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Stories

(as they were told before Hollywood worked their "magic" on them.)

The Bremen Town Musicians

The Forbidden Chamber

The Gypsy Queen

Little Briar Rose

Little Red Riding Hood

The Snow Queen

 

The Bremen Town Musicians

A certain man had a donkey, which had carried the corn-sacks to the mill indefatigably for many a long year; but his strength was going, and he was growing
more and more unfit for work. Then his master began to consider how he might best save his keep; but the donkey, seeing that no good wind was blowing, ran away and set out on the road to Bremen. “There,” he thought, “I can surely be a town-musician.” When he had walked some distance, he found a hound lying on the road, gasping like one who had run till he was tired. “What are you gasping so for, you big fellow?” asked the donkey.

“Ah,” replied the hound, “as I am old, and daily grow weaker, and no longer can hunt, my master wanted to kill me, so I took to flight; but now how am I to earn my bread?”

“I tell you what,” said the donkey, “I am going to Bremen, and shall be town-musician there; go with me and engage yourself also as a musician. I will play the lute, and you shall beat the kettledrum.”

The hound agreed, and on they went.

Before long they came to a cat, sitting on the path, with a face like three rainy days! “Now then, old shaver, what has gone askew with you?” asked the donkey.

“Who can be merry when his neck is in danger?” answered the cat. “Because I am now getting old, and my teeth are worn to stumps, and I prefer to sit by the fire and spin, rather than hunt about after mice, my mistress wanted to drown me, so I ran away. But now good advice is scarce. Where am I to go?”

“Go with us to Bremen. You understand night-music, so you can be a town-musician.”

The cat thought well of it, and went with them. Then the three fugitives came to a farm-yard, where the cock was sitting on the gate, crowing with all his might. “Your crow goes through one,” said the donkey. “What is the matter?”

“I have been foretelling fine weather, because it is the day on which Our Lady washes the Christ-child’s little shirts, and wants to dry them,” said the cock; “but guests are coming for Sunday, so the housewife has no pity, and has told the cook that she intends to eat me in the soup to-morrow, and this evening I am to have my head cut off. Now I am crowing at full pitch while I can.”

“Ah, but red-comb,” said the donkey, “you had better come away with us. We are going to Bremen; you can find something better than death everywhere: you have a good voice, and if we make music together it must have some quality!”

The cock agreed to this plan, and all four went on together. They could not, however, reach the city of Bremen in one day, and in the evening they came to a forest where they meant to pass the night. The donkey and the hound laid themselves down under a large tree, the cat and the cock settled themselves in the branches; but the cock flew right to the top, where he was most safe. Before he went to sleep he looked round on all four sides, and thought he saw in the distance a little spark burning; so he called out to his companions that there must be a house not far off, for he saw a light. The donkey said, “If so, we had better get up and go on, for the shelter here is bad.” The hound thought too that a few bones with some meat on would do him good too!

So they made their way to the place where the light was, and soon saw it shine brighter and grow larger, until they came to a well-lighted robber’s house. The donkey, as the biggest, went to the window and looked in.

“What do you see, my gray-horse?” asked the cock. “What do I see?” answered the donkey; “a table covered with good things to eat and drink, and robbers sitting at it enjoying themselves.” “That would be the sort of thing for us,” said the cock. “Yes, yes; ah, how I wish we were there!” said the donkey. Then the animals took counsel together how they should manage to drive away the robbers, and at last they thought of a plan. The donkey was to place himself with his fore-feet upon the window-ledge; the hound was to jump on the donkey’s back; the cat was to climb upon the dog, and lastly the cock was to fly up and perch upon the head of the cat.

When this was done, at a given signal, they began to perform their music together: the donkey brayed, the hound barked, the cat mewed, and the cock crowed; then they burst through the window into the room, so that the glass clattered! At this horrible din, the robbers sprang up, thinking that a ghost had come in, and fled in a great fright out into the forest. The four companions now sat down at the table, well content with what was left, and ate as if they were going to fast for a month.

