The Fir Tree

by Hans Christian Andersen

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Hans Christian Andersen is a renowned Danish author primarily known for his fairy tales. Many of these are embedded in modern culture and have been put to music, theater and movies. Some of his most famous tales include The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen.


The Fir Tree was originally published along with The Snow Queen in 1844 by C.A. Reitzel. It later was included in Fairy Tales. This tale reflected a deep pessimism on the part of H.C. Andersen, but also suggests the importance of enjoying the “now”. This myRead production is solely based upon the public domain original.




The fir-tree starts life out as a small tree amongst towering giants. He bemoans his diminutive size, but finally reaches an age when he is cut down in order to become a Christmas tree. When Christmas ends he is carried into the attic where he again expresses his disappointment with his life. Finally, when he is cut into logs for a fire does he look back on his life and recognize that life is as filled with joy as it is with disappointments if only we open our eyes to what happens in the now.

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Out in the forest stood a pretty little Fir Tree. It had a good place; it could have sunlight, air there was in plenty, and all around grew many larger comrades–pines as well as firs. But the little Fir Tree wished ardently to become greater. He did not think of the warm sun and of the fresh air; he did not care for the little cottage children that ran about and prattled when they were in the woods looking for strawberries and raspberries. The children often came with a whole basketful, or with a string of berries which they had strung on a straw. Then they would sit down by the little Fir Tree and say, “How pretty and small this one is!” The Fir Tree did not like that at all.




Next year he had grown bigger, and the following year he was taller still. “Oh, if I were only as tall as the others!” sighed the little Fir. “Then I would spread my branches far around and look out from my very top into the wide world. The birds would then build nests in my boughs, and when the wind blew I would nod grandly.” It took no pleasure in the sunshine, in the birds, or in the red clouds that went sailing over it morning and evening.




When it turned winter, and the snow lay all around, white and sparkling, a hare would often come jumping along and spring right over the little Fir Tree. O, that made him so angry!




But two winters went by, and when the third came, the little Tree had grown so tall that the hare was obliged to run around it. “Oh, to grow, to grow, and become tall and old; that’s the only fine thing in the world,” thought the Tree.




In the autumn the woodcutters always came and felled a few of the largest trees; that was done this year, too, and the little Fir Tree, that was now quite well grown, shuddered with fear, for the stately trees fell to the ground with a crash, and their branches were cut off, so that the trees looked quite naked, long and slender, and could hardly be recognized. Then they were laid upon wagons, and the horses dragged them away out of the wood. Where were they going? What destiny awaited them?




In the spring, when the Swallows and the Stork came, the Tree asked them, “Do you know where the big firs were taken? Did you meet them?” The Swallows knew nothing about it, but the Stork looked thoughtful, nodded his head and said: “Yes, I think so. I met many new ships when I flew out of Egypt; on the ships were tall masts; I fancy these were the trees. They smelt like fir. I can assure you they’re stately- -very stately.”




“Oh, that I were big enough to go over the sea. What kind of a thing is this sea, and how does it look?” “It would take long to explain all that,” said the Stork, and he went away. “Rejoice in thy youth,” said the Sunbeams; “rejoice in thy fresh growth, and in the young life that is within thee.” And the wind kissed the Tree, and the Dew wept tears upon it; but the Fir Tree did not understand.




When Christmas time approached, quite young trees were felled, sometimes trees which were neither so old nor so large as this Fir Tree, that knew no rest, that always wanted something more. These beautiful young trees kept all their branches; they were put upon wagons, and horses dragged them away out of the wood. “Where are they all going?” asked the Fir Tree. “They are not greater than I–indeed, one of them was much smaller. Why do they keep all their branches? Whither are they taken?”




“We know that! We know that!” chirped the Sparrows. “Yonder in the town we looked in at the windows. We know where the fir trees go. We have looked in at the windows and have seen that they are planted in the middle of a warm room and dressed up in the greatest splendor with the most beautiful things–gilt apples, honey-cakes, playthings, and many hundreds of candles.”




