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

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

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

the highest point that a Will-o'-the-Wisp can attain—to become a runner before the devil's state coach ; and then he'll wear clothes of fiery yellow, and breathe forth flames out of his throat. That's enough to make a simple Will-o'-the-Wisp smack his lips. But there 's some danger in this, and a great deal of work for a Will-o'-the-Wisp who aspires to play so distinguished a part. If the eyes of the man are opened to what he is, and if the man can then blow him away, it's all over with him, and he must come back into the marsh ; or if, before the year is up, the Will-o'-the Wisp is seized with a longing to see his family, and so returns to it and gives the matter up, it is over with him likewise, and he can no longer burn clear, and soon becomes extinguished, and cannot be lit up again ; and when the year has elapsed, and he has not led three hundred and sixty-five people away from the truth and from all that is grand and noble, he is condemned to be imprisoned in decayed wood, and to lie glimmering there without being able to move ; and that's the most terrible punishment that can be inflicted on a lively Will-o'-the-Wisp.
1 Now, all this I knew, and all this I told to the twelve little Will-o'-the-Wisps whom I had on my lap, and who seemed quite crazy with joy.
i I told them that the safest and most convenient course was to give up the honour, and do nothing at all; but the little flames would not agree to this, and already fancied themselves clad in fiery yellow clothes, breathing flames from their throats.
1 " Stay with us," said some of the older ones.
' " Carry on your sport with mortals," said the others.
1 " The mortals are drying up our meadows ; they've taken to draining. What will our successors do ? "
' " We want to flame ; we will flame—flame ! " cried the new-born Will-o'-the-Wisps.
1 And thus the affair was settled.
' And now a ball was given, a minute long ; it could not well be shorter. The little elf-maidens whirled round three times with the rest, that they might not appear proud, but they prefer dancing with one another.
1 And now the sponsors' gifts were presented, and presents were thrown them. These presents flew like pebbles across
ANDERSEN                                             F f