As soon as the four minstrels had done, they put out the light, and each sought for himself a sleeping-place according to his nature and what suited him. The donkey laid himself down upon some straw in the yard; the hound behind the door; the cat upon the hearth near the warm ashes, and the cock perched himself upon a beam of the roof; and being tired with their long walk, they soon went to sleep.

When it was past midnight, and the robbers saw from afar that the light no longer burned in their house, and all appeared quiet, the captain said, “We ought not to have let ourselves be scared out of our wits;" and ordered one of them to go and examine the house.

The messenger, finding all still, went into the kitchen to light a candle, and, taking the glistening fiery eyes of the cat for live coals, he held a lucifer-match to them to light it. But the cat did not understand the joke, and flew into his face, spitting and scratching. He was dreadfully frightened, and ran to the backdoor, but the dog, who lay there, sprang up and bit his leg; and as he ran across the yard by the straw-heap, the donkey gave him a smart kick with its hind foot. The cock, too, who had been awakened by the noise, and had become lively, cried down from the beam, “Cock-a-doodle-doo!”

Then the robber ran back as fast as he could to his captain, and said, “Ah, there is a horrible witch sitting in the house, who spat on me and scratched my face with her long claws; and by the door stands a man with a knife, who stabbed me in the leg; and in the yard there lies a black monster, who beat me with a wooden club; and above, upon the roof, sits the judge, who called out, ‘Bring the rogue here to me!’ so I got away as well as I could.”

After this the robbers did not trust themselves in the house again; but it suited the four musicians of Bremen so well that they did not care to leave it any more. And the mouth of him who last told this story is still warm.

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The ForBidden Chamber

 

Once there was an evil wizard who, dressed as a beggar, would go from house to house asking for alms and would steal the prettiest girls he could find. None of them could ever return home.

One day he knocked on the door of a house where lived a man with three beautiful daughters. The eldest opened the door and gave him a piece of bread.

When she gave it to him he touched her arm and hypnotized her. Then he made her enter the basket that he always carried on his back and took her to his house which was situated in the midst of the woods. Everything there was magnificent, and she had everything she could wish for.

After a few days the wizard told her that he had to go on a journey, that he would leave her the keys to all the house, and that she could enter every room except one. If she should enter that room she would surely die. Also, he gave her an egg and asked her to take good care of it.

As soon as the wizard was out of sight, the girl looked into every room and found beautiful things that delighted her. At last she approached the prohibited chamber and after a moment's indecision, her curiosity won and she entered the room.

What she saw made her tremble. There were hundreds of girls that had been kidnapped and all looked as if they had fallen asleep. The girl, frightened at the sight, went running out of the room as fast as she could.

In her haste she dropped the egg that she carried in her hand, but it did not break. When she picked it up she noticed that the egg had turned red, and althought she tried to clean it, the egg stayed red.

After some time the wizard came back. He noticed what had happened to the egg, struck the girl, and dragged her into the prohibited chamber, where he left her with the others.

The wizard then went back to the same house and stole the second sister and the same thing happened to her.

He went back a third time and kidnapped the younger sister, but this sister was very wise. When the wizard gave her the keys and the egg, she took the egg and deposited it in the cupboard. Then she took the keys and went into the prohibited chamber. She was amazed at seeing so many girls lying as if in a profound sleep. Amongst them she recognized her two sisters.

She left the room and closed the door. When she heard the wizard returning, she took the egg and the keys and went to meet him.

"You shall be my wife because you have resisted curiosity," he exclaimed.

As the girl had broken the spell, the wizard had lost his power and she could do with him as she pleased, so she went to the prohibited chamber and awoke all the girls. Then she went to the wizard and told him.

"Before I marry you, you must go and take a basket full of gold to my parents."

She took a great big basket and in it she hid her two sisters covering them with pieces of gold. Then she told the wizard to take the basket but not to stop on the road because she would be watching him from the window. The man took the basket and started walking but soon was worn out by fatigue. He sat down to rest, but immediately heard a voice which said "I am watching you from my window." Thinking it was the voice of his future wife, he got up and walked a while longer. Everytime he tried to rest, the same thing happened, until finally he reached the house where his fiancée's parents lived. There he left the basket.

