By Hans Christian Andersen
The well was deep, and so the rope was long
; the windlass had barely room to turn, when
one came to lift the bucket full of water
over the edge of the well. The sun could
never get down to reflect itself in the
water, however clear it was ; but so far as
it managed to shine down, green
plants grew between the stones.
A family of the toad -race lived there. They
were immigrants, who had really come down
there head-fore- most with the old
mother-toad, who still lived. The green
frogs, who swarm in the water, and had been
there much earlier, acknowledged
relationship and called them ' the
well-guests '. These quite intended to
remain there ; they lived very comfortably
on the dry land, as they called the wet
The mother-frog had once travelled, had been
in the bucket when it went up, but the light
became too strong for her, and she got a
pain in her eyes ; luckily she got out of
the bucket. She fell with a frightful splash
into the water, and lay three days
afterwards with a pain in her
back. She could not tell very much about the
world up above, but she knew, and they all
knew, that the well was not the whole world.
Mother Toad should have been able to tell
one or two things, but she never answered
when she was asked, and so one did not ask.
' Thick and ugly, horrid and fat she is ! '
said the young green frogs. ' Her children
will be just as ugly ! '
' That may be so,' said Mother Toad, ' but
one of them has a jewel in its head, or I
have it myself ! '
And the green frogs heard, and they stared ;
and as they didn't like it, they made faces,
and went to the bottom. But the young toads
stretched their hind legs with sheer pride ;
each of them believed that he had the jewel,
and so they sat and kept their heads very
still, but finally they asked what they were
so proud of, and what a jewel really was.
' It is something so splendid and precious,'
said Mother Toad, ' that I cannot describe
it ! it is something that one goes about
with for one's own pleasure, and which the
others go about and fret over. But don't
ask, I won't answer ! '
' Well, I have not got the jewel,' said the
smallest toad; it was just as ugly as it
could be. ' Why should I have such a grand
thing ? And if it vexes others, it cannot
give me pleasure ! No, I only wish that I
might come up to the edge of the well some
time to look out. It must be charming there
' Better remain where you are ! ' said the
old one. ' You know what you are doing then.
Take care of the bucket, it "may squash you
; and if you get safely into it, you may
fall out ; not all fall so luckily as I did,
and keep their limbs and eggs whole,'
' Quack ! ' said the little one, and it was
just as when we mortals say ' Alack ! '
It had such a desire to get up to the edge
of the well and look out ; it felt such a
longing after the green things up there ;
and when next morning the bucket, filled
with water, was being drawn up, and
accidentally stopped for a moment just by
the stone, on which the toad sat, the little
creature quivered and sprang into the full
bucket, and sank to the bottom of the water,
which then came
up and was emptied out.
' Ugh, confound it ! ' said the man, who saw
it. ' It is the ugliest thing I have seen,'
and he made a kick with his wooden shoe at
the toad, which came near to being crippled,
but escaped by getting in amongst the high
stinging-nettles. It saw stalk by stalk, and
it looked upwards too. The sun shone on the
leaves, they were quite transparent ; it was
for it, as it is for us when we come all at
once into a great wood, where the sun shines
through the leaves and branches.
' It is much lovelier here than down in the
well ! One could wish to stay here all one's
life ! ' said the little toad. It lay there
one hour, it lay there two ! ' Now, I wonder
what can be outside ? As I have come so far,
I may as well go farther ! ' And it crawled
as fast as it could, and came out on to the
road, where the sun shone on it, and the
dust powdered it whilst it marched across
the high road.
' Here one is really on dry land,' said the
toad ; ' I am getting almost too much of a
good thing ; it tickles right into me ! '
Now it came to the ditch ; the
forget-me-nots grew here and the
meadow-sweet ; there was a hedge close by,
with hawthorn and elder bushes ; and the
white-flowered convolvulus climbed over it.
Here were colours to be seen ; and yonder
flew a butterfly ; the toad thought it was
a flower which had broken loose, the better
to look about the world ; it was such a
natural thing to do.
' If one could only get along like that,'
said the toad. 1 Ah ! ah ! how delightful !
