These timeless, classic stories have been gloriously illustrated and made accessible for younger children to read alone, or for all the family to enjoy together. This fresh approach brings the stories and their characters to life. There are also special pages giving background detail to set the scene of each story.
About the Author
Hans Christian Andersen is the author of such classic fairy tales as The Emperor's New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, and The Ugly Duckling. P. J. Lynch has illustrated picture book editions of such classics as A Christmas Carol, The Gift of the Magi, and The Steadfast Tin Solder. He also illustrated the bestselling The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, which earned him the Kate Greenaway Medal.
Read an Excerpt
The Snow Queen
By Hans Christian Andersen, Lucie Arnoux
Steerforth PressCopyright © 2015 Pushkin Press
All rights reserved.
The Mirror and the Pieces
Listen closely! We're about to begin. And when we reach the end of the tale, let's hope we know more than we do now, for it concerns an evil goblin, one of the very worst – the Devil himself! One day, the Devil was feeling mighty pleased with himself because he'd made a special mirror. The mirror took anything that was good or lovely and shrank it to almost nothing. But if something was useless or bad, the mirror magnified it and made it look even worse. The most charming landscape looked like boiled spinach in the mirror, while the nicest people turned nasty or stood on their heads with their middles missing, and their faces so twisted that nobody knew who they were. And if you had a freckle, you could be sure that the mirror would stretch it across your entire mouth and nose. "What a hoot!" cried the Devil. If someone had a kind thought, then a sneer would appear in the mirror, which made the old goblin laugh at his own cunning. The goblins who went to goblin school – for you see, the Devil ran a goblin school – all chattered about the miracle. They thought that now they could see what humans and the world really looked like. They ran everywhere with the mirror and, in the end, there was not one person or country that it didn't twist out of shape.
Then the goblins decided to fly up to Heaven, to mock the angels and God himself. The higher they flew with the mirror, the harder it laughed, and they could barely hold onto it. Higher and higher they flew, nearer and nearer to God and the angels – and then the mirror shook so hard with laughter that it slipped from their hands and tumbled down to earth, where it shattered into millions and billions of pieces.
That created more trouble than ever. Some pieces were hardly bigger than a grain of sand, and they flew all around the wide world – and whenever a piece got in someone's eye, it stuck fast. Then the person could only see what was wrong with everything, because each of these tiny bits had the same power as the whole mirror. Some people also got a sliver of mirror in their hearts – and that was truly terrible, because it turned their hearts into lumps of ice. Sometimes a piece was large enough to use as a windowpane; but it was no good looking at your friends through a window like that. Other pieces ended up in eyeglasses – and then it was awful when people put them on in order to see and do things properly.
It all tickled the Devil so much that he roared with laughter and his belly nearly split. All the while, more and more tiny shards of glass were flying about in the air.
And now we'll hear what happened next!CHAPTER 2
A Little Boy, a Little Girl
In the big city, there are so many houses and people that hardly anyone has room for a small garden. So most people have to make do with flowers in pots. And in this city lived two poor children who felt lucky, because they had a garden that was a bit larger than a flowerpot. They weren't brother and sister, yet they loved each other just as if they had been. Their parents lived right next to each other, in the garrets – the attic rooms – of two neighbouring buildings. Where the one roof jutted up against the other, a rain gutter ran between them and a small window poked out from each garret. If you stepped over the gutter, you could go out of one window and into the other.
Outside the windows, each family had a large wooden planter. In these boxes they grew herbs that they used for cooking, and a small rosebush that did very well. The parents came up with the idea of placing the two planters across the gutter, stretching nearly all the way from one window to the other and creating two banks of flowers. Pea shoots hung down over the edges of the planters, while the rosebushes sent out long stems that twined around the windows and nodded to each other, making a triumphal arch of greenery and blossom. The boxes were high and the children knew not to climb on them, but their parents had made a platform on the roof between the planters, and the children were allowed to go out and sit under the roses on their two little stools. There they would play together marvellously.
But when winter came, that pleasure was past. Often the windows frosted over completely. Then each child would heat a copper penny on the stove and lay the hot coin against the frozen pane to form a wonderful peephole – so round, so perfectly round. Through it peeked two sweet, gentle eyes, one from each window: the little boy and the little girl. His name was Kai and her name was Gerda. In the summer they could get to each other with a single leap, but in the winter they had to first go down many flights of stairs and then back up many more, while the snow flew around outside.
"The white bees are swarming," Grandmother said.
"Do they have a queen too?" asked Kai, because he knew that the real bees had a queen.
