The red shoes

De røde sko

There was once a little girl who was very pretty and delicate, but in summer she was forced to run about with bare feet, she was so poor, and in winter wear very large wooden shoes, which made her little insteps quite red, and that looked so dangerous!
In the middle of the village lived old Dame Shoemaker; she sat and sewed together, as well as she could, a little pair of shoes out of old red strips of cloth; they were very clumsy, but it was a kind thought. They were meant for the little girl. The little girl was called Karen.
On the very day her mother was buried, Karen received the red shoes, and wore them for the first time. They were certainly not intended for mourning, but she had no others, and with stockingless feet she followed the poor straw coffin in them.
Suddenly a large old carriage drove up, and a large old lady sat in it: she looked at the little girl, felt compassion for her, and then said to the clergyman:
"Here, give me the little girl. I will adopt her!"
And Karen believed all this happened on account of the red shoes, but the old lady thought they were horrible, and they were burnt. But Karen herself was cleanly and nicely dressed; she must learn to read and sew; and people said she was a nice little thing, but the looking-glass said: "Thou art more than nice, thou art beautiful!"
Now the queen once travelled through the land, and she had her little daughter with her. And this little daughter was a princess, and people streamed to the castle, and Karen was there also, and the little princess stood in her fine white dress, in a window, and let herself be stared at; she had neither a train nor a golden crown, but splendid red morocco shoes. They were certainly far handsomer than those Dame Shoemaker had made for little Karen. Nothing in the world can be compared with red shoes.
Now Karen was old enough to be confirmed; she had new clothes and was to have new shoes also. The rich shoemaker in the city took the measure of her little foot. This took place at his house, in his room; where stood large glass-cases, filled with elegant shoes and brilliant boots. All this looked charming, but the old lady could not see well, and so had no pleasure in them. In the midst of the shoes stood a pair of red ones, just like those the princess had worn. How beautiful they were! The shoemaker said also they had been made for the child of a count, but had not fitted.
"That must be patent leather!" said the old lady. "They shine so!"
"Yes, they shine!" said Karen, and they fitted, and were bought, but the old lady knew nothing about their being red, else she would never have allowed Karen to have gone in red shoes to be confirmed. Yet such was the case.
Everybody looked at her feet; and when she stepped through the chancel door on the church pavement, it seemed to her as if the old figures on the tombs, those portraits of old preachers and preachers' wives, with stiff ruffs, and long black dresses, fixed their eyes on her red shoes. And she thought only of them as the clergyman laid his hand upon her head, and spoke of the holy baptism, of the covenant with God, and how she should be now a matured Christian; and the organ pealed so solemnly; the sweet children's voices sang, and the old music-directors sang, but Karen only thought of her red shoes.
In the afternoon, the old lady heard from everyone that the shoes had been red, and she said that it was very wrong of Karen, that it was not at all becoming, and that in future Karen should only go in black shoes to church, even when she should be older.
The next Sunday there was the sacrament, and Karen looked at the black shoes, looked at the red ones--looked at them again, and put on the red shoes.
The sun shone gloriously; Karen and the old lady walked along the path through the corn; it was rather dusty there.
At the church door stood an old soldier with a crutch, and with a wonderfully long beard, which was more red than white, and he bowed to the ground, and asked the old lady whether he might dust her shoes. And Karen stretched out her little foot.
"See, what beautiful dancing shoes!" said the soldier. "Sit firm when you dance"; and he put his hand out towards the soles.
And the old lady gave the old soldier alms, and went into the church with Karen.
And all the people in the church looked at Karen's red shoes, and all the pictures, and as Karen knelt before the altar, and raised the cup to her lips, she only thought of the red shoes, and they seemed to swim in it; and she forgot to sing her psalm, and she forgot to pray, "Our Father in Heaven!"
Now all the people went out of church, and the old lady got into her carriage. Karen raised her foot to get in after her, when the old soldier said,
"Look, what beautiful dancing shoes!"
And Karen could not help dancing a step or two, and when she began her feet continued to dance; it was just as though the shoes had power over them. She danced round the church corner, she could not leave off; the coachman was obliged to run after and catch hold of her, and he lifted her in the carriage, but her feet continued to dance so that she trod on the old lady dreadfully. At length she took the shoes off, and then her legs had peace.
