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The Snowdrop
Grimm Märchen

The Snowdrop - Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Andersen

Reading time for children: 12 min

It was winter-time. The air was cold, the wind was sharp, but within the closed doors it was warm and comfortable, and within the closed door lay the flower. It lay in the bulb under the snow-covered earth. One day rain fell. The drops penetrated through the snowy covering down into the earth, and touched the flower-bulb, and talked of the bright world above. Soon the Sunbeam pierced its way through the snow to the root, and within the root there was a stirring. „Come in,“ said the flower. „I cannot,“ said the Sunbeam. „I am not strong enough to unlock the door! When the summer comes I shall be strong!“

„When will it be summer?“ asked the Flower, and she repeated this question each time a new sunbeam made its way down to her. But the summer was yet far distant. The snow still lay upon the ground, and there was a coat of ice on the water every night. „What a long time it takes! what a long time it takes!“ said the Flower. „I feel a stirring and striving within me. I must stretch myself, I must unlock the door, I must get out, and must nod a good morning to the summer, and what a happy time that will be!“

And the Flower stirred and stretched itself within the thin rind which the water had softened from without, and the snow and the earth had warmed, and the Sunbeam had knocked at; and it shot forth under the snow with a greenish-white blossom on a green stalk, with narrow thick leaves, which seemed to want to protect it. The snow was cold, but was pierced by the Sunbeam, therefore it was easy to get through it, and now the Sunbeam came with greater strength than before.

„Welcome, welcome!“ sang and sounded every ray, and the Flower lifted itself up over the snow into the brighter world. The Sunbeams caressed and kissed it, so that it opened altogether, white as snow, and ornamented with green stripes. It bent its head in joy and humility. „Beautiful Flower!“ said the Sunbeams, „how graceful and delicate you are! You are the first, you are the only one! You are our love! You are the bell that rings out for summer, beautiful summer, over country and town. All the snow will melt. The cold winds will be driven away. We shall rule; all will become green, and then you will have companions, syringas, laburnums, and roses; but you are the first, so graceful, so delicate!“

That was a great pleasure. It seemed as if the air were singing and sounding, as if rays of light were piercing through the leaves and the stalks of the Flower. There it stood, so delicate and so easily broken, and yet so strong in its young beauty. It stood there in its white dress with the green stripes, and made a summer. But there was a long time yet to the summer-time. Clouds hid the sun, and bleak winds were blowing. „You have come too early,“ said Wind and Weather. „We have still the power, and you shall feel it, and give it up to us. You should have stayed quietly at home and not have run out to make a display of yourself. Your time is not come yet!“

It was a cutting cold! The days which now come brought not a single sunbeam. It was weather that might break such a little Flower in two with cold. But the Flower had more strength than she herself knew of. She was strong in joy and in faith in the summer, which would be sure to come, which had been announced by her deep longing and confirmed by the warm sunlight; and so she remained standing in confidence in the snow in her white garment, bending her head even while the snow-flakes fell thick and heavy, and the icy winds swept over her.

„You’ll break!“ they said, „and fade, and fade! What did you want out here? Why did you let yourself be tempted? The Sunbeam only made game of you. Now you have what you deserve, you summer gauk.“ – „Summer gauk!“ she repeated in the cold morning hour. „O summer gauk!“ cried some children rejoicingly; „yonder stands one– how beautiful, how beautiful! The first one, the only one!“ These words did the Flower so much good, they seemed to her like warm sunbeams.

In her joy the Flower did not even feel when it was broken off. It lay in a child’s hand, and was kissed by a child’s mouth, and carried into a warm room, and looked on by gentle eyes, and put into water. How strengthening, how invigorating! The Flower thought she had suddenly come upon the summer. The daughter of the house, a beautiful little girl, was confirmed, and she had a friend who was confirmed, too. He was studying for an examination for an appointment. „He shall be my summer gauk,“ she said; and she took the delicate Flower and laid it in a piece of scented paper, on which verses were written, beginning with summer gauk and ending with summer gauk.

„My friend, be a winter gauk.“ She had twitted him with the summer. Yes, all this was in the verses, and the paper was folded up like a letter, and the Flower was folded in the letter, too. It was dark around her, dark as in those days when she lay hidden in the bulb. The Flower went forth on her journey, and lay in the post-bag, and was pressed and crushed, which was not at all pleasant; but that soon came to an end. The journey was over. The letter was opened, and read by the dear friend. How pleased he was! He kissed the letter, and it was laid, with its enclosure of verses, in a box, in which there were many beautiful verses, but all of them without flowers.