"They do!" said the old woman. "She flies just where they swarm the thickest. She's the biggest bee of all and she never rests on the ground, she just flies up again in a black cloud. Night after night, she flies through the winter streets of the city and peers into people's windows. And then the windows frost up with strange and curious patterns – just like flowers."
"Yes, we've seen them!" the children both exclaimed. And they knew then that Grandmother was telling the truth.
"Can the Snow Queen come in here?" asked Gerda.
"Just let her try," Kai said. "I'll set her on the hot stove, and then she'll melt."
But Grandmother said nothing. She just smoothed back the boy's hair and told other stories.
Back home that evening, when Kai was half undressed, he crawled up on the chair by the window and peered out of the tiny hole. A few snowflakes fell outside, and the largest of them hung on the edge of one flowerbox. The snowflake grew bigger and bigger, till at last it became an entire woman. She was clothed in the finest white gauze, which looked like it had been made from millions of starry flakes. She was exquisite but she was ice – dazzling, flashing ice – even though she was alive. Her eyes shone like two bright stars, but there was no peace or rest in them. She nodded toward the window and motioned with her hand. The boy became frightened and jumped off his chair; it was as if a giant bird had flown past the window outside.
The next day there came a clear frost – and then spring arrived. The sun shone, the green peeped out of the trees and bushes, the swallows built nests. Then the windows were lifted from their sills, and the small children sat once more in their tiny garden by the roof gutter, high above all the other floors below.
That summer the roses bloomed like never before. Gerda had learned a hymn and it had something about roses in it; the song made her think of her own roses. She sang it for Kai and he sang with her:
In the valleys, the roses grow
The child of God we'll come to know
And the children held hands, kissed the roses, and gazed into the blessed bright sunshine, speaking to it as if the child of God was really there. How lovely the summer days were and how pleasant, there among the cheerful roses that seemed as if they would never stop blooming.
One day, Kai and Gerda sat together looking at a picture book with animals and birds. It was then – just as the clock in the great steeple struck five – that Kai cried, "Ow! Something stung me in the heart! And now I've got something in my eye!"
Gerda placed her arms around his neck; he was blinking hard. But no, there was nothing to be seen in his eye.
"I think it's gone," he said. But it wasn't gone. It was one of those splinters of glass from the shattered mirror, the Devil's mirror. You remember – the terrible mirror that turned anything great and good into something puny and ugly – the glass that made anything plain or evil look bigger, that made every blemish or mistake stick out. And a splinter had gone right into his heart too. Soon it would become just like a lump of ice. The splinter no longer hurt – but it was there all the same.
"What are you crying for?" he asked. "You look revolting when you cry. There's nothing wrong with me!" he shouted. "Ugh! a worm's been chewing on that rose! And look, that other one's crooked! They're disgusting! They look as ugly as the box they're in!" He kicked the planter hard and tore both roses from their stems.
"Kai, what are you doing?" cried Gerda. And when he saw how frightened she was, he tore off another rose and left, going in through his window and away from his sweet young friend.
Afterwards, anytime she came by with the picture book, he would say it was for babies, and when Grandmother told stories, he always made some objection. Whenever he could, he'd put on a pair of glasses and walk behind the old woman, mimicking the way she spoke. It was uncanny; it made people laugh. Soon he was able to speak and walk just like everyone on their street. He could imitate anything that was odd or unattractive about them, and people said, "What a talent that boy has!" But it was the splinter of glass lodged in his eye – and the splinter lodged in his heart – that made him tease others, even young Gerda, who adored him with all her heart.
His games were quite different now from what they had been before he'd become so clever. One winter day, as snowflakes flew around, he came by with a big magnifying glass and held out a flap of his blue coat, letting the flakes fall onto it.
"Here! Look through the glass, Gerda," he said. The magnifying glass made each snowflake appear much larger – like a splendid flower or a six-pointed star, lovely to look at.
"See, how cunning!" said Kai. "Much more interesting than real flowers. And they don't have a single flaw. They're perfectly symmetrical – as long as they don't melt."
Kai showed up again a little while later, with his big gloves on and his sled over his shoulder. He yelled into Gerda's ear: "I've got permission to go sledding on the main square with the other boys!" And off he went.
Over on the square, the boldest boys kept trying to fasten their sleds to farmers' carts, so that they would be pulled along behind. It was great fun. As they were playing, a large sleigh came driving past. The sleigh was painted white, and in it sat a figure wrapped in a coat and wearing a hat of white fur. The sleigh made two circuits of the square. Quickly, Kai tied his sled behind it and, just like that, he was being pulled along. They went faster and faster before turning into the next street. The driver of the sleigh turned around and nodded to Kai in a friendly fashion, as if they knew each other. Every time that Kai thought about leaning forward to untie his little sled, the figure would nod to him again, and then Kai would remain seated.
