Little Ida's Flowers by Hans Christian Andersen
MY POOR flowers are quite faded! said little Ida. Only yesterday
evening they were so pretty, and now all the leaves are drooping. Why
do they do that? she asked of the student, who sat on the sofa. He was
a great favorite with her, because he used to tell her the prettiest of
stories and cut out the most amusing things in paperhearts with
little ladies dancing in them, and high castles with doors which one
could open and shut. He was a merry student. Why do the flowers look
so wretched to-day? asked she again, showing him a bouquet of faded
Do you not know? replied the student. The flowers went to a ball
last night, and are tired. That's why they hang their heads.
What an idea, exclaimed little Ida. Flowers cannot dance!
Of course they can dance! When it is dark, and we are all gone to
bed, they jump about as merrily as possible. They have a ball almost
And can their children go to the ball? asked Ida.
Oh, yes, said the student; daisies and lilies of the valley, that
are quite little.
And when is it that the prettiest flowers dance?
Have you not been to the large garden outside the town gate, in
front of the castle where the king lives in summerthe garden that is
so full of lovely flowers? You surely remember the swans which come
swimming up when you give them crumbs of bread? Believe me, they have
capital balls there.
I was out there only yesterday with my mother, said Ida, but
there were no leaves on the trees, and I did not see a single flower.
What has become of them? There were so many in the summer.
They are inside the palace now, replied the student. As soon as
the king and all his court go back to the town, the flowers hasten out
of the garden and into the palace, where they have famous times. Oh, if
you could but see them! The two most beautiful roses seat themselves on
the throne and act king and queen. All the tall red cockscombs stand
before them on either side and bow; they are the chamberlains. Then all
the pretty flowers come, and there is a great ball. The blue violets
represent the naval cadets; they dance with hyacinths and crocuses, who
take the part of young ladies. The tulips and the tall tiger lilies are
old ladies,dowagers,who see to it that the dancing is well done and
that all things go on properly.
But, asked little Ida, is there no one there to harm the flowers
for daring to dance in the king's castle?
No one knows anything about it, replied the student. Once during
the night, perhaps, the old steward of the castle does, to be sure,
come in with his great bunch of keys to see that all is right; but the
moment the flowers hear the clanking of the keys they stand stock-still
or hide themselves behind the long silk window curtains. Then the old
steward will say, 'Do I not smell flowers here?' but he can't see
That is very funny, exclaimed little Ida, clapping her hands with
glee; but should not I be able to see the flowers?
To be sure you can see them, replied the student. You have only
to remember to peep in at the windows the next time you go to the
palace. I did so this very day, and saw a long yellow lily lying on the
sofa. She was a court lady.
Do the flowers in the Botanical Garden go to the ball? Can they go
all that long distance?
Certainly, said the student; for the flowers can fly if they
please. Have you not seen the beautiful red and yellow butterflies that
look so much like flowers? They are in fact nothing else. They have
flown off their stalks high into the air and flapped their little
petals just as if they were wings, and thus they came to fly about. As
a reward for always behaving well they have leave to fly about in the
daytime, too, instead of sitting quietly on their stalks at home, till
at last the flower petals have become real wings. That you have seen
It may be, though, that the flowers in the Botanical Garden have
never been in the king's castle. They may not have heard what frolics
take place there every night. But I'll tell you; if, the next time you
go to the garden, you whisper to one of the flowers that a great ball
is to be given yonder in the castle, the news will spread from flower
to flower and they will all fly away. Then should the professor come to
his garden there won't be a flower there, and he will not be able to
imagine what has become of them.
But how can one flower tell it to another? for I am sure the
flowers cannot speak.
No; you are right there, returned the student. They cannot speak,
but they can make signs. Have you ever noticed that when the wind blows
a little the flowers nod to each other and move all their green leaves?
They can make each other understand in this way just as well as we do
And does the professor understand their pantomime? asked Ida.
Oh, certainly; at least part of it. He came into his garden one
morning and saw that a great stinging nettle was making signs with its
leaves to a beautiful red carnation. It was saying, 'You are so
beautiful, and I love you with all my heart!' But the professor doesn't
like that sort of thing, and he rapped the nettle on her leaves, which
are her fingers; but she stung him, and since then he has never dared
to touch a nettle.
Ha! ha! laughed little Ida, that is very funny.
How can one put such stuff into a child's head? said a tiresome
councilor, who had come to pay a visit. He did not like the student and
always used to scold when he saw him cutting out the droll pasteboard
figures, such as a man hanging on a gibbet and holding a heart in his
hand to show that he was a stealer of hearts, or an old witch riding on
a broomstick and carrying her husband on the end of her nose. The
councilor could not bear such jokes, and he would always say, as now:
How can any one put such notions into a child's head? They are only
But to little Ida all that the student had told her was very
entertaining, and she kept thinking it over. She was sure now that her
pretty yesterday's flowers hung their heads because they were tired,
and that they were tired because they had been to the ball. So she took
them to the table where stood her toys. Her doll lay sleeping, but Ida
said to her, You must get up, and be content to sleep to-night in the
table drawer, for the poor flowers are ill and must have your bed to
sleep in; then perhaps they will be well again by to-morrow.
And she at once took the doll out, though the doll looked vexed at
giving up her cradle to the flowers.
Ida laid the flowers in the doll's bed and drew the coverlet quite
over them, telling them to lie still while she made some tea for them
to drink, in order that they might be well next day. And she drew the
curtains about the bed, that the sun might not shine into their eyes.
All the evening she thought of nothing but what the student had told
her; and when she went to bed herself, she ran to the window where her
mother's tulips and hyacinths stood. She whispered to them, I know
very well that you are going to a ball to-night. The flowers pretended
not to understand and did not stir so much as a leaf, but that did not
prevent Ida from knowing what she knew.