The shoes were placed in a closet at home, but Karen could not avoid looking at them.
Now the old lady was sick, and it was said she could not recover. She must be nursed and waited upon, and there was no one whose duty it was so much as Karen's. But there was a great ball in the city, to which Karen was invited. She looked at the old lady, who could not recover, she looked at the red shoes, and she thought there could be no sin in it; she put on the red shoes, she might do that also, she thought. But then she went to the ball and began to dance.
When she wanted to dance to the right, the shoes would dance to the left, and when she wanted to dance up the room, the shoes danced back again, down the steps, into the street, and out of the city gate. She danced, and was forced to dance straight out into the gloomy wood.
Then it was suddenly light up among the trees, and she fancied it must be the moon, for there was a face; but it was the old soldier with the red beard; he sat there, nodded his head, and said, "Look, what beautiful dancing shoes!"
Then she was terrified, and wanted to fling off the red shoes, but they clung fast; and she pulled down her stockings, but the shoes seemed to have grown to her feet. And she danced, and must dance, over fields and meadows, in rain and sunshine, by night and day; but at night it was the most fearful.
She danced over the churchyard, but the dead did not dance--they had something better to do than to dance. She wished to seat herself on a poor man's grave, where the bitter tansy grew; but for her there was neither peace nor rest; and when she danced towards the open church door, she saw an angel standing there. He wore long, white garments; he had wings which reached from his shoulders to the earth; his countenance was severe and grave; and in his hand he held a sword, broad and glittering.
"Dance shalt thou!" said he. "Dance in thy red shoes till thou art pale and cold! Till thy skin shrivels up and thou art a skeleton! Dance shalt thou from door to door, and where proud, vain children dwell, thou shalt knock, that they may hear thee and tremble! Dance shalt thou--!"
"Mercy!" cried Karen. But she did not hear the angel's reply, for the shoes carried her through the gate into the fields, across roads and bridges, and she must keep ever dancing.
One morning she danced past a door which she well knew. Within sounded a psalm; a coffin, decked with flowers, was borne forth. Then she knew that the old lady was dead, and felt that she was abandoned by all, and condemned by the angel of God.
She danced, and she was forced to dance through the gloomy night. The shoes carried her over stack and stone; she was torn till she bled; she danced over the heath till she came to a little house. Here, she knew, dwelt the executioner; and she tapped with her fingers at the window, and said, "Come out! Come out! I cannot come in, for I am forced to dance!"
And the executioner said, "Thou dost not know who I am, I fancy? I strike bad people's heads off; and I hear that my axe rings!"
"Don't strike my head off!" said Karen. "Then I can't repent of my sins! But strike off my feet in the red shoes!"
And then she confessed her entire sin, and the executioner struck off her feet with the red shoes, but the shoes danced away with the little feet across the field into the deep wood.
And he carved out little wooden feet for her, and crutches, taught her the psalm criminals always sing; and she kissed the hand which had wielded the axe, and went over the heath.
"Now I have suffered enough for the red shoes!" said she. "Now I will go into the church that people may see me!" And she hastened towards the church door: but when she was near it, the red shoes danced before her, and she was terrified, and turned round. The whole week she was unhappy, and wept many bitter tears; but when Sunday returned, she said, "Well, now I have suffered and struggled enough! I really believe I am as good as many a one who sits in the church, and holds her head so high!"
And away she went boldly; but she had not got farther than the churchyard gate before she saw the red shoes dancing before her; and she was frightened, and turned back, and repented of her sin from her heart.
And she went to the parsonage, and begged that they would take her into service; she would be very industrious, she said, and would do everything she could; she did not care about the wages, only she wished to have a home, and be with good people. And the clergyman's wife was sorry for her and took her into service; and she was industrious and thoughtful. She sat still and listened when the clergyman read the Bible in the evenings. All the children thought a great deal of her; but when they spoke of dress, and grandeur, and beauty, she shook her head.
The following Sunday, when the family was going to church, they asked her whether she would not go with them; but she glanced sorrowfully, with tears in her eyes, at her crutches. The family went to hear the word of God; but she went alone into her little chamber; there was only room for a bed and chair to stand in it; and here she sat down with her Prayer-Book; and whilst she read with a pious mind, the wind bore the strains of the organ towards her, and she raised her tearful countenance, and said, "O God, help me!"
