There was once a woman who wished for a very little child; but she did not know where she should procure one, so she went to and old witch, and said:
” I do so vey much wish for a little child! Can you not tell me where I can get one?
“Oh!That could be easily be managed,” said the witch. “There you have a barleycorn:that is not of the kind which grows in the countryman’s field, and which the chicken get to eat. Put it into a flower pot, and you shall see what you shall see.”
“Thank you, ” said the woman: and she gave the witch a groat.
Then she went home and planted the barleycorn, and immediately there grew up a great handsome flower, which looked like a tulip: but the leaves were tightly closed, as though it were still a bud.
“It is a beatifull flower,” said the woman; and she kissed its beautiful yellow and red leaves. But just as she kissed it the flower opened with a loud crack. It was a real tulip, as one could now see; but in the middle of the flower there sat upon the green stamens a little maiden, delicate and graceful to behold. She was scarcely half a thumb’s length in height, and therefore she was called Thumbelina.
A neat polished walnut-shell served Thumbelina for a cradle, blue violet-leaves were her mattresses, with a rose-leaf for a coverlet. There she slept at night: but in the daytime, she played upon the table, where the woman had put a plate with a wreath of flowers around it, whose stalks on this the little maiden could sit, and row from one side of the plate to the other, with two white horse-hairs for oars. That looked pretty indeed! She could also sing, and, indeed, so delicately and sweetly, that the like had never been heard.
One night as she lay in her pretty bed, there came a horrid old Toad hopping at the window, in which one pane was broken. The toad was very ugly, big, and damp: it hopped straight down upon the table, where thumbelina lay sleeping under the red rose-leaf.
“That would be a handsome wife for my son, ” said the Toad, and she took rhe walnut-shell in which thumbelina fall asleep, and hooped with it through the window down into the garden.
There ran a great broad brook: but the margin was swampy and soft, and here the Toad dwelt with her son. Ugh! He was ugly, and looked just like her mother. “Croak! croak! brek kek-kex!” that was all he could say when he saw the graceful little maiden in the walnutshell.
“Don’t speak so loud, or she will awake, ” said the old Toad. “She might run away for us yet, for she is as light as a bit of swan’s o-down. We will put her out in the brook upon one of the broad water-lily leaves. That will be just like an island for her, she is so small and light. Then she can’t get away, while we put the state-room under the mud in order, where you are to live and keep house together.”
Out in the brook there grew many water-lilies with broad green leaves, which looked as if they were floating on the water. The leaf which lay farthest out was also the greatest of all, and to that the old Toad swan out and laid the walnut-shell upon it with Thumbelina. The poor little thing woke early in the morning, and when she saw where she was, she began to cry bitterly: for there was water on every side of green leaf, and she could not get to land at all. The old Toad sat down in the mud, decking out her room with sedges and yellow waterlilies- it was to be made very pretty for the new daughter in law: then she swamp out, with her ugly son, to the leaf on which Thumbelina was. They wanted to take her pretty bed, which was to be put in the bridal chamber before she went in there herself. The old Toad bowed low before her in the water, and said,
“Here is my son: he will be your husband, and you will live splendidly together in a mud.”
“Croak..Croak! brek-kek-kex!. ” was all the son could say.
Then they took the elegant little bed, and swam away with it; but Thumbelina sat all alone upon the green and leaf and wept, for she did not like to live at the nasty Toad’s, and have her ugly son for husband. The little fishes swimming in the water below had both seen the Toad and had also heard what she said; therefore they streched forth their heads, for they wanted to see the little girl. So soon as they saw her they considered her so pretty that they fell so sory she should have to go down to the ugly Toad. No! That must never be! They assembled together in the water around the green stalk which held the leaf on which the little maiden stood, and with their teeth they gnawes away the stalk, and so the leaf swam down the stream; and away went Thumbelina far away, where the Toad could not get at her.
Thumbelina sailed by many places, and the little birds which sat in the bushes saw her, and said, “What a lovely little girl!” The leaf swam away with her, farther and farther: so Thumbelina travelled out of the county.
A graceful little white butterfly continued to flutter round her, and at last alighted on the leaf. Thumbelina pleased him, and she was so delighted, for now the Toad could not reach her; and it was so beautiful where she was floating along-the sun shone upon the water, it was just like shinning gold. SHe took her girdle and bound one end of it round butterfly, fastening the other end of the ribbon to the leaf. The leaf now glided onward much faster, and Thumbelina too, for she stood upon the leaf.
There came a big Cockhafer flying up: and he saw her, and immediately clasped his claws round her slender waist and flew with her up into a tree. The green leaf went swimming down the brook, and butterfly with it; for he was fastened to the leaf, and could not get away from it.
Mercy! How frightened poor little Thumbelina was when the Cockhafer flew with her up into the tree especially she was sorry for the fine white butterfly whom she had bound fast to the leaf, for, if he could not free himself from it, he would be forced to starve to death. THe Cockhafer, however, did not trouble himself at all about this. He seated himself with her upon the biggest green leaf of the tree, gave her the sweet part of the flowers to eat, and declared that she was very pretty, though she did not in the least resemble a cockhafer. Afterwards came all other cockhafers who lived in the tree to pay a visit: they looked at Thumbelina, and the lady Cockhafers shrugged their feelers and said,
“Why, she has not even more than two legs! That has a wretched appearance.”
“She has not any feelers!” cried another.
“Her waist is quite slender-fie!she looks like a human creature-how ugly she is!” said all the lady of Cockhafers.
And yet Thumbelina was very pretty. Even the Cockhafer who had carried her off thought so: but when all others declared she was ugly, he believed it at last, and would not have her at all-she might go whither she liked. Then they flew down with her from the tree, and set her upon a daisy, and she wept, because she was so ugly that the cockhafers would not have her; and yet she was the loveliest little being one could imagine and as tender and delicate a rose leaf.
THe whole summer through poor Thumbeline lived quite alone in the great wood. She wove herself a bed out of blades of grass, and hung it up under a large burdock leaf, so that she was protected from the rain; she plucked the honey out of the flowers for food, and drank of the dew which stood every morning upon the leaves. Thus summer and autumn passed away; but now came winter, the cold long winter. All the birds who had sung so sweetly to her flew away; trees and flowers shed their leaves; the great burdock leaf under which she had lived shrivelled up, and there remained nothing of it but a yellow withered stalk; and she was dreadfully cold, for her clothes were torn, and she herself was so frail and delicate-poor little Thumbelina! She was nearly frozen. It began to snow, and every snow-flake that fell upon her was like the whole shovelfull thrown upon one of us, for we all tall, and she was only an inch long. Then she wrapped herself in a dry leaf, but that would not warm her-she shivered with cold.