Vænöe and Glænöe
By Hans Christian Andersen (1868)
Once upon a time, there lay off the coast of Zealand, out from Holsteinborg, two wooded islands, Vænöe and Glænöe, with hamlets and farms on them ; they lay near the coast, they lay near each other, and now there is only one island.
One night it was dreadful weather ; the sea rose as it had not risen within the memory of man ; the storm grew worse ; it was Doomsday weather ; it sounded as if the earth were splitting, the church bells began to swing and rang without the aid of man.
That night Vænöe vanished in the depths of the sea ; it was as if the island had never been. But many a summer night since then, with still, clear low-water, when the fisher was out spearing eels with a torch burning in the bows of his boat, he saw, with his sharp sight, deep down under him, Vænö with its white church-tower and the high church wall ; ‘ Vænöe is waiting for Glænöe,’ says the egend ; he saw the island, he heard the church bells ringing down there ; but he made a mistake in that, it was assuredly the sound made by the many wild swans, which often lie on the water here ; they make sobbing and wailing sounds like a distant peal of bells.
There was a time when many old people on Glænöe still remembered so well that stormy night, and that they themselves, when children, had at low tide driven between the two islands, as one at the present day drives over to Glænöe from the coast of Zealand, not far from Holsteinborg ;the water only comes half-way up the wheels. Vænöe is waiting for Glænöe,’ was the saying, and it became a settled tradition.
Many a little boy and girl lay on stormy nights and hought, ‘ To-night will come the hour when Vsenoe fetches Glsenoe.’ They said their Lord’s Prayer in fear and trembling, fell asleep, and dreamt sweet dreams, and next morning Glsenoe was still there with its woods and cornfields, its friendly farm-houses, and hop-gardens ; the birds sang, the deer sprang ; the mole smelt no sea-water, as far as he could burrow.
And yet Glænöe’ s days are numbered ; we cannot say how many they are, but they are numbered: one fine morning the island will have vanished.
You were perhaps, only yesterday, down there on the beach, and saw the wild swans floating on the water between Zealand and Glsenoe, a sailing boat with outspread sails glided past the woodland ; you yourself drove over the shallow ford, there was no other way ; the horses trampled in the water and it splashed about the wheels of the wagon. You have gone away, and perhaps travelled a little out into the wide world, and come back again after some years. You see the wood here encircling a big green stretch of meadow, where the hay smells sweet in front of tidy farm-houses. Where are you ? Holsteinborg still stands proudly here with its gilt spires, but not close to the fjord, it lies higher up on the land. You go through the wood, along over the field, and down to the shore, where is Glænöe ? You see no wooded island in front of you, you see the open water. Has Vænöe fetched Glænöe, that it waited for so long ? When was the stornry night on which it happened, when the earth quaked, so that old Holsteinborg was moved many thousand cock-strides up into the country ?
It was no stormy night, it was on a bright sunshiny day. The skill of man raised a dam against the sea ; the skill of man blew the pent-up waters away, and bound Glænöe to the mainland. The firth has become a meadow with luxuriant grass, Glænöe has grown fast to Zealand. The old farm lies where it always lay. It was not Vænöe which fetched Glænöe, it was Zealand, which with long dike-arms seized it, and blew with the breath of pumps and read the magic words, the words of wedlock, and Zealand got many acres of land as a wedding gift. This is a true statement, it has been duly proclaimed, you have the fact before your eyes. The island Glænöe has vanished.