And the sun shone so clearly, and straight before her stood the angel of God in white garments, the same she had seen that night at the church door; but he no longer carried the sharp sword, but in its stead a splendid green spray, full of roses. And he touched the ceiling with the spray, and the ceiling rose so high, and where he had touched it there gleamed a golden star. And he touched the walls, and they widened out, and she saw the organ which was playing; she saw the old pictures of the preachers and the preachers' wives. The congregation sat in cushioned seats, and sang out of their Prayer-Books. For the church itself had come to the poor girl in her narrow chamber, or else she had come into the church. She sat in the pew with the clergyman's family, and when they had ended the psalm and looked up, they nodded and said, "It is right that thou art come!"
"It was through mercy!" she said.
And the organ pealed, and the children's voices in the choir sounded so sweet and soft! The clear sunshine streamed so warmly through the window into the pew where Karen sat! Her heart was so full of sunshine, peace, and joy, that it broke. Her soul flew on the sunshine to God, and there no one asked after the red shoes.
Der var en lille pige, så fin og så nydelig, men om sommeren måtte hun altid gå med bare fødder, for hun var fattig, og om vinteren med store træsko, så at den lille vrist blev ganske rød og det så grueligt.
Midt i bondebyen boede den gamle Mor Skomagers, hun sad og syede, så godt hun kunne det, af røde, gamle klædestrimler et par små sko, ganske kluntede, men godt ment var de, og dem skulle den lille pige have. Den lille pige hed Karen.
Just den dag hendes moder blev begravet fik hun de røde sko og havde dem første gang på; det var jo rigtignok ikke noget at sørge med, men hun havde nu ingen andre og så gik hun med bare ben i dem, bag efter den fattige stråkiste.
Da kom der i det samme en stor, gammel vogn, og i den sad der en stor, gammel frue, hun så på den lille pige og havde ondt af hende og så sagde hun til præsten: "Hør, giv mig den lille pige, så skal jeg være god imod hende!"
Og Karen troede det var alt sammen for de røde sko, men den gamle frue sagde at de var gruelige, og de blev brændt, men Karen selv blev klædt på rent og net; hun måtte lære at læse og sy, og folk sagde at hun var nydelig, men spejlet sagde: "Du er meget mere end nydelig, du er dejlig!"
Da rejste dronningen engang igennem landet og hun havde med sig sin lille datter, der var en prinsesse, og folk strømmede til uden for slottet og der var da Karen også, og den lille prinsesse stod i fine, hvide klæder i et vindue og lod sig se på; hun havde hverken slæb eller guldkrone, men dejlige røde safianssko; de var rigtignok anderledes nette, end de Mor Skomagers havde syet til lille Karen. Intet i verden kunne dog lignes ved røde sko!
Nu var Karen så gammel at hun skulle konfirmeres, nye klæder fik hun, og nye sko skulle hun også have. Den rige skomager inde i byen tog mål af hendes lille fod, det var hjemme i hans egen stue, og der stod store glasskabe med yndige sko og blanke støvler. Det så nydeligt ud, men den gamle frue så ikke godt, og så havde hun ingen fornøjelse deraf; midt imellem skoene stod et par røde, ganske som de prinsessen havde båret; hvor de var smukke! Skomageren sagde også at de var syet til et grevebarn, men de havde ikke passet.
"Det er nok blanklæder!" sagde den gamle frue, "de skinner!"
"Ja de skinner!" sagde Karen; og de passede og de blev købt; men den gamle frue vidste ikke af at de var røde, thi hun havde aldrig tilladt Karen at gå til konfirmation i røde sko, men det gjorde hun nu.
Alle mennesker så på hendes fødder, og da hun gik op ad kirkegulvet til kordøren, syntes hun at selv de gamle billeder på begravelserne, disse portrætter af præster og præstekoner med stive kraver og lange sorte klæder, hæftede øjnene på hendes røde sko, og kun på disse tænkte hun, da præsten lagde sin hånd på hendes hoved og talte om den hellige dåb, om pagten med Gud og at hun nu skulle være et stort kristent menneske; og orglet spillede så højtideligt, de smukke børnestemmer sang og den gamle kantor sang, men Karen tænkte kun på de røde sko.
