Hans Christian Andersen.

The Ice-Maiden: and Other Tales online

. (page 1 of 6)
Online LibraryHans Christian AndersenThe Ice-Maiden: and Other Tales → online text (page 1 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Produced by David Edwards, Jeannie Howse and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
book was produced from scanned images of public domain
material from the Google Print project.)

* * * * *

+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - +
| Transcriber's Note: |
| |
| Inconsistent hyphenation matches the original document. |
| |
| A number of obvious typographical errors have been corrected |
| in this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of |
| this document. |
| |
+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - +

* * * * *





Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1863, by
In the Clerk's office of the District Court of the United States in
and for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.








The Ice-Maiden.



Let us visit Switzerland and look around us in the glorious country of
mountains, where the forest rises out of steep rocky walls; let us
ascend to the dazzling snow-fields, and thence descend to the green
plains, where the rivulets and brooks hasten away, foaming up, as if
they feared not to vanish, as they reached the sea.

The sun beams upon the deep valley, it burns also upon the heavy
masses of snow; so that after the lapse of years, they melt into
shining ice-blocks, and become rolling avalanches and heaped-up

Two of these lie in the broad clefts of the rock, under the
Schreckhorn and Wetterhorn, near the little town of Grindelwald. They
are so remarkable that many strangers come to gaze at them, in the
summer time, from all parts of the world; they come over the high
snow-covered mountains, they come from the deepest valleys, and they
are obliged to ascend during many hours, and as they ascend, the
valley sinks deeper and deeper, as though seen from an air-balloon.

Far around the peaks of the mountains, the clouds often hang like
heavy curtains of smoke; whilst down in the valley, where the many
brown wooden houses lie scattered about, a sun-beam shines, and here
and there brings out a tiny spot, in radiant green, as though it were
transparent. The water roars, froths and foams below, the water hums
and tinkles above, and it looks as if silver ribbons were fluttering
over the cliffs.

On each side of the way, as one ascends, are wooden houses; each house
has a little potato-garden, and that is a necessity, for in the
door-way are many little mouths. There are plenty of children, and
they can consume abundance of food; they rush out of the houses, and
throng about the travellers, come they on foot or in carriage. The
whole horde of children traffic; the little ones offer prettily carved
wooden houses, for sale, similar to those they build on the mountains.
Rain or shine, the children assemble with their wares.

Some twenty years ago, there stood here, several times, a little boy,
who wished to sell his toys, but he always kept aloof from the other
children; he stood with serious countenance and with both hands
tightly clasped around his wooden box, as if he feared it would slip
away from him; but on account of this gravity, and because the boy was
so small, it caused him to be remarked, and often he made the best
bargain, without knowing why. His grandfather lived still higher in
the mountains, and it was he who carved the pretty wooden houses.
There stood in the room, an old cup-board, full of carvings; there
were nut-crackers, knives, spoons, and boxes with delicate foliage,
and leaping chamois; there was everything, which could rejoice a merry
child's eye, but this little fellow, (he was named Rudy) looked at and
desired only the old gun under the rafters. His grandfather had said,
that he should have it some day, but that he must first grow big and
strong enough to use it.

Small as the boy was, he was obliged to take care of the goats, and if
he who can climb with them is a good guardian, well then indeed was
Rudy. Why he climbed even higher than they! He loved to take the
bird's nests from the trees, high in the air, for he was bold and
daring; and he only smiled when he stood by the roaring water-fall, or
when he heard a rolling avalanche.

He never played with the other children; he only met them, when his
grandfather sent him out to sell his carvings, and Rudy took but
little interest in this; he much preferred to wander about the rocks,
or to sit and listen to his grandfather relate about old times and
about the inhabitants of Meiringen, where he came from. He said that
these people had not been there since the beginning of the world; they
had come from the far North, where the race called Swedes, dwelt. To
know this, was indeed great wisdom, and Rudy knew this; but he became
still wiser, through the intercourse which he had with the other
occupants of the house - belonging to the animal race. There was a
large dog, Ajola, an heir-loom from Rudy's father; and a cat, and she
was of great importance to Rudy, for she had taught him to climb.
"Come out on the roof!" said the cat, quite plain and distinctly, for
when one is a child, and can not yet speak, one understands the hens
and ducks, the cats and dogs remarkably well; they speak for us as
intelligibly as father or mother. One needs but to be little, and then
even grandfather's stick can neigh, and become a horse, with head,
legs and tail. With some children, this knowledge slips away later
than with others, and people say of these, that they are very
backward, that they remain children fearfully long. - People say so
many things!

