A MONG the tall trees in the forest grew a little spruce tree. It was no taller than a man, and that is very short for a tree.
The other trees near it grew so tall and had such large branches that the poor little tree could not grow at all.
She liked to listen when the other trees were talking, but it often made her sad.
"I am king of the forest," said the oak. "Look at my huge trunk and my branches. How they reach up toward heaven! I furnish planks for men from which they build their ships. Then I defy the storm on the ocean as I do the thunder in the forest."
"And I go with you over the foaming waves," said the tall straight pine. "I hold up the flapping sails when the ships fly over the ocean."
"And we warm the houses when winter comes and the cold north wind drives the snow before him," said the birches. "We have the same work to do," said a tall fir tree, and she bowed gracefully, drooping her branches toward the ground.
The little spruce tree heard the other trees talking about their work in the world. This made her sad, and she thought, "What work can I do? What will become of me?"
But she could not think of any way in which she could be useful. She decided to ask the other trees in the forest.
So she asked the oak, the pine, and the fir, but they were so proud and stately they did not even hear her.
Then she asked the beautiful white birch that stood near by. "You have no work to do," said the birch, "because you can never grow large enough. Perhaps you might be a Christmas tree, but that is all."
"What is a Christmas tree?" asked the little spruce.
"I do not know exactly," replied the birch. "Sometimes when the days are short and cold, and the ground is covered with snow, men come out here into the forest. They look at all the little spruce trees and choose the prettiest, saying, 'This will do for a Christmas tree.' Then they chop it down and carry it away. What they do with it I cannot tell."
The little spruce asked the rabbit that hopped over the snow, and the owls that slept in the pines, and the squirrels that came to find nuts and acorns.
But no one knew more than the birch tree. No one could tell what men did with the Christmas trees.
Then the little spruce tree wept because she had no work to do and could not be of any use in the world.
The tears hardened into clear, round drops, which we call gum.
At last a boy came into the forest with an ax in his hand. He looked the little tree all over. "Perhaps this will do for a Christmas tree," he said. So he chopped it down, laid it on a sled, and dragged it home.
The next day the boy sold the tree, and it was taken into a large room and dressed up with popcorn and gilded nuts and candles. Packages of all sizes and shapes, and tiny bags filled with candy, were tied on its branches.
The tree was trembling with the excitement, but she stood as still as she could. "What if I should drop some of this fruit," she thought.
When it began to grow dark, every one left the room and the tree was alone. It began to feel lonely and to think sad thoughts.
Soon the door opened and a lady came in. She lighted all the candles.
How light and glowing it was then!
The tree had never even dreamed of anything so beautiful!
Then the children came and danced about the tree, singing a Christmas song. The father played on his violin, and the baby sat in her mother's arms, smiling and cooing.
"Now I know what I was made for," thought the spruce tree; "I was intended to give joy to the little ones, because I, myself, am so small and humble."
|— Norwegian Legend|
|retold by Anna von Rydingsvärd|