(as they were told before Hollywood worked their
"magic" on them.)
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
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
“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
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.
back to stories
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
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
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
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
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.
back to stories
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
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
"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
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.
back to stories
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
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
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
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
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.
back to stories
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
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
"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
back to stories
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
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
"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
"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
"It’s gold! All gold!" they shouted, and they ambushed it at the
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
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
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
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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