In the meantime, his future wife took a piece of cardboard and made a head which she placed on the window sill of the second floor, making it look as if someone was watching from the window. Then she went and let out the other victims and invited them all to her wedding. Finally, she covered her whole body with feathers, disguising herself as a rare bird so that no one could recognize her, and left the house. Soon she met some of the guests that she had invited to the wedding and they asked her:

"From where do you come beautiful bird?"

"From the house where the wizard is being wedded."

"And please tell, what does the beautiful bride do?"

"After being all dressed up in her beautiful wedding gown she leans out of the window looking down."

When the wizard returned home, the window of the second floor was open, he looked towards it and saw the head there. He thought it was his future wife and he ran excitedly into the house, but upon entering he encountered all the family and sisters of the girl, who dragged him into the chamber, locked the door and set fire to the house.

And this was the end of the wizard and his prohibited chamber.

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The Gypsy Queen

 

There was a king who had one son. When the prince reached a marriageable age, he told his parents, "I want to marry the most beautiful woman in the whole world. Therefore, I am going to journey all over the world until I find her."

The prince left the palace and traveled until he came to a fountain where he stopped to take a drink. As the youth bent over to drink, he saw reflected in the water three oranges. Looking up, he saw three large and beautiful fruits on the branch of an orange tree.

"How tasty they look," said the prince. Climbing the tree, he removed the oranges from the branch.

The prince cut the first orange in half and from its interior a beautiful maiden appeared.

"Give me bread," said the maiden to the prince.

"I can't," answered he, "because I don't have any."

"Then to my orange I will return," said the maiden, and the orange became whole again.

The prince cut the second orange, and from this ruit also sprang a maiden, much more beautiful than the first.

"Give me bread," the second maiden told the youth.

"I can't," said the prince, "because I don't have any."

"Then to my orange I will return," said the maden, and the orange became whole again.

The prince thoughtfully considered the situation. He decided to get some bread in case another maiden should appear asking for it.

As the prince was making his plans, a gypsy went by in a cart.

"Amigo," cried the prince, "I will give you a golden coin for a piece of bread."

Hurriedly the gypsy left his cart, hastening to give the prince some bread.

The prince, now happy and satisfied, cut the third orange. And from the orange sprang a maiden, much more beautiful than the other two.

"Give me bread," the third maiden said.

The prince, joyously, gave her bread. The lady of the orange then exclaimed, "I am now yours. You can do as you please with me."

"I will marry you," answered the prince.

The maiden was utterly naked, and since the prince wanted to take her back to the palace he could not let her go as she was. He examined the gypsy's clothes but they were dirty. The prince then told the maiden, "Remain here with this gypsy while I go and bring some garments for you."

The gypsy had a daughter who had been asleep in the cart and who had not witnessed what had taken place. The daughter awoke when the prince was riding away, and at sight of him, she fell in love.

The gypsy's daughter jumped from the cart and asked her father what had taken place. He told her all that had happened.

The gypsy girl saw the beautiful maiden and said to her, "Let me comb your hair so that you will be much more beautiful when the prince returns."

The maiden agreed. As the gypsy girl began combing, she suddenly stuck a pin in the lady's head. Immediately the maiden turned into a dove. The gypsy girl then took her clothes off and sat where the maiden had been.

Soon the prince returned and, seeing the gypsy witch, exclaimed, "Señora, how dark you have become!"

"The sun has burnt my skin," the witch answered.

The prince, believing the witch was the maiden from the orange, took the gypsy woman to his palace and there married her.

One day a dove arrived at the garden of the king and asked the gardener, "Gardener to the king, how are the princess and his wife?"

"Sometimes he sings, but more often does he cry," answered the gardener.

From then on the little dove would come to the garden and ask the same question again and again. Finally, the gardener told the prince about the dove.

The prince then ordered him to capture the bird next time it came to the garden. The gardener limed the tree where the dove always rested. The next day, when it tried to fly away, it could not and the gardener captured it and took it to the prince.

