Amrita Deb

The Little Elder-Tree Mother 3

“What is this woman’s name?” asked the little boy.   “Well, the Romans and Greeks used to call her a Dryad,” said the old man; “but we do not understand that. Out in the sailors’ quarter they give her a better name; there she is called elder-tree mother. Now, you must attentively listen to her …

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The Little Elder-Tree Mother 2

“That is all very well, but such tales or stories are worth nothing! No, the right ones come by themselves and knock at my forehead saying: ‘Here I am.’”   “Will not one knock soon?” asked the boy; and the mother smiled while she put elder-tree blossoms into the teapot and poured boiling water over …

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The Elfin Hill 10

But the youngsters said they would rather make a speech and drink to their good fellowship; they had no wish to marry. Then they made speeches and drank toasts, and tipped their glasses, to show that they were empty. Then they took off their coats, and lay down on the table to sleep; for they …

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The Elfin Hill 9

Then the elfin girl said that the stories about the ring-finger and little Peter Playman had not yet been told.   “We will hear them in the winter,” said the old goblin, “and also about the fir and the birch-trees, and the ghost stories, and of the tingling frost. You shall tell your tales, for …

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The Elfin Hill 8

Then her youngest sister whispered to the old goblin, “That is only because she has heard, in a Norwegian song, that when the world shall decay, the cliffs of Norway will remain standing like monuments; and she wants to get there, that she may be safe; for she is so afraid of sinking.”   “Ho! …

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The Elfin Hill 7

“You shall soon see what they can do,” said the elf king. And then he called his youngest daughter to him. She was slender and fair as moonlight, and the most graceful of all the sisters. She took a white chip in her mouth, and vanished instantly; this was her accomplishment. But the old goblin …

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The Elfin Hill 6

They took off their boots, that they might be more at ease, and gave them to the ladies to hold. But their father, the old goblin, was very different; he talked pleasantly about the stately Norwegian rocks, and told fine tales of the waterfalls which dashed over them with a clattering noise like thunder or …

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The Elfin Hill 5

The daughters drew on their shawls and bowed down to the ground. There stood the old goblin from the Dovre mountains, with his crown of hardened ice and polished fir-cones.   Besides this, he wore a bear-skin, and great, warm boots, while his sons went with their throats bare and wore no braces, for they …

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The Elfin Hill 4

She was the daughter of the king of the chalk-hills at Moen. They say he took his wife from chalk; I shall be delighted to see him again. It is said that the boys are ill-bred, forward lads, but perhaps that is not quite correct, and they will become better as they grow older. Let …

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The Elfin Hill 3

The elfin maidens we’re already dancing on the elf hill, and they danced in shawls woven from moonshine and mist, which look very pretty to those who like such things. The large hall within the elf hill was splendidly decorated; the floor had been washed with moonshine, and the walls had been rubbed with magic …

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The Elfin Hill 2

Just at this moment the elfin hill opened, and an old elfin maiden, hollow behind,1 came tripping out; she was the old elf king’s housekeeper, and a distant relative of the family; therefore she wore an amber heart on the middle of her forehead. Her feet moved very fast,   “trip, trip;” good gracious, how …

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The Elfin Hill 1

A FEW large lizards were running nimbly about in the clefts of an old tree; they could understand one another very well, for they spoke the lizard language.   “What a buzzing and a rumbling there is in the elfin hill,” said one of the lizards; “I have not been able to close my eyes …

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The Jumper 3

Then the King said, “The highest leap was taken by him who jumped up to my daughter; for therein lies the point; but it requires head to achieve that, and the Skipjack has shown that he has a head.”   And so he had the Princess.   “I jumped highest, after all,” said the Flea. …

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The Jumper 2

  The Skipjack said nothing, but it was said of him that he thought all the more; and directly the Yard Dog had smelt at him he was ready to assert that the Skipjack was of good family, and formed from the breastbone of an undoubted goose. The old councillor, who had received three medals …

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The Jumper 1

THE Flea, the Grasshopper, and the Skipjack1 once wanted to see which of them could jump highest; and they invited the whole world, and whoever else would come, to see the grand sight. And there the three famous jumpers were met together in the room.   “Yes, I’ll give my daughter to him who jumps …

