Friday, 24 December 2010

Friday is for Fairytales: The Fir-Tree

This is a meme hosted by me every Friday.

My post today is about: The Fir-Tree by H.C. Andersen

Tomorrow is Christmas, so I tried to choose a Christmas-themed fairy-tale. Perhaps it’s a bit sad for this time of year, but it’s still a beautiful tale in its own way, so I’m sharing it with you.

The Fir-Tree by Hans Christian Andersen is one of my favourite fairy-tales because it always makes me remember my reading sessions with grandpa. I’m a big girl now, so he doesn’t read to me anymore, but he used to read to me from a beautiful collection of Andersen’s stories with wonderful illustrations and The Fir-Tree had the best illustrations, so it stood out for me.

The Fir-Tree is the story of a little fir-tree who wants to grow up desperately. It is the smallest tree in the forest, so all the trees call it the baby of the forest, which it does not like. The animals also tell him about the adventures of its fellow trees and he wants to be just as big and important as them. One day, when the tree has grown a bit bigger, people cut it down and make it their Christmas tree. They decorate it and the tree, now very beautiful and bright, is in the midst of Christmas festivities, proud and happy. The next day, the tree expects more festivities, but it is taken to the attic and left there, as it is not needed anymore. Now, it is all alone. By spring, it withers and is taken outside where it is cut into pieces and used as firewood. So ends the story of the fir-tree.

When I grew up, I started to see this story as a symbolic representation of the human life. We start as children, eager to grow up and experience the world. Then, we finally grow up and get to experience that excitement we yearned for as children, but a child’s innocence is gone and experience is not always sweet. Eventually, every human grows old and dies. It’s a normal cycle, and although the story of the fir-tree seems sad, it’s very real. I think even this story is beautiful, although it doesn’t end of such a happy note. It’s beautiful, just as life is. It’s not always good to us, but life is still beautiful. It is ours to live.

Before I go all philosophical on you, I recommend thus fairy-tale to you. It’s a short and lovely read.

And to end this post, I wish you all a merry Christmas!


Blodeuedd said...

Poor fir-tree :( Dunno if I have heard this one before

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

Andersen sure does write some depressing stories. This story is fitting for Christmas though and I like reading your more philosophic thoughts about it.

Jan von Harz said...

I have never read this one, and you are right it is sad, but true.

Happy holidays!

Enbrethiliel said...


I find some of Andersen's stories very sad indeed, but for all that, not depressing at all. There's a very sublime quality to them that lets us know the suffering of the characters was not a defeat. And I wonder whether the Fir Tree was originally a symbolic representation of Andersen's own life. We know he wasn't very happy. Perhaps, like the Fir Tree, he had one moment of glory and beauty that ended too soon. And yet, this story, for all its sadness, is not hopeless, is it?

For this week's link up, I wrote about one of my favourite Andersen stories, The Steadfast Tin Soldier. It always breaks my heart a little to think of the soldier's faithful love for the ballet dancer, which went unrequited until the very end.

Then there is The Little Mermaid, which I hope to write about someday. I recently read a critique of the fairy tale in which it was mentioned that Andersen suffered from toothache for an extended time in his life. Most of us moderns have the option of going to the dentist for immediate (or near immediate) relief, but Andersen didn't. So when he made his Little Mermaid suffer with every step she took, it was with full awareness of what daily pain is like--but also with the added understanding that when one suffers for love, it stops being meaningless and instead becomes beautiful.

(Compare that to Oscar Wilde, who often seems to be writing sad stories for their own sake. He wasn't going for anything other than the aesthetic, and that is why his oeuvre in this genre shall always be less impressive than Andersen's.)

Anyway, Merry Christmas, Irena! =)