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The Snail and the Rosebush
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The Snail and the Rosebush - Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Andersen

Reading time for children: 6 min

Around the garden ran a hedge of hazelnut bushes, and beyond it lay fields and meadows with cows and sheep; but in the middle of the garden stood a blooming Rosebush, and under it sat a Snail, who had a lot inside his shell – namely, himself. „Wait till my time comes,“ it said. „I’ll do a great deal more than grow roses, more than bear nuts. Or give milk, like cows and the sheep!“

„I expect a great deal from you,“ said the Rosebush. „May I dare ask when this is going to happen?“ – „I’ll take my time,“ said the Snail. „You’re always in such a hurry! That does not arouse expectations!“ Next year the Snail lay in almost the same spot, in the sunshine beneath the Rose Tree, which was budding and bearing roses as fresh and as new as ever. And the Snail crept halfway out of its shell, stretched out its horns and drew them back in again.

„Everything looks just as it did last year. No progress at all. The Rose Tree sticks to its roses, and that’s as far as it gets.“ The summer passed. The autumn came. The Rose Tree still bore buds and roses till the snow fell. The weather became raw and wet, and the Rose Tree bent down toward the ground. The Snail crept into the ground. Then a new year began, and the roses came out again, and the Snail did, too.

„You’re an old Rosebush now,“ the Snail said. „You must hurry up and die, because you’ve given the world all that’s in you. Whether it has meant anything is a question that I haven’t had time to think about, but this much is clear enough – you’ve done nothing at all for your inner development, or you would certainly have produced something else. How can you answer that? You’ll soon be nothing but a stick. Can you understand what I’m saying?“

„You frighten me!“ said the Rosebush. „I never thought about that at all.“ – „No, you have never taken the trouble to think of anything. Have you ever considered yourself, why you bloomed, and how it happens, why just in that way and in no other?“ – „No,“ said the Rosebush. „I was just happy to blossom because I couldn’t do anything else. The sun was warm and the air so refreshing. I drank of the clear dew and the strong rain.

I breathed, I lived. A power rose in me from out of the earth. A strength came down from up above. I felt an increasing happiness, always new, always great, so I had to blossom over and over again. That was my life. I couldn’t do anything else.“ – „You have led a very easy life,“ said the Snail. „Certainly. Everything was given to me,“ said the Rosebush. „But still more was granted to you. You’re one of those with a deep, thoughtful nature, one of those highly gifted minds that will astonish the world.“

„I’ve no intention of doing anything of the sort!“ said the Snail. „The world means nothing to me. What do I have to do with the world? I have enough to do with myself and within myself.“ – „But shouldn’t all of us on earth give the best we have to others and offer whatever is in our power? Yes, I’ve only been able to give roses. But you? You who are so richly gifted – what have you given to the world? What do you intend to give?“

„What have I given? What do I intend to give? I spit at the world. It’s no good! It has nothing to do with me. Keep giving your roses. That’s all you can do! Let the hazel bush bear nuts, let the cows and sheep give milk. They each have their public; but I have mine inside myself. I retire within myself, and there I shall stay. The world means nothing to me.“ And so the Snail withdrew into his house and closed up the entrance behind him.

„That’s so sad,“ said the Rose Tree. „I can’t creep into myself, no matter how much I want to. I must go on bearing roses. Their petals fall off and are blown away by the wind, although once I saw one of the roses laid in a mother’s hymnbook, and one of my own roses was placed on the breast of a lovely young girl, and another was kissed by a child in the first happiness of life. It did me good. It was a true blessing. Those are my recollections – my life!“

So the Rose Tree bloomed on in innocence, and the Snail loafed in his house – the world meant nothing to him. And years rolled by. The Snail had turned to earth in the earth, and the Rose Tree had turned to earth in the earth. Even the rose of memory in the hymnbook was withered, but in the garden new rosebushes bloomed, and new snails crept into their houses and spat at the world, for it meant nothing to them. Shall we read this story all over again? It’ll never be different.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Snail and the Rosebush“

„The Snail and the Rosebush“ is a lesser-known fairy tale by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. Born on April 2, 1805, in Odense, Denmark, Andersen is one of the most celebrated authors of fairy tales in the world. His stories are known for their moral lessons, imaginative characters, and universal appeal. Some of his most famous works include „The Little Mermaid,“ „The Ugly Duckling,“ „The Emperor’s New Clothes,“ and „The Snow Queen.“

Hans Christian Andersen wrote and published „The Snail and the Rosebush“ in 1861 as part of a collection called „New Fairy Tales. Second Volume. Second Collection.“ As with many of his other fairy tales, this story uses animals as the main characters to represent human qualities and experiences. By doing so, Andersen could explore complex themes and ideas in a more approachable and engaging manner.

The story of „The Snail and the Rosebush“ has been overshadowed by Andersen’s more popular works, but it shares their timeless quality and moral messages. Like many of his other stories, this fairy tale serves as a reflection on human nature, encouraging readers to consider the importance of their actions, attitudes, and contributions to the world around them.

Like many of Andersen’s works, the story was likely created to convey moral lessons and observations about human nature through the use of simple, relatable characters. As with many of his other fairy tales, Andersen may have drawn inspiration from various sources, including folktales, personal experiences, or the natural world around him. Andersen was known for his deep love of nature, which often played a significant role in his stories, as demonstrated by the use of snails and rosebushes as central characters in this particular tale.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Snail and the Rosebush“

„The Snail and the Rosebush“ offers several interpretations, each providing valuable lessons and insights. Here are a few possible interpretations:

The value of contributing to the world: The rosebush represents the importance of offering our gifts and talents to the world, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. The snail, on the other hand, demonstrates the consequences of selfishly withholding our potential and not engaging with the world around us.