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The Shepherdess and the Sweep 6

“You have become proud since your fall broke you to pieces,” said Major-general-field-sergeant-commander Billy-goat’s-legs. “You have no reason to give yourself such airs. Am I to have her or not?”   The chimney-sweep and the little shepherdess looked piteously at the old Chinaman, for they were afraid he might nod; but he was notable: besides, …

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Holger Danske 6

The bright morning light shone over Kronenburg, and the wind brought the sound of the hunting-horn across from the neighboring shores. The ships sailed by and saluted the castle with the boom of the cannon, and Kronenburg returned the salute, “Boom, boom.” But the roaring cannons did not awake Holger Danske, for they meant only …

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Holger Danske 5

Then the grandfather nodded to a place above the looking-glass, where hung an almanac, with a representation of the Round Tower7 upon it, and said “Tycho Brahe was another of those who used a sword, but not one to cut into the flesh and bone, but to make the way of the stars of heaven …

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Holger Danske 4

“What you have been carving is very beautiful, grandfather,” said she. “Holger Danske and the old coat of arms; it seems to me as if I have seen the face somewhere.”   “No, that is impossible,” replied the old grandfather; “but I have seen it, and I have tried to carve it in wood, as …

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Holger Danske 3

“The lions represent strength; and the hearts, gentleness and love.” And as he gazed on the uppermost lion, he thought of King Canute, who chained great England to Denmark’s throne; and he looked at the second lion, and thought of Waldemar, who untied Denmark and conquered the Vandals. The third lion reminded him of Margaret, …

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Holger Danske 2

An old grandfather sat and told his little grandson all this about Holger Danske, and the boy knew that what his grandfather told him must be true. As the old man related this story, he was carving an image in wood to represent Holger Danske, to be fastened to the prow of a ship; for …

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Holger Danske 1

IN Denmark there stands an old castle named Kronenburg, close by the Sound of Elsinore, where large ships, both English, Russian, and Prussian, pass by hundreds every day. And they salute the old castle with cannons, “Boom, boom,” which is as if they said, “Good-day.” And the cannons of the old castle answer “Boom,” which …

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The Bell 7

I am looking for! Now the sun is setting, and the night, the dark night, is approaching. Yet I may perhaps see the round sun once more before he disappears beneath the horizon. I will climb up these rocks, they are as high as the highest trees!” And then, taking hold of the creepers and …

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The Bell 6

“We might go together,” said the king’s son. But the poor boy with the wooden shoes was quite ashamed; he pulled at the short sleeves of his jacket, and said that he was afraid he could not walk so fast; besides, he was of opinion that the bell ought to be sought at the right, …

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The Bell 5

They came to a hut built of the bark of trees and branches; a large crab-apple tree spread its branches over it, as if it intended to pour all its fruit on the roof, upon which roses were blooming; the long boughs covered the gable, where a little bell was hanging. Was this the one …

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The Bell 4

Two of the smallest soon became tired and returned to the town; two little girls sat down and made garlands of flowers, they, therefore, did not go on. When the others arrived at the willow trees, where the confectioner had put up his stall, they said: “Now we are out here; the bell does not …

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The Bell 3

It was just confirmation-day. The clergyman had delivered a beautiful and touching sermon, the candidates were deeply moved by it; it was indeed a very important day for them; they were all at once transformed from mere children to grown-up people; the childish soul was to fly over, as it were, into a more reasonable …

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The Bell 2

When people came home they used to say that it had been very romantic, and that really means something else than merely taking tea. Three persons declared that they had gone as far as the end of the wood; they had always heard the strange sound, but there it seemed to them as if it …

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The Bell 1

IN the narrow streets of a large town people often heard in the evening, when the sun was setting, and his last rays gave a golden tint to the chimney-pots, a strange noise which resembled the sound of a church bell; it only lasted an instant, for it was lost in the continual roar of …

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Grandmother 3

The moon shone down upon the grave, but the dead was not there; every child could go safely, even at night, and pluck a rose from the tree by the churchyard wall. The dead know more than we do who are living. They know what a terror would come upon us if such a strange …