"Come with me, little Rudy, out on the roof!" was about the first
thing that the cat said, that Rudy understood. "It is all imagination
about falling; one does not fall, when one does not fear to do so.
Come, place your one paw so, and your other so! Take care of your
fore-paws! Look sharp with your eyes, and give suppleness to your
limbs! If there be a hole, jump, hold fast, that's the way I do!"

And Rudy did so, and that was the reason that he sat out on the roof
with the cat so often; he sat with her in the tree-tops, yes, he sat
on the edge of the rocks, where the cats could not come. "Higher,
higher!" said the trees and bushes. "See, how we climb! how high we
go, how firm we hold on, even on the outermost peaks of the rocks!"

And Rudy went generally on the mountain before the sun rose, and then
he got his morning drink, the fresh, strengthening mountain air, the
drink, that our Lord only can prepare, and men can read its recipe,
and thus it stands written: "the fresh scent of the herbs of the
mountains and the mint and thyme of the valleys."

All heaviness is imbibed by the hanging clouds, and the wind sends it
out like grape-shot into the fir-woods; the fragrant breeze becomes
perfume, light and fresh and ever fresher - that was Rudy's morning

The blessing bringing daughters of the Sun, the sun-beams, kissed his
cheeks, and Vertigo stood and watched, but dared not approach him; and
the swallows below from grandfather's house, where there were no less
than seven nests, flew up to him and the goats, and they sang: "We and
you! and you and we!" They brought greetings from home, even from the
two hens, the only birds in the room; with whom however Rudy never had

Little as he was, he had traveled, and not a little, for so small a
boy; he was born in the Canton Valais, and had been carried from there
over the mountains. Lately he had visited the Staubbach, which waves
in the air like a silver gauze, before the snow decked, dazzling white
mountain: "the Jungfrau." And he had been in Grindelwald, near the
great glaciers; but that was a sad story. There, his mother had found
her death, and, "little Rudy," so said his grandfather, "had lost his
childish merriment." "When the boy was not a year old, he laughed more
than he cried," so wrote his mother, "but since he was in the
ice-gap, quite another mind has come over him." His grand-father did
not like to speak on the subject, but every one on the mountain knew
all about it.

Rudy's father had been a postilion, and the large dog in the room, had
always followed him on his journeys to the lake of Geneva, over the
Simplon. In the valley of the Rhone, in Canton Valais, still lived
Rudy's family, on his father's side, and his father's brother was a
famous chamois hunter and a well-known guide. Rudy was only a year
old, when he lost his father, and his mother longed to return to her
relations in Berner Oberlande. Her father lived a few hours walk from
Grindelwald; he was a carver in wood, and earned enough by it to live.
In the month of June, carrying her little child, she started
homewards, accompanied by two chamois hunters; intending to cross the
Gemmi on their way to Grindelwald. They already had accomplished the
longer part of their journey, had passed the high ridges, had come to
the snow-plains, they already saw the valley of their home, with its
well-known wooden houses, and had now but to reach the summit of one
of the great glaciers. The snow had freshly fallen and concealed a
cleft, - which did not lead to the deepest abyss, where the water
roared - but still deeper than man could reach. The young woman, who
was holding her child, slipped, sank and was gone; one heard no cry,
no sigh, nought but a little child weeping. More than an hour elapsed,
before her companions could bring poles and ropes, from the nearest
house, in order to afford assistance. After great exertion they drew
from the ice-gap, what appeared to be two lifeless bodies; every
means were employed and they succeeded in calling the child back to
life, but not the mother. So the old grandfather received instead of a
daughter, a daughter's son in his house; the little one, who laughed
more than he wept, but, who now, seemed to have lost this custom. A
change in him, had certainly taken place, in the cleft of the glacier,
in the wonderful cold world; where, according to the belief of the
Swiss peasant, the souls of the damned are incarcerated until the day
of judgment.