She was the first, the only one, as the Sunbeams had called her; and it was a pleasant thing to think of that. She had time enough, moreover, to think about it. She thought of it while the summer passed away, and the long winter went by, and the summer came again, before she appeared once more. But now the young man was not pleased at all. He took hold of the letter very roughly, and threw the verses away, so that the Flower fell on the ground. Flat and faded she certainly was, but why should she be thrown on the ground? Still, it was better to be here than in the fire, where the verses and the paper were being burnt to ashes.

What had happened? What happens so often: The Flower had made a gauk of him, that was a jest. The girl had made a fool of him, that was no jest, she had, during the summer, chosen another friend. Next morning the sun shone in upon the little flattened Snowdrop, that looked as if it had been painted upon the floor. The servant girl, who was sweeping out the room, picked it up, and laid it in one of the books which were upon the table, in the belief that it must have fallen out while the room was being arranged. Again the flower lay among verses– printed verses– and they are better than written ones– at least, more money has been spent upon them.

And after this years went by. The book stood upon the book-shelf, and then it was taken up and somebody read out of it. It was a good book; verses and songs by the old Danish poet, Ambrosius Stub, which are well worth reading. The man who was now reading the book turned over a page. „Why, there’s a flower!“ he said; „a snowdrop, a summer gauk, a poet gauk! That flower must have been put in there with a meaning! Poor Ambrosius Stub! he was a summer fool too, a poet fool. He came too early, before his time, and therefore he had to taste the sharp winds, and wander about as a guest from one noble landed proprietor to another, like a flower in a glass of water, a flower in rhymed verses! Summer fool, winter fool, fun and folly– but the first, the only, the fresh young Danish poet of those days. Yes, thou shalt remain as a token in the book, thou little snowdrop: thou hast been put there with a meaning.“

And so the Snowdrop was put back into the book, and felt equally honored and pleased to know that it was a token in the glorious book of songs, and that he who was the first to sing and to write had been also a snowdrop, had been a summer gauk, and had been looked upon in the winter-time as a fool. The Flower understood this, in her way, as we interpret everything in our way. That is the story of the Snowdrop.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Snowdrop“

„The Snowdrop“ is a fairy tale written by the renowned Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. Born on April 2, 1805, in Odense, Denmark, Andersen is best known for his extensive collection of fairy tales, which have been translated into numerous languages and enjoyed by children and adults alike across the world. Some of his most famous works include „The Little Mermaid,“ „The Ugly Duckling,“ „The Emperor’s New Clothes,“ and „The Princess and the Pea.“

Andersen’s fairy tales often incorporate elements of fantasy, folklore, and moral lessons, presenting timeless themes and messages that resonate with readers of all ages. His stories frequently feature characters who face adversity and challenges, with many of them ultimately overcoming their struggles and finding happiness or self-discovery. As a Danish author, Andersen was familiar with the harsh winters in Denmark and the appearance of snowdrop flowers as a symbol of the approaching spring season. This story reflects not only the beauty of nature but also the human ability to persevere and find hope amidst adversity.

„The Snowdrop“ was first published in 1863 as part of Andersen’s „New Fairy Tales, Second Volume, Second Collection.“ (Nye Eventyr. Anden Samling. Første Hefte) The tale is lesser-known compared to some of his other works, but it carries many of the hallmarks of an Andersen story, including a focus on nature, symbolism, and a central theme of resilience in the face of adversity.

Ambrosius Stub, mentioned in the story, was a Danish poet and writer who lived between 1705 and 1758. He is considered one of the pioneers of Danish poetry and is known for his songs and poems that celebrated nature, love, and life’s simple pleasures. Stub’s struggles and eventual recognition, as mentioned in the story, reflect the real-life challenges he faced in gaining recognition for his work during his time.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Snowdrop“

„The Snowdrop“ by Hans Christian Andersen can be interpreted in several ways, with the snowdrop flower serving as a central symbol that carries various meanings:

Perseverance and Resilience: The story highlights the importance of perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity. The snowdrop endures harsh winter conditions and various challenges but continues to stand tall and strong, ultimately finding its place and purpose.

The Power of Inner Strength: The snowdrop, despite being delicate and easily broken, possesses an inner strength that allows it to endure difficult circumstances. This can serve as a reminder that our inner strength can help us overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.

The Role of Timing: The tale emphasizes the significance of timing in life. Both the snowdrop and Ambrosius Stub emerge before their time and face challenges as a result. This can be seen as a metaphor for the importance of being patient and understanding that success may not always come when we expect it.

