The Snail and the Rose-Tree by Hans Christian Andersen

Story type: Literature

A hedge of hazel-nut bushes encircled the garden; without was field
and meadow, with cows and sheep; but in the centre of the garden stood
a rose-tree, and under it sat a snail–she had much within her, she
had herself.

“Wait, until my time comes,” said she, “I shall accomplish something
more than putting forth roses, bearing nuts, or giving milk, like the
cows and sheep!”

“I expect something fearfully grand,” said the rose-tree, “may I ask
when it will take place?”

“I shall take my time,” said the snail, “you are in too great a hurry,
and when this is the case, how can one’s expectations be fulfilled?”

The next year the snail lay in about the same spot under the
rose-tree, which put forth buds and developed roses, ever fresh, ever
new. The snail half crept forth, stretched out its feelers and drew
itself in again.

“Everything looks as it did a year ago! No progress has been made; the
rose-tree still bears roses; it does not get along any farther!”

The summer faded away, the autumn passed, the rose-tree constantly
bore flowers and buds, until the snow fell, and the weather was raw
and damp. The rose-tree bent itself towards the earth, the snail crept
in the earth.

A new year commenced; the roses came out, and the snail came out.

“Now you are an old rose bush,” said the snail, “you will soon die
away. You have given the world everything that you had in you; whether
that be much or little is a question, upon which I have not time to
reflect. But it is quite evident, that you have not done the slightest
thing towards your inward developement; otherwise I suppose that
something different would have sprung from you. Can you answer this?
You will soon be nothing but a stick! Can you understand what I say?”

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“You startle me,” said the rose-tree, “I have never thought upon

“No, I suppose that you have never meddled much with thinking! Can you
tell me why you blossom? And how it comes to pass? How? Why?”

“No,” said the rose-tree, “I blossom with pleasure because I could
not do otherwise. The sun was so warm, the air so refreshing, I drank
the clear dew and the fortifying rain; I breathed, I lived! A strength
came to me from the earth, a strength came from above, I felt a
happiness, ever new, ever great and therefore I must blossom ever,
that was my life, I could not do otherwise!”

“You have led a very easy life!” said the snail.

“Certainly, everything has been given to me,” said the rose-tree, “but
still more has been given to you. You are one of those meditative,
pensive, profound natures, one of the highly gifted, that astound the
whole world!”

“I have assuredly no such thought in my mind,” said the snail, “the
world is nothing to me! What have I to do with the world? I have
enough with myself, and enough in myself!”

“But should we not all, here on earth, give the best part of us to
others? Offer what we can!–It is true, that I have only given
roses–but you? You who have received so much, what have you given to
the world? What do you give her?”

“What I have given? What I give? I spit upon her! She is good for
nothing! I have nought to do with her. Put forth roses, you can do no
more! Let the hazel bushes bear nuts! Let the cows and sheep give
milk; they have each their public, I have mine within myself! I retire
within myself, and there I remain. The world is nothing to me!”

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And thereupon the snail withdrew into her house and closed it.

“That is so sad,” said the rose-tree, “with the best will, I cannot
creep in, I must ever spring out, spring forth in roses. The leaves
drop off and are blown away by the wind. Yet, I saw one of the roses
laid in the hymn-book of the mother of the family; one of my roses was
placed upon the breast of a charming young girl, and one was kissed
with joy by a child’s mouth. This did me so much good, it was a real
blessing! That is my recollection, my life!”

And the rose-tree flowered in innocence, and the snail sat
indifferently in her house. The world was nothing to her.

And years passed away. The snail became earth to earth and the
rose-tree became earth to earth; the remembrances in the hymn-book
were also blown away–but new rose-trees bloomed in the garden, new
snails grew in the garden; they crept in their houses and spat.–The
world is nothing to them.

Shall we read the story of the past again? It will not be different.

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