The prince fell in love with the little dove. He took the bird in his hands and began stroking its head. Feeling the pin in the dove's head, he jerked it out. Immediately the dove changed back into the maiden of the orange.

The beautiful maide told the prince all that had happened and the prince told the king the maiden's story.

The king became greatly angered and ordered that the gpsy witch be burned at the stake. And the prince and the maiden married and lived happily ever after.

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Little Briar Rose

 

Along time ago there were a King and Queen who said every day, “Ah, if only we had a child!” but they never had one. But it happened that once when the Queen was bathing, a frog crept out of the water on to the land, and said to her, “Your wish shall be fulfilled; before a year has gone by, you shall have a daughter.”

What the frog had said came true, and the Queen had a little girl who was so pretty that the King could not contain himself for joy, and ordered a great feast. He invited not only his kindred, friends and acquaintances, but also the Wise Women, in order that they might be kind and well-disposed towards the child. There were thirteen of them in his kingdom, but as he had only twelve golden plates for them to eat out of, one of them had to be left at home.

The feast was held with all manner of splendor, and when it came to an end the Wise Women bestowed their magic gifts upon the baby: one gave virtue, another beauty, a third riches, and so on with everything in the world that one can wish for.

When eleven of them had made their promises, suddenly the thirteenth came in. She wished to avenge herself for not having been invited, and without greeting, or even looking at anyone, she cried with a loud voice, “The King’s daughter shall in her fifteenth year prick herself with a spindle, and fall down dead.” And, without saying a word more, she turned round and left the room.

They were all shocked, but the twelfth, whose good wish still remained unspoken, came forward, and as she could not undo the evil sentence, but only soften it, she said, “It shall not be death, but a deep sleep of a hundred years, into which the princess shall fall.”

The King, who would fain keep his dear child from the misfortune, gave orders that every spindle in the whole kingdom should be burnt. Meanwhile the gifts of the Wise Women were plenteously fulfilled on the young girl, for she was so beautiful, modest, good-natured, and wise, that every one who saw her was bound to love her.

It happened that on the very day when she was fifteen years old, the King and Queen were not at home, and the maiden was left in the palace quite alone. So she went round into all sorts of places, looked into rooms and bed-chambers just as she liked, and at last came to an old tower. She climbed up the narrow winding staircase, and reached a little door. A rusty key was in the lock, and when she turned it the door sprang open, and there in a little room sat an old woman with a spindle, busily spinning her flax.

“Good day, old dame,” said the King’s daughter; “what are you doing there?” “I am spinning,” said the old woman, and nodded her head. “What sort of thing is that, that rattles round so merrily?” said the girl, and she took the spindle and wanted to spin, too. But scarcely had she touched the spindle when the magic decree was fulfilled, and she pricked her finger with it.

And, in the very moment when she felt the prick, she fell down upon the bed that stood there, and lay in a deep sleep. And this sleep extended over the whole palace; the King and Queen who had just come home, and had entered the great hall, began to go to sleep, and the whole of the court with them. The horses, too, went to sleep in the stable, the dogs in the yard, the pigeons upon the roof, the flies on the wall; even the fire that was flaming on the hearth became quiet and slept, the roast meat left off frizzling, and the cook, who was just going to pull the hair of the scullery boy, because he had forgotten something, let him go, and went to sleep. And the wind fell, and on the trees before the castle not a leaf moved again.

But round about the castle there began to grow a hedge of thorns, which every year became higher, and at last grew close up round the castle and all over it, so that there was nothing of it to be seen, not even the flag upon the roof. But the story of the beautiful sleeping “Briar-rose,” for so the princess was named, went about the country, so that from time to time kings’ sons came and tried to get through the thorny hedge into the castle.

But they found it impossible, for the thorns held fast together, as if they had hands, and the youths were caught in them, could not get loose again, and died a miserable death.

