The Snowman

Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales

The Snowman

Once upon a time there was a snowman who wanted to learn to run like the human boys who had made him.

"Don't worry," barked the old yard-dog. "The sun will make you run some day. Last winter, I saw him make your predecessor run and his predecessor before him. They all have to go away. It never fails."

"I don't understand you, friend," said the snowman. "Is that thing glowing in the sky supposed to teach me to run? I saw it running itself a little while ago, and now it has come slinking up from the other side."

"You know nothing at all," replied the yard-dog, "but then, you've only just been made. What you see over there is the moon; the one before it was the sun. It will come again tomorrow and, most likely, teach you to run down into the ditch by the well because I think the weather is going to change. I can feel it in my bones."

"I don't understand him," said the snowman to himself, "but I have a feeling that he is talking about something unpleasant. The one who stared so just now, that he calls the sun, is not my friend. I can feel that too."

The dog was right. There was a definite change in the weather. Toward morning, a thick fog covered the whole country, and a brisk wind arose, so that the cold seemed to freeze to the bone. But when the sun rose, the sight was splendid and glittering. Trees and bushes were covered with frost and looked like a forest of dazzling diamonds.

"This is really beautiful," said a young girl, who had come into the garden with a young man. They both stood still near the snowman and contemplated the sparkling, white scene.

"Summer cannot compete with winter's beauty," she exclaimed.

They admired the snowman and then skipped away over the snow.

"Who are these two?" asked the snowman of the yard-dog. "You have been here longer than I have. Do you know them?"

"Of course I know them," replied the yard-dog. "She has patted my back many times, and he has given me a bone of meat. I never bite those two."

"But who are they?" asked the snowman.

"They're sweethearts," he replied. "They will go and live in the same kennel some day, chew at the same bone, and share the same water bowl."

"Are they the same kind of beings as you and I?" asked the snowman.

"Well, they belong to the same master," said the yard-dog. "I can see that people who were born just yesterday know very little. I can see that in you. I have age and experience. I know everyone here in the house, and I know there was once a time when I did not lie out here in the cold, fastened to a chain."

"The cold is delightful," said the snowman, "but tell me about being a puppy."

"I used to lie in a velvet-covered chair, up at the master's house, and sit in the mistress's lap," the dog began. "They used to kiss my nose and wipe my paws with an embroidered handkerchief. I was called ‘My Sweet Puppy Love.’ But after a while I grew too big for them, and they sent me away to the housekeeper's room. I went to live in the basement. You can look into the room from where you stand, and see where I was master once, for I was master to the housekeeper. It was certainly a smaller room than those upstairs, but I was comfortable. I was not always being taunted by the kids. I received good food, and I had my own cushion with my name, Theodore, stitched on it. There was a stove. I'd lie in front of it."

"Does a stove look beautiful?" asked the snowman. "Is it at all like me?"

"It is just the opposite of you," said the dog. "It's as black as a crow and has a long neck and a brass knob. It eats firewood, so that fire blows out of its mouth."

"And why did you leave her?" asked the snowman, for it seemed to him that the stove must be a female. "How could you give up such a comfortable place?"

"I had to," replied the yard-dog. "They turned me out-of-doors and chained me up here. I had bitten the youngest of my master's sons in the leg, because he kicked away the bone I was gnawing and always teased me."

The snowman was no longer listening. He was looking into the housekeeper's room on the lower level where the stove stood on its four iron legs, looking about the same size as the snowman himself. "What a strange crackling I feel within me," he said. "Shall I ever get in there? I must go in there and lean against her, even if I have to break the window."

"You must never go in there," said the yard-dog, "for if you approach the stove, you'll melt away."

"I might as well go," said the snowman, "for I think I am melting anyway."

During the whole day the snowman stood looking in through the window. As the sun set the room became even more inviting, for from the stove came a gentle glow, not like the sun or the moon. When the door of the stove was opened, the flames darted out of its mouth. The light of the flames fell directly on the snowman's face.

The night was long, but it did not seem so to the snowman. He stood there, enjoying his own reflection and crackling with the cold. In the morning, the windowpanes of the housekeeper's room were covered with ice. They were the most beautiful ice-flowers any snowman could imagine, but they hid the stove. These windowpanes would not thaw, and he could see nothing of the stove. This upset the snowman.

"That is a terrible disease for a snowman," said the yard-dog. "I have suffered from it myself, but I got over it. The weather is going to change."

And the weather did change. It began to get warm and thaw. One day, the snowman melted to the ground, leaving only the broomstick around which he had been built and a stove scraper.

"Oh, now I understand why he had such a great love for the stove," said the yard-dog. "Why, there's the scraper that is used for cleaning out the stove. The boys used it when they built him and put it inside his body."

Yes, the snowman had had a stove scraper inside his body; that was what made him desire the stove.

And so, winter left, and spring arrived. Nobody thought of the snowman until he came again the following winter.

The End

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