Amongst the best known writers of children’s tales is the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.
While he wrote on a range of exotic and imaginary creatures like fairies and goblins and ugly ducklings turning into swans, his stories hold important lessons.
One of his most moving stories on the Holiday season is about a lonely Pine Tree.
When the Tree was little “he did not think of the warm sun and of the fresh air, he did not care for the little cottage-children who ran about and prattled when they were looking for wild strawberries and raspberries.”
He yearned instead to grow and become an adult with long verdant branches. “Birds would build nests among my branches; and when there was a breeze, I could nod as grandly as the others there,” he thought.
The Tree knew no delight in crisp beautiful and sunny mornings or white wintry nights.
Years flew by and Pine Tree found he was gaining height and expanse, his arms stretching forth strongly. But soon came autumn and the lumber jacks. They felled the grandest of his comrades, slashing away their arms and hauling the wood in carriages.
The frightened Pine Tree shivered at the sight. Curious about the fate of chopped trees, the Pine Tree questioned his friends a Stork and Swallow. They told him that these trees were transported to faraway lands, some becoming masts of ships sailing to Egypt.
Again the silly Pine Tree began to fantasize about fantastical dreams despite warnings from his natural pals.
“’Rejoice in thy youth!’ said the Sunbeams, ‘rejoice in thy hearty growth, and in the young life that is in thee!’”
“And the Wind kissed the Tree, and the Dew wept tears over him, but the Pine Tree understood it not.”
Then came Christmas and the Pine Tree once more wanted to be taken away like other trees which were being carried away as full pieces without any mutilation. But no one paid attention to the Pine as he was still not fully grown.
As seasons changed and the young Tree became an adult, the wood choppers came again. Seeing a fine lad with such handsome stature, they struck an axe in him and conveyed him away.
Recovering from his swoon, the Tree found himself being taken into an elegant house and being decorated from head to toe. How proud he felt to be main attraction of the evening, with children clapping and singing around him.
Soon enough after Christmas, he was plundered of all his embellishments and all his dreams came crashing down. The Tree, shorn of all jewels, was hauled into a cold dark attic. How lonely and hurt he found himself. There was no light, no friends like the Hare and Birds, no warm sunshine, no cool breeze or open blue skies.
Heartbroken over the course of events, the Tree suddenly encountered a set of Mice and related to them his story.
Every time the Mice addressed him as “old Tree”, the Woody Creature would shoot back, “I am still young”, though once when he was a little Pine, he wanted to be old!
With their interest captured, the Mice returned in greater numbers to the Tree telling him about the larder where meat and cheese resided, and where one went in thin, but came out chubby! The Pine in-turn engrossed them with the tale of Klumpy- Dumpy, which he had heard an old man tell the children in the house. And so, days began to pass away slowly.
On one occasion, the Mice brought two Rats with them, but these new fellows were harder to please. They pooh-poohed the Mice for being so easily impressed and walked out. The Mice began to have doubts about whether the story that the Pine Tree had told them and which earlier regaled them exceedingly, was fascinating at all! And so, they left as well.
The teary-eyed Tree sighed: "After all, it was very pleasant when the sleek little Mice sat round me and heard what I told them. Now that too is over. But I will take good care to enjoy myself when I am brought out again."
The Tree’s wish was soon granted. A few people barged into the room suddenly and removing the trunks from the attic, pulled the Pine down the stairs and out of the door.
Thrilled at being restored to his original surroundings, the Tree forgot to see how he looked. His wood had turned yellow and his branches had shriveled.
He realized it only when the children who were playing in the courtyard suddenly screamed, “See what is still on the ugly old Christmas Tree!” said one boy, “and he trampled on the branches, so that they cracked under his feet.”
The only decoration - a golden star - that was still attached to his pinnacle branch was also snatched and taken by the child and slung around his neck.
“And the Tree saw all the beauty of the flowers, and the freshness in the garden; he saw himself, and he wished he had stayed in his dark corner in the attic: he thought of his fresh youth in the wood, of the merry Christmas Eve, and of the little Mice who had heard so gladly the story of Klumpy-Dumpy.”
“’Gone! gone!’ said the poor Tree. ’Had I but been happy when I could be. Gone! gone!’”
“And the gardener`s boy came and chopped the Tree into small pieces; there was a whole heap lying there. The wood flamed up finely under the large brewing kettle, and it sighed so deeply! Each sigh was like a little shot. So the children ran to where it lay and sat down before the fire, and peeped in at the blaze, and shouted ‘Piff! paff!’ But at every snap there was a deep sigh. The Tree was thinking of summer days in the wood, and of winter nights when the stars shone; it was thinking of Christmas Eve and Klumpy- Dumpy, the only fairy tale he had heard and knew how to tell, -- and so the Tree burned out.”
While the sad story of the poor Pine Tree so ended, it left for us a very important lesson in life.
That contentment is among the best of gifts and a virtue that must be cultivated…