“And then?” asked the Fir Tree, trembling through all its branches. “And then? what happens then?” “Why, we have not seen anything more. But it was wonderful!” “Perhaps I may be destined to this glorious end one day!” cried the Fir Tree, rejoicing. “That is even better than traveling across the sea. How I long for it! If it were only Christmas! Now I am great and grown up like the rest who were led away last year. Oh, if I were only on the wagon! If I were only in the warm room amidst all the pomp and splendor! And then? Yes, then something even better will come, something far more charming, else why should they adorn me so? There must be something grander, something greater still to come; but what? Oh! I’m suffering, I’m longing! I don’t know myself what is the matter with me!”




“Rejoice in us,” said Air and Sunshine. “Rejoice in thy fresh youth here in the woodland.” The Fir Tree did not rejoice at all, but it grew and grew; winter and summer it stood there, green, dark green. The people who saw it said, “That’s a handsome tree!” and at Christmas time it was felled before any of the others. The axe cut deep into its marrow, and the tree fell to the ground with a sigh; it felt a pain, a sensation of faintness, and could not think at all of happiness, for it was sad at parting from its home, from the place where it had grown up; it knew that it should never again see the dear old companions, the little bushes and the flowers all around, perhaps not even the birds.




The Tree came to itself only when it was unloaded in a yard, with other trees, and heard a man say: “This one is splendid; we won’t need any others!” Now two servants came in gay liveries, and carried the Fir Tree into a large, beautiful room.




All around the walls hung pictures, and by the great stove stood large Chinese vases with lions on the covers; there were rocking chairs, silken sofas, great tables covered with picture books, and toys worth a hundred times a hundred dollars; at least, the children said so. And the Fir Tree was put into a great tub filled with sand; but no one could see that it was a tub, for it was hung round with green cloth, and stood on a large, many-colored carpet. Oh, how the Tree trembled! What was to happen now?




The servants, and the young ladies also, decked it out. On one branch they hung little bags cut out of colored paper, and every bag was filled with sweetmeats. Golden apples and walnuts hung down as if they grew there, and more than a hundred little candles, red, white, and blue, were fastened to the different boughs. Dolls that looked exactly like real people–the Tree had never seen such before–swung among the foliage, and high on the summit of the Tree was fixed a tinsel star. It was splendid. “This evening,” said all, “this evening it will shine.” “Oh,” thought the Tree, “that it were evening already! Oh that the lights may be soon lit! When will that be done? I wonder if trees will come out of the forest to look at me? Will the Sparrows fly against the panes? Shall I grow fast here, and stand adorned in summer and winter?”




At last the candles were lighted. What brilliance, what splendor! The Tree trembled so in all its branches that one of the candles set fire to a green twig, and it was scorched. “Heaven help us!” cried the young ladies as they hastily put the fire out. Now the Tree might not even tremble. Oh, that was terrible! It was so afraid of setting fire to some of its ornaments, and it was quite bewildered with all the brilliance.




And now the folding doors were thrown open, and a number of children rushed in as if they would have overturned the whole Tree, while the older people followed more deliberately. The little ones stood quite silent, but only for a minute; then they shouted till the room rang; they danced gleefully round the Tree; and one present after another was plucked from it. “What are they about?” thought the Tree. “What’s going to be done?”




And the candles burned down to the twigs, and as they burned down they were extinguished, and then the children were given permission to plunder the Tree. They rushed in upon it, so that every branch cracked again; if it had not been fastened by the top and by the golden star to the ceiling, the Tree certainly would have fallen down. The children danced about with their pretty toys. No one looked at the Tree except one old man, who came up and peeped among the branches, but only to see if a fig or an apple had not been forgotten.