After long, long years a King’s son came again to that country, and heard an old man talking about the thorn-hedge, and that a castle was said to stand behind it in which a wonderfully beautiful princess, named Briar-rose, had been asleep for a hundred years; and that the King and Queen and the whole court were asleep likewise. He had heard, too, from his grandfather, that many kings’ sons had already come, and had tried to get through the thorny hedge, but they had remained sticking fast in it, and had died a pitiful death. Then the youth said, “I am not afraid,” I will go and see the beautiful Briar-rose.” The good old man might dissuade him as he would, he did not listen to his words.

But by this time the hundred years had just passed, and the day had come when Briar-rose was to awake again. When the King’s son came near to the thorn-hedge, it was nothing but large and beautiful flowers, which parted from each other of their own accord, and let him pass unhurt; then they closed again behind him like a hedge. In the castle-yard he saw the horses and the spotted hounds lying asleep; on the roof sat the pigeons with their heads under their wings. And when he entered the house, the flies were asleep upon the wall, the cook in the kitchen was still holding out his hand to seize the boy, and the maid was sitting by the black hen which she was going to pluck.

He went on farther, and in the great hall he saw the whole of the court lying asleep, and up by the throne lay the King and Queen.

Then he went on still farther, and all was so quiet that a breath could be heard, and at last he came to the tower, and opened the door into the little room where Briar-rose was sleeping. There she lay, so beautiful that he could not turn his eyes away; and he stooped down and gave her a kiss. But as soon as he kissed her, Briar-rose opened her eyes and awoke, and looked at him quite sweetly.

Then they went down together, and the King awoke, and the Queen, and the whole court, and looked at each other in great astonishment. And the horses in the courtyard stood up and shook themselves; the hounds jumped up and wagged their tails; the pigeons upon the roof pulled out their heads from under their wings, looked round, and flew into the open country; the flies on the wall crept again; the fire in the kitchen burned up and flickered and cooked the meat; the joint began to turn and frizzle again, and the cook gave the boy such a box on the ear that he screamed, and the maid plucked the fowl ready for the spit.

And then the marriage of the King’s son with Briar-rose was celebrated with all splendor, and they lived contented to the end of their days.

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Little Red Riding-Hood

Once upon a time there was a dear little girl who was loved by every one who looked at her, but most of all by her grandmother, and there was nothing that she
would not have given to the child. Once she gave her a little riding hood of red velvet, which suited her so well that she would never wear anything else; so she was always called Little Red-Riding hood.

One day her mother said to her, "Come, Little Red-Riding hood, here is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine; take them to your grandmother; she is ill and weak, and they will do her good. Set out before it gets hot, and when you are going, walk nicely and quietly and do not run off the path, or you may fall and break the bottle, and then your grandmother will get nothing; and when you go into her room, don't forget to say, 'Good-morning,' and don't peep into every corner before you do it."

"I will take great care," said Little Red-Riding hood to her mother, and gave her hand on it.

The grandmother lived out in the wood, half a league from the village, and just as Little Red-Riding hood entered the wood, a wolf met her. Red-Riding hood did not know what a wicked creature he was, and was not at all afraid of him.

"Good-day, Little Red-Riding hood," said he.

"Thank you kindly, wolf."

"Whither away so early, Little Red-Riding hood?"

"To my grandmother's."

"What have you got in your apron?"

"Cake and wine; yesterday was baking-day, so poor sick grandmother is to have something good, to make her stronger."

"Where does your grandmother live, Little Red-Riding hood?"

"A good quarter of a league farther on in the wood; her house stands under the three large oak-trees, the nut-trees are just below; you surely must know it," replied Little Red-Riding hood.

The wolf thought to himself, "What a tender young creature! what a nice plump mouthful-she will be better to eat than the old woman. I must act craftily, so as to catch both." So he walked for a short time by the side of Little Red-Riding hood, and then he said, "See Little Red-Riding hood, how pretty the flowers are about here-why do you not look around? I believe, too, that you do not hear how sweetly the little birds are singing; you walk gravely along as if you were going to school, while everything else out here in the wood is very merry."

Little Red-Riding hood raised her eyes, and when she saw the sunbeams dancing here and there through the trees, and pretty flowers growing everywhere, she thought, "Suppose I take grandmother a fresh nosegay; that would please her, too. It is so early in the day that I shall still get there in good time;" and so she ran from the path into the wood to look for flowers. And whenever she had picked one, she fancied that she saw a still prettier one farther on, and ran after it, and so got deeper and deeper into the wood.

