Saturday, December 15, 2012

"The Fir Tree" by Hans Christian Anderson



A long time ago, there was a pretty green little Fir Tree. The sun shone on him; he had plenty of fresh air; and around him grew many large pine trees and fir trees. But the little Fir was not satisfied. He didn't think of the large sun and the fresh air. He wanted to be a big tree like the others.

Sometimes the little children living in the houses near by came into the woods to play. "What a nice little Fir!" they said. But the Tree didn't like to hear them talk this way. He didn't like to be called "little." By the time he was a year old, he had grown taller. Another year passed and he was even taller. "Oh, if only I were as tall as the other trees," he thought. "Then I could spread out my branches and look out into the wide world. The birds would build nests in my branches; and when there was a breeze, I could bend gracefully just like the other trees."

hare
The Tree sighed, taking no pleasure in the sunbeams and the birds and the red clouds that sailed above him morning and evening. In the winter time, when the snow lay white and glittering on the ground, a hare would often come leaping along. Sometimes he jumped right over the little tree, and that made him very angry. But by the third winter, the Tree had grown so large the hare had to go around it. That made the Tree feel better. "The most delightful thing in the world," he thought, "is to grow and grow and be tall and old."

In the autumn, the wood cutters came and cut down some of the largest trees. This happened every year, and the little Fir Tree, which was not so little any more, was frightened. How he trembled as the magnificent trees fell to the earth with a great noise. After the branches had been lopped off, the trees looked so long and bare that it was hard to recognize them. Then they were laid in carts, and the horses dragged them out of the woods.

"What becomes of them?" the Fir Tree wondered.

In spring, when the Swallows and the Storks came, the Tree said to them, "Do you know where they have been taken?"

One of the Storks nodded his head thoughtfully. "As I was flying here from Egypt, I met many ships with tall masts and they smelt of fir. You may feel proud of them, they looked so majestic."

"If I were only old enough to fly across the ocean!" sighed the Tree.

"Rejoice in your youth!" said the Sunbeams.

"Rejoice in your growth!" And the Wind kissed the Tree; the moisture touched him; but the Fir didn't understand.

When Christmas came, many young trees were cut down. Their branches were left on them when they were laid on the carts, and the horses pulled them out of the woods. "They are no taller than I," complained the Fir Tree. "In fact, one of them was much shorter. Why are they allowed to keep all their branches? Where are they going?"

"We know! We know!" twittered the Sparrows. "We have looked in the windows in town below! We saw the trees planted in the middle of the warm rooms and ornamented with the most splendid things - with golden apples, with gingerbread, with toys and hundreds of lights!"

A tremor ran through the Fir Tree. "And then? What happens after that?"

"We did not see anything more, but it was very beautiful."

"Ah, perhaps I will know the same magnificence some day," the Tree rejoiced. "If Christmas would only come! I am as tall as the trees that were carried off last year. Oh, if I were only on the cart now! If I were only in the warm room with all the splendor! Something better, something still grander, is sure to follow - but what? How I long, how I suffer! I wonder what is the matter with me!" "Rejoice in us!" said the Air and the Sunlight, "Rejoice in your own youth!"

But the Tree did not rejoice. He grew and grew. He was green both winter and summer. "What a fine tree!" people said, and toward Christmas he was one of the first to be cut down. The axe struck deep, and the Tree fell to earth with a sigh. But he was not happy; he could only think how sad it was to be taken away from the place where he had grown up. He knew that never again would he see his dear old friends, the little bushes and flowers around him; perhaps he would never even see the birds again or the hares. And he didn't like it, at all.

The Tree was put on a cart with several others and taken away. When he came to himself again, he was being unloaded in a big yard, and two servants in handsome clothing carried him into a beautiful living room. The Fir Tree was stuck upright in a tub filled with sand; but it didn't look like a tub, because green cloth was hung all around it, and it stood on a large, bright carpet.

A tremor ran through the Tree. What was going to happen? Several young ladies decorated it, aided by the servants. On one branch they hung little nets made of colored paper and filled with sugar-plums. On the other branches they hung gold apples and walnuts which looked as though they had grown there. Then little blue and white and red candles were fastened to the branches. Among the branches there were dolls which looked like people. The Tree had never seen anything like them before - and at the very top there was a large star of gold tinsel. It was really splendid - too splendid for any words to describe.

"Just wait till evening!" everybody said. "How the Tree will shine this evening!"

"Oh, if evening would only come!" thought the Tree. "If the candles were only lighted! What will happen then, I wonder. Will the other trees from the forest come to look at me? Will the sparrows beat against the windows? Perhaps I'll take root and stand here winter and summer covered with ornaments!"

Suddenly both the folding doors opened, and in rushed the children, with the older persons following more quietly. The little ones stood quite still, but only for a moment. Then they shouted for joy, and the room echoed with their shouts. They began dancing around the Tree, pulling off one present after another.

"What are they doing?" thought the Tree. "What is to happen now?"

The candles burned down to the very branches, and as they burned down they were put out, one after another. Then the children were given permission to attack the Tree, and they rushed upon it so violently that all its branches cracked. Then the children went on playing with their beautiful toys. No one even looked at the Tree, except the old nurse; who looked in among the branches to see if there was a fig or an apple that had been overlooked.

"A story! A story!" the children cried, dragging a little fat man over toward the Tree. He sat down under it and said, "Now the Tree can listen, too." The man told about Klumpy-Dumpy who fell downstairs and, yet married the princess anyway. The children clapped their hands. The Fir Tree stood quite still, thinking, "Who knows? Perhaps I shall fall downstairs, too, and marry a princess!" And he looked forward to the next day when he hoped to be decked out again with lights and toys and bright tinsel. The next morning the servants came in.

