The Story of a Mother – Andersen’s Fairy Tales

The Story of a Mother

“The Story of a Mother” is a fairy tale by Andersen, praising a mother’s love and unconditional sacrifice for her child.

A mother sat by her little child, worried and heartbroken, fearing for its life. The child appeared weak, its eyes closed, and every now and then it would let out a heavy breath resembling a painful sigh. The sight of her fragile baby made the mother’s heart ache even more.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. A poor old man dressed in a tattered horse-cloth entered to escape the cold winter. The biting wind, snow, and ice made outside world a harsh and unforgiving place. The mother, noticing the old man shivering, kindly heated a small mug of beer on the stove for him. As the child momentarily dozed off, the old man gently rocked the cradle, and the mother sat beside him, holding onto her child’s tiny hand.

“Do you believe my child will survive?” she asked. “Surely, our benevolent God wouldn’t take him away from me.”

The old man, who was Death in disguise, enigmatically nodded his head, hinting at either affirmation or denial. Struggling to suppress her tears, the mother’s fatigue overtook her, and she fell asleep after three sleepless days and nights. When she awoke, both the child and the old man vanished, Death had taken her precious baby. The anguished mother stormed out into the snow, frantically calling her child’s name.

A mysterious woman, clad in long black garments, confronted the grieving mother in the snow. She informed her, “Death has visited your home, taking your child with him. He moves swifter than the wind and never returns what he has claimed.”

“Please, tell me which path he took,” begged the mother. “I must find him and my child.”

“I know the path,” the woman in black revealed, “but first, you must sing to me all the songs you sang to your child. I am the Night, and I heard your tearful melodies.”

“I’ll sing for you,” the mother agreed, “but don’t delay me. I must find my child.”

Throughout the night, the mother wept, sang, and pleaded. After countless songs and tears, the Night relented, guiding her into the dark forest of fir trees where Death had taken her child.

Lost, the mother stood at a crossroads within the forest, unsure which way to go. A nearby thorn-bush, devoid of leaves and flowers on this frigid winter night, offered direction in exchange for her warmth. Desperate, she pressed the bush to her bosom, bearing the pain of the piercing thorns as her blood flowed. A miracle occurred as the thorn-bush sprouted leaves and flowers – the warmth of a grieving mother’s heart had brought life even to that cold winter’s night. The bush revealed Death’s path.

At last, the mother encountered a vast lake with no means to cross. The ice was too thin to walk on, yet the water too deep to wade through, yet she knew she must cross to find her child. With no other choice, she attempted to drink the lake’s water, hoping against all odds for a miracle to guide her onwards.

“You shall not achieve this”, declared the lake. “Instead, let us strike a bargain that benefits us both. I adore gathering pearls, and your eyes are the purest I ever seen. Weep your eyes out into my waters as tears, and in exchange, I will take you to the vast greenhouse where Death nurtures trees and flowers, each representing a human life.”

“Oh, what would I not give to be reunited with my child!” exclaimed the distraught mother, and as she wept, her eyes cascaded into the depths of the lake, transforming into two priceless pearls. The lake then embraced her and wafted her across to the opposite shore as though she were on swing. There, a wondrous structure stretched for miles, resembling either a mountain blanketed in forest or an intricate construction. Sadly, the mother remained sightless, having surrendered her eyes to the lake.

“Where can I find Death, who took my precious child?” she inquired.

“Death has not arrived yet,” replied an elderly, gray-haired woman who was tending to’s greenhouse. “How did you manage to find your way here, and who assisted you?”

“God has helped me,” the mother responded. “He is merciful. Will you not show mercy as well? Where can I find my little one?”

“I do not know your child,” confessed the old woman, “and you are blind. Tonight, many flowers and trees have wilted, and Death will soon come to transplant them. As you know, every human possesses a life-tree or a life-flower, according to their destiny. These plants resemble others, but their hearts beat in unison. Children’s hearts beat too – perhaps that is how you can recognize your child. But tell me, what will you offer me if I reveal more of what you must do?”

“I have nothing to give,” lamented the grieving mother, “but I would travel to the ends of the earth for you.”

“I have no tasks for you there,” stated the old woman. “However, you can grant me your long, black hair. You are aware of its beauty, and it pleases me. In return, you can have my white hair.”

“Is that all you desire?” the mother asked. “I will gladly offer it to you.”

In exchange for her beautiful hair, the mother received the old woman’s white locks. Together, they entered Death’s vast greenhouse, where an astonishing variety of flowers and trees thrived side by side. Glass bells sheltered blooming hyacinths, while sturdy peonies stood tall like trees. Water plants, both vibrant and wilting, were entwined with water-snakes and encrusted with black crabs on their stems. Towering palm trees, oaks, and plantains overshadowed humble thyme and parsley. Each tree and flower had a name, representing a human life from every corner of the world.

