The Dream of
Little Tuk by Hans Christian Andersen
Ah! yes, that was little Tuk: in reality his name was not Tuk, but that was
what he called himself before he could speak plain: he meant it for Charles,
and it is all well enough if one does but know it. He had now to take care of
his little sister Augusta, who was much younger than himself, and he was,
besides, to learn his lesson at the same time; but these two things would not
do together at all. There sat the poor little fellow, with his sister on his
lap, and he sang to her all the songs he knew; and he glanced the while from
time to time into the geography-book that lay open before him. By the next
morning he was to have learnt all the towns in Zealand by heart, and to know
about them all that is possible to be known.
His mother now came home, for she had been out, and took little Augusta on her
arm. Tuk ran quickly to the window, and read so eagerly that he pretty nearly
read his eyes out; for it got darker and darker, but his mother had no money
to buy a candle.
"There goes the old washerwoman over the way," said his mother, as she looked
out of the window. "The poor woman can hardly drag herself along, and she must
now drag the pail home from the fountain. Be a good boy, Tukey, and run across
and help the old woman, won't you?"
So Tuk ran over quickly and helped her; but when he came back again into the
room it was quite dark, and as to a light, there was no thought of such a
thing. He was now to go to bed; that was an old turn-up bedstead; in it he lay
and thought about his geography lesson, and of Zealand, and of all that his
master had told him. He ought, to be sure, to have read over his lesson again,
but that, you know, he could not do. He therefore put his geography-book under
his pillow, because he had heard that was a very good thing to do when one
wants to learn one's lesson; but one cannot, however, rely upon it entirely.
Well, there he lay, and thought and thought, and all at once it was just as if
someone kissed his eyes and mouth: he slept, and yet he did not sleep; it was
as though the old washerwoman gazed on him with her mild eyes and said, "It
were a great sin if you were not to know your lesson tomorrow morning. You
have aided me, I therefore will now help you; and the loving God will do so at
all times." And all of a sudden the book under Tuk's pillow began scraping and
"Kickery-ki! kluk! kluk! kluk!"--that was an old hen who came creeping along,
and she was from Kjoge. "I am a Kjoger hen,"* said she, and then she related
how many inhabitants there were there, and about the battle that had taken
place, and which, after all, was hardly worth talking about.
* Kjoge, a town in the bay of Kjoge. "To see the Kjoge hens," is an
expression similar to "showing a child London," which is said to be done by
taking his head in both bands, and so lifting him off the ground. At the
invasion of the English in 1807, an encounter of a no very glorious nature
took place between the British troops and the undisciplined Danish militia.
"Kribledy, krabledy--plump!" down fell somebody: it was a wooden bird, the
popinjay used at the shooting-matches at Prastoe. Now he said that there were
just as many inhabitants as he had nails in his body; and he was very proud.
"Thorwaldsen lived almost next door to me.* Plump! Here I lie capitally."
* Prastoe, a still smaller town than Kjoge. Some hundred paces from it lies
the manor-house Ny Soe, where Thorwaldsen, the famed sculptor, generally
sojourned during his stay in Denmark, and where he called many of his immortal
works into existence.
But little Tuk was no longer lying down: all at once he was on horseback. On
he went at full gallop, still galloping on and on. A knight with a gleaming
plume, and most magnificently dressed, held him before him on the horse, and
thus they rode through the wood to the old town of Bordingborg, and that was a
large and very lively town. High towers rose from the castle of the king, and
the brightness of many candles streamed from all the windows; within was dance
and song, and King Waldemar and the young, richly-attired maids of honor
danced together. The morn now came; and as soon as the sun appeared, the whole
town and the king's palace crumbled together, and one tower after the other;
and at last only a single one remained standing where the castle had been
before,* and the town was so small and poor, and the school boys came along
with their books under their arms, and said, "2000 inhabitants!" but that was
not true, for there were not so many.
* Bordingborg, in the reign of King Waldemar, a considerable place, now an
unimportant little town. One solitary tower only, and some remains of a wall,
show where the castle once stood.
And little Tukey lay in his bed: it seemed to him as if he dreamed, and yet as
if he were not dreaming; however, somebody was close beside him.