"Ah, now the splendor will begin again!" thought the Fir.

But no. The servants dragged him out of the room, up the stairs into the attic and there, in a dark corner, they left him. "What can this mean?" wondered the Tree, and he leaned against the wall lost in thought. Days and nights passed, and nobody came near him. When at last somebody did come up to the attic, it was only to leave some trunks. There stood the Tree quite hidden. There stood the Tree quite forgotten.

"It is winter outside!" he thought. "The earth is hard and covered with snow. I could not be planted now. These people are really very kind. They have put me up here under shelter until spring comes! If only it were not so dark and lonely here! Not even a hare! I liked it out in the woods when the snow was on the ground and the hare leaped by; yes, even when he jumped over me. Ah, but I did not like it then."

"Squeak, squeak!" said a little mouse, peeping out of his hole. Then another little mouse came and they sniffed at the Fir Tree and ran in and out among the branches.

"It is very cold," said the mouse. "Except for that, it would be nice here, wouldn't it, old Fir?" "I am not old," said the Fir Tree. "There is many a tree much older than I." "Where do you come from?" asked the mice.

"Tell us about the most beautiful place in the world. Have you ever been there?"

"I know of no such place," said the Tree. "But I know the woods where the sun shines and the birds sing." Then he told of the time when he was young, and the little mice had never heard the like before.

"How much you have seen!" they said. "How happy you must have been!"

"I?" said the Fir Tree, thinking it over. "Yes, those really were happy times." Then he told about Christmas Eve, when he had been decked out with beautiful ornaments.

"Oh," said the little Mice. "How lucky you have been, old Fir Tree."

"I am not old, " said he. "I came from the woods only this winter."

"But what wonderful stories you know!" said the mice, and the next night they came with four other little mice who wanted to hear the stories also. The more the Fir Tree talked about his youth, the more plainly he remembered it himself, and he realized that those times had really been very happy times.

The little mice were so pleased, they jumped to the very top of the Tree. The next night two more Mice came and to hear the Tree's stories.

At last the little Mice stopped coming, and the Tree sighed. "After all I liked having the little mice listen to my stories, but that is over now. When I am brought out again I am going to enjoy myself."

But when was that to be? Why, one morning a number of people came up to the attic. Trunks were moved and the Tree was pulled out and thrown down on the floor. Then a man drew him toward the stairs, where the sun shone.

"Now life begins again," thought the Tree. He felt the fresh air, the first sunbeam, and then he was out in the yard. Roses hung over the fence and lindens were in bloom.

"Now I shall enjoy life!" said the Tree, and spread out his branches. But unfortunately, they were all withered and yellow. He lay in a corner among weeds and nettles. The golden star was still on the tree, and it glittered in the sunlight.

In the yard some children were playing, the same children who had danced around the Fir Tree at Christmas time. They were glad to see him again, and the youngest child ran up and tore off the golden star.

"Look what is still on the ugly old Christmas Tree!" said he. And he trampled on the crackling branches.

The Tree looked at the beautiful garden and then at himself. He wished he had stayed in his dark corner in the attic. He thought of his youth in the woods, of the merry Christmas Eve, and of the little mice.

"It is over," said the poor Tree. "Had I but been happy when I had reason to be! But it's over now."

Then the gardener's boy chopped the Tree into small pieces for firewood. When it flamed up in the fireplace, it sighed deeply, and each sigh was like a shot.

The children went on playing in the yard. On his chest the youngest wore the gold star which the Tree had had on the happiest evening of his life. But that was over now, the Tree gone, the story finished.





COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. The Stork said that probably the large Fir trees became ____________ after they were cut down.
a: masts of ships
b: lumber for houses
c: timber for railroads
d: material for wagons

2. The mice were very interested in ______________________________ .
a: the Fir tree's stories
b: the food still to be found among the Fir tree's branches
c: using the Fir tree to make better nests for themselves
d: cutting up the Fir tree for firewood

3. The Sunbeam and the Wind tried to persuade the Fir tree to ____________________ .
a: become a Christmas tree
b: become a
much larger tree
c: make space for birds' nests
d: rejoice in his youth and his growth

4. When Christmas Eve comes, the Fir hopes ______________________ .
a: the candles are lighted
b: the other trees come to look at him
c: he takes root there and stands winter and summer covered with ornaments
d: all of the above

5. The little Fir tree was ____________________ with his life in the forest.
a: completely satisfied
b: somewhat satisfied
c: not very satisfied
d: contented

6. The main theme of this story could be summed up in the author's advice: ____________ .
a: always keep your objective in mind and work toward that objective
b: take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way to improve yourself
c: live fully in the present moment
d: take pleasure in your memories of the past

7. The Fir tree didn't like it when the children called him ___________________ .
a: an old Fir
b: a little Fir
c: a splendid Fir
d: an ugly Fir

8. When the men took the Fir tree to the attic, the Fir tree felt _________________ .
a: sad and lonely and angry
b: fully satisfied
c: grateful to the people for waiting until spring to plant him again
d: grateful to be given an opportunity to relax after all the excitement of Christmas Day

9. The hare was able to jump over the Fir tree _______________________ .
a: after the Fir tree had grown
b: when the Fir tree bent over
c: when the Fir tree was being cut down
d: before the Fir tree had grown

10. The children attacked the Fir tree because on its branches there were ____________________ .
a: candles
b: presents
c: needles
d: stories


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