Friday 7 April 2017

An Andersen tale not published until 1959: 'The Apple'

The Apple

Over in England a little boy and a little girl were sitting, they were playing with an apple, they shook it and listened to how the pips rattled inside; they divided the apple and got one piece each, they divided the pips between them and ate them, all but one, this they should plant in the ground, the little boy thought, ‘then you will see what comes out of it!’ he said, ‘something will come that you simply can’t imagine! a complete apple tree will come out of it! but not straight away!’ he happened to be so intelligent. And the pip was planted in a flower pot, both of them were equally eager about this; the boy poked a hole in the soil with his finger, the little girl placed the pip in the hole and both of them covered it over again.
‘Now you mustn’t take it up tomorrow to see if it’s “putting down roots”,’ the boy said, ‘you mustn’t do that, I did that with my flowers last year, only twice, I wanted to see if they were growing, I didn’t know better then and the flowers died.’
The flower pot stayed in the little girl’s room, every morning throughout the winter she took a look at it, but all there was to see was the black soil, now spring came, the sun shone so warmly and then two small green leaves peeped out of the flower pot, ‘that’s lovely, ‘that’s wonderful,’ the little girl cried out with joy, ‘now the apple tree’s coming!’ and with every day and week that passed more became visible, it became a tiny tree, bigger year by year, but the little girl did not see it blossom, Our Lord called her from this earth. The little boy was still alive, but the tree was not with him and he had also quite forgotten it and the game they played when placing the apple pip in the soil of the flower pot, so that it could turn into something she simply couldn’t imagine. He himself had left his parents’ house to go to school so that something could become of him – he took such great pleasure in reading, in learning, in finding things out, he forgot all his games, and he naturally didn’t think any longer about the apple pip and what could become of it; it was already a little tree, large enough to be planted out in the garden, which was where it ended up – it too came out into the world to see if anything could come of it and there it stood in the fresh air, the dew fell on it, the sun shone warmly, it gained strength to withstand the winter, and after the winter’s severe trial it was as if it blossomed in the spring out of sheer joy, and when autumn came it really did have a couple of apples. And the years came and went, on the grave of the little girl the grass grew, but out of school year by year a man moved forwards with faith in his heart, with strong thoughts in his mind, one day he was going to be mentioned among the greatest thinkers in the world, he did not think at all about his apple tree, did not remember how as a young boy he and a little girl had played with the apple, divided it and even eaten all the pips except one which they had planted so that she should see: something she simply couldn’t imagine.
And over the years heavy days, days of tribulation had passed through the house where the children had played. The little girl’s parents became poverty-stricken, house and home were sold, the new owner started building and digging, a new gravel road was laid across the corner of the former garden plot and this meant that the apple tree came to stand outside on the far side of the road; but the sun shone on it as before, and the dew fell on it as before, it bore much blossom and yielded plenty of fruit that caused the branches to bend down, and many of them got broken, for wanton hands came and grabbed the fruit, after all the tree stood by a public highway where everyone passed by, it stood there for many years, the tree by the highway, blossoms were broken off it without a word of thanks, people stole the fruit and snapped the branches as well, one could say that the prospects sung of at its cradle were not fulfilled, if one can say such a thing about a tree as one can for a human; – its story had begun so well – and what became of it, abandoned and forgotten, a garden tree by a ditch between field and road, where it stood without shelter, shaken and broken, it admittedly did not wither away, but as the years passed it bore fewer blossoms and even fewer apples, it could well be done without, finally one year only three apples were hanging on the whole tree in the autumn, clustered close together on one branch, just as in the first year when it was little, young and happy at its first abundance, then too only three or four apples, but now these was the last ones, and when they fell, the story of the tree would be at an end. – Was that perhaps the thought that preoccupied the elderly man who came along the road, stood still, cogitated and stared fixedly at the final apple on the tree, it was at any rate most reasonable, for this man was none other than the the little boy who had planted the apple pip, but had not seen it grow, had not seen what came out of it. – Something that he didn’t know, a God’s look for his thoughts which at that moment were pondering the coherence of creation, God’s thoughts – that which we call natural forces – the riddle of the world, all this he wanted to solve – a gentle breeze rustled the tree’s leaves – God’s spirit hovered and hovers over everything – the apple fell from the tree – the law of gravity solved a problem, it was Newton.

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