The Leaping Match by Hans Christian Andersen
THE Flea, the Grasshopper, and the Frog once wanted to see which of
them could jump the highest. They made a festival, and invited the
whole world and every one else besides who liked to come and see the
grand sight. Three famous jumpers they were, as all should say, when
they met together in the room.
I will give my daughter to him who shall jump highest, said the
King; it would be too bad for you to have the jumping, and for us to
offer no prize.
The Flea was the first to come forward. He had most exquisite
manners, and bowed to the company on every side; for he was of noble
blood, and, besides, was accustomed to the society of man, and that, of
course, had been an advantage to him.
Next came the Grasshopper. He was not quite so elegantly formed as
the Flea, but he knew perfectly well how to conduct himself, and he
wore the green uniform which belonged to him by right of birth. He
said, moreover, that he came of a very ancient Egyptian family, and
that in the house where he then lived he was much thought of.
The fact was that he had been just brought out of the fields and put
in a card-house three stories high, and built on purpose for him, with
the colored sides inwards, and doors and windows cut out of the Queen
of Hearts. And I sing so well, said he, that sixteen parlor-bred
crickets, who have chirped from infancy and yet got no one to build
them card-houses to live in, have fretted themselves thinner even than
before, from sheer vexation on hearing me.
It was thus that the Flea and the Grasshopper made the most of
themselves, each thinking himself quite an equal match for the
[Illustration: He made a sideways jump into the lap of the
The Leapfrog said not a word; but people said that perhaps he
thought the more; and the housedog who snuffed at him with his nose
allowed that he was of good family. The old councilor, who had had
three orders given him in vain for keeping quiet, asserted that the
Leapfrog was a prophet, for that one could see on his back whether the
coming winter was to be severe or mild, which is more than one can see
on the back of the man who writes the almanac.
I say nothing for the present, exclaimed the King; yet I have my
own opinion, for I observe everything.
And now the match began. The Flea jumped so high that no one could
see what had become of him; and so they insisted that he had not jumped
at allwhich was disgraceful after all the fuss he had made.
The Grasshopper jumped only half as high; but he leaped into the
King's face, who was disgusted by his rudeness.
The Leapfrog stood for a long time, as if lost in thought; people
began to think he would not jump at all.
I'm afraid he is ill! said the dog and he went to snuff at him
again; when lo! he suddenly made a sideways jump into the lap of the
princess, who sat close by on a little golden stool.
There is nothing higher than my daughter, said the King;
therefore to bound into her lap is the highest jump that can be made.
Only one of good understanding would ever have thought of that. Thus
the Frog has shown that he has sense. He has brains in his head, that
And so he won the princess.
I jumped the highest, for all that, said the Flea; but it's all
the same to me. The princess may have the stiff-legged, slimy creature,
if she likes. In this world merit seldom meets its reward. Dullness and
heaviness win the day. I am too light and airy for a stupid world.
And so the Flea went into foreign service.
The Grasshopper sat without on a green bank and reflected on the
world and its ways; and he too said, Yes, dullness and heaviness win
the day; a fine exterior is what people care for nowadays. And then he
began to sing in his own peculiar wayand it is from his song that we
have taken this little piece of history, which may very possibly be all
untrue, although it does stand printed here in black and white.