Not unlike water, which after long journeying, has been compressed into
blocks of green glass, the glaciers lie here, so that one huge mass of
ice is heaped on the other. The rushing stream roars below and melts
snow and ice; within, hollow caverns and mighty clefts open, this is a
wonderful palace of ice, and in it dwells the Ice-Maiden, the Queen of
the glaciers. She, the murderess, the destroyer, is half a child of air
and half the powerful ruler of the streams; therefore, she had received
the power, to elevate herself with the speed of the chamois to the
highest pinnacle of the snow-topped mountain; where the most daring
mountaineer had to hew his way, in order to take firm foot-hold. She
sails up the rushing river on a slender fir-branch - springs from one
cliff to another, with her long snow-white hair, fluttering around her,
and with her bluish-green mantle, which resembles the water of the deep
Swiss lakes.

"Crush, hold fast! the power is mine!" cried she. "They have stolen a
lovely boy from me, a boy, whom I had kissed, but not kissed to death.
He is again with men, he tends the goats on the mountains; he climbs
up, up high, beyond the reach of all others, but not beyond mine! He
is mine, I shall have him!" -

And she ordered Vertigo to fulfil her duty; it was too warm for the
Ice-Maiden, in summer-time, in the green spots where the mint thrives.
Vertigo arose; one came, three came, (for Vertigo had many sisters,
very many of them) and the Maiden chose the strongest among those that
rule within doors and without. They sit on the balusters and on the
spires of the steep towers, they tread through the air as the swimmer
glides through the water and entice their prey down the abyss. Vertigo
and the Ice-Maiden seize on men as the polypus clutches at all within
its reach. Vertigo was to gain possession of Rudy. "Yes, just catch
him for me" said Vertigo. "I cannot do it! The cat, the dirty thing,
has taught him her arts! The child of the race of man, possesses a
power, that repulses me; I cannot get at the little boy, when he hangs
by the branches over the abyss. I may tickle him on the soles of his
feet or give him a box on the ear whilst he is swinging in the air, it
is of no avail. I can do nothing!"

"We _can_ do it!" said the Ice-Maiden. "You or I! I! I!" -

"No, no!" sounded back the echo of the church-bells through the
mountain, like a sweet melody; it was like speech, an harmonious
chorus of all the spirits of nature, mild, good, full of love, for it
came from the daughters of the sun-beams, who encamped themselves
every evening in a circle around the pinnacles of the mountains, and
spread out their rose-coloured wings, that grow more and more red as
the sun sinks, and glow over the high Alps; men call it, "the Alpine
glow." When the sun is down, they enter the peaks of the rocks and
sleep on the white snow, until the sun rises, and then they sally
forth. Above all, they love flowers, butterflies, and men, and amongst
them they had chosen little Rudy as their favourite.

"You will not catch him! You shall not have him!" said they. "I have
caught and kept stronger and larger ones!" said the Ice-Maiden.

Then the daughters of the Sun sang a lay of the wanderer, whose cloak
the whirlwind had torn off and carried away. The wind took the
covering, but not the man. "Ye children of strength can seize, but not
hold him; he is stronger, he is more spirit-like, than we; he ascends
higher than the Sun, our mother! He possesses the magic word, that
restrains wind and water, so that they are obliged to obey and serve

So sounded cheerfully the bell-like chorus.

And every morning the sun-beams shone through the tiny window in the
grandfather's house, on the quiet child. The daughters of the
sun-beams kissed him, they wished to thaw him, to warm him and to
carry away with them the icy kiss, which the queenly maiden of the
glaciers had given him, as he lay on his dead mother's lap, in the
deep icy gap, whence he was saved through a miracle.



Rudy was now eight years old. His father's brother, in Rhonethal, the
other side of the mountain, wished to have the boy, for he thought
that with him he would fare and prosper better; his grandfather
perceived this and gave his consent.