They drove straight out of the city gates and, as they sped away, the snow began to fall so furiously that he couldn't see his hand in front of his face. Then he let go of the rope, to free himself from the sleigh – but it was no use, his sled hung fast and kept rushing along like the wind. He shouted at the top of his lungs but no one seemed to hear him, and the snow whirled and his sled flew along, springing into the air now and then as if rushing over ditches and fences. He was scared now, and he tried to say his prayers, but all he could remember were his times tables.
The snowflakes grew larger and larger, till at last they looked like big white chickens. Suddenly they leapt to one side and the sleigh stopped. The driver stood up, fur coat and hat completely covered with snow. It was a lady, tall and erect, brilliantly white: it was the Snow Queen.
"We have come far," she said, "but it is freezing cold. Crawl into my bearskin!" And she took Kai into the sleigh with her and threw her fur around him. He felt as if he were sinking into a snowdrift.
"Are you still freezing?" she asked, and then she kissed his forehead. Ooh! Her kiss was colder than ice and went straight to his heart, which was already half frozen. He felt as if he would die – but only for a moment. Then he felt fine; he no longer noticed the chill around him.
"My sled!" was the first thing he remembered. "Don't forget my sled!" So it was tied to one of the white chickens, and after that the chicken flew with the sled on its back. The Snow Queen kissed Kai once more. Then he forgot young Gerda, and Grandmother, and everyone at home.
"No more kisses now," she said. "Otherwise, I'll kiss you to death."
Kai gazed at her. She was so beautiful, and he could not imagine a more intelligent, lovely face. She no longer seemed made of ice, like she had when she'd sat outside his window and waved at him. In his eyes the Snow Queen was perfect, and he didn't feel a bit scared. He told her that he knew how to do arithmetic in his head, and fractions, and how many square miles and inhabitants there were in different countries – and the whole time he was speaking, she smiled at him.
Then it seemed to him that what he knew wasn't nearly enough, and he looked up into the immense empty sky, and away she flew with him. They flew up high in a black cloud, and the storm whooshed and whistled as if it were singing old ballads. On they flew, over forest and lake, over land and sea. Beneath them the cold wind roared, the wolves howled, the snow sparkled, and across the snow flew black, screeching crows – while above them the moon shone large and bright, and Kai fixed his eyes upon it through the long, long winter night.
And when day came at last, Kai was sleeping at the feet of the Snow Queen.CHAPTER 3
The Flower Garden of the Old Woman Who Cast Spells
But how did Gerda feel when Kai didn't return? Where was he? Nobody knew; nobody could say. The boys only said that they'd seen him tie his sled to a large, magnificent sleigh that drove down the street and out of the city gates. No one knew where he was, and many tears fell; Gerda wept long and hard. Then they said that he was dead, that he'd sunk into the river that ran close to the city and drowned. Oh dear! Those winter days were long indeed.
Then spring arrived. And with it, warm sunshine.
"Kai is dead and gone!" Gerda cried.
"I don't believe it," the sunshine said.
"He's dead and gone!" she told the swallows.
"We don't believe it!" they replied. And in the end, Gerda didn't believe it either.
"I'm going to put on my new red shoes," she said early one morning. "The pair that Kai's never seen. And then I'm going down to ask the river."
It was very early. She kissed Grandmother as she slept, put on the red shoes, and walked out of the gates to the river, all alone.
"Is it true that you took my playmate?" she asked the river. "I'll give you my red shoes if you promise to give him back to me."
She thought that the waves nodded to her rather strangely. She took off her red shoes – the dearest things she owned – and threw them into the river. But they fell close to the shore, and the small waves bore them right back to where she was standing. As though the river didn't want to take her favourite belongings if it didn't have Kai.
But Gerda thought that perhaps she hadn't thrown her shoes out far enough. So she crawled onto a boat that nestled in the reeds. She went out to the end of the boat farthest from shore, and she threw the shoes out again. But the boat wasn't tied fast, and her movement made it glide away from shore. She hurried to climb out, but before she could, the boat had drifted almost a yard from the bank. And now it started to float downstream.
Gerda became quite frightened and started to cry. But no one heard her, except for the house sparrows – and they couldn't carry her to land. Instead, they flew along the banks and sang, as if to comfort her, "Here we are! Here we are!" The boat drifted with the current. Gerda sat very still in her stockinged feet. Her small red shoes floated behind, but they couldn't catch the boat, because it moved faster.
Excerpted from The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, Lucie Arnoux. Copyright © 2015 Pushkin Press. Excerpted by permission of Steerforth Press.
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