Meanwhile the wolf ran straight to the grandmother's house and knocked at the door.

"Who is there?"

"Little Red-Riding hood," replied the wolf. "She is bringing cake and wine; open the door."

"Lift the latch," called out the grandmother, "I am too weak, and cannot get up."

The wolf lifted the latch, the door flew open, and without saying a word he went straight to the grandmother's bed, and devoured her. Then he put on her clothes, dressed himself in her riding hood, laid himself in bed and drew the curtains.

Little Red-Riding hood, however, had been running about picking flowers, and when she had gathered so many that she could carry no more, she remembered her grandmother and set out on the way to her.

She was surprised to find the cottage-door standing open, and when she went into the room, she had such a strange feeling that she said to herself, "Oh dear! how uneasy I feel to-day, and at other times I like being with grandmother so much." She called out, "Good morning," but received no answer; so she went to the bed and drew back the curtains. There lay her grandmother with her riding hood pulled far over her face, and looking very strange.

"Oh! grandmother," she said, "what big ears you have."

"The better to hear you with, my child," was the reply.

"But, grandmother, what big eyes you have!" she said.

"The better to see you with, my dear."

"But, grandmother, what large hands you have!"

"The better to hug you with."

"Oh! but, grandmother, what a terrible big mouth you have!"

"The better to eat you with!"

And scarcely had the wolf said this, than with one bound he was out of bed and swallowed up Red-Riding hood.

When the wolf had appeased his appetite, he lay down again in the bed, fell asleep and began to snore very loud. The huntsman was just passing the house, and thought to himself, "How the old woman is snoring! I must just see if she wants anything." So he went into the room, and when he came to the bed, he saw that the wolf was lying in it. "Do I find thee here, thou old sinner!" said he. "I have long sought thee!" Then just as he was going to fire at him, it occurred to him that the wolf might have devoured the grandmother, and that she might still be saved, so he did not fire, but took a pair of scissors, and began to cut open the stomach of the sleeping wolf. When he had made two snips, he saw the little Red-Riding hood shining, and then he made two snips more, and the little girl sprang out, crying, "Ah, how frightened I have been! How dark it was inside the wolf;" and after that the aged grandmother came out alive also, but scarcely able to breathe. Red-Riding hood, however, quickly fetched great stones with which they filled the wolf's body, and when he awoke, he wanted to run away, but the stones were so heavy that he fell down at once, and fell dead.

Then all three were delighted. The huntsman drew off the wolf's skin and went home with it; the grandmother ate the cake and drank the wine which Red-Riding hood had brought, and revived, but Red-Riding hood thought to herself, "As long as I live, I will never by myself leave the path, to run into the wood, when my mother has forbidden me to do so."

It is also related that once when Red-Riding hood was again taking cakes to the old grandmother, another wolf spoke to her, and tried to entice her from the path. Red-Riding hood was, however, on her guard, and went straight forward on her way, and told her grandmother that she had met the wolf, and that he had said "good-morning" to her, but with such a wicked look in his eyes, that if they had not been on the public road she was certain he would have eaten her up. "Well," said the grandmother, "we will shut the door, that he may not come in." Soon afterwards the wolf knocked, and cried, "Open the door, grandmother. I am little Red-Riding hood, and am fetching you some cakes." But they did not speak, or open the door, so the gray-beard stole twice or thrice round the house, and at last jumped on the roof, intending to wait until Red-Riding hood went home in the evening, and then to steal after her and devour her in the darkness. But the grandmother saw what was in his thoughts. In front of the house was a great stone trough, so she said to the child, "Take the pail, Red-Riding hood; I made some sausages yesterday, so carry the water in which I boiled them to the trough." Red-Riding hood carried until the great trough was quite full. Then the smell of the sausages reached the wolf, and he sniffed and peeped down, and at last stretched out his neck so far that he could no longer keep his footing and began to slip, and slipped down from the roof straight into the great trough, and was drowned. But Red-Riding hood went joyfully home, and never did anything to harm any one.