“A story! A story!” shouted the children, as they drew a little fat man toward the Tree. He sat down just beneath it–“for then we shall be in the green wood,” said he, “and the Tree may have the advantage of listening to my tale. But I can tell only one. Will you hear the story of Ivede-Avede, or of Klumpey-Dumpey, who fell downstairs, and still was raised up to honor and married the princess?” “Ivede-Avede,” cried some; “Klumpey-Dumpey,” cried others, and there was a great crying and shouting.




Only the Fir Tree was silent, and thought, “Shall I not be in it? Shall I have nothing to do in it?” But he had been in the evening’s amusement and had done what was required of him. And the fat man told about Klumpey-Dumpey, who fell downstairs, and yet was raised to honor and married the princess. And the children clapped their hands, and cried, “Tell another, tell another!” for they wanted to hear about Ivede-Avede; but they got only the story of Klumpey-Dumpey.




The Fir Tree stood quite silent and thoughtful; never had the birds in the wood told such a story as that. Klumpey-Dumpey fell downstairs, and yet came to honor and married the princess! “Yes, so it happens in the world!” thought the Fir Tree, and believed it must be true, because that was such a nice man who told it. “Well, who can know? Perhaps I shall fall downstairs, too, and marry a princess!” And it looked forward with pleasure to being adorned again, the next evening, with candles and toys, gold and fruit. “To-morrow I shall not tremble,” it thought. “I shall rejoice in all my splendor. To-morrow I shall hear the story of Klumpey-Dumpey again, and perhaps that of Ivede- Avede, too.” And the Tree stood all night quiet and thoughtful.




In the morning the servants and the chambermaid came in. “Now my splendor will begin afresh,” thought the Tree. But they dragged him out of the room and up-stairs to the garret, and there they put him in a dark corner where no daylight shone. “What’s the meaning of this?” thought the Tree. “What am I to do here? What is to happen?”




And he leaned against the wall, and thought, and thought. And he had time enough, for days and nights went by, and nobody came up; and when at length some one came, it was only to put some great boxes in a corner.




Now the Tree stood quite hidden away, and the supposition is that it was quite forgotten. “Now it’s winter outside,” thought the Tree. “The earth is hard and covered with snow, and people cannot plant me; therefore I suppose I’m to be sheltered here until spring comes. How considerate that is! How good people are! If it were only not so dark here, and so terribly solitary! Not even a little hare! It was pretty out there in the wood, when the snow lay thick and the hare sprang past; yes, even when he jumped over me; though at the time I did not like it. It is terribly lonely up here!”




“Piep! Piep!” said a little Mouse, and crept forward, and then came another little one. They smelt at the Fir Tree, and then slipped among the branches. “It’s horribly cold,” said the two little Mice, “or else it would be comfortable here. Don’t you think so, you old Fir Tree?” “I’m not old at all,” said the Fir Tree. “There are many much older than I.” “Where do you come from?” asked the Mice. “And what do you know?” They were dreadfully inquisitive. “Tell us about the most beautiful spot on the earth. Have you been there?




Have you been in the storeroom, where cheeses lie on the shelves, and hams hang from the ceiling; where one dances on tallow candles, and goes in thin and comes out fat?” “I don’t know that,” replied the Tree; “but I know the wood, where the sun shines and the birds sing.”




And then it told all about its youth. And the little Mice had never heard anything of the kind; and they listened, and said: “What a number of things you have seen! How happy you must have been!” “I?” replied the Fir Tree; and it thought about what it had told. “Yes, those were really quite happy times.”




But then he told of the Christmas Eve, when he had been hung with sweatmeats and candles. “Oh!” said the little Mice, “how happy you have been, you old Fir Tree!” “I’m not old at all,” said the Tree. “I came out of the wood only this winter. I’m in my prime years, I’ve just done a bit of growing.” “What splendid stories you can tell!” said the little Mice.



And next night they came with four other little Mice, to hear what the Tree had to relate; and the more it said, the more clearly did it remember everything, and thought, “Those were quite merry days. But they may come again. Klumpey-Dumpey fell downstairs, and yet he married the princess. Perhaps I may marry a princess, too!”




