Gerda goes in search of her friend Kay who has been kidnapped by the beautiful Snow Queen. Her journey brings her to a witch with a lovely garden where it is always warm summer. Gerda forgets all about Kay until she notices that just one flower is missing from the garden.
She meets a friendly crow who says he has seen a boy who looks like Kay. He is now living in a splendid palace.
The third and final part will follow shortly.
Proofread by Claire Deakin.
Read by Natasha. Duration 22.41
What happened to little Gerda when Kay did not come back? What had become of him? Nobody knew. The other boys told how they had seen him fasten his sledge on to a large one which had driven out of the town gate.
Gerda cried a great deal. The winter was long and dark to her. Then the spring came with warm sunshine. "I will go and look for Kay," said Gerda.
So she went down to the river and got into a little boat that was there. Presently the stream began to carry it away.
"Perhaps the river will take me to Kay," thought Gerda. She glided down, past trees and fields, until she came to a large cherry garden, in which stood a little house with strange red and blue windows and a straw roof. Before the door stood two wooden soldiers, who were shouldering arms.
Gerda called to them, but they naturally did not answer. The river carried the boat on to the land.
Gerda called out still louder, and there came out of the house a very old woman. She leaned upon a crutch, and she wore a large sunhat which was painted with the most beautiful flowers.
"You poor little girl!" Said the old woman. Then she stepped into the water, brought the boat in close with her crutch, and lifted little Gerda out.
"Now come and tell me who you are, and how you came here," she said. Gerda told her everything, and asked her if she had seen Kay. She said he had not passed that way yet, but he would soon come. She also told Gerda not to be sad, and that she should stay with her and take of the cherry trees and flowers, which were better than any picture book, as they could each tell a story.
She then took Gerda’s hand and led her into the little house and shut the door. The windows were very high, and the panes were red, blue, and yellow, so that the light came through in curious colours. On the table were the most delicious cherries, and the old woman let Gerda eat as many as she liked, while she combed her hair with a golden comb as she ate.
Her beautiful sunny hair rippled and shone around her dear little face, which was so soft and sweet. "I have always longed to have a dear little girl just like you, and you shall see how happy we will be together."
As she combed Gerda’s hair, Gerda thought less and less about Kay; for the old woman was a witch, but not a wicked witch, for she only enchanted now and then to amuse herself, and she did want to keep little Gerda very much. So she went into the garden and waved her stick over all the rose bushes and blossoms and all. They sank down into the black earth, and no one could see where they had been. The old woman was afraid that if Gerda saw the roses she would begin to think about her own, and then would remember Kay and run away.
She led Gerda out into the garden. How glorious it was, and what lovely scents filled the air! All the flowers you can think of blossomed there all the year round. Gerda jumped for joy and played there until the sun set behind the tall cherry trees, and then she slept in a beautiful bed with red silk pillows filled with violets, and she slept soundly and dreamed as a queen does on her wedding day.
The next day she played again with the flowers in the warm sunshine, and so many days passed by. Gerda knew every flower, but although there were so many, it seemed to her as if one were not there, though she could not remember which.
She was looking one day at the old woman’s sun hat which had the painted flowers on it, and there she saw a rose. The witch had forgotten to make that vanish when she had made the other roses disappear under the earth. It was so difficult to think of everything.
"Why, there are no roses here!" Gerda cried, and she hunted amongst all the flowers, but not one was to be found. Then she sat down and cried, but her tears fell just on the spot where a rose bush had sunk, and when her warm tears watered the earth, the bush came up in full bloom just as it had been before. Gerda kissed the roses and thought of the lovely roses at home, and with them came the thought of little Kay.
"Oh, what have I been doing!" Said the little girl. "I wanted to look for Kay." She ran to the end of the garden. The gate was shut, but she pushed against the rusty lock so that it came open.
She ran out with her little bare feet. No one came after her. At last she could not run any longer, and she sat down on a large stone. When she looked around she saw that the summer was over; it was late autumn. It had not changed in the beautiful garden, where were sunshine and flowers all the year round.