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Grandmother 2

Grandmother is dead now. She had been sitting in her arm-chair, telling us a long, beautiful tale; and when it was finished, she said she was tired, and leaned her head back to sleep awhile. We could hear her gentle breathing as she slept; gradually it became quieter and calmer, and on her countenance beamed …

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Grandmother 1

GRANDMOTHER is very old, her face is wrinkled, and her hair is quite white; but her eyes are like two stars, and they have a mild, gentle expression in them when they look at you, which does you good. She wears a dress of heavy, rich silk, with large flowers worked on it; and it …

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The Darning-Needle 5

One day a couple of street boys were paddling in the gutter, for they sometimes found old nails, farthings, and other treasures. It was dirty work, but they took great pleasure in it.   “Hallo!” cried one, as he pricked himself with the darning-needle, “here’s a fellow for you.”   “I am not a fellow, …

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The Darning-Needle 4

“Were they not high-born?”   “High-born!” said the darning-needle, “no indeed, but so haughty. They were five brothers, all born fingers; they kept very proudly together, though they were of different lengths. The one who stood first in the rank was named the thumb, he was short and thick, and had only one joint in …

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The Darning-Needle 3

One day something lying close to the darning-needle glittered so splendidly that she thought it was a diamond; yet it was only a piece of broken bottle. The darning-needle spoke to it, because it sparkled, and represented herself as a breast-pin. “I suppose you are really a diamond?” she said.   “Why yes, something of …

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The Darning-Needle 2

“So now I am a breast-pin,” said the darning-needle; “I knew very well I should come to honor some day: merit is sure to rise;” and she laughed, quietly to herself, for of course no one ever saw a darning-needle laugh. And there she sat as proudly as if she were in a state coach, …

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The Darning-Needle 1

THERE was once a darning-needle who thought herself so fine that she fancied she must be fit for embroidery. “Hold me tight,” she would say to the fingers, when they took her up, “don’t let me fall; if you do I shall never be found again, I am so very fine.”   “That is your …

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The Little Match-Seller 4

She again rubbed a match on the wall, and the light shone round her; in the brightness stood her old grandmother, clear and shining, yet mild and loving in her appearance.   “Grandmother,” cried the little one, “O take me with you; I know you will go away when the match burns out; you will …

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The Little Match-Seller 3

She rubbed another match on the wall. It burst into a flame, and where its light fell upon the wall it became as transparent as a veil, and she could see into the room. The table was covered with a snowy white table-cloth, on which stood a splendid dinner service, and a steaming roast goose, …

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The Little Match-Seller 2

Lights were shining from every window, and there was a savory smell of roast goose, for it was New-year’s eve—yes, she remembered that. In a corner, between two houses, one of which projected beyond the other, she sank down and huddled herself together. She had drawn her little feet under her, but she could not …

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The Little Match-Seller 1

IT was terribly cold and nearly dark on the last evening of the old year, and the snow was falling fast. In the cold and the darkness, a poor little girl, with bare head and naked feet, roamed through the streets. It is true she had on a pair of slippers when she left home, …

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The Nightingale 13

“No; do not do that,” replied the nightingale; “the bird did very well as long as it could. Keep it here still. I cannot live in the palace, and build my nest; but let me come when I like. I will sit on a bough outside your window, in the evening, and sing to you, …

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The Nightingale 12

So Death gave up each of these treasures for a song; and the nightingale continued her singing. She sung of the quiet churchyard, where the white roses grow, where the elder-tree wafts its perfume on the breeze, and the fresh, sweet grass is moistened by the mourners’ tears. Then Death longed to go and see …

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The Nightingale 11

“Do you remember this?” “Do you recollect that?” they asked one after another, thus bringing to his remembrance circumstances that made the perspiration stand on his brow.   “I know nothing about it,” said the emperor. “Music! music!” he cried; “the large Chinese drum! that I may not hear what they say.” But they still …

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The Nightingale 10

Five years passed, and then a real grief came upon the land. The Chinese really were fond of their emperor, and he now lay so ill that he was not expected to live. Already a new emperor had been chosen and the people who stood in the street asked the lord-in-waiting how the old emperor …

