By Hans Christian Andersen (1872)
‘ Now I shall tell a story,’ said the Wind.
‘ No, excuse me’ said the Bain, ‘ now it is my turn ! You have stood long enough at the street corner and howled all that you could howl ! ‘
‘ Is that your thanks,’ said the Wind, ‘ for my having, in your honour, turned many an umbrella outside in ; yes, even broken them, when people would have nothing to do with you ! ‘
‘ I am going to tell one,’ said the Sunshine, ‘ be quiet ; ‘ and it was said with dignity and majesty, so that the Wind laid itself down all its length, but the Rain drizzled in the Wind, and said, ‘ Must we stand this ! She always breaks through, this Madam Sunshine. We shall not listen to her ! it is not worth the trouble to listen ! ‘
And the Sunshine said :
‘ There flew a swan over the rolling sea : every feather on it shone like gold ; one feather fell down on the big merchant ship which glided past under full sail. The feather fell on the curly hair of the young man who had charge of the cargo, the ” Super-cargo ” they called him. The feather of the bird of Fortune touched his forehead, and became a pen in his hand, and he soon became a rich merchant, who could easily buy himself spurs of gold, and change gold plate into a nobleman’s shield. I have shone upon it,’ said the Sunshine.
‘ The swan flew away over the green meadow, where the little shepherd, a boy of seven years old, had laid himself to rest under the shadow of the single old tree there. And the swan in its flight kissed a leaf of the tree ; it fell into the boy’s hand, and the one leaf became three, then ten, then a whole book, and he read in it about the wonders of nature, about his mother-tongue, and about faith and knowledge. At bedtime he laid the book under his head, so that he should not forget what he had read, and the book took him to the school bench and the desk of learning. I have read his name among those of the learned ! ‘ said the Sunshine.
‘ The swan flew into the loneliness of the forest, rested there on the still, dark lakes, where the water-lilies and the wild apples grow, where the cuckoo and the wood-pigeon have their homes.
‘ A poor woman gathered fallen branches for firewood, and carried them on her back ; she bore her child in her arms, and was on her way home. She saw the golden swan, the swan of Fortune, fly up from the rush-grown bank. What shone there ? A golden egg ; she laid it in her bosom, and the warmth remained ; there was certainly life in the egg. Yes, there was a tapping inside the shell ; she noticed it, and thought it was the beating of her own heart.
‘ At home in her poor room she took out the golden egg, ” Tick, tick,” it said, as if it were a valuable gold watch, but it was an egg with living life. The egg burst, and a little cygnet, feathered like pure gold, stuck its head out ; it had four rings round its neck, and as the poor woman had
just four boys, three at home, and the fourth which she had carried with her in the forest, she understood at once that here was a ring for each of the children ; and just as she understood it, the little golden bird flew away.
‘ She kissed each ring, and let each of the children kiss one of the rings, laid it on the child’s heart, and placed it on the child’s finger.
‘ I saw it ! ‘ said the Sunshine, ‘ I saw what followed this !
‘ The one boy seated himself in the clay pit, took a lump of clay in his hand, turned it with the fingers, and it became a figure of Jason, who fetched the golden fleece.
‘ The second boy ran out at once into the meadow where the flowers stood with all the colours one could think of : he plucked a handful, clutched them so firmly that the sap sprang into his eyes and wetted the ring ; there came life and movement into his thoughts and into his hand, and after a year and a day, the great town talked of the great painter.
‘The third of the boys held the ring so fast in his mouth that it gave out a sound, an echo from the bottom of his heart. Thoughts and feelings lifted themselves in melody, lifted themselves like singing swans, dived like swans down into the deep sea, the deep sea of thought. He became the great master of melody. Every country may now think ” He belongs to me ! ”
‘ The fourth little one ; ah, he was the outcast. They said he ” had the pip “, and ought to have pepper and butter, like the sick chickens ! ” Pepper and bootter,” was how they said it, and he got that ; but from me he got a sunshine kiss,’ said the Sunshine, ‘ he got ten kisses for one.
He had a poet’s nature and got both knocks and kisses ; but he had the ring of Fortune from Fortune’s golden swan. His thoughts flew out like a golden butterfly, the symbol of
immortality ! ‘
‘ That was a long story ! J said the Wind.
‘ And tiresome ! ‘ said the Rain ; ‘ blow on me so that I may come to myself again.’
And the Wind blew, and the Sunshine went on : ‘ The swan of Fortune flew away over the deep bay, where the fishers had spread their nets. The poorest of them had thought of getting married, and so he got married.
‘ The swan brought a piece of amber to him ; amber attracts to itself, it drew hearts to the house. Amber is the loveliest incense. There came a fragrance as from the church ; there came a fragrance from God’s nature. They felt truly the happiness of home, content with their lowly condition, and so their life became a real sunshine story.’
‘Shall we stop now ? ‘ said the Wind. ‘ Sunshine has talked long enough now. I am tired of it,! ‘
‘ I also,’ said the Rain.
What do we others, who have heard the stories, say.We say . . . now they are finished.