"Little Tukey! Little Tukey!" cried someone near. It was a seaman, quite a
little personage, so little as if he were a midshipman; but a midshipman it
"Many remembrances from Corsor.* That is a town that is just rising into
importance; a lively town that has steam-boats and stagecoaches: formerly
people called it ugly, but that is no longer true. I lie on the sea," said
Corsor; "I have high roads and gardens, and I have given birth to a poet who
was witty and amusing, which all poets are not. I once intended to equip a
ship that was to sail all round the earth; but I did not do it, although I
could have done so: and then, too, I smell so deliciously, for close before
the gate bloom the most beautiful roses."
* Corsor, on the Great Belt, called, formerly, before the introduction of
steam-vessels, when travellers were often obliged to wait a long time for a
favorable wind, "the most tiresome of towns." The poet Baggesen was born here.
Little Tuk looked, and all was red and green before his eyes; but as soon as
the confusion of colors was somewhat over, all of a sudden there appeared a
wooded slope close to the bay, and high up above stood a magnificent old
church, with two high pointed towers. From out the hill-side spouted fountains
in thick streams of water, so that there was a continual splashing; and close
beside them sat an old king with a golden crown upon his white head: that was
King Hroar, near the fountains, close to the town of Roeskilde, as it is now
called. And up the slope into the old church went all the kings and queens of
Denmark, hand in hand, all with their golden crowns; and the organ played and
the fountains rustled. Little Tuk saw all, heard all. "Do not forget the
diet," said King Hroar.*
* Roeskilde, once the capital of Denmark. The town takes its name from
King Hroar, and the many fountains in the neighborhood. In the beautiful
cathedral the greater number of the kings and queens of Denmark are interred.
In Roeskilde, too, the members of the Danish Diet assemble.
Again all suddenly disappeared. Yes, and whither? It seemed to him just as if
one turned over a leaf in a book. And now stood there an old peasant-woman,
who came from Soroe,* where grass grows in the market-place. She had an old
grey linen apron hanging over her head and back: it was so wet, it certainly
must have been raining. "Yes, that it has," said she; and she now related many
pretty things out of Holberg's comedies, and about Waldemar and Absalon; but
all at once she cowered together, and her head began shaking backwards and
forwards, and she looked as she were going to make a spring. "Croak! croak!"
said she. "It is wet, it is wet; there is such a pleasant deathlike stillness
in Sorbe!" She was now suddenly a frog, "Croak"; and now she was an old woman.
"One must dress according to the weather," said she. "It is wet; it is wet. My
town is just like a bottle; and one gets in by the neck, and by the neck one
must get out again! In former times I had the finest fish, and now I have
fresh rosy-cheeked boys at the bottom of the bottle, who learn wisdom, Hebrew,
* Sorbe, a very quiet little town, beautifully situated, surrounded by woods
and lakes. Holberg, Denmark's Moliere, founded here an academy for the sons of
the nobles. The poets Hauch and Ingemann were appointed professors here. The
latter lives there still.
When she spoke it sounded just like the noise of frogs, or as if one walked
with great boots over a moor; always the same tone, so uniform and so tiring
that little Tuk fell into a good sound sleep, which, by the bye, could not do
him any harm.
But even in this sleep there came a dream, or whatever else it was: his little
sister Augusta, she with the blue eyes and the fair curling hair, was suddenly
a tall, beautiful girl, and without having wings was yet able to fly; and she
now flew over Zealand--over the green woods and the blue lakes.
"Do you hear the cock crow, Tukey? Cock-a-doodle-doo! The cocks are flying up
fro m Kjoge! You will have a farm-yard, so large, oh! so very large! You will
suffer neither hunger nor thirst! You will get on in the world! You will be a
rich and happy man! Your house will exalt itself like King Waldemar's tower,
and will be richly decorated with marble statues, like that at Prastoe. You
understand what I mean. Your name shall circulate with renown all round the
earth, like unto the ship that was to have sailed from Corsor; and in
"Do not forget the diet!" said King Hroar.
"Then you will speak well and wisely, little Tukey; and when at last you sink
into your grave, you shall sleep as quietly----"
"As if I lay in Soroe," said Tuk, awaking. It was bright day, and he was now
quite unable to call to mind his dream; that, however, was not at all
necessary, for one may not know what the future will bring.
And out of bed he jumped, and read in his book, and now all at once he knew
his whole lesson. And the old washerwoman popped her head in at the door,
nodded to him friendly, and said, "Thanks, many thanks, my good child, for
your help! May the good ever-loving God fulfil your loveliest dream!"
Little Tukey did not at all know what he had dreamed, but the loving God knew