Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wrote a letter on a dried fish, as she had no paper

The loaves and the ham were finished, and Gerda and the reindeer were in Lapland.

They stopped in front of a little hut. Its roof sloped down almost to the ground, and the door was so low that to get into the hut one had to creep on hands and knees. How the reindeer squeezed through I cannot tell, but there he was in the little hut, telling an old Lapp woman who was frying fish over a lamp, first his own story and then the sad story of Gerda and little Kay.

"Oh, you poor creatures," said the Lapp woman, "the Snow Queen is not in Lapland at present. She is hundreds of miles away at her palace in Finland. But I will give you a note to a Finn woman, and she will direct you better than I can." And the Lapp woman wrote a letter on a dried fish, as she had no paper.

Then, when Gerda had warmed herself by the lamp, the Lapp woman tied her on to the reindeer again, and they squeezed through the little door and were once more out in the wide world.

On and on they sped through the long night, while the blue northern lights flickered in the sky overhead, and the crisp snow crackled beneath their feet.

At last they reached Finland and knocked on the Finn woman's chimney, for she had no door at all. Then they squeezed down the chimney and found themselves in a very hot little room.

The old woman at once loosened Gerda's things, and took off her mittens and boots. Then she put ice on the reindeer's head. Now that her visitors were more comfortable she could look at the letter they brought. She read it three times and then put it in the fish-pot, for this old woman never wasted anything.

Suddenly they stopped before a little house, which looked very miserable. The roof reached to the ground; and the door was so low, that the family were obliged to creep upon their stomachs when they went in or out. Nobody was at home except an old Lapland woman, who was dressing fish by the light of an oil lamp. And the Reindeer told her the whole of Gerda's history, but first of all his own; for that seemed to him of much greater importance. Gerda was so chilled that she could not speak.

"Poor thing," said the Lapland woman, "you have far to run still. You have more than a hundred miles to go before you get to Finland; there the Snow Queen has her country-house, and burns blue lights every evening. I will give you a few words from me, which I will write on a dried haberdine, for paper I have none; this you can take with you to the Finland woman, and she will be able to give you more information than I can."

When Gerda had warmed herself, and had eaten and drunk, the Lapland woman wrote a few words on a dried haberdine, begged Gerda to take care of them, put her on the Reindeer, bound her fast, and away sprang the animal. "Ddsa! Ddsa!" was again heard in the air; the most charming blue lights burned the whole night in the sky, and at last they came to Finland. They knocked at the chimney of the Finland woman; for as to a door, she had none.

There was such a heat inside that the Finland woman herself went about almost naked. She was diminutive and dirty. She immediately loosened little Gerda's clothes, pulled off her thick gloves and boots; for otherwise the heat would have been too great--and after laying a piece of ice on the Reindeer's head, read what was written on the fish-skin. She read it three times: she then knew it by heart; so she put the fish into the cupboard--for it might very well be eaten, and she never threw anything away.

Hans Christian Andersen: Andersen's Fairy Tales

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