, for så er du så morsom, men det er det samme, jeg vil løsne din snor og hjælpe dig udenfor, at du kan løbe til Lapland, men du skal tage benene med dig og bringe mig denne lille pige til snedronningens slot, hvor hendes legebroder er. Du har nok hørt, hvad hun fortalte, thi hun snakkede højt nok, og du lurer!"

Rensdyret sprang højt af glæde. Røverpigen løftede lille Gerda op og havde den forsigtighed at binde hende fast, ja endogså at give hende en lille pude at sidde på. "Det er det samme," sagde hun, "der har du dine lodne støvler, for det bliver koldt, men muffen beholder jeg, den er alt for nydelig! Alligevel skal du ikke fryse. Her har du min moders store bælgvanter, de når dig lige op til albuen; stik i! - Nu ser du ud på hænderne ligesom min ækle moder!"

Og Gerda græd af glæde.

"Jeg kan ikke lide at du tviner!" sagde den lille røverpige. "Nu skal du just se fornøjet ud! og der har du to brød og en skinke, så kan du ikke sulte." Begge dele blev bundet bag på rensdyret; den lille røverpige åbnede døren, lokkede alle de store hunde ind, og så skar hun strikken over med sin kniv og sagde til rensdyret: "Løb så! men pas vel på den lille pige!"

Og Gerda strakte hænderne, med de store bælgvanter, ud mod røverpigen og sagde farvel, og så fløj rensdyret af sted over buske og stubbe, gennem den store skov, over moser og stepper, alt hvad det kunne. Ulvene hylede, og ravnene skreg. "Fut! fut!" sagde det på himlen. Det var ligesom om den nyste rødt.

"Det er mine gamle nordlys!" sagde rensdyret, "se, hvor de lyser!" og så løb det endnu mere af sted, nat og dag; brødene blev spist, skinken med og så var de i Lapland.
Sjette historie.
Lappekonen og finnekonen.

De holdt stille ved et lille hus; det var så ynkeligt; taget gik ned til jorden, og døren var så lav, at familien måtte krybe på maven, når den ville ud eller ind. Her var ingen hjemme uden en gammel lappekone, der stod og stegte fisk ved en tranlampe; og rensdyret fortalte hele Gerdas historie, men først sin egen, for det syntes, at den var meget vigtigere, og Gerda var så forkommen af kulde, at hun ikke kunne tale.

"Ak, I arme stakler!" sagde lappekonen, "da har I langt endnu at løbe! I må af sted over hundrede mil ind i Finmarken, for der ligger snedronningen på landet og brænder blålys hver evige aften. Jeg skal skrive et par ord på en tør klipfisk, papir har jeg ikke, den skal jeg give eder med til finnekonen deroppe, hun kan give eder bedre besked, end jeg!"

Og da nu Gerda var blevet varmet og havde fået at spise og drikke, skrev lappekonen et par ord på en tør klipfisk, bad Gerda passe vel på den, bandt hende igen fast på rensdyret og det sprang af sted. "Fut! fut!" sagde det oppe i luften, hele natten brændte de dejligste blå nordlys; - og så kom de til Finmarken og bankede på finnekonens skorsten, for hun havde ikke engang dør.

Der var en hede derinde, så finnekonen selv gik næsten ganske nøgen; lille var hun og ganske grumset; hun løsnede straks klæderne på lille Gerda, tog bælgvanterne og støvlerne af, for ellers havde hun fået det for hedt, lagde rensdyret et stykke is på hovedet og læste så, hvad der stod skrevet på klipfisken; hun læste det tre gange, og så kunne hun det udenad og puttede fisken i madgryden, for den kunne jo godt spises, og hun spildte aldrig noget.

Nu fortalte rensdyret først sin historie, så den lille Gerdas, og finnekonen plirede med de kloge øjne, men sagde ikke noget.