Rudy must go. There were others to take leave of him, besides his
grandfather; first there was Ajola, the old dog.

"Your father was post-boy and I was post-dog," said Ajola. "We have
travelled up and down; I know dogs and men on the other side of the
mountain. It is not my custom to speak much, but now, that we shall
not have much time to converse with each other, I must talk a little
more than usual. I will relate a story to you; I shall tell you how I
have earned my bread, and how I have eaten it. I do not understand it
and I suppose that you will not either, but it matters not, for I have
discovered that the good things of this earth are not equally divided
between dogs or men. All are not fitted to lie on the lap and sip
milk, I have not been accustomed to it; but I saw a little dog seated
in the coach with us and it occupied a person's place. The woman who
was its mistress, or who belonged to its mistress, had a bottle filled
with milk, out of which she fed it; it got sweet sugar biscuits too,
but it would not even eat them; only snuffed at them, and so the woman
ate them herself. I ran in the mud, by the side of the coach, as
hungry as a dog could be; I chewed my crude thoughts, that was not
right - but this is often done! If I could but have been carried on
some one's knee and have been seated in a coach! But one cannot have
all one desires. I have not been able to do so, neither with barking
nor with yawning."

That was Ajola's speech, and Rudy seized him by the neck and kissed
him on his moist mouth, and then he took the cat in his arms, but she
was angry at it.

"You are getting too strong for me, and I will not use my claws
against you! Just climb over the mountains, I taught you to climb!
Never think that you will fall, then you are secure!"

Then the cat ran away, without letting Rudy see how her grief shone
out of her eye.

The hens ran about the floor; one had lost her tail; a traveller, who
wished to be a hunter, had shot it off, because the creature had taken
the hen for a bird of prey!

"Rudy is going over the mountain!" said one hen. "He is always in a
hurry," said the other, "and I do not care for leave-takings!" and so
they both tripped away.

And the goats, too, said farewell and cried: "Mit, mit, mah!" and that
was so sad.

There were two nimble guides in the neighbourhood, and they were about
to cross the mountains; they were to descend to the other side of the
Gemmi, and Rudy followed them on foot. This was a severe march for
such a little chap, but he had strength and courage, and felt not

The swallows accompanied them a part of the way. They sang: "We and
you! You and us!" The road went over the rapid Lütschine, which
rushes forth from the black clefts of the glacier of Grindelwald, in
many little streams. The fallen timber and the quarry-stones serve as
bridges; they pass the alder-bush and descend the mountain where the
glacier has detached itself from the mountain side; they cross over
the glacier, over the blocks of ice, and go around them. Rudy was
obliged to creep a little, to walk a little, his eyes sparkled with
delight, and he trod as firmly with his iron-shod mountain shoes, as
though he wished to leave his foot-prints where he had stepped. The
black mud which the mountain stream had poured upon the glacier gave
it a calcined appearance, but the bluish-green, glassy ice still shone
through it. They were obliged to go around the little ponds which
were dammed up by blocks of ice; during these wanderings they came too
near a large stone, which lay tottering on the brink of a crevice in
the ice. The stone lost its equilibrium, it fell, rolled and the echo
resounded from the deep hollow paths of the glacier.

Up, ever up; the glacier stretched itself on high - as a river, of
wildly heaped up masses of ice, compressed among the steep cliffs. For
an instant Rudy thought on what they had told him, about his having
laid with his mother, in one of these cold-breathing chasms. Such
thoughts soon vanished; it seemed to him as though it were some other
story - one of the many which had been related to him. Now and then,
when the men thought that the ascent was too difficult for the little
lad, they would reach him their hand, but he was never weary and
stood on the slippery ice as firm as a chamois. Now they reached the
bottom of the rocks, they were soon among the bare stones, which were
void of moss; soon under the low fir-trees and again out on the green
common - ever changing, ever new. Around them arose the snow mountains,
whose names were as familiar to Rudy as they were to every child in
the neighbourhood: "the Jungfrau," "the Mönch," and "the Eiger."