And then the Fir Tree thought of a pretty little Birch Tree that grew out in the forest; for the Fir Tree, that Birch was a real princess. “Who’s Klumpey-Dumpey?” asked the little Mice. And then the Fir Tree told the whole story. It could remember every single word; and the little Mice were ready to leap to the very top of the tree with pleasure.




Next night a great many more Mice came, and on Sunday two Rats even appeared; but these thought the story was not pretty, and the little Mice were sorry for that, for now they also did not like it so much as before. “Do you know only one story?” asked the Rats. “Only that one,” replied the Tree. “I heard that on the happiest evening of my life; I did not think then how happy I was.” “That’s a very miserable story. Don’t you know any about bacon and tallow candles–a storeroom story?” “No,” said the Tree. “Well then, thanks for nothing!” said the Rats. And they went back to their own.




The little Mice at last also stayed away; and then the Tree sighed and said, “It was very nice when they sat around me, the merry little Mice, and listened when I spoke to them. Now that’s past, too. But I shall remember to be pleased when they take me out.”




But when did that happen? Why, it was one morning that people came and rummaged in the garret; the boxes were put away, and the Tree was brought out; they certainly threw him rather roughly on the floor, but a servant dragged him away at once to the stairs, where the daylight shone. “Now life is beginning again,” thought the Tree.




It felt the fresh air and the first sunbeams, and then it was out in the courtyard. Everything passed so quickly that the Tree quite forgot to look at itself, there was so much to look at all around. The courtyard was close to a garden, and there everything was blooming; the roses hung fresh and fragrant over the little paling, the linden trees were in blossom, and the swallows cried, “Quinze-wit! quinze-wit! my husband’s come!” But it was not the Fir Tree that they meant.




“Now I shall live!” cried the Tree, rejoicingly, and spread its branches far out; but, alas! they were all withered and yellow, and it lay in the corner among nettles and weeds. The tinsel star was still upon it, and shone in the bright sunshine.




In the courtyard a couple of the merry children were playing who had danced round the Tree at Christmas time, and had rejoiced over it. One of the youngest ran up and tore off the golden star. “Look what is sticking to the ugly old Fir Tree!” said the child, and he trod on the branches till they cracked under his boots.




And the Tree looked at all the blooming flowers and the splendor of the garden, then looked at itself, and wished it had remained in the dark corner of the garret; it thought of its fresh youth in the wood, of the merry Christmas Eve, and of the little Mice which had listened so pleasantly to the story of Klumpey-Dumpey. “’Tis Past! ‘Tis past!” said the old Tree. “Had I but rejoiced when I could have done so! Past! ‘Tis past!”




And the servant came and chopped the Tree into little pieces; a whole bundle lay there; it blazed brightly under the great brewing copper, and it sighed deeply, and each sigh was like a little shot; and the children, who were at play there, ran up, seated themselves by the fire, looked into it, and cried “Puff! puff!” But at each explosion, which was a deep sigh, the Tree thought of a summer day in the woods, or of a winter night there, when the stars beamed; he thought of Christmas Eve and of Klumpey-Dumpey, the only story he had ever heard or knew how to tell; and thus the Tree was burned.




The boys played in the garden, and the youngest had on his breast a golden star, which the Tree had worn on its happiest evening. Now that was past, and the Tree’s life was past, and the story is past, too: past! ‘Tis past!–and that’s the way with all stories.






  • Author: Hans Christian Andersen
  • Illustrator: Alyssa Daw
  • Animator:  David Swanson
  • Voice Artist:  Lisa Clark
  • Sound Design:  John Goodman
  • Producer:  David Swanson
  • Executive Producer:  Richard Platt
  • Director:  David Swanson

This book is a production of myRead, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Illustrations, video and audio Copyright 2012.  Text for this book is in the public domain.


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