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The Nightingale 9

So a year passed, and the emperor, the court, and all the other Chinese knew every little turn in the artificial bird’s song; and for that same reason it pleased them better. They could sing with the bird, which they often did. The street-boys sang, “Zi-zi-zi, cluck, cluck, cluck,” and the emperor himself could sing …

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The Nightingale 8

“This is exactly what we think,” they all replied, and then the music-master received permission to exhibit the bird to the people on the following Sunday, and the emperor commanded that they should be present to hear it sing. When they heard it they were like people intoxicated; however it must have been with drinking …

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The Nightingale 7

“Now they must sing together,” said the court, “and what a duet it will be.” But they did not get on well, for the real nightingale sang in its own natural way, but the artificial bird sang only waltzes.   “That is not a fault,” said the music-master, “it is quite perfect to my taste,” …

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The Nightingale 6

The whole city spoke of the wonderful bird, and when two people met, one said “nightin,” and the other said “gale,” and they understood what was meant, for nothing else was talked of. Eleven peddlers’ children were named after her, but not of them could sing a note.   One day the emperor received a …

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The Nightingale 5

The palace was elegantly decorated for the occasion. The walls and floors of porcelain glittered in the light of a thousand lamps. Beautiful flowers, round which little bells were tied, stood in the corridors: what with the running to and fro and the draught, these bells tinkled so loudly that no one could speak to …

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The Nightingale 4

At last they met with a poor little girl in the kitchen, who said, “Oh, yes, I know the nightingale quite well; indeed, she can sing. Every evening I have permission to take home to my poor sick mother the scraps from the table; she lives down by the sea-shore, and as I come back …

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The Nightingale 3

But where was the nightingale to be found? The nobleman went up stairs and down, through halls and passages; yet none of those whom he met had heard of the bird. So he returned to the emperor, and said that it must be a fable, invented by those who had written the book. “Your imperial …

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The Nightingale 2

Travellers from every country in the world came to the city of the emperor, which they admired very much, as well as the palace and gardens; but when they heard the nightingale, they all declared it to be the best of all. And the travellers, on their return home, related what they had seen; and …

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The Nightingale 1

In China,you know, the emperor is a Chinese, and all those about him are Chinamen also. The story I am going to tell you happened a great many years ago, so it is well to hear it now before it is forgotten. The emperor’s palace was the most beautiful in the world. It was built …

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The Angel 2

“We will take this with us,” said the angel, “I will tell you why as we fly along.”   And as they flew the angel related the history.   “Down in that narrow lane, in a low cellar, lived a poor sick boy; he had been afflicted from his childhood, and even in his best …

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The Angel 1

“WHENEVER a good child dies, an angel of God comes down from heaven, takes the dead child in his arms, spreads out his great white wings, and flies with him over all the places which the child had loved during his life. Then he gathers a large handful of flowers, which he carries up to …

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The Swineherd 5

“The ladies of the court are up to some mischief, I think. I shall have to go down and see.” He pulled up his shoes, for they were down at the heels, and he was very quick about it.   When he had come down into the courtyard he walked quite softly, and the ladies …

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The Swineherd 4

That was a pleasure! Day and night the water in the pot was boiling; there was not a single fire in the whole town of which they did not know what was preparing on it, the chamberlain’s as well as the shoemaker’s. The ladies danced and clapped their hands for joy. “We know who will …

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The Swineherd 3

Thus the prince was appointed imperial swineherd, and as such he lived in a wretchedly small room near the pigsty; there he worked all day long, and when it was night he had made a pretty little pot. There were little bells round the rim, and when the water began to boil in it, the …

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The Swineherd 2

“Let us first see what the other case contains before we are angry,” said the emperor; then the nightingale was taken out, and it sang so beautifully that no one could possibly say anything unkind about it.   “Superbe, charmant,” said the ladies of the court, for they all prattled French, one worse than the …

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The Swineherd 1

ONCE upon a time lived a poor prince; his kingdom was very small, but it was large enough to enable him to marry, and marry he would. It was rather bold of him that he went and asked the emperor’s daughter: “Will you marry me?” but he ventured to do so, for his name was …

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Ole-Luk-Oie, the Dream-God 14

“Middling,” or “Tolerably good,” in their books, were obliged to sit behind, and listen to the frightful tale. They trembled and cried, and wanted to jump down from the horse, but they could not get free, for they seemed fastened to the seat. “Why, Death is a most splendid Luk-Oie,” said Hjalmar. “I am not …

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Ole-Luk-Oie, the Dream-God 13

Sunday “GOOD evening,” said Ole-Luk-Oie. Hjalmar nodded, and then sprang out of bed, and turned his great-grandfather’s portrait to the wall, so that it might not interrupt them as it had done yesterday. “Now,” said he, “you must tell me some stories about five green peas that lived in one pod; or of the chickseed …

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Ole-Luk-Oie, the Dream-God 12

Saturday “AM I to hear any more stories?” asked little Hjalmar, as soon as Ole-Luk-Oie had sent him to sleep. “We shall have no time this evening,” said he, spreading out his prettiest umbrella over the child. “Look at these Chinese,” and then the whole umbrella appeared like a large china bowl, with blue trees …

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Ole-Luk-Oie, the Dream-God 10

Friday “IT is incredible how many old people there are who would be glad to have me at night,” said Ole-Luk-Oie, “especially those who have done something wrong. ‘Good little Ole,’ say they to me, ‘we cannot close our eyes, and we lie awake the whole night and see all our evil deeds sitting on …

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Ole-Luk-Oie, the Dream-God 9

First they went under the floor, and then passed through a long passage, which was scarcely high enough to allow the thimble to drive under, and the whole passage was lit up with the phosphorescent light of rotten wood. “Does it not smell delicious?” asked the mouse, as she drew him along. “The wall and …

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Ole-Luk-Oie, the Dream-God 7

Then the stork told them all about warm Africa, of the pyramids, and of the ostrich, which, like a wild horse, runs across the desert. But the ducks did not understand what he said, and quacked amongst themselves, “We are all of the same opinion; namely, that he is stupid.” “Yes, to be sure, he …

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Ole-Luk-Oie, the Dream-God 6

Wednesday HOW the rain did pour down! Hjalmar could hear it in his sleep;. and when Ole-Luk-Oie opened the window, the water flowed quite up to the window-sill. It had the appearance of a large lake outside, and a beautiful ship lay close to the house.   “Wilt thou sail with me to-night, little Hjalmar?” …

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Ole-Luk-Oie, the Dream-God 5

Hjalmar continued to sail, sometimes through woods, sometimes as it were through large halls, and then by large cities. At last he came to the town where his nurse lived, who had carried him in her arms when he was a very little boy, and had always been kind to him. She nodded and beckoned …

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Ole-Luk-Oie, the Dream-God 4

Tuesday AS soon as Hjalmar was in bed, Ole-Luk-Oie touched, with his little magic wand, all the furniture in the room, which immediately began to chatter, and each article only talked of itself.   Over the chest of drawers hung a large picture in a gilt frame, representing a landscape, with fine old trees, flowers …

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Ole-Luk-Oie, the Dream-God 3

And then came a moan from Hjalmar’s copy-book. Oh, it was quite terrible to hear! On each leaf stood a row of capital letters, every one having a small letter by its side. This formed a copy; under these were other letters, which Hjalmar had written: they fancied they looked like the copy, but they …

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Ole-Luk-Oie, the Dream-God 2

Monday   “NOW pay attention,” said Ole-Luk-Oie, in the evening, when Hjalmar was in bed, “and I will decorate the room.”   Immediately all the flowers in the flower-pots became large trees, with long branches reaching to the ceiling, and stretching along the walls, so that the whole room was like a greenhouse. All the …

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Ole-Luk-Oie, the Dream-God 1

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday THERE is nobody in the world who knows so many stories as Ole-Luk-Oie, or who can relate them so nicely. In the evening, while the children are seated at the table or in their little chairs, he comes up the stairs very softly, for he walks in his …

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The Buckwheat 2

But the buckwheat spread itself out with pride, and said, “Stupid tree; he is so old that grass grows out of his body.”   There arose a very terrible storm. All the field-flowers folded their leaves together, or bowed their little heads, while the storm passed over them, but the buckwheat stood erect in its …

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The Buckwheat 1

VERY often, after a violent thunder-storm, a field of buckwheat appears blackened and singed, as if a flame of fire had passed over it. The country people say that this appearance is caused by lightning; but I will tell you what the sparrow says, and the sparrow heard it from an old willow-tree which grew …

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A Rose from Homer’s Grave 1

ALL the songs of the east speak of the love of the nightingale for the rose in the silent starlight night. The winged songster serenades the fragrant flowers.   Not far from Smyrna, where the merchant drives his loaded camels, proudly arching their long necks as they journey beneath the lofty pines over holy ground, …

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The Daisy 6

The evening came, and nobody appeared to bring the poor bird a drop of water; it opened its beautiful wings, and fluttered about in its anguish; a faint and mournful “Tweet, tweet,” was all it could utter, then it bent its little head towards the flower, and its heart broke for want and longing. The …

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The Daisy 5

“I have no water,” said the captive lark, “they have all gone out, and forgotten to give me anything to drink. My throat is dry and burning. I feel as if I had fire and ice within me, and the air is so oppressive. Alas! I must die, and part with the warm sunshine, the …

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The Daisy 4

On the following morning, when the flower once more stretched forth its tender petals, like little arms, towards the air and light, the daisy recognised the bird’s voice, but what it sang sounded so sad. Indeed the poor bird had good reason to be sad, for it had been caught and put into a cage …

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The Daisy 3

How happy the daisy was! No one has the least idea. The bird kissed it with its beak, sang to it, and then rose again up to the blue sky. It was certainly more than a quarter of an hour before the daisy recovered its senses. Half ashamed, yet glad at heart, it looked over …

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The Daisy 2

In the garden close by grew many large and magnificent flowers, and, strange to say, the less fragrance they had the haughtier and prouder they were. The peonies puffed themselves up in order to be larger than the roses, but size is not everything! The tulips had the finest colours, and they knew it well, …

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The Daisy 1

Now listen! In the country, close by the high road, stood a farmhouse; perhaps you have passed by and seen it yourself. There was a little flower garden with painted wooden palings in front of it; close by was a ditch, on its fresh green bank grew a little daisy; the sun shone as warmly …

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The Little Mermaid 30

“After three hundred years, thus shall we float into the kingdom of heaven,” said she. “And we may even get there sooner,” whispered one of her companions. “Unseen we can enter the houses of men, where there are children, and for every day on which we find a good child, who is the joy of …

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The Little Mermaid 29

  Among the daughters of the air,” answered one of them. “A mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the love of a human being. On the power of another hangs her eternal destiny. But the daughters of the air, although they do not possess an immortal soul, …

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The Little Mermaid 28

“We have given our hair to the witch,” said they, “to obtain help for you, that you may not die to-night. She has given us a knife: here it is, see it is very sharp. Before the sun rises you must plunge it into the heart of the prince; when the warm blood falls upon …

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The Little Mermaid 27

The little mermaid kissed his hand, and felt as if her heart were already broken. His wedding morning would bring death to her, and she would change into the foam of the sea. All the church bells rung, and the heralds rode about the town proclaiming the betrothal. Perfumed oil was burning in costly silver …

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The Little Mermaid 26

But the princess had not yet appeared. People said that she was being brought up and educated in a religious house, where she was learning every royal virtue. At last she came. Then the little mermaid, who was very anxious to see whether she was really beautiful, was obliged to acknowledge that she had never …

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The Little Mermaid 25

In the moonlight, when all on board were asleep, excepting the man at the helm, who was steering, she sat on the deck, gazing down through the clear water. She thought she could distinguish her father’s castle, and upon it her aged grandmother, with the silver crown on her head, looking through the rushing tide …

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The Little Mermaid 24

“Ah, he knows not that it was I who saved his life,” thought the little mermaid. “I carried him over the sea to the wood where the temple stands: I sat beneath the foam, and watched till the human beings came to help him. I saw the pretty maiden that he loves better than he …

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