It stayed in the ditch for eight days and
nights, and had no want of food. The ninth
day it thought, ' Farther on now ! ' but
what more beautiful could be found ? Perhaps
a little toad, or some green frogs. During
the past night, it had sounded in the wind
as if there were cousins in the
neighbourhood. ' It is lovely to live ! to
come up out of the well ; to lie among
to crawl along a dusty road, and to rest in
the wet ditch ! but forward still ! let us
find frogs or a little toad ; one cannot do
without that ; Nature is not enough for one
! ' And so it set out again on its
wanderings. It came into the field, to a big
pond with sedges round it, and it made its
way into these.
' It is too wet for you here, isn't it ? '
said the frogs, ' but you are very welcome !
Are you a he or a she ? It does not matter,
you are welcome all the same.'
And so it was invited to a concert in the
evening, a family concert ; great enthusiasm
and thin voices, we all know that kind.
There were no refreshments, except free
drinks, the whole pond if they liked.
1 Now I shall travel farther ! ' said the
little toad. It was always craving after
something better. It saw the stars twinkle,
so big and so clear ; it saw the new moon
shine, it saw the sun rise, higher and
' I am still in the well, in a bigger well ;
I must get higher up ! I have a restlessness
and a longing.'
And when the moon was full and round, the
poor creature thought, ' Can that be the
bucket, which is let down, and which I can
jump into, to come higher up ! or is the sun
the big bucket ? how big it is, and how
beaming ; it could hold all of us together.
I must watch for my chance ! Oh, what a
brightness there is in my head ! I don't
believe the jewel can shine better ! but I
haven't got it, and I don't weep for it. No
; higher up in brightness and gladness ! I
have an assurance, and yet a fear it is a
hard step to take ! but one must take it !
forwards ! right out
on the highway ! '
And it stepped out, as well as such a
crawling creature can, and then it was on
the highway where people lived ; there were
both flower-gardens and kitchen-gardens. It
rested beside a kitchen-garden.
'How many different beings there are, which
I have never known ! and how big and blessed
the world is !
But one must also look about in it, and not
remain sitting in one place,' and so it
hopped into the kitchen-garden. ' How green
it is how lovely it is here ! '
' I know that well enough ! ' said the
caterpillar on the leaf. ' My leaf is the
biggest one here ! it hides half the world,
but I can do without that.'
' Cluck, cluck,' was heard, and fowls came
tripping into the garden. The foremost hen
was long-sighted ; she saw the caterpillar
on the curly leaf, and pecked at it, so that
it fell to the ground, where it wriggled and
twisted itself. The hen looked first with
one eye and then with the other,
for it did not know what was to be the end
of this wriggling.
' It does not do that with any good intent,'
thought the hen, and lifted its head to peck
at it. The toad became so frightened, that
it crawled right up towards the hen.
' So it has friends to help it ! ' said the
hen, ' look at that crawler ! ' and it
turned away. ' I don't care a bit about the
little green mouthful : it only tickles
one's throat I ' The other fowls were of the
same opinion, and so they went away.
' I wriggled myself away from it ! ' said
the caterpillar, ' it is a good thing to
have presence of mind ; but the hardest task
remains, to get back on to my cabbage leaf.
Where is it ? '
And the little toad came and expressed its
sympathy. It was glad that it had frightened
the hens with its ugliness.
' What do you mean by that ? ' asked the
caterpillar. ' I wriggled myself away from
them. You are very unpleasant to look at !
May I be allowed to occupy my own place ?
Now I smell cabbage I Now I am close to my
leaf ! There is nothing so nice as one's own
! But I must
get higher up '
' Yes, higher up ! ' said the little toad, '
higher up ! it feels as I do ! but it is not
in a good humour to-day ; that comes from
the fright. We all wish to get higher up ! '
And it looked up as high as it could.
The stork sat in his nest on the farmer's
roof ; he chattered, and the mother-stork
' How high up they live ! ' thought the toad
; ' if one could only get up there ! '
In the farm-house lived two young students.
