The Complete Fairy Tales & Other Stories
By Hans Christian Andersen - online book

Oxford Complete Illustrated Edition all his stories written between 1835 and 1872.

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front of a great cave overgrown with delicate green trailing plants looking like embroidered carpets.
1 Now we shall see what you will dream of here to-night,' said the youngest brother ; and he showed her to her bed-chamber.
' Heaven grant that I may dream of a way to release you,' she replied.
And this thought possessed her mightily, and she prayed ardently for help ; yes, even in her sleep she continued to pray. Then it seemed to her as if she were flying high in the air to the cloudy palace of Fata Morgana ; and the fairy came out to meet her, beautiful and radiant; and yet the fairy was quite like the old woman who had given her the berries in the wood, and had told her of the swans with golden crowns on their heads.
' Your brothers can be released,' said she. ' But have you courage and perseverance ? Certainly, water is softer than your delicate hands, and yet it changes the shape of stones ; but it feels not the pain that your fingers will feel; it has no heart, and does not suffer the agony and torment you will have to endure. Da you>seethe stinging-nettle which I hold in my hand ? Many of the same kind grow around the cave in which you sleep : those only, and those that grow upon churchyard graves, are serviceable, remember that. Those you must pluck, though they will burn your hands into blisters. Break these nettles to pieces with your feet, and you will have flax ; of this you must plait and weave eleven shirts of mail with long sleeves: throw these over the eleven swans, and the charm will be broken. But recollect well, from the moment you begin this work until it is finished, even though it should take years to accomplish, you must not speak. The first word ybu^ utter will pierce your brothers' hearts like a deadly daggeis—TheTr lives hang on your tongue. Remember all this ! '
And she touched her hand with the nettle ; it was like a burning fire, and Eliza woke with the smart. It was broad daylight ; and close by the spot where she had slept lay a nettle like the one she had seen in her dream. She fell upon her knees and prayed gratefully, and went forth from the cave to begin her work.