Andersen's Fairy Tales
Once upon a time there was a little boy who had taken cold. He had gone out and got his
feet wet; though nobody could imagine how it had happened, for it was quite dry weather.
So his mother undressed him, put him to bed, and had the tea-pot brought in, to make him a
good cup of Elderflower tea. Just at that moment the merry old man came in who lived up
a-top of the house all alone; for he had neither wife nor children--but he liked children very
much, and knew so many fairy tales, that it was quite delightful.
"Now drink your tea," said the boy's mother; "then, perhaps, you may hear a fairy tale."
"If I had but something new to tell," said the old man. "But how did the child get his feet
"That is the very thing that nobody can make out," said his mother.
"Am I to hear a fairy tale?" asked the little boy.
"Yes, if you can tell me exactly--for I must know that first--how deep the gutter is in the
little street opposite, that you pass through in going to school."
"Just up to the middle of my boot," said the child; "but then I must go into the deep hole."
"Ali, ah! That's where the wet feet came from," said the old man. "I ought now to tell you a
story; but I don't know any more."
"You can make one in a moment," said the little boy. "My mother says that all you look at
can be turned into a fairy tale: and that you can find a story in everything."
"Yes, but such tales and stories are good for nothing. The right sort come of themselves;
they tap at my forehead and say, 'Here we are.'"
"Won't there be a tap soon?" asked the little boy. And his mother laughed, put some Elder-
flowers in the tea-pot, and poured boiling water upon them.
"Do tell me something! Pray do!"
"Yes, if a fairy tale would come of its own accord; but they are proud and haughty, and
come only when they choose. Stop!" said he, all on a sudden. "I have it! Pay attention!
There is one in the tea-pot!"
And the little boy looked at the tea-pot. The cover rose more and more; and the Elder-
flowers came forth so fresh and white, and shot up long branches. Out of the spout even did
they spread themselves on all sides, and grew larger and larger; it was a splendid
Elderbush, a whole tree; and it reached into the very bed, and pushed the curtains aside.
How it bloomed! And what an odour! In the middle of the bush sat a friendly-looking old