The Fir Tree

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  School Radio  © BBC School Radio  Tales of Hans Christian Andersen THE FIR TREE Adapted by Jeff CapelA long time ago, in a forest, there stood a pretty little fi r tree. The forest was very beautiful - the air was fresh and smelled of pine and berries, the birds sang joyfully and it was a peaceful place to live. But the little fi r tree wasn’t happy. It wanted to be tall, like the trees that grew around it.It looked up at the trunks of the other evergreens in the forest, knowing that from their tops you could see the whole wide world, and it watched the birds making nests in the broad branches that spread on either side. People passing through the forest would often say ‘What a pretty little tree!’ and for sure it had a lovely shape but the fi r tree only heard the word ‘little’ and not the ‘pretty’ that went before it. All it wanted was to be tall.Sometimes a hare would come bounding through the forest and leap right over the little fi r tree on strong, springy legs and that would make it feel even sadder. Two winters had come and gone and the little fi r tree grew. Now the hare wasn’t able to  jump over and bounced around it instead but this didn’t make the little fi r tree any happier. ‘I wish I could be older and taller like the other trees,’ sighed the little fi r. ‘That’s the only thing I care about in the world.’ There was no pleasure in the warm sunshine or the gentle breeze or in the sounds of the swallows and the blackbirds that fi lled the air.Woodcutters would visit the forest and cut down the tallest trees with axes and saws. The little fi r tree shuddered as it heard their thick trunks fall to the fl oor with a loud crash. 1  School Radio  © BBC School Radio When the branches were hacked off, it thought the trees looked skinny and bare, but it couldn’t help thinking how exciting it would be to join them on the horse-drawn wagons that took them away from the forest.  ‘Where are they going?’ it thought. So the wise Stork was asked. ‘Ah yes,’ nodded the Stork. ‘When I fl y over the sea from my travels in Africa I often see great ships sailing down below. They have fi ne masts made from those trees and very grand they look too. That’s where they are headed - to sea!’  ‘I wish I was tall enough to go to sea,’ said the little fi r miserably. ‘But what is the sea? What’s it like?’  ‘That would take far too much time to explain,’ replied the Stork and away he soared. ‘Never mind,’ beamed the sun. ‘Be happy that you are young and free.’ And the wind agreed and so did the dew that sprinkled its branches. But the little fi r tree took no notice.It was Christmas time. The woodcutters came back to the forest in their horse-drawn wagons, but this time they cut down trees that were smaller and younger than the fi r tree. ‘Why have they been chosen?’ it said bitterly. ‘What makes them special?’ Then it noticed that the woodcutters didn’t hack off the branches but left them on.  ‘They are no prettier than me,’ moaned the little fi r. ‘Where are they going?’ The Stork had fl own back to Africa to spend the winter so couldn’t answer the question. But the sparrows could. ‘We know! We know!’ they chirped as they huddled together to keep out of the cold. ‘We have fl own around the town and seen those trees standing in the warm rooms of smart houses. They are dressed up to look very splendid with sparkling stars and glowing candles and glass balls of every colour you can think of. Wooden toys dangle from the branches and bags of sweets and golden apples. Children stand around them holding hands and singing carols. Oh that would be a lovely life!’ 2  School Radio  © BBC School Radio  ‘I wonder if anything so wonderful will ever happen to me,’ replied the fi r tree. ‘What I would give to stand in the warm room of a smart house and be decorated in all that fi nery. That’s much better than crossing the sea. I ache with wanting that.’  ‘Nothing beats the fresh air,’ smiled the sunlight. ‘You would never be warmed by the golden sun,’ whispered the air.But the tree ignored them. Another year had passed. Another Christmas time had arrived. The fi r tree listened to the sound of the horse-drawn wagons as the woodcutters came back to the forest.It couldn’t hide its excitement when it was chosen to be cut down. ‘My time has come. I knew it would,’ cried the tree happily. ‘I will stand forever in the grandest of houses and my branches will be decorated with beautiful things.’ As the woodcutter’s axe cut through its stem the tree groaned and, as it fell to the forest fl oor, it felt so sad that it would be leaving its home and the creatures that it had known all its life. But it knew a better life was waiting in the town.The ride to town was a bumpy one and the tree felt most uncomfortable. But that soon changed as the horses trotted to a halt outside a big, white house on a street that swept around in a half moon shape. ‘This is the prettiest tree,’ it heard a well-spoken lady announce. ‘Bring this one in, please.’ The fi r tree no longer stood in the peaceful forest with its smells of pine and berries. Now it was placed in a large tub fi lled with sand in the centre of an enormous high-ceilinged room. There were silk sofas, ornate vases, pictures on the walls of far away places and thick patterned rugs. ‘This is all worth a lot of money,’ thought the tree, bursting with pride. ‘This is where I should be!’ 3  School Radio  © BBC School Radio Some children arrived with a box full of Christmas decorations. They covered the tree with baubles and sparkling tinsel, hung tissue paper bags of striped sweets over its branches and fi xed candles of red, white and blue onto the ends. ‘Tonight we can light the candles and sing carols,’ the children laughed. ‘It will be bright and beautiful.’  ‘I can’t wait for the evening to come,’ thought the tree. ‘Wait! Wait! We’ve forgotten the star!’ cried a little girl. A servant was called and very, very carefully she stood on a chair to reach the top of the not-so-little fi r tree and fastened a shining silver star. To the tree, it felt like a crown.That night the candles were lit. The fi r tree trembled, partly with fear because it had never seen a fl ame before and partly with joy because it felt so happy. ‘Will I grow as tall as the ceiling here?’ it thought. ‘Will these dazzling ornaments hang all year round?’ The trembling caused one of the candles to fall on its needle leaves and burnt some of them. ‘Help!’ the children shouted, but the fi re was soon extinguished and after that the fi r tree stood perfectly still to stop it happening again.Then carols were sung and the children danced around the tree laughing. The tree couldn’t believe how much happiness there was in this one room and that it was part of all this fun.But it wasn’t to last. The next day the tree was stripped bare. The children had eaten the sweets and ripped off the wooden toys and garlands of tinsel. ‘I expect tomorrow I’ll be decorated again with new candles and fresh apples and more delicious mouth-fuls,’ thought the tree. ‘Tomorrow I won’t tremble as my splendour starts again!’ In the morning, however, no children came. But the servants did. Roughly they dragged the tree out of the room and up many steps to a cold, dark attic room. There was no daylight and the wooden fl oor was coated in dust and spiders’ webs. It was very different from the warm sitting room with the silk sofas and thick rugs.4
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