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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THE A.B.C. BOOK-There was a man who had written some new verses for the A.B.C. book; two lines for every letter, as in the old A.B.C. books ; he thought that one ought to have some­thing new, the old verses were so stale, and he always thought so well of his own. The new A.B.C. book was as yet only in manuscript, and it was placed beside the old printed one in the big book-case, in which stood so many learned and interesting books; but the old A.B.C. book would not be a neighbour to the new one, and so it had sprung from the shelf, and at the same time had given the new one a push, so that it also lay upon the floor with all its loose leaves scattered round about. The old A.B.C. book was open at the first page, and it is the most impor­tant : all the letters stand there, the big and the little. That page contains everything that all the other books live upon, the alphabet, the letters, which really rule the world ; they have a terrible power ! it entirely depends on how they are commanded to stand ; they can give life, put to death, gladden, and afflict. Placed separately they signify nothing, but placed in ranks—ah ! when our Lord caused them to be placed under His thoughts, we learned more than we had strength to bear, we bowed ourselves deeply, but the letters had the strength to bear it.
There the books lay now, facing upwards ! and the cock in the capital A shone with red, blue, and green feathers ; he thrust out his chest, for he knew what the letters meant, and knew that he was the only living thing amongst them. When the old A.B.C. book fell on the floor, he flapped his wings, flew out, and set himself on the edge of the book-case, preened his feathers and crowed, so that echo rang with it. Every book in the book-case, which at other times stood day and night as in a doze when not in use, heard the trumpet-call—and then the cock talked clearly and distinctly about the injustice which had been done to the worthy old A.B.C. book.
' Everything must now be new, be different,' he said, ' everything must be so advanced ! Children are so clever, that they can now read before they know the letters.