"Du er så klog," sagde rensdyret; "jeg ved, du kan binde alle verdens vinde i en sytråd; når skipperen løser den ene knude, får han god vind, løser han den anden, da blæser det skrapt, og løser han den tredje og fjerde, da stormer det, så skovene falder om. Vil du ikke give den lille pige en drik, så hun kan få tolv mands styrke og overvinde snedronningen."

"Tolv mands styrke," sagde finnekonen; "jo, det vil godt forslå!" og så gik hun hen på en hylde, tog et stort sammenrullet skind frem, og det rullede hun op; der var skrevet underlige bogstaver derpå, og finnekonen læste, så vandet haglede ned af hendes pande.

Men rensdyret bad igen så meget for den lille Gerda, og Gerda så med så bedende øjne, fulde af tårer, på finnekonen, at denne begyndte igen at plire med sine og trak rensdyret hen i en krog, hvor hun hviskede til det, medens det fik frisk is på hovedet:

"Den lille Kay er rigtignok hos snedronningen og finder alt der efter sin lyst og tanke og tror, det er den bedste del af verden, men det kommer af, at han har fået en glassplint i hjertet og et lille glaskorn i øjet; de må først ud, ellers bliver han aldrig til menneske, og snedronningen vil beholde magten over ham!"

"Men kan du ikke give den lille Gerda noget ind, så hun kan få magt over det hele?"

"Jeg kan ikke give hende større magt, end hun allerede har! ser du ikke, hvor stor den er? Ser du ikke, hvor mennesker og dyr må tjene hende, hvorledes hun på bare ben er kommet så vel frem i verden. Hun må ikke af os vide sin magt, den sidder i hendes hjerte, den sidder i, hun er et sødt uskyldigt barn. Kan hun ikke selv komme ind til snedronningen og få glasset ud af lille Kay, så kan vi ikke hjælpe! To mil herfra begynder snedronningens have, derhen kan du bære den lille pige; sæt hende af ved den store busk, der står med røde bær i sneen, hold ikke lang faddersladder og skynd dig her tilbage!" Og så løftede finnekonen den lille Gerda op på rensdyret, der løb alt, hvad det kunne.

"Oh, jeg fik ikke mine støvler! jeg fik ikke mine bælgvanter!" råbte den lille Gerda, det mærkede hun i den sviende kulde, men rensdyret turde ikke standse, det løb, til det kom til den store busk med de røde bær; der satte det Gerda af, kyssede hende på munden, og der løb store, blanke tårer ned over dyrets kinder, og så løb det, alt hvad det kunne, igen tilbage. Der stod den stakkels Gerda uden sko, uden handsker, midt i det frygtelige iskolde Finmarken.

Hun løb fremad, så stærkt hun kunne; da kom der et helt regiment snefnug; men de faldt ikke ned fra himlen, den var ganske klar og skinnede af nordlys; snefnuggene løb lige hen ad jorden, og jo nærmere de kom, des større blev de; Gerda huskede nok, hvor store og kunstige de havde set ud, dengang hun så snefnuggene gennem brændglasset, men her var de rigtignok anderledes store og frygtelige, de var levende, de var snedronningens forposter; de havde de underligste skikkelser; nogle så ud som fæle store pindsvin, andre, som hele knuder af slanger, der stak hovederne frem, og andre, som små tykke bjørne på hvem hårene struttede, alle skinnende hvide, alle var de levende snefnug.

Da bad den lille Gerda sit fadervor, og kulden var så stærk at hun kunne se sin egen ånde; som en hel røg stod den hende ud af munden; ånden blev tættere og tættere og den formede sig til små klare engle, der voksede mere og mere, når de rørte ved jorden; og alle havde de hjelm på hovedet og spyd og skjold i hænderne; de blev flere og flere, og da Gerda havde endt sit fadervor, var der en hel legion om hende; de huggede med deres spyd på de gruelige snefnug så de sprang i hundrede stykker, og den lille Gerda gik ganske sikker og frejdig frem. Englene klappede hende på fødderne og på hænderne, og så følte hun mindre, hvor koldt det var, og gik rask frem mod snedronningens slot.