Some robust trees were confined to tiny pots, the roots threatening to shatter their containers, while delicate flowers luxuriated in rich soil, surrounded by verdant moss and tended with care. The grieving mother listened to the heartbeat within each plant, and amidst the countless pulsing rhythms, she recognized her child’s.

“There it is!” she exclaimed, reaching for a fragile crocus that drooped pathetically.

“Do not touch the flower,” warned the old woman. “Stand here, and when Death comes, which should be any moment now, prevent him from uprooting that plant. Threaten him that if he does so, you’ll do the same to the others. This will frighten him, for he must answer to God for every one. None can be destroyed without divine permission.”

The Story of a Mother and the Death
The Story of a Mother and the Death

An icy chill swept through the greenhouse, and the blind mother sensed Death’s arrival.

“How did you manage to find your way here? How could you get here faster than me?” Death asked.

“I am a mother,” she replied.

Death reached for the frail crocus, but she grasped it firmly, careful not to harm any of its leaves. Unfazed, Death breathed on her hands; his icy breath rendered her weak and powerless.

“You cannot defeat me,” declared Death.

“Only a merciful God can,” she countered.

“I merely carry out His will,” Death explained. “I am His gardener, transplanting His flowers and trees to the eternal gardens of Paradise in a distant land. As for their heavenly flourishing and the beauty of that garden, I cannot reveal that to you.”

“Please, give me back my child!” the mother pleaded, tears streaming down her face. Desperate, she clutched two beautiful flowers and threatened Death, “I will destroy all of your flowers, for my despair is unbearable.”

“Stop,” Death urged her. “You claim to be miserable, but would you inflict that same misery on another mother?”

“Another mother?” gasped the poor woman, releasing the flowers from her grasp.

“These are your eyes,” Death continued, presenting them to her. “I retrieved them from the lake. I didn’t realize they were yours. Take them; they are now clearer than before. Look into the nearby well, and I will tell you the significance of the two flowers you nearly uprooted. You will see the entire future of the two beings they symbolize, the destiny you nearly destroyed.”

She peered into the well, marveling at the breathtaking sight. One individual brought blessings and joy to the world, while the other’s life was filled with hardship, poverty, and sorrow.

“Both are God’s will,” Death solemnly declared.

“Which flower symbolizes the unfortunate one, and which the fortunate?” she inquired.

“I cannot reveal that,” Death replied. “But you must know that one of these flowers represents your child. You have seen your child’s fate – the future of your own flesh and blood.”

The mother cried out in horror, “Which one belongs to my child? Tell me! Free my child from such suffering. Take him away – to God’s kingdom if you must. Forget my tears and pleas; forget all that I have said or done.”

“I cannot comprehend your request,” Death responded. “Do you wish for your child to return, or shall I bring him to a place unknown to you?”

With trembling hands and a heavy heart, the mother fell to her knees and prayed, “Lord, do not grant my prayers when they defy Your will, for Your will is always for the greater good. Please, do not heed my words.” With that, she bowed her head defeated.

Then, Death carried her child to the unknown land, taking the mother’s sorrow away with him.

The Story of a Mother
– Andersen’s Fairy Tales –

The Moral Lesson of “The Story of a Mother”

The moral lesson of “The Story of a Mother” by Hans Christian Andersen is that accepting the natural order of life and death is crucial, as interfering with it can lead to unintended consequences. The story underscores the power of a mother’s love, the importance of considering the ethical consequences of one’s actions, and the interconnectedness of all lives.

Here, will help you delve deeper into the meaningful lessons of this fairy tale.

1. Natural Order of Life and Death

The story emphasizes that there is a predestined order to things such as life and death. When the mother tries to intervene and save her child from Death, it disrupts the natural order. This theme conveys that interfering with life’s natural processes can have unintended consequences.

2. Unconditional Love and Sacrifice

The mother’s determination to save her child showcases her unwavering love and her willingness to go to great lengths to protect her child. This theme underlines the strength of a mother’s love and her courage to stand against even death itself.

3. Acceptance of the Inevitable

In the end, the mother realizes that saving her child would mean another child would suffer in their place. Due to this understanding, she accepts the reality and lets go of her desire to interfere with the natural order. This theme teaches us that sometimes the hardest decisions are those that involve acceptance of life’s harsh realities.

4. Consequences of Selfish Actions

When the mother tries to save her child, it puts another innocent child’s life in jeopardy. The story teaches us that our actions, even when motivated by love, can have serious consequences, and we must weigh these consequences to make ethical choices.

5. The Interconnectedness of Life

The story illustrates the idea that all lives are connected and interdependent, and that interfering with one’s fate might impact others. This theme highlights that every individual’s life is part of a larger tapestry, and alterations to that tapestry can lead to unintended effects.

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