The Drop of Water by Hans Christian Andersen
YOU know, surely, what the microscope isthat wonderful little
glass which makes everything appear a hundred times larger than it
If you look through a microscope at a single drop of ditch water,
you will see a thousand odd-looking creatures, such as you never could
imagine dwelled in water. They do not look unlike a whole plateful of
shrimps, all jumping and crowding upon each other. So fierce are these
little creatures that they will tear off each other's arms and legs
without the least mercy, and yet after their fashion they look merry
Now there was once an old man, whom his neighbors called Cribbley
Crabbleya curious name, to be sure, which meant something like
creep-and-crawl. He always liked to make the most of everything, and
when he could not manage it in the ordinary way, he tried magic.
One day he sat looking through his microscope at a drop of water
that had been brought from a neighboring ditch. What a scene of
scrambling and swarming it was, to be sure! All the thousands of little
imps in the water jumped and sprang about, devouring each other, or
tearing each other to bits.
Upon my word this is really shocking. There must surely be some way
to make them live in peace and quiet, so that each attends only to his
own concerns. And he thought and thought, but still could not hit upon
any plan, so he must needs have recourse to conjuring.
I must give them color so that they may be seen more plainly, said
he. Accordingly he poured something that looked like a drop of red
winebut which in reality was witch's bloodupon the drop of water.
Immediately all the strange little creatures became red all over, and
looked for all the world like a whole town full of naked red Indians.
Why, what have you here? asked another old magician, who had no
name at all, which made him even more remarkable than Cribbley
If you can find out what it is, replied Cribbley Crabbley, I will
give it you; but I warn you you'll not do so easily.
The conjurer without a name looked through the microscope, and it
seemed to him that the scene before him was a whole town, in which the
people ran about naked in the wildest way. It was quite shocking! Still
more horrible was it to see how they kicked and cuffed, struggled and
fought, pecked, bit, tore, and swallowed, each his neighbor. Those that
were under wanted to be at the top, while those that chanced to be at
the top must needs thrust themselves underneath.
And now look, his leg is longer than mine, so off with it! one
seemed to be saying. Another had a little lump behind his ear,an
innocent little lump enough,but it seemed to pain him, and therefore
the others seemed determined that it should pain him more. So they
hacked at it, and dragged the poor thing about, and at last ate him up,
all on account of the little lump. One only of the creatures was quiet,
a modest little maid, who sat by herself evidently wishing for nothing
but peace and quietness. The others would not have it so, however. They
soon pulled the little damsel forward, cuffed and tore her, and then
ate her up.
This is uncommonly droll and amusing! said the nameless magician.
Yes. But what do you think it is? asked Cribbley Crabbley. Can
you make it out?
It is easy enough to guess, to be sure, was the reply of the
nameless magician; easy enough. It is either Paris or Copenhagen, or
some other great city; I don't know which, for they are all alike. It
is some great city, of course.
It is a drop of ditch-water, said Cribbley Crabbley.