Men nu skal vi først se, hvorledes Kay har det. Han tænkte rigtignok ikke på lille Gerda, og allermindst at hun stod uden for slottet.
Syvende historie.
Hvad der skete i snedronningens slot, og hvad der siden skete.

Slottets vægge var af den fygende sne og vinduer og døre af de skærende vinde; der var over hundrede sale, alt ligesom sneen føg, den største strakte sig mange mil, alle belyste af de stærke nordlys, og de var så store, så tomme, så isnende kolde og så skinnende. Aldrig kom her lystighed, ikke engang så meget, som et lille bjørnebal, hvor stormen kunne blæse op, og isbjørnene gå på bagbenene og have fine manerer; aldrig et lille spilleselskab med munddask og slå på lappen; aldrig en lille smule kaffekommers af de hvide rævefrøkner; tomt, stort og koldt var det i snedronningens sale. Nordlysene blussede så nøjagtigt, at man kunne tælle sig til, når de var på det højeste, og når de var på det laveste. Midt derinde i den tomme uendelige snesal var der en frossen sø; den var revnet i tusinde stykker, men hvert stykke var så akkurat lig det andet, at det var et helt kunststykke; og midt på den sad snedronningen, når hun var hjemme, og så sagde hun, at hun sad i forstandens spejl, og at det var det eneste og bedste i denne verden.

Lille Kay var ganske blå af kulde, ja næsten sort, men han mærkede det dog ikke, for hun havde jo kysset kuldegyset af ham, og hans hjerte var så godt som en isklump. Han gik og slæbte på nogle skarpe flade isstykker, som han lagde på alle mulige måder, for han ville have noget ud deraf; det var ligesom når vi andre har små træplader og lægger disse i figurer, der kaldes det kinesiske spil. Kay gik også og lagde figurer, de allerkunstigste, det var forstands-isspillet; for hans øjne var figurerne ganske udmærkede og af den allerhøjeste vigtighed; det gjorde det glaskorn, der sad ham i øjet! han lagde hele figurer, der var et skrevet ord, men aldrig kunne han finde på at lægge det ord, som han just ville, det ord: Evigheden, og snedronningen havde sagt: "Kan du udfinde mig den figur, så skal du være din egen herre, og jeg forærer dig hele verden og et par nye skøjter." Men han kunne ikke.

"Nu suser jeg bort til de varme lande!" sagde snedronningen, "jeg vil hen og kigge ned i de sorte gryder!" - Det var de ildsprudende bjerge, Etna og Vesuv, som man kalder dem. - "Jeg skal hvidte dem lidt! det hører til; det gør godt oven på citroner og vindruer!" og så fløj snedronningen, og Kay sad ganske ene i den mange mil store tomme issal og så på isstykkerne og tænkte og tænkte, så det knagede i ham, ganske stiv og stille sad han, man skulle tro han var frosset ihjel.

Da var det, at den lille Gerda trådte ind i slottet gennem den store port, der var skærende vinde; men hun læste en aftenbøn, og da lagde vindene sig, som de ville sove, og hun trådte ind i de store, tomme kolde sale - da så hun Kay, hun kendte ham, hun fløj ham om halsen, holdt ham så fast og råbte: "Kay! søde lille Kay! så har jeg da fundet dig!"

Men han sad ganske stille, stiv og kold; - da græd den lille Gerda hede tårer, de faldt på hans bryst, de trængte ind i hans hjerte, de optøede isklumpen og fortærede den lille spejlstump derinde; han så på hende og hun sang salmen:

"Roserne vokser i dale,
der får vi barn Jesus i tale!"

Da brast Kay i gråd; han græd, så spejlkornet trillede ud af øjnene, han kendte hende og jublede: "Gerda! søde lille Gerda! - hvor har du dog været så længe? Og hvor har jeg været?" Og han så rundt om sig. "Hvor her er koldt! hvor her er tomt og stort!" og han holdt sig fast til Gerda, og hun lo og græd af glæde; det var så velsignet, at selv isstykkerne dansede af glæde rundt om og da de var trætte og lagde sig, lå de netop i de bogstaver, som snedronningen havde sagt, han skulle udfinde, så var han sin egen herre, og hun ville give ham hele verden og et par nye skøjter.

