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The last Pearl
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The last Pearl - Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Andersen

Reading time for children: 7 min

There was a rich and happy house. All those in it-the owners, and servants, and friends, too-were happy and cheerful, for on this day a son and heir had been born, and mother and child were doing well. The lamp in the cozy bedroom had been partly covered, and heavy curtains of costly silken material had been drawn tightly together before the windows. The carpet was as thick and soft as moss.

Everything here invited rest and sleep. It was a delightful place for repose. And the nurse found it so, too. She slept, and indeed she might, for all was well and blessed here. The Guardian Spirit of the house stood by the head of the bed; and over the child, at the mother’s breast, it spread itself like a net of shining stars, stars of great richness. Each was a pearl of good fortune.

Life’s good fairies had brought their gifts to the newborn child. Here sparkled health, wealth, happiness, love-everything that man can desire on earth. „Everything has been brought and bestowed here,“ said the Guardian Spirit. „No,“ said a voice near by. It was the voice of the child’s good Angel. „One fairy has not yet brought her gift, but she will bring it. She’ll bring it in time, even if years should pass first. The last pearl is yet lacking.“

„Lacking! Nothing must be lacking here! If that actually is the case, let us go and seek the powerful fairy; let us go to her!“ – „She will come! She will come someday! Her pearl must be given to bind the wreath together!“ – „Where does she live? Where is her home? Tell me that, and I’ll go and fetch the pearl!“ – „You do want to then,“ said the child’s good Angel. „I will guide you to her, or to where she is to be sought. She has no permanent place. She visits the palace of the emperor and the cottage of the poorest peasant.

She passes no one by without leaving a trace of herself; to all she brings her gift, be it a world or a toy. And this child, also, she will come to. You think that while the time to come will be equally long one way or the other, it will not be equally profitable if you await her. Well, then, we will go and fetch the pearl, the last pearl in this wealth of gifts.“

And so, hand in hand, they flew to the place which at the moment was the fairy’s home. It was a large house, with dark halls and empty rooms, all strangely still. A row of windows stood open, so the fresh air could flow in, and the long white curtains rustled in the breeze. In the middle of the floor stood an open coffin, and within it lay the corpse of a woman still in the prime of life. The loveliest fresh roses lay upon her, leaving visible only the folded, delicate hands and the noble face, beautiful in death, with the exalted solemnity of one initiated into God’s service.

By the coffin stood her husband and children, a whole flock of them, the smallest of whom was held in his father’s arm. They had come to bid a last farewell, and the husband kissed her hand, that which, now like a withered leaf, had once clasped theirs with strength and love. Bitter tears of sorrow fell in heavy drops upon the floor, but not a word was spoken. Silence expressed a world of grief. And silent and sobbing, they left the room.

A lighted candle stood there, the flame struggling against the wind as it shot up its long red tongue. Strangers entered the room, closed the lid of the coffin, and hammered in the nails. The hammer strokes clanged sharply through the halls and rooms of the house, resounding in the hearts that bled there. „Where do you take me?“ inquired the Guardian Spirit. „Here could live no fairy whose pearl belong among life’s best gifts.“

„She dwells in this very place, now at this holy hour,“ said the Angel, pointing to a corner. And there, where the mother had sat in life amid flowers and pictures, and been like the good fairy of the house, where she had affectionately greeted husband, children, and friends, and, like rays of sunshine, had spread happiness, love, and harmony, and been the very heart of everything, there now sat a strange woman clad in long, heavy robes.

It was Sorrow, and she now ruled here in the mother’s place. A hot tear rolled down her cheek, into her lap, where it became a pearl, sparkling with all the hues of the rainbow, and as the Angel caught it up it shone with the sevenfold luster of a star. „The Pearl of Sorrow, the last pearl, which must never be lacking! Through it the light and splendor of all other gifts are enhanced. Behold in it a reflection of the rainbow, which unites earth with heaven itself! In the place of each or our beloved ones taken from us by death, we gain one friend more to look forward to being with in heaven. In the night we look up beyond the stars, toward the end of all things. Reflect, then, upon the Pearl of Sorrow, for within it lie the wings of Psyche, which carry us away from here.“

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The last pearl“

„The Last Pearl“ is a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish author and poet best known for his timeless stories and fairy tales for children. Born in Odense, Denmark, in 1805, Andersen began writing fairy tales in the early 1830s. Throughout his career, he wrote a total of 156 fairy tales, which have been translated into over 125 languages. Some of his most famous works include „The Little Mermaid,“ „The Ugly Duckling,“ „The Emperor’s New Clothes,“ and „The Snow Queen.“

Andersen’s stories often touch on universal themes such as love, loss, courage, and the struggle between good and evil. They also delve into human experiences and emotions, using metaphor and symbolism to create profound, thought-provoking narratives. Many of his stories contain moral lessons, which have made them popular among readers of all ages.

