[When I was a very little girl some one,
probably my mother, read to me Hans
Christian Andersen's story of the Little Fir
Tree. It happened that I did not read it
for myself or hear it again during my
childhood. One Christmas day, when I was
grown up, I found myself at a loss for the
"one more" story called for by some little
children with whom I was spending the holiday.
In the mental search for buried treasure
which ensued, I came upon one or
two word-impressions of the experiences
of the Little Fir Tree, and forthwith wove
them into what I supposed to be something
of a reproduction of the original. The latter
part of the story had wholly faded from my
memory, so that I "made up" to suit the
tastes of my audience. Afterward I told the
story to a good many children, at one time
or another, and it gradually took the shape
it has here. It was not until several years
later that, in re-reading Andersen for other
purposes, I came upon the real story of
the Little Fir Tree, and read it for
myself. Then indeed I was amused, and
somewhat distressed, to find how far I had
wandered from the text.
I give this explanation that the reader
may know I do not presume to offer the
little tale which follows as an "adaptation"
of Andersen's famous story. I offer it
plainly as a story which children have
liked, and which grew out of my early
memories of Andersen's "The Little Fir
Once there was a Little Fir Tree, slim
and pointed, and shiny, which stood in the
great forest in the midst of some big fir
trees, broad, and tall, and shadowy green.
The Little Fir Tree was very unhappy
because he was not big like the others. When
the birds came flying into the woods and
lit on the branches of the big trees and
built their nests there, he used to call up
"Come down, come down, rest in my
branches!" But they always said,--
"Oh, no, no; you are too little!"
And when the splendid wind came blowing
and singing through the forest, it bent
and rocked and swung the tops of the big
trees, and murmured to them. Then the
Little Fir Tree looked up, and called,--
"Oh, please, dear wind, come down and
play with me!" But he always said,--
"Oh, no; you are too little, you are too
And in the winter the white snow fell
softly, softly, and covered the great trees
all over with wonderful caps and coats of
white. The Little Fir Tree, close down in
the cover of the others, would call up,--
"Oh, please, dear snow, give me a cap,
too! I want to play, too!" But the snow
"Oh no, no, no; you are too little, you
are too little!"
The worst of all was when men came
into the wood, with sledges and teams of
horses. They came to cut the big trees
down and carry them away. And when one
had been cut down and carried away the
others talked about it, and nodded their
heads. And the Little Fir Tree listened,
and heard them say that when you were
carried away so, you might become the
mast of a mighty ship, and go far away over
the ocean, and see many wonderful things;
or you might be part of a fine house in a
great city, and see much of life. The Little
Fir Tree wanted greatly to see life, but he
was always too little; the men passed him by.
But by and by, one cold winter's morning,
men came with a sledge and horses,
and after they had cut here and there they
came to the circle of trees round the Little
Fir Tree, and looked all about.
"There are none little enough," they
Oh! how the Little Fir Tree pricked
up his needles!
"Here is one," said one of the men,
"it is just little enough." And he touched
the Little Fir Tree.
The Little Fir Tree was happy as a bird,
because he knew they were about to cut
him down. And when he was being carried
away on the sledge he lay wondering,
SO contentedly, whether he should be the
mast of a ship or part of a fine city house.
But when they came to the town he was
taken out and set upright in a tub and
placed on the edge of a sidewalk in a row
of other fir trees, all small, but none so little
as he. And then the Little Fir Tree began
to see life.
People kept coming to look at the trees
and to take them away. But always when
they saw the Little Fir Tree they shook
their heads and said,--
"It is too little, too little."
Until, finally, two children came along,
hand in hand, looking carefully at all the
small trees. When they saw the Little Fir
Tree they cried out,--
"We'll take this one; it is just little
They took him out of his tub and carried
him away, between them. And the
happy Little Fir Tree spent all his time
wondering what it could be that he was just
little enough for; he knew it could hardly
be a mast or a house, since he was going
away with children.
He kept wondering, while they took him
in through some big doors, and set him up
in another tub, on the table, in a bare little
room. Pretty soon they went away, and
came back again with a big basket, carried
between them. Then some pretty ladies,
with white caps on their heads and white
aprons over their blue dresses, came bringing
little parcels. The children took things
out of the basket and began to play with
the Little Fir Tree, just as he had often
begged the wind and the snow and the
birds to do. He felt their soft little touches
on his head and his twigs and his branches.
And when he looked down at himself, as
far as he could look, he saw that he was
all hung with gold and silver chains! There
were strings of white fluffy stuff drooping
around him; his twigs held little gold nuts
and pink, rosy balls and silver stars; he
had pretty little pink and white candles in
his arms; but last, and most wonderful of
all, the children hung a beautiful white,
floating doll-angel over his head! The
Little Fir Tree could not breathe, for joy
and wonder. What was it that he was,
now? Why was this glory for him?
After a time every one went away and
left him. It grew dusk, and the Little Fir
Tree began to hear strange sounds through
the closed doors. Sometimes he heard a
child crying. He was beginning to be lonely.
It grew more and more shadowy.
All at once, the doors opened and the
two children came in. Two of the pretty
ladies were with them. They came up to
the Little Fir Tree and quickly lighted all
the little pink and white candles. Then
the two pretty ladies took hold of the table
with the Little Fir Tree on it and pushed
it, very smoothly and quickly, out of the
doors, across a hall, and in at another door.
The Little Fir Tree had a sudden sight
of a long room with many little white beds
in it, of children propped up on pillows in the
beds, and of other children in great wheeled
chairs, and others hobbling about or sitting
in little chairs. He wondered why all the
little children looked so white and tired;
he did not know that he was in a hospital.
But before he could wonder any more his
breath was quite taken away by the shout
those little white children gave.
"Oh! oh! m-m! m-m!" they cried.
"How pretty! How beautiful! Oh,
isn't it lovely!"
He knew they must mean him, for all
their shining eyes were looking straight at
him. He stood as straight as a mast, and
quivered in every needle, for joy. Presently
one little weak child-voice called out,--
"It's the nicest Christmas tree I ever
And then, at last, the Little Fir Tree
knew what he was; he was a Christmas
tree! And from his shiny head to his feet
he was glad, through and through, because
he was just little enough to be the nicest
kind of tree in the world!