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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' I don't understand a word of all this ! ' cried the man.
* Be kind enough to seat yourself on that cupboard,' she retorted, ' but take care you don't fall through and break the bottles—you know what's inside them. I must tell of the great event. It occurred no longer ago than yesterday. It did not happen earlier. It has now three hundred and sixty-four days to run about. I suppose you know how many days there are in a year ? '
And this is what the Moor-woman told :
1 There was a great commotion yesterday out here in the marsh I There was a christening feast! A little Will-o'-the-Wisp was born here—in fact, twelve of them were born all together; and they have permission, if they choose to use it, to go abroad among men, and to move about and command among them, just as if they were born mortals. That was a great event in the marsh, and accordingly all the Will-o'-the-Wisps went dancing like little lights across the moor, both male and female, for there are some of them of the female sex, though they are not usually spoken about. I sat there on the cupboard, and had all the twelve little new-born Will-o'-the-Wisps upon my lap : they shone like glowworms; they already began to hop, and increased in size every moment, so that before a quarter of an hour had elapsed, each of them looked just as large as his father or his uncle. Now, it's an old-established regulation and privilege, that when the moon stands just as it did yesterday, and the wind blows just as it blew then, it is allowed and accorded to all Will-o'-the-Wisps—that is, to all those who are born at that minute of time—to become mortals, and individually to exert their power for the space of one year.
1 The Will-o'-the-Wisp may run about in the country and through the world, if it is not afraid of falling into the sea, or of being blown out by a heavy storm. It can enter into a person and speak for him, and make all the movements it pleases. The Will-o'-the-Wisp may take whatever form he likes, of man or woman, and can act in their spirit and in their disguise in such a way that he can effect whatever he wishes to do. But he must manage, in the course of the year, to lead three hundred and sixty-five people into a wrong way, and in a grand style, too : to lead them away from the right and the truth ; and then he reaches