Rudy had never been so high before, had never before trodden on the
vast sea of snow, which lay there with its immoveable waves. The wind
blew single flakes about, as it blows the foam upon the waters of the

Glacier stood by glacier, if one may say so, hand in hand; each one
was an ice-palace for the Ice-Maiden, whose power and will is: "to
catch and to bury." The sun burned warmly, the snow was dazzling, as
if sown with bluish-white, glittering diamond sparks. Countless
insects (butterflies and bees mostly) lay in masses dead on the snow;
they had ventured too high, or the wind had borne them thither, but to
breathe their last in these cold regions. A threatening cloud hung
over the Wetterhorn, like a fine, black tuft of wool. It lowered
itself slowly, heavily, with that which lay concealed within it, and
this was the "Föhn,"[A] powerful in its strength when it broke loose.
The impression of the entire journey, the night quarters above and
then the road beyond, the deep rocky chasms, where the water forced
its way through the blocks of stone with terrible rapidity, engraved
itself indelibly on Rudy's mind.

On the other side of the sea of snow, a forsaken stone hut gave them
protection and shelter for the night; a fire was quickly lighted, for
they found within it charcoal and fir branches; they arranged their
couch as well as possible. The men seated themselves around the fire,
smoked their tobacco and drank the warm spicy drink, which they had
prepared for themselves. Rudy had his share too and they told him of
the mysterious beings of the Alpine country; of the singular fighting
snakes in the deep lakes; of the people of night; of the hordes of
spectres, who carry sleepers through the air, towards the wonderful
floating city of Venice; of the wild shepherd, who drives his black
sheep over the meadow; it is true, they had never been seen, but the
sound of the bells and the unhappy bellowing of the flock, had been

Rudy listened eagerly, but without any fear, for he did not even know
what that was, and whilst he listened he thought he heard the
ghost-like hollow bellowing! Yes, it became more and more distinct,
the men heard it also, they stopped talking, listened and told Rudy he
must not sleep.

It was the Föhn which blew, the powerful storm-wind, which rushes down
the mountains into the valley and with its strength bends the trees,
as if they were mere reeds, and lifts the wooden houses from one side
of the river to the other, as if the move had been made on a

After the lapse of an hour, they told Rudy that the storm had now
blown over and that he might rest; with this license, fatigued by his
march, he at once fell asleep.

They departed early in the morning; the sun showed Rudy new
mountains, new glaciers and snow-fields; they had now reached Canton
Valais and the other side of the mountain ridge which was visible at
Grindelwald, but they were still far from the new home. Other chasms,
precipices, pasture-grounds; forests and paths through the woods,
unfolded themselves to the view; other houses, other human beings - but
what human beings! Deformed creatures, with unmeaning, fat,
yellowish-white faces; with a large, ugly, fleshy lump on their necks;
these were cretins who dragged themselves miserably along and gazed
with their stupid eyes on the strangers who arrived among them. As for
the women, the greatest number of them were frightful!

Were these the inhabitants of the new home?


[A] A humid south wind on the lakes of Switzerland, a fearful storm.



The people in the uncle's house, looked, thank heaven, like those whom
Rudy was accustomed to see. But one cretin was there, a poor silly
lad, one of the many miserable creatures, who on account of their
poverty and need, always make their home among the families of Canton
Valais and remain with each but a couple of months. The wretched
Saperli happened to be there when Rudy arrived.

Rudy's father's brother was still a vigorous hunter and was also a
cooper by trade; his wife, a lively little person, had what is called
a bird's face; her eyes resembled those of an eagle and she had a
long neck entirely covered with down.

Everything was new to Rudy, the dress, manners and customs, yes, even
the language, but that is soon acquired and understood by a child's
ear. Here, they seemed to be better off, than in his grandfather's
house; the dwelling rooms were larger, the walls looked gay with their
chamois horns and highly polished rifles; over the door-way hung the
picture of the blessed Virgin; alpine roses and a burning lamp stood

1 3 4 5 6

Online LibraryHans Christian AndersenThe Ice-Maiden: and Other Tales → online text (page 1 of 6)