In „The Last Pearl,“ Andersen explores the themes of grief, sorrow, and the meaning of life’s experiences through the tale of a child’s missing pearl. The story reflects Andersen’s own experiences with grief and loss, as well as his belief in the transformative power of sorrow. This fairy tale demonstrates Andersen’s ability to create poignant, meaningful stories that resonate with readers, and it remains a relevant and insightful work of literature today.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The last pearl“

„The Last Pearl“ can be interpreted in several ways, as it explores various themes such as grief, sorrow, the value of life’s experiences, and the connection between heaven and earth.

The transformative power of sorrow: The story highlights how sorrow can lead to personal growth and the development of deeper understanding and empathy. By experiencing sorrow, one learns to appreciate the full range of human emotions and experiences, which in turn enriches life.

The balance of joy and sorrow: The tale emphasizes that both joy and sorrow are essential aspects of life, and that they complement and enhance each other. While joy brings happiness and contentment, sorrow can bring depth and meaning to one’s life.

The hope of reunion in the afterlife: The story conveys a sense of hope and consolation in the face of loss, emphasizing the belief in an afterlife where loved ones will be reunited. This hope helps people cope with the pain of losing a loved one and serves as a reminder of the eternal bonds of love and connection.

The value of life’s experiences: The Pearl of Sorrow represents the idea that all of life’s experiences, both positive and negative, are valuable and necessary for personal growth. The story suggests that through embracing sorrow and grief, one can gain a greater understanding of the human experience and ultimately find solace and healing.

The importance of embracing sorrow: The tale encourages readers to acknowledge and embrace sorrow, rather than attempting to avoid it. By doing so, individuals can learn to accept the impermanence of life and develop the strength and resilience needed to overcome hardships and challenges.

Overall, „The Last Pearl“ teaches readers about the significance of sorrow in life and how it can lead to personal growth, deeper understanding, and hope in the face of adversity. It emphasizes the importance of embracing all aspects of life, both joy and sorrow, as they are necessary for a full and rich human experience.

Summary of the plot

„The Last Pearl“ is a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen that tells the story of a rich and happy household that welcomes the birth of a son. As the family celebrates, the Guardian Spirit of the house, along with the child’s good Angel, notice that one gift from the fairies is missing: the last pearl. The good Angel guides the Guardian Spirit to find the powerful fairy who can provide this final gift.

The Angel leads the Guardian Spirit to a house of mourning where a mother, who had been the heart of her family, has recently passed away. Her grieving husband and children gather around her open coffin to say their last goodbyes. In this solemn environment, the Guardian Spirit realizes that the powerful fairy whose gift they seek is none other than Sorrow.

As a tear of grief rolls down Sorrow’s cheek and transforms into a beautiful, radiant pearl, the child’s good Angel explains that the Pearl of Sorrow is the final gift that must never be lacking. This pearl brings depth and meaning to all other gifts in life and serves as a reminder of the connection between heaven and earth. The Pearl of Sorrow also represents the wings of Psyche, which symbolize the human ability to transcend sorrow and find solace in the hope of reuniting with loved ones in the afterlife.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
Translations DE, EN, DA, ES,
Readability Index by Björnsson27.3
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index84.5
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level5.2
Gunning Fog Index7.4
Coleman–Liau Index8.4
SMOG Index7.7
Automated Readability Index5.4
Character Count4.856
Letter Count3.729
Sentence Count61
Word Count905
Average Words per Sentence14,84
Words with more than 6 letters113
Percentage of long words12.5%
Number of Syllables1.148
Average Syllables per Word1,27
Words with three Syllables37
Percentage Words with three Syllables4.1%

Image sources: © Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

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