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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1020                WHAT ONE CAN INVENT
thought the young man, and it was always a thought, a grain of gold, that he found by the wise woman's door.
' Write it down ! ' said she. ' Crumbs are also bread ! I know why you come here ; you cannot invent anything, and yet you want to be a poet by Easter ! '
* Everything has been written down !' said he ; * our time is not the old time ! '
* No ! ' said the woman, ' in olden times the wise women were burned, and poets went about with empty stomachs and holes in their elbows. The time is good, it is the very best ! but you have not the right outlook on the thing. You have not sharpened your hearing, and you do not say the Lord's Prayer at night. There is quite a lot of all kinds of things to write poems about and tell of, if one can tell. You can glean it from the plants and fruits of the earth, draw it from the running and the still waters, but you must understand it, understand how to catch a sun­beam. Now try my spectacles, put my ear-trumpet in your ear, pray to our Father, and leave off thinking of yourself ! '
The last thing was very difficult, more than a wise woman ought to ask.
He got the spectacles and the ear-trumpet and was placed in the middle of the potato-patch ; she gave him a big potato in his hand ; sounds came from it; there came a song with words, the story of the potato, interesting— an everyday story in ten parts; ten lines were enough. And what did the potato sing ?
It sang about itself and its family; the coming of the potatoes to Europe, the misjudgement they had experienced and suffered, before they stood acknowledged as a greater blessing than a lump of gold.
1 We were distributed by royal command from the council-houses in all towns ; notification of our great importance was given, but people did not believe in it, and did not even understand how to plant us. One dug a hole and threw the whole of his bushel of potatoes into it; another stuck one potato here, one there, in the earth and expected that they would each shoot up a perfect tree, from which one could shake potatoes. There came growth, flowers, and watery fruit, but it all withered away. No one