The one was a poet, the other a naturalist ;
the one sang and wrote in gladness about all
that God had made, and as it was reflected
in his heart ; he sang it out, short, clear,
and rich in melodious verse. The other took
hold of the thing itself ; aye, split it up,
if necessary. He took our Lord's creation as
a vast sum in arithmetic, subtracted,
multiplied, wanted to know it out and in and
to talk with understanding about it ; and it
was perfect understanding, and he talked in
gladness and with wisdom about it. They were
good, happy fellows, both of them.
' There sits a good specimen of a toad,'
said the naturalist. 'I must have it in
' You have two others already,' said the
poet , ' let it sit in peace, and enjoy
itself ! '
' But it is so beautifully ugly,' said the
' Yes, if we could find the jewel in its
head ! ' said the poet, ' I myself would
help to split it up.'
' The jewel ! ' said the other ; ' you are
good at natural history ! '
' But is there not something very beautiful
in the common belief that the toad, the very
ugliest of animals, often carries hidden in
its head the most precious jewel ' Is it not
the same with men ? What a jewel had not
Aesop, and Socrates ! ' The toad heard no
more, and it did not understand the half of
it. The two friends went on, and it escaped
being put in spirit.
' They also talked about the jewel ! ' said
the toad. ' It is a good thing that I have
not got it ; otherwise I should have got
There was a chattering on the farmer's roof
; the fatherstork was delivering a lecture
to his family, and they looked down askance
at the two young men in the kitchen -garden.
' Man is the most conceited creature ! '
said the stork. ' Listen how they chatter !
and yet they can't give a single decent
croak. They are vain of their oratorical
powers and their language ! And it is a rare
language ! It becomes unintelligible every
day's journey that we do. The one
doesn't understand the other. Our language
we can talk over the whole world, both in
Denmark and in Egypt. And men can't fly at
all ! they fly along by means of an
invention which they call a railway, but
they often break their necks with that. I
get shivers in my bill, when I think of it ;
the world can exist without men. We can do
without them. Let us only keep frogs and
rain-worms ! '
' That was a grand speech ! ' thought the
little toad. ' What a big man he is, and how
high he sits, higher than I have ever seen
any one before ! and how he can swim ! ' it
exclaimed, when the stork with outspread
wings flew through the air.
And the mother-stork spoke in the nest, and
told about the land of Egypt, about the
water of the Nile, and about all the
splendid mud which was in foreign lands ; it
sounded quite new and charming to the little
' I must go to Egypt,' it said, ' if only
the stork would take me with it ; or one of
the young ones. I would do it a service in
return on its wedding-day. Yes, I am sure I
shall get to Egypt, for I am so lucky. All
the longing and desire which I have is much
better than having a jewel in one's head.'
And it just had the jewel ; the eternal
longing and desire, upwards, always upwards
! it shone within it, shone in gladness, and
beamed with desire.
At that moment came the stork ; it had seen
the toad in the grass, and he swooped down,
and took hold of the little creature, not
altogether gently. The bill pinched, the
wind whistled ; it was not pleasant, but
upwards it went up to Egypt, it knew ; and
so its eyes shone, as if a spark flew out of
them. ' Quack ! ack ! '
The body was dead, the toad was killed. But
the spark from his eyes, what became of it ?
The sunbeam took it, the sunbeam bore the
jewel from the head of the toad. Whither ?
You must not ask the naturalist, rather ask
the poet ; he will tell it you as a story ;
and the caterpillar is in it, and the
stork-family is in it. Think ! the
caterpillar is transformed, and becomes a
lovely butterfly ! The storkfamily flies
over mountains and seas, to distant Africa,
and yet finds the shortest way home again to
Denmark, to the same place, the same roof !
Yes, it is really almost too like a fairy
tale, and yet it is true ! You may quite
well ask the naturalist about it ; he must
admit it, and you yourself know it too, for
you have seen it.
But the jewel in the head of the toad ?
Look for it in the sun, see it there if you
can. The splendour there is too strong. We
have not yet got the eyes to look into all
the glories which God has created, but some
day we shall get them, and that will be the
loveliest story, for we shall be in it