Then the pigeons said, ‘Coo, coo, we saw little Kay. He sat in the carriage of the Snow Queen which drove through the wood while we were lying in our nest. She blew upon us and all the young birds died except us two. Coo, coo.’

‘What are you saying there?’ cried the robber-girl. ‘Do you know where the Snow Queen was going?’

‘She was going to Lapland where there is always snow and ice. Ask the reindeer.’

‘Yes, there is always snow and ice there,’ said the reindeer. ‘And it is a wonderful place: you can run freely on the sparkling ice. The Snow Queen has her summer cottage there but her palace is at the North Pole.

‘Do you know where Lapland is?’ asked the robber-girl.

‘Who can know better than I?’ said the reindeer. ‘I was born and brought up there and ran on the snow-covered plains!’

At noon when all the robbers went away and only the robber- girl’s mother stayed at home, but she was drunk and was fast asleep, the little robber-girl went up to the reindeer and said, ‘I’ll let you free and you’ll run away to Lapland. But you must carry this little girl to the palace of the Snow Queen where her friend is.’ The reindeer laughed for joy, and the robber-girl lifted Gerda on his back and even gave her a cushion to sit on.

‘Here are your fur boots and your coat’ she said, ‘because it will be very cold but I’ll keep your muff — it is so pretty. But I’ll give you my mother’s large warm mittens. Let me put them on your hands. And here are two loaves of bread and a ham, so you won’t be hungry.’ And with these words she opened the door and cut the rope, with which the reindeer was tied, with her knife. ‘Now run and take good care of this girl,’ she told the reindeer.

And Gerda stretched out her hand in a big mitten toward the robber-girl and said, ‘Farewell.’ ‘Farewell’ said the robber-girl. ‘Sneep, snup, snare.’ And away flew the reindeer through the big forests as fast as he could. The wolves howled around them and in the sky there were red lights like the flame of fire. ‘These are my old northern lights’ said the reindeer, and he ran day and night faster and faster till at last they reached Lapland.


next page