Om eftermiddagen vidste da den gamle frue af alle mennesker at skoene havde været røde og hun sagde at det var stygt, at det passede sig ikke og at Karen herefter, når hun gik i kirke, skulle altid gå med sorte sko, selv om de var gamle.
Næste søndag var der altergang, og Karen så på de sorte sko, hun så på de røde – og så så hun på de røde igen og tog de røde på.
Det var dejligt solskinsvejr; Karen og den gamle frue gik ad stien gennem kornet; dér støvede det lidt.
Ved kirkedøren stod en gammel soldat med en krykkestok og med et underligt langt skæg, det var mere rødt end hvidt, for det var rødt; og han bøjede sig lige ned til jorden og spurgte den gamle frue, om han måtte tørre hendes sko af. Og Karen strakte også sin lille fod ud. "Se, hvilke dejlige dansesko!" sagde soldaten, "sid fast når I danser!" og så slog han med hånden på sålerne.
Og den gamle frue gav soldaten en lille skilling og så gik hun med Karen ind i kirken.
Og alle mennesker derinde så på Karens røde sko, og alle billederne så på dem og da Karen knælede for altret og satte guldkalken for sin mund, tænkte hun kun på de røde sko og det var som om de svømmede om i kalken for hende; og hun glemte at synge sin salme, hun glemte at læse sit "Fadervor."
Nu gik alle folk fra kirke og den gamle frue steg ind i sin vogn. Karen løftede foden for at stige bag efter, da sagde den gamle soldat, som stod tæt ved: "Se hvilke dejlige dansesko!" og Karen kunne ikke lade være, hun måtte gøre nogle dansetrin, og da hun begyndte blev benene ved at danse, det var ligesom om skoene havde fået magt over dem; hun dansede omkring kirkehjørnet, hun kunne ikke lade være, kusken måtte løbe bag efter og tage fat på hende, og han løftede hende ind i vognen, men fødderne blev ved at danse, så hun sparkede så grueligt den gode gamle frue. Endelig fik de skoene af og benene kom i ro.
Hjemme blev skoene sat op i et skab, men Karen kunne ikke lade være at se på dem.
Nu lå den gamle frue syg, de sagde at hun kunne ikke leve! plejes og passes skulle hun og ingen var nærmere til det, end Karen; men henne i byen var der et stort bal, Karen var inviteret; – hun så på den gamle frue, der jo dog ikke kunne leve, hun så på de røde sko, og det syntes hun der ingen synd var i; – hun tog de røde sko på, det kunne hun jo også nok; – men så gik hun på bal og så begyndte hun at danse.
Men da hun ville til højre, så dansede skoene til venstre, og da hun ville op ad gulvet, så dansede skoene ned ad gulvet, ned ad trappen, gennem gaden og ud af byens port. Danse gjorde hun og danse måtte hun, lige ud i den mørke skov.
Da skinnede det oppe mellem træerne og hun troede at det var månen, for det var et ansigt, men det var den gamle soldat med det røde skæg, han sad og nikkede og sagde: "Se hvilke dejlige dansesko!"
Da blev hun forfærdet og ville kaste de røde sko, men de hang fast, og hun flængede sine strømper af, men skoene var vokset fast til hendes fødder, og danse gjorde hun og danse måtte hun over mark og eng, i regn og i solskin, ved nat og ved dag, men om natten var det grueligst.
Hun dansede ind på den åbne kirkegård, men de døde dér dansede ikke, de har noget meget bedre at bestille end at danse; hun ville sætte sig på den fattiges grav hvor den bitre regnfang groede, men for hende var ikke ro eller hvile og da hun dansede hen imod den åbne kirkedør, så hun der en engel i lange hvide klæder, med vinger som nåede ham fra skuldrene ned til jorden, hans ansigt var strengt og alvorligt, og i hånden holdt han et sværd, så bredt og skinnende:
"Danse skal du!" sagde han, "danse på dine røde sko, til du bliver bleg og kold! til din hud skrumper sammen som en benrads! danse skal du fra dør til dør og hvor der bor stolte forfængelige børn, skal du banke på, så at de hører dig og frygter dig! Danse skal du, danse -!"
"Nåde!" råbte Karen. Men hun hørte ikke hvad englen svarede, thi skoene bar hende igennem lågen, ud på marken, over vej og over sti og altid måtte hun danse.