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The Snow Queen

Once, long ago, there was a little boy called Kai and a little girl called Gerda. They lived next door to each other, and they loved each other very much.

Between their two houses was a garden where Kai and Gerda played among the flowers all summer long. Gerda’s favourite flowers were the roses, and she made up a verse about them, specially for Kai:

‘Until the last rose blooms and dies, We will be friends, Gerda and Kai.’

When winter came, they sat inside by the warm stove and listened to Kai’s grandmother telling stories about the wicked Snow Queen.

"She flies with the sleet and smothers the fields with snow. She stiffens the flowers with frost and freezes the rivers. Her heart is a block of ice. And she would like to make everyone’s heart as icy as her own."

As the old woman spoke, the wind howled round the house, and a window clattered open. A flurry of sleet blew into Kai’s face, and a splinter of ice pierced his eye. Instantly, it travelled to his heart and lodged there.

Kai cried out in pain. But a few moments later he was laughing again. And Gerda thought no more about it.

The next day, Kai went to play in the town square with the other boys.

"Can I come?" said Gerda.

But Kai turned on her angrily. "Of course not. You’re only a stupid girl."

Gerda was very hurt. How could she know that the icicle in Kai’s heart was turning it to ice?

The boys liked to tie their sledges to the farmer’s cart, which pulled them across the snow. But this day a big white sleigh stood in the square, its driver dressed in white fur.

"This will be better than the farmer’s cart," thought Kai, and he tied his sledge to the back of the white sleigh.

The sleigh moved off - faster and faster, until Kai began to get frightened. He wanted to untie sledge, but could not undo the rope. On and on they went, out of the city gates, on and on, flying with the wind.

"Help! Help!" shouted Kai, but nobody heard him. They flew for hours, until suddenly they stopped and the driver stood up. The driver was a tall, thin woman and her coat and hat were made of snow. Kai stared in wonder. There before him stood the Snow Queen!

She lifted Kai into the sleigh beside her and wrapped him in her coat. "You’re cold," she said, and kissed him on the forehead. Though her kiss was like ice, Kai no longer felt the cold. He thought that nobody in the world could be more beautiful than the Snow Queen. For it was she who had sent the wind to plunge an icicle into Kai’s heart. By now, it had turned to solid ice. And he forgot all about Gerda and his grandmother.

Gerda wept bitterly when Kai did not come home. Everyone said he must be dead, lost somewhere in the deep snow. All winter she had waited, but Kai did not come back. At last the warmer weather came. And Gerda was given new red shoes to wear with her spring clothes.

She put them on and went to the wide river. "Have you seen my friend Kai?" she asked the waves. "I’ll give you my new red shoes if you tell me where he is!"

The tumbling waves nodded their foaming heads. So she climbed into a little boat moored among the reeds, then tossed her shoes as far as she could into the water. As she did so, the boat drifted away from the bank and began racing downstream. Gerda was frightened, but she dared not jump out. "Perhaps the boat will carry me to Kai," she thought.

The boat carried Gerda down the river until it passed a little thatched house beside a cherry orchard. A strange old lady came out of the cottage wearing a large hat. With her crooked walking stick, she hooked the boat and pulled it to the shore.

"Poor child," she said to Gerda. "How did you come to be floating all alone through the wide world?"

So Gerda told the old lady her whole story, and asked if she had seen Kai.

"He’s not been here yet, my dear, but I expect he will be very soon." She took Gerda into the house and gave her cherries to eat. And while she ate them, the old lady combed the girl’s hair.

Now in truth, the old lady was the loneliest of all magicians, and she wanted to keep Gerda with her. So she combed away all her memories. Soon Gerda forgot all about Kai.

For days Gerda played in the cottage. But one sunny morning she was wandering among the flowers in the garden when she saw a bush blossoming with red roses. Gerda kissed the flowers in delight, and straight away she remembered Kai.

"I’ve stayed here too long!" she cried out - and her voice disturbed a big black crow from a nearby tree.

