Andersen's Fairy Tales HTML version

The Bell
People said "The Evening Bell is sounding, the sun is setting." For a strange wondrous tone
was heard in the narrow streets of a large town. It was like the sound of a church-bell: but it
was only heard for a moment, for the rolling of the carriages and the voices of the
multitude made too great a noise.
Those persons who were walking outside the town, where the houses were farther apart,
with gardens or little fields between them, could see the evening sky still better, and heard
the sound of the bell much more distinctly. It was as if the tones came from a church in the
still forest; people looked thitherward, and felt their minds attuned most solemnly.
A long time passed, and people said to each other--"I wonder if there is a church out in the
wood? The bell has a tone that is wondrous sweet; let us stroll thither, and examine the
matter nearer." And the rich people drove out, and the poor walked, but the way seemed
strangely long to them; and when they came to a clump of willows which grew on the skirts
of the forest, they sat down, and looked up at the long branches, and fancied they were now
in the depth of the green wood. The confectioner of the town came out, and set up his booth
there; and soon after came another confectioner, who hung a bell over his stand, as a sign
or ornament, but it had no clapper, and it was tarred over to preserve it from the rain. When
all the people returned home, they said it had been very romantic, and that it was quite a
different sort of thing to a pic-nic or tea-party. There were three persons who asserted they
had penetrated to the end of the forest, and that they had always heard the wonderful
sounds of the bell, but it had seemed to them as if it had come from the town. One wrote a
whole poem about it, and said the bell sounded like the voice of a mother to a good dear
child, and that no melody was sweeter than the tones of the bell. The king of the country
was also observant of it, and vowed that he who could discover whence the sounds
proceeded, should have the title of "Universal Bell-ringer," even if it were not really a bell.
Many persons now went to the wood, for the sake of getting the place, but one only
returned with a sort of explanation; for nobody went far enough, that one not further than
the others. However, he said that the sound proceeded from a very large owl, in a hollow
tree; a sort of learned owl, that continually knocked its head against the branches. But
whether the sound came from his head or from the hollow tree, that no one could say with
certainty. So now he got the place of "Universal Bellringer," and wrote yearly a short
treatise "On the Owl"; but everybody was just as wise as before.
It was the day of confirmation. The clergyman had spoken so touchingly, the children who
were confirmed had been greatly moved; it was an eventful day for them; from children
they become all at once grown-up-persons; it was as if their infant souls were now to fly all
at once into persons with more understanding. The sun was shining gloriously; the children
that had been confirmed went out of the town; and from the wood was borne towards them
the sounds of the unknown bell with wonderful distinctness. They all immediately felt a
wish to go thither; all except three. One of them had to go home to try on a ball-dress; for it
was just the dress and the ball which had caused her to be confirmed this time, for
otherwise she would not have come; the other was a poor boy, who had borrowed his coat