Beauty in Adversity: The story illustrates that beauty can be found even in the most challenging situations. The snowdrop’s fragile beauty is recognized and appreciated by those around it, despite the harsh conditions it faces.

Artistic Struggle: The tale can also be interpreted as a reflection on the struggles artists often face in their pursuit of recognition and success. Ambrosius Stub, a talented poet, experiences the harshness of life due to being ahead of his time. The snowdrop symbolizes the poet’s struggle and eventual recognition.

Personal Interpretation: Ultimately, the story encourages readers to interpret its meaning in their own way, much like the snowdrop does when it understands its symbolic significance in relation to Ambrosius Stub. This emphasizes the power of individual perspectives and the importance of finding personal meaning in life’s experiences.

Overall, „The Snowdrop“ is a tale with multiple layers of meaning, showcasing the power of hope, resilience, and the beauty of life even in the face of adversity.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Snowdrop“

Though „The Snowdrop“ is not as well-known as some of Hans Christian Andersen’s other fairy tales, it has been adapted in various forms over the years. Some specific examples of these adaptations include:

Picture books: Illustrated versions of „The Snowdrop“ have been published, offering a visual representation of the story to engage young readers. These picture books typically include beautiful artwork that captures the essence of the tale and highlights the snowdrop’s journey. „The Snowdrop“ has been adapted into numerous children’s books, both in print and digital formats. These adaptations often feature colorful illustrations and simplified language that make the story accessible to young readers.

Animated shorts: The story has been adapted into short animated films or video clips that bring the story to life through moving images. These adaptations often feature charming visuals and narration to convey the story’s themes and message. The story has been adapted into several short films and animated features, including a 1952 Danish film directed by Jon Iversen, and a 2013 animated short film by Angelina Georgieva.

Stage performances: „The Snowdrop“ has been adapted into stage performances, often as part of a larger production featuring multiple Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. These adaptations may involve puppetry, dance, or live actors to portray the story’s characters and events. The story has been adapted into a ballet production by several companies, including the Royal Danish Ballet. The ballet version of „The Snowdrop“ often features a winter wonderland setting and beautiful choreography that captures the essence of the story. „The Snowdrop“ has also inspired musical compositions, including a piece by Danish composer Carl Nielsen, and a song by American singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.

Artwork and installations: Artists have been inspired by „The Snowdrop“ and have created various works of art based on the tale. These pieces can range from paintings, sculptures, or installations that interpret the story’s themes in a visual form. The story has inspired numerous works of art, including paintings, sculptures, and installations. These works often depict the snowdrop flower in various settings, and are inspired by the story’s themes of resilience and hope.

While „The Snowdrop“ may not have as many well-known adaptations as other Andersen tales, it has nevertheless inspired a range of creative expressions in various media that capture the story’s essence and themes. Overall, „The Snowdrop“ by Hans Christian Andersen has inspired a wide range of adaptations, each of which adds its own unique perspective to the timeless story.

Summary of the plot

„The Snowdrop“ is a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen that tells the story of a delicate snowdrop flower that emerges during winter, longing for the warmth and beauty of summer. The flower perseveres through harsh weather, snow, and icy winds, symbolizing strength and resilience. The snowdrop is admired by sunbeams, children, and even the wind and weather, who acknowledge it has come too early but admire its beauty.

One day, the flower is plucked by a child and brought inside, where it is admired and placed in water, feeling the warmth reminiscent of summer. The flower is then enclosed within a letter containing verses, which is sent to a young man as a playful jest. However, the relationship between the sender and the recipient ends, and the flower is discarded, eventually finding its way into a book of verses by the Danish poet Ambrosius Stub.

Years later, the book is rediscovered, and the snowdrop is found pressed between the pages. The reader acknowledges the flower’s symbolic significance, as Ambrosius Stub was also considered a „summer gauk“ (fool), having come before his time and facing the harshness of life. The reader places the snowdrop back in the book as a token, honoring both the flower and the poet.

In summary, „The Snowdrop“ is a tale of resilience and strength in the face of adversity. The snowdrop, representing both the delicate flower and the poet Ambrosius Stub, perseveres through harsh conditions, ultimately finding its place in a book of verses as a symbol of beauty and determination.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, IT
Readability Index by Björnsson25.3
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index85.4
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level5
Gunning Fog Index7.1
Coleman–Liau Index8
SMOG Index7.2
Automated Readability Index4.9
Character Count7.987
Letter Count6.123
Sentence Count104
Word Count1.512
Average Words per Sentence14,54
Words with more than 6 letters163
Percentage of long words10.8%
Number of Syllables1.907
Average Syllables per Word1,26
Words with three Syllables50
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.3%
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