En morgenstund dansede hun forbi en dør, hun kendte godt; indenfor lød salmesang, de bar en kiste ud, som var pyntet med blomster; da vidste hun, at den gamle frue var død og hun syntes at nu var hun forladt af alle og forbandet af Guds engel.
Danse gjorde hun og danse måtte hun, danse i den mørke nat. Skoene bar hende af sted over tjørne og stubbe, hun rev sig til blods; hun dansede hen over heden til et lille ensomt hus. Her vidste hun at skarpretteren boede og hun bankede med fingeren på ruden og sagde:
"Kom ud! – kom ud! – Jeg kan ikke komme ind, for jeg danser!"
Og skarpretteren sagde: "Du ved nok ikke hvem jeg er? Jeg hugger hovedet af de onde mennesker, og jeg kan mærke at min økse dirrer!"
"Hug ikke hovedet af mig!" sagde Karen, "for så kan jeg ikke angre min synd! men hug mine fødder af med de røde sko!"
Og så skriftede hun hele sin synd, og skarpretteren huggede af hende fødderne med de røde sko, men skoene dansede med de små fødder hen over marken ind i den dybe skov.
Og han snittede hende træben og krykker, lærte hende en salme, den synderne altid synger, og hun kyssede den hånd, som havde ført øksen, og gik hen over heden.
"Nu har jeg lidt nok for de røde sko!" sagde hun, "nu vil jeg gå i kirke at de kan se mig!" og hun gik nok så rask mod kirkedøren, men da hun kom der, dansede de røde sko foran hende og hun blev forfærdet og vendte om.
Hele ugen igennem var hun bedrøvet og græd mange tunge tårer, men da det blev søndag, sagde hun: "Se så! nu har jeg lidt og stridt nok! jeg skulle tro, at jeg er lige så god som mange af dem der sidder og knejser derinde i kirken!" og så gik hun nok så modig; men hun kom ikke længere end til lågen, da så hun de røde sko danse foran sig og hun forfærdedes og vendte om og angrede ret i hjertet sin synd.
Og hun gik hen til præstegården og bad om hun måtte komme i tjeneste der, flittig ville hun være og gøre alt hvad hun kunne, på lønnen så hun ikke, kun at hun måtte få tag over hovedet og være hos gode mennesker. Og præstekonen havde ondt af hende og gav hende tjeneste. Og hun var flittig og tankefuld. Stille sad hun og hørte til når om aftnen præsten læste højt af Bibelen. Alle de små holdt meget af hende, men når de talte om pynt og stads og at være dejlig som en dronning, rystede hun med hovedet.
Næste søndag gik de alle til kirke og de spurgte hende om hun ville med, men hun så bedrøvet, med tårer i øjnene, på sine krykker, og så gik de andre hen at høre Guds ord, men hun gik alene ind i sit lille kammer; det var ikke større, end at der kunne stå en seng og en stol, og her satte hun sig med sin salmebog; og alt som hun med fromt sind læste i den, bar vinden orgeltonerne fra kirken over til hende, og hun løftede med tårer sit ansigt og sagde: "Oh, Gud hjælpe mig!"
Da skinnede solen så klart og lige foran hende stod den Guds engel i de hvide klæder, ham hun hin nat havde set i kirkedøren, men han holdt ikke længere det skarpe sværd, men en dejlig grøn gren, der var fuld af roser, og han rørte med den ved loftet og det hævede sig så højt og hvor han havde rørt skinnede der en guldstjerne, og han rørte ved væggene og de udvidede sig, og hun så orglet, som spillede, hun så de gamle billeder med præster og præstekoner; menigheden sad i de pyntede stole og sang af deres salmebog. – For kirken var selv kommet hjem til den stakkels pige i det lille snævre kammer eller også var hun kommet derhen; hun sad i stolen hos de andre præstens folk og da de havde endt salmen og så op, nikkede de og sagde: "Det var ret du kom, Karen!"
"Det var nåde!" sagde hun.
Og orglet klang og børnestemmerne i koret lød så blødt og dejligt! Det klare solskin strømmede så varmt gennem vinduet ind i kirkestolen hvor Karen sad; hendes hjerte blev så fuldt af solskin, af fred og glæde, at det brast; hendes sjæl fløj på solskin til Gud, og dér var der ingen som spurgte om de røde sko.