When she was in bed she lay for a long time thinking how delightful
it must be to see the flower dance in the king's castle, and said to
herself, I wonder if my flowers have really been there. Then she fell
* * * * *
In the night she woke. She had been dreaming of the student and the
flowers and the councilor, who told her they were making game of her.
All was still in the room, the night lamp was burning on the table, and
her father and mother were both asleep.
I wonder if my flowers are still lying in Sophie's bed, she
thought to herself. How I should like to know! She raised herself a
little and looked towards the door, which stood half open; within lay
the flowers and all her playthings. She listened, and it seemed to her
that she heard some one playing upon the piano, but quite softly, and
more sweetly than she had ever heard before.
Now all the flowers are certainly dancing, thought she. Oh, how I
should like to see them! but she dared not get up for fear of waking
her father and mother. If they would only come in here! But the
flowers did not come, and the music went on so prettily that she could
restrain herself no longer, and she crept out of her little bed, stole
softly to the door, and peeped into the room. Oh, what a pretty sight
[Illustration: On the floor all the flowers danced gracefully....]
There was no night lamp in the room, still it was quite bright; the
moon shone through the window down upon the floor, and it was almost
like daylight. The hyacinths and tulips stood there in two rows. Not
one was left on the window, where stood the empty flower pots. On the
floor all the flowers danced gracefully, making all the turns, and
holding each other by their long green leaves as they twirled around.
At the piano sat a large yellow lily, which little Ida remembered to
have seen in the summer, for she recollected that the student had said,
How like she is to Miss Laura, and how every one had laughed at the
remark. But now she really thought that the lily was very like the
young lady. It had exactly her manner of playingbending its long
yellow face, now to one side and now to the other, and nodding its head
to mark the time of the beautiful music.
A tall blue crocus now stepped forward, sprang upon the table on
which lay Ida's playthings, went straight to the doll's cradle, and
drew back the curtains. There lay the sick flowers; but they rose at
once, greeted the other flowers, and made a sign that they would like
to join in the dance. They did not look at all ill now.
Suddenly a heavy noise was heard, as of something falling from the
table. Ida glanced that way and saw that it was the rod she had found
on her bed on Shrove Tuesday, and that it seemed to wish to belong to
the flowers. It was a pretty rod, for a wax figure that looked exactly
like the councilor sat upon the head of it.
The rod began to dance, and the wax figure that was riding on it
became long and great, like the councilor himself, and began to
exclaim, How can one put such stuff into a child's head? It was very
funny to see, and little Ida could not help laughing, for the rod kept
on dancing, and the councilor had to dance too,there was no help for
it,whether he remained tall and big or became a little wax figure
again. But the other flowers said a good word for him, especially those
that had lain in the doll's bed, so that at last the rod left it in
At the same time there was a loud knocking inside the drawer where
Sophie, Ida's doll, lay with many other toys. She put out her head and
asked in great astonishment: Is there a ball here? Why has no one told
me of it? She sat down upon the table, expecting some of the flowers
to ask her to dance with them; but as they did not, she let herself
fall upon the floor so as to make a great noise; and then the flowers
all came crowding about to ask if she were hurt, and they were very
politeespecially those that had lain in her bed.
She was not at all hurt, and the flowers thanked her for the use of
her pretty bed and took her into the middle of the room, where the moon
shone, and danced with her, while the other flowers formed a circle
around them. So now Sophie was pleased and said they might keep her
bed, for she did not mind sleeping in the drawer the least in the
But the flowers replied: We thank you most heartily for your
kindness, but we shall not live long enough to need it; we shall be
quite dead by to-morrow. But tell little Ida she is to bury us out in
the garden near the canary bird's grave; and then we shall wake again
next summer and be even more beautiful than we have been this year.
Oh, no, you must not die, said Sophie, kissing them as she spoke;
and then a great company of flowers came dancing in. Ida could not
imagine where they could have come from, unless from the king's garden.
Two beautiful roses led the way, wearing golden crowns; then followed
wallflowers and pinks, who bowed to all present. They brought a band of
music with them. Wild hyacinths and little white snowdrops jingled
merry bells. It was a most remarkable orchestra. Following these were
an immense number of flowers, all dancingviolets, daisies, lilies of
the valley, and others which it was a delight to see.
At last all the happy flowers wished one another good night. Little
Ida, too, crept back to bed, to dream of all that she had seen.
When she rose next morning she went at once to her little table to
see if her flowers were there. She drew aside the curtains of her
little bed; yes, there lay the flowers, but they were much more faded
to-day than yesterday. Sophie too was in the drawer, but she looked
Do you remember what you were to say to me? asked Ida of her.
But Sophie looked quite stupid and had not a word to say.
You are not kind at all, said Ida; and yet all the flowers let
you dance with them.
Then she chose from her playthings a little pasteboard box with
birds painted on it, and in it she laid the dead flowers.
That shall be your pretty casket, said she; and when my cousins
come to visit me, by and by, they shall help me to bury you in the
garden, in order that next summer you may grow again and be still more
The two cousins were two merry boys, Gustave and Adolphe. Their
father had given them each a new crossbow, which they brought with them
to show to Ida. She told them of the poor flowers that were dead and
were to be buried in the garden. So the two boys walked in front, with
their bows slung across their shoulders, and little Ida followed,
carrying the dead flowers in their pretty coffin. A little grave was
dug for them in the garden. Ida first kissed the flowers and then laid
them in the earth, and Adolphe and Gustave shot with their crossbows
over the grave, for they had neither guns nor cannons.