Appreciation of life’s simple joys: The rosebush finds happiness and fulfillment in its simple existence, blooming roses and bringing joy to others. This can be a reminder to appreciate the beauty and happiness that can be found in everyday life, rather than constantly striving for more or dismissing the value of the world around us.

The danger of self-absorption: The snail’s refusal to engage with the world and its constant introspection can be seen as a cautionary tale against becoming overly self-absorbed. By only focusing on oneself, one can miss out on the opportunities to learn, grow, and contribute positively to the world.

The cycle of life: The story highlights the cyclical nature of life, with new generations of rosebushes and snails emerging even after the original characters have returned to the earth. This can serve as a reminder of the continuity of life and the importance of leaving a positive legacy for future generations.

The importance of humility: The rosebush does not boast about its beauty or its ability to bring joy to others. It simply accepts its role in the world and finds fulfillment in it. Conversely, the snail is arrogant and dismissive, thinking it is destined for greatness but never achieving it. This contrast teaches us the importance of humility and the need to recognize our own limitations while striving to make the most of our talents.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Snail and the Rosebush“

There haven’t been many direct adaptations of „The Snail and the Rosebush“ by Hans Christian Andersen. However, it has inspired some adaptations and references in various formats:

Children’s picture books: Illustrated versions of the story have been published, making it accessible and appealing to younger readers. These picture books often contain vibrant illustrations that bring the tale to life, allowing children to better visualize the interactions between the snail and the rosebush. „The Snail and the Rose-Tree“ is a retelling of the story by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Warwick Goble. The book was published in 1911 and features Goble’s beautiful illustrations of the snail and the rosebush.

Animated films: The story has been adapted into animated short films, which can be found on online platforms like YouTube. These short films utilize colorful animation and narration to engage audiences and introduce them to the story’s themes and messages. In 1989, Russian animator Mikhail Aldashin created an animated short film based on „The Snail and the Rosebush.“ The film won the Grand Prix at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France

Educational materials: „The Snail and the Rosebush“ has been used in educational contexts as a tool for teaching children moral lessons and values. The story has been included in lesson plans, study guides, and moral education books, where its themes of patience, humility, and appreciation for others‘ qualities are discussed and analyzed.

Theater: Some theater groups have incorporated „The Snail and the Rosebush“ into their performances or adapted it as a standalone play or part of a larger Hans Christian Andersen production. These adaptations may take creative liberties with the story, adding characters, dialogue, and music to make the tale more engaging for a live audience.

Opera: Norwegian composer Ketil Hvoslef created an opera adaptation of „The Snail and the Rosebush“ in 1994. The opera premiered at the Bergen International Festival in Norway and has been performed in several countries.

Art: The story has also been adapted by several artists in various forms, including paintings and sculptures. One notable example is the bronze sculpture of the snail and the rosebush created by Danish artist Bjørn Nørgaard, which is located in the Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen.

Ballet: Danish choreographer Flemming Flindt created a ballet adaptation of „The Snail and the Rosebush“ in 1978. The ballet features music by the Danish composer Hans-Henrik Nordstrøm and has been performed by several ballet companies around the world.

There have been several adaptations of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale „The Snail and the Rosebush“ in various forms of media. These adaptations show how the story of „The Snail and the Rosebush“ continues to inspire artists and audiences around the world, even after more than a century since its original publication.

Summary of the plot

„The Snail and the Rosebush“ by Hans Christian Andersen is a fairy tale that revolves around a conversation between a snail and a rosebush in a garden. The garden is surrounded by a hedge of hazelnut bushes and is home to cows and sheep. The snail, carrying itself within its shell, believes it will achieve more than the rosebush, which blooms roses, and the other creatures in the garden.

The rosebush patiently asks the snail when it will fulfill its potential, but the snail remains elusive, taking its time and criticizing the rosebush for not making any progress. As the seasons change, the rosebush continues to bloom and the snail remains unproductive, eventually retreating into its shell and rejecting the world.

The rosebush reflects on the joy it has brought to others through its roses and the memories it cherishes of those experiences. Despite these accomplishments, the rosebush cannot escape its fate of turning to earth. Years pass, and both the snail and the rosebush eventually become part of the earth. New rosebushes and snails emerge, with the snails continuing to dismiss the world, emphasizing the cyclical nature of life.

This story highlights the contrast between the rosebush, which selflessly offers its beauty to the world, and the snail, which withdraws from it. The tale encourages readers to appreciate the unique gifts each individual has to offer and to use those gifts for the betterment of the world.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
Translations DE, EN, DA, ES, FR, IT,
Readability Index by Björnsson20.1
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index89.3
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level3.4
Gunning Fog Index5.6
Coleman–Liau Index7.5
SMOG Index7
Automated Readability Index2.5
Character Count4.495
Letter Count3.389
Sentence Count81
Word Count856
Average Words per Sentence10,57
Words with more than 6 letters82
Percentage of long words9.6%
Number of Syllables1.081
Average Syllables per Word1,26
Words with three Syllables35
Percentage Words with three Syllables4.1%

Image sources: © Andrea Danti / Shutterstock

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