"Caw! What’s the matter, little girl?"

"I have to find my friend Kai. Have you seen him?"

"I saw a boy pass this way last week. He had won the heart of a princess, and now he’s a prince. They live together in a beautiful palace not far from here."

"Oh, I would be so happy for Kai if he had become a prince," laughed Gerda. "Can you show me the way there?"

So the crow flew off and led Gerda to the palace. Inside they both crept up a shadowy staircase until they came to the royal bedchamber. Gerda peeped in at the sleeping prince - and burst into tears.

"Oh, Crow! It isn’t Kai at all! I’ll have to go on looking. But I’m so tired!"

Her crying woke the young prince and princess, and they were amazed to see a little girl sobbing at the foot of their bed. But when they heard her story, they understood her tears.

"I’ll give you my prettiest dress to cheer you up," said the princess.

"And I’ll give you my golden coach," said the prince, "so you can travel farther and faster, and find little Kai all the sooner."

In the prince’s coach, Gerda rode through a dark forest. The coachwork glistened among the trees - and some wicked robbers saw it, shining in the moonlight.

"It’s gold! All gold!" they shouted, and they ambushed it at the next crossroads.

They dragged Gerda out of the coach and carried her away to their robber castle. At the door stood a black-eyed girl, the daughter of the robber chief.

When they found out that Gerda was not a rich princess and had nothing to steal, they decided to kill her. "Oh don’t do that!" cried the robber’s daughter. "She can play with me, and I can wear her pretty clothes!"

The robber chief scowled. "All right, then. But I’ll keep her under lock and key, or she might escape and give away our hiding place."

That night, Gerda told her new friend about Kai, and how she longed to find him. As she spoke, the doves in the rafters and an old reindeer listened to her story.

Suddenly one of the doves said, "Coo, coo. We’ve seen little Kai. He rode in the Snow Queen’s sleigh as she flew towards Lapland."

"Ah, yes," said the reindeer. "I was born in Lapland. It glitters with ice and snow, and the Queen has her summer palace there."

"I must get there quickly!" exclaimed Gerda. "Now I understand why he was unkind to me that day. His heart was turning to ice."

The robbers were sleeping. The chief’s daughter crept to her father’s pillow and stole the key to set Gerda free. "Take her to Lapland," she told the reindeer. "Help her find Kai."

The reindeer was delighted to be going home, and he leapt over the moors and marshes. They travelled for several days and nights, until at last they came to Lapland. It was very, very cold, with ice and snow everywhere.

"Look! Over there!" cried Gerda. Sparkling in the distance was the Snow Queen’s summer palace, like a mountain of diamonds.

Inside her palace, the Snow Queen had made Kai her slave. She was as sharp-tongued and spiteful as frost, forcing him to polish the vast, icy floors. He would have wept, but his heart was too frozen for tears.

The Snow Queen gave Kai some icicles and said, "Shape these into the word ETERNITY, and I may set you free." Then she flew away to heap snow on the cities and fetch down avalanches on the heads of climbers. Kai was left alone with the icicles. His hands were blue with cold but he felt nothing. He was still trying to shape the word ETERNITY when Gerda found her way into the palace and to his vast, frozen room.

"Kai!" she cried. "I’ve found you at last!" And she flung her arms around him.

But Kai stood still and cold and unsmiling. "Who are you? What are you doing here? Are you another of the Snow Queen’s slaves? Go away. Let go of me!"

Gerda refused to let go. Despite his unkind looks, she wept tears of happiness at seeing him again. And as she cried, her warm tears trickled into Kai’s eye… and melted the ice in his heart. And Kai remembered her.

"Gerda! It’s you!" he laughed. And they hugged and kissed each other and danced for joy. The pieces of the ice danced too, and shaped the word ETERNITY on the icy floor. "Now I’m free!" cried Kai. "I’m free of the Snow Queen’s Powers and my heart is my own again."

Gerda led Kai to the place where the reindeer was waiting. As they travelled back, the sun shone brightly, and by the time they reached home, it was Summer again. And the roses in the garden were in full bloom.

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