"Oh, dear, how late I have made myself!" Gerda said. "It’s autumn already! I cannot rest!" She sprang up to run on.
Oh, how tired and sore her little feet grew, and it became colder and colder. She had to rest again, and there on the snow in front of her was a large crow.
It had been looking at her for some time, and it nodded its head and said, "Caw! Caw! Good day." Then it asked the little girl why she was alone in the world. She told the crow her story, and asked if he had seen Kay. The crow nodded very thoughtfully and said, "It might be! It might be!"
"What! Do you think you have?" Cried the little girl, and she almost squeezed the crow to death as she kissed him.
"Gently, gently!" Said the crow. "I think – I know I think... It might be little Kay, but now he has forgotten you for the princess!"
"Does he live with a princess?" Gerda asked.
"Yes, listen," said the crow; then he told her all he knew.
"In the kingdom, in which we are now sitting, lives a princess who is dreadfully clever. She has read all the newspapers in the world and has forgotten them again. She is as clever as that. The other day she came to the throne, and that is not so pleasant as people think. Then she began to say, “Why should I not marry?” But she wanted a husband who could answer when he was spoken to, not one who would stand up stiffly and look respectable – that would be too dull. When she told all the court ladies, they were delighted. You can believe every word I say," said the crow, "I have a tame sweetheart in the palace, and she tells me everything."
Of course his sweetheart was a crow.
"The newspapers came out next morning with a border of hearts round it, and the princess’ monogram on it, and inside you could read that every good looking young man might come into the palace and speak to the princess, and whoever should speak loud enough to be heard would be well fed and looked after, and the one who spoke best should become the princess’ husband. Indeed," said the crow, "you can quite believe me. It is as true as that I am sitting here... Young men came in streams, and there was such a crowding and a mixing together! But nothing came of it on the first, nor on the second day. They could all speak quite well when they were in the street; but as soon as they came inside the palace door, and saw the guards in silver, and upstairs the footmen in gold, and the great hall all lighted up, then their wits left them! When they stood in front of the throne where the princess was sitting, then they could not think of anything to say except to repeat the last word she had spoken, and she did not much care to hear that again. It seemed as if they were walking in their sleep until they came out into the street again, when they could speak once more. There was a row stretching from the gate of the town up to the castle."
"They were hungry and thirsty, but in the palace they did not even get a glass of water. A few of the cleverest had brought some slices of bread and butter with them, but they did not share them with their neighbour; “If he looks hungry, the princess will not take him!” They thought."
"But what about Kay?" Gerda asked. "When did he come? Was he in the crowd?"
"Wait a bit; we are coming to him! On the third day a little figure came without horse or carriage and walked jauntily up to the palace. His eyes shone as yours do; he had lovely curling hair, but quite poor clothes."
"That was Kay!" Cried Gerda with delight. "Oh, then I have found him!" And she clapped her hands.
"He had a little bundle on his back," said the crow.
"No, it must have been his skates, for he went away with his skates!"
"Very likely," said the crow, "I did not see for certain. But I know this from my sweetheart, that when he came to the palace door and saw the royal guards in silver, and on the stairs the footmen in gold, he was not the least bit put out. He nodded to them, saying, “It must be rather dull standing on the stairs; I would rather go inside! The halls blazed with lights; councillors and ambassadors were walking about in noiseless shoes carrying gold dishes. It was enough to make one nervous! His boots creaked dreadfully loud, but he was not frightened."
"That must be Kay!" Gerda said. "I know he had new boots on; I have heard them creaking in his grandmother’s room!"
"They did creak, certainly!" Said the crow. "And, not one bit afraid, up he went to the princess, who was sitting on a large pearl as round as a spinning wheel. All the ladies-in-waiting were standing around, each with their attendants, and the lords-in-waiting with their attendants. The nearer they stood to the door the prouder they were."
