Quote of the Day: Hans Christen Andersen & The Fir Tree

“In the morning the servants and the housemaid came in. “Now,” thought the fir, “all my splendor is going to begin again.” But they dragged him out of the room and up stairs to the garret, and threw him on the floor, in a dark corner, where no daylight shone, and there they left him. “What does this mean?” thought the tree, “what am I to do here? I can hear nothing in a place like this,” and he had time enough to think, for days and nights passed and no one came near him, and when at last somebody did come, it was only to put away large boxes in a corner.

So the tree was completely hidden from sight as if it had never existed. “It is winter now,” thought the tree, “the ground is hard and covered with snow, so that people cannot plant me. I shall be sheltered here, I dare say, until spring comes. How thoughtful and kind everybody is to me! Still I wish this place were not so dark, as well as lonely, with not even a little hare to look at.

How pleasant it was out in the forest while the snow lay on the ground, when the hare would run by, yes, and jump over me too, although I did not like it then. Oh! it is terrible lonely here.”

The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen

Origins of the Quote

The Fir Tree is one of Hans Christen Andersen’s finest stories. As he always does – his content so compelling that years later one can still relate and learn from what he says. There is a timelessness in what he says.

Fir trees are scouted for during Christmas and they adorn the living rooms. There is a lot of excitement around the decoration of the tree and the gifts that surround it. Here, Anderson employs an age-old trope where he personifies the tree and gives it a voice.

The tree is a protagonist and not a hero. This is a unique bit of writing in this sense. The hero is not glorified as he is yet to learn. He is shown not enjoying the bounty and the opulence that surrounds him, but pines for another place. And he spends most of his time discontented. Unbeknownst, his life is about to change – plucked from nature he is stuck in a living room. He makes the mistake of thinking that it was a permanent place where he will be celebrated. What he wanted. Only to rudely awaken to the fact that he is totally dispensable. Not having made the most of his present, wisdom comes too late.

The Person Behind the Words

Andersen was born in 1805 to poor parents, fought the rigid class structure of his time throughout his life. Jonas Collin, one of the directors of the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, funded his education. Andersen had wanted to become an actor. But life had different plans for him. Stories needed to be written, experiences waiting to be shared…

Although school was a torturous time for the sensitive artist Andersen, it was important. It saw him being admitted to the University of Copenhagen in 1828, for higher education.

Andersen was unafraid about introducing feelings and ideas that were beyond a child’s immediate comprehension. While he remained in touch with the child’s perspective, they felt a part of something bigger. Like moving closer to a truth. His stories were a combination of natural storytelling and great imagination. To that, he added the power of folk legends to produce a body of fairy tales that relate to many cultures.

Some Final Thoughts

The Fir Tree contains a massive life lesson. To live in the present, in gratitude and contentment. With respect for all that the Divine has provided. This is what makes it a great Christmas story as it provokes the readers, young and old to think about things. Real things.

Although the world of imagination and dreams are important, what one has, is also important. How we treat the environment and respond to it is important, and not merely dismiss the countless blessings that surround us. The truth is living in the moment and with gratitude. That is what separates a life lived happily or otherwise.

Check out our Quote of the Day archive where we bring you quotes hand picked by me, Divvya Nirula. Sharing the stories, people, moments behind the inspiration and thought provoking words.