THE FIR TREE (“Grantræet”)
by Hans Christian Andersen
First published in December of 1844, this story is a cautionary tale about a Fir Tree who learned too late that what we have is often far better than what we desire. He could not be happy in the moment because he was too anxious to grow up. He expected greater glory just around the corner and he eventually felt regret.
In the woods stood a little Fir Tree. The Fir Tree wanted so badly to be grown up, to be able to spread out his branches with the tops looking into the wide world. He longed to have the birds build nests among his branches and the breezes blow through his bows making him bend with as much stateliness as the others. The little tree found no pleasure in the beauty around him, no matter the season. He only wanted to continue to grow taller and grander. He was envious of the magnificent trees that fell to the earth with great noise and cracking, whose branches were cut, and trunks laid in carts and dragged out of the wood.
The birds told the Fir these grown trees became masts of grand ships or Christmas trees beautifully decorated, so he dreamed of becoming a mast to fly across the sea or a Christmas tree ornamented with the most splendid things!
“Rejoice in your growth and in the fresh life that moves within you!” said the Sunbeams. The wind and the dew kissed the Tree, but the Fir appreciated none of it. He continued to dream of masts and Christmas adornments, and longed for something better, something grander. “Rejoice in our presence!” said the Air and the Sunlight. “Rejoice in your own fresh youth!” But the Fir did not rejoice at all. He grew into a fine tree and he became the first to be cut down the following Christmas. He fell to the earth; he felt a pang; he could not think of happiness, for he was feeling sad at being separated from his home.
He became an adorned Christmas tree with children celebrating around him. After Christmas, the Fir thought the splendor would begin again but he was dragged out of the room into a dark corner of the attic where no one visited. The Fir Tree was terribly lonely and he missed the animals of the wood and the children of Christmas Eve. He told the mice in the attic about the most beautiful spot on the earth….the wood of his youth, where the sun shone and the birds sang. And he told them of Christmas Eve, when he was decorated with ornaments and candles. The more he remembered, the more he felt as if those times had really been the happiest of times. But he promised himself he would enjoy and appreciate his life once he was out of the attic.
When the people finally took him from the attic and pulled him outside, he felt the fresh air and sunshine. He thought his merry life would now begin. He did not feel old. He felt in his prime. He spread out his branches, but they were all withered and yellow. The Fir Tree saw all the beauty of the garden around him and he thought of his youth in the wood, of the merry Christmas Eve, and of the little Mice who had listened with so much pleasure to his stories. He realized then it all was over and he should have rejoiced in the moments of his life as the Sunbeams had wisely advised.