Og Gerda kyssede hans kinder, og de blev blomstrende; hun kyssede hans øjne, og de lyste som hendes, hun kyssede hans hænder og fødder, og han var sund og rask. Snedronningen måtte gerne komme hjem: Hans fribrev stod skrevet der med skinnende isstykker.

Og de tog hinanden i hænderne og vandrede ud af det store slot; de talte om bedstemoder og om roserne oppe på taget; og hvor de gik, lå vindene ganske stille og solen brød frem; og da de nåede busken med de røde bær, stod rensdyret der og ventede; det havde en anden ung ren med, hvis yver var fuldt, og den gav de små sin varme mælk og kyssede dem på munden. Så bar de Kay og Gerda først til finnekonen, hvor de varmede sig op i den hede stue og fik besked om hjemrejsen, så til lappekonen, der havde syet dem nye klæder og gjort sin slæde i stand.

Og rensdyret og den unge ren sprang ved siden og fulgte med, lige til landets grænse, der tittede det første grønne frem, der tog de afsked med rensdyret og med lappekonen. "Farvel!" sagde de alle sammen. Og de første små fugle begyndte at kvidre, skoven havde grønne knopper, og ud fra den kom ridende på en prægtig hest, som Gerda kendte (den havde været spændt for guldkareten) en ung pige med en skinnende rød hue på hovedet og pistoler foran sig; det var den lille røverpige, som var ked af at være hjemme og ville nu først nord på og siden af en anden kant, dersom hun ikke blev fornøjet. Hun kendte straks Gerda, og Gerda kendte hende, det var en glæde.

"Du er en rar fyr til at traske om!" sagde hun til lille Kay; "jeg gad vide, om du fortjener, man løber til verdens ende for din skyld!"

Men Gerda klappede hende på kinden, og spurgte om prins og prinsesse.

"De er rejste til fremmede lande!" sagde røverpigen.

"Men kragen?" spurgte den lille Gerda.

"Ja kragen er død!" svarede hun. "Den tamme kæreste er blevet enke og går med en stump sort uldgarn om benet; hun klager sig ynkeligt og vrøvl er det hele! - Men fortæl mig nu, hvorledes det er gået dig, og hvorledes du fik fat på ham!"

Og Gerda og Kay fortalte begge to.

"Og snip-snap-snurre-basselurre!" sagde røverpigen, tog dem begge to i hænderne og lovede, at hvis hun engang kom igennem deres by, så ville hun komme op at besøge dem, og så red hun ud i den vide verden, men Kay og Gerda gik hånd i hånd, og som de gik, var det et dejligt forår med blomster og grønt; kirkeklokkerne ringede, og de kendte de høje tårne, den store by, det var i den de boede, og de gik ind i den og hen til bedstemoders dør, op ad trappen, ind i stuen, hvor alt stod på samme sted som før, og uret sagde: "dik! dik!" og viseren drejede; men idet de gik igennem døren, mærkede de, at de var blevet voksne mennesker. Roserne fra tagrenden blomstrede ind af de åbne vinduer, og der stod de små børnestole, og Kay og Gerda satte sig på hver sin og holdt hinanden i hænderne, de havde glemt som en tung drøm den kolde tomme herlighed hos snedronningen. Bedstemoder sad i Guds klare solskin og læste højt af Bibelen: "Uden at I bliver som børn, kommer I ikke i Guds rige!"

Og Kay og Gerda så hinanden ind i øjnene, og de forstod på én gang den gamle salme:

"Roserne vokser i dale,
der får vi barn Jesus i tale."

Der sad de begge to voksne og dog børn, børn i hjertet, og det var sommer, den varme, velsignede sommer.

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