"It must have been dreadful!" Said little Gerda. "And Kay did win the princess?"
"I heard from my tame sweetheart that he was merry and quick-witted; he had not come to woo, he said, but to listen to the princess’ wisdom. The end of it was that they fell in love with each other."
"Oh, yes; that was Kay!" Said Gerda. "He was so clever; he could do sums with fractions. Oh, do lead me to the palace!"
"That’s easily said," answered the crow, "but how are we to manage that? I must talk it over with my tame sweetheart. She may be able to advise us, for I must tell you that a little girl like you could never get permission to enter it."
"Yes, I will get it!" Said Gerda. "When Kay hears that I am there he will come out at once and fetch me!"
"Wait for me by the railings," said the crow, and he nodded his head and flew away.
It was late in the evening when he came back.
"Caw, caw!" He said, "I am to give you her love, and here is a little roll for you. She took it out of the kitchen; there’s plenty there, and you must be hungry. You cannot come into the palace. The guards in silver and the footmen in gold would not allow it. But don’t cry! You shall get in all right. My sweetheart knows a little back-stairs which leads to the sleeping room, and she knows where to find the key."
They went into the garden, and when the lights in the palace were put out one after the other, the crow led Gerda to a backdoor.
Oh, how Gerda’s heart beat with anxiety and longing! It seemed as if she were going to do something wrong, but she only wanted to know if it were little Kay. Yes, it must be he! She remembered so well his clever eyes, his curly hair. She could see him smiling as he did when they were at home under the rose trees! He would be so pleased to see her, and to hear how they all were at home.
Now they were on the stairs; a little lamp was burning, and on the landing stood the tame crow. She put her head on one side and looked at Gerda, who bowed as her grandmother had taught her.
"My betrothed has told me many nice things about you, my dear young lady," she said. "Will you take the lamp while I go in front? We'll go this way so as to meet no one."
Through beautiful rooms they came to the sleeping room. In the middle of it, hung on a thick rod of gold, were two beds - shaped like lilies; one all white, in which lay the princess, and the other red, in which Gerda hoped to find Kay. She pushed aside the curtain, and saw a brown neck. Oh, it was Kay! She called his name out loud, holding the lamp towards him.
He woke up, turned his head and... It was not Kay!
It was only his neck that was like Kay’s, but he was young and handsome. The princess sat up in her lily bed and asked who was there. Then Gerda cried, and told her story and all that the crows had done.
"You poor child!" Said the prince and princess. They praised the crows, and said that they were not angry with them, but that they must not do it again. Now they should have a reward.
"Would you like to fly away free?" Said the princess. "Or will you have a permanent place as court crows with what you can get in the kitchen?" Both crows bowed and asked for a permanent appointment, for they thought of their old age. They put Gerda to bed, and she folded her hands, thinking as she fell asleep, "How good people and animals are to me!"
The next day she was dressed from head to foot in silk and satin. They wanted her to stay on in the palace, but she begged for a little carriage and a horse, and a pair of shoes so that she might go out again into the world to look for Kay.
They gave her a muff as well as some shoes; she was warmly dressed, and when she was ready, there in front of the door stood a coach of pure gold, with a coachman, footmen and postilions with gold crowns on. The prince and princess helped her into the carriage and wished her good luck.
The wild crow who was now married drove with her for the first three miles; the other crow could not come because she had a bad headache.
"Goodbye, goodbye!" Called the prince and princess; and little Gerda cried, and the crow cried.
When he said goodbye, he flew on to a tree and waved with his black wings as long as the carriage, which shone like the sun, was in sight. They came at last to a dark wood, but the coach lit it up like a torch. When the robbers saw it, they rushed out, exclaiming, "Gold! Gold!"
They seized the horses, killed the coachman, footmen and postilions, and dragged Gerda out of the carriage. "She is plump and tender! I will eat her!" Said the old robber-queen, and she drew her long knife, which glittered horribly.