Thursday 17 November 2011

A previously untranslated short tale by
Hans Christian Andersen

The Potatoes

‘Sooner or later, whatever is good will be respected and revered!’ Grandma said. ‘Just bear in mind the potatoes – they could say a thing or two about that, provided they could speak, of course!’

They had certainly experienced not being appreciated. It didn’t even help when the minister preached from the pulpit that they were both useful and a source of delight – people simply didn’t believe it; even kings handed them out so they could be put down, but were they ever? Dear me, no! There was, to name but one, the great King of Prussia, who people called Old Fritz – now there was a man for you! – he took good care of the potatoes too, gave away a whole cartload to one of the towns in his kingdom and had everyone summoned to the town square to the sounding of the drum; the town council, no less, had to show people the new vegetable, and instructions were read out as to how it was to be planted, tended and prepared. But it all went in one ear and out the other – people didn’t understand what was being read out, and went straight ahead and took a bite of the raw potatoes. ‘Ugh, how terrible they taste!’ they said and threw them into the gutter, where they could see that not even the dogs would eat them. But there actually were some people who were willing to give it a try, and some of them stuck their potatoes into the ground, one here and one there, and waited for a tree to grow up so they could shake potatoes from it; others threw the whole lot into a big hole, where they all got tangled up into one great lump and went into leaf.
– The next year the king had to start all over again, but the idea only sank in very slowly. – ‘The same there as here!’ said Grandma. ‘People have failed to appreciate the best vegetable that’s ever come our way! But now the potatoes can stand on their own two feet! – Now they are appreciated. Whatever is good will be respected and revered, sooner or later!’

How often, when faced with much of what seems to have to suffer so badly in the world, have I not thought of the potatoes and Grandma’s words.

No comments: