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Main > Fairy tale > All authors > Andersen Hans Christian > Fairy tale "The Will-o'-the-Wisps Are in Town"

The Will-o'-the-Wisps Are in Town

"Fairy tales and poetry -yes, they're like two pieces of the same material. They can go and lie where they wish. One can brew all their talk and goings-on and have it better and cheaper. I'll give it to you for nothing; I have a whole cabinet full of bottles of poetry, the essences, the best of it - both sweet and bitter herbs. I have all the poetry people might want, bottled up, and on holidays I put a little on my handkerchief to smell."

"Why, these are wonderful things you're telling me!" said the man. "You actually have poetry in bottles?"

"More than you can stand," said the Woman. "I suppose you know the story of 'The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf,' so that she would not soil her shoes. That has been written down and printed, too."

"I told that one myself," said the man.

"Yes, then you know it, and you know, too, that the girl sank right into the earth, to the Woman of the Marsh, just as the Devil's grandmother was there on a visit to inspect the brewery. She saw the girl come down and asked to have her as a souvenir of her visit, and she got her, too. I received a present from her which is of no good to me - a regular traveling drugstore, a whole cabinet full of bottled poetry. The grandmother told me where to put the cabinet, and it's still there. Now look here! You have your seven four-leaved clovers in your pocket, one of which has six leaves, so you should be able to see it!"

Sure enough, in the middle of the marsh was what looked like a great gnarled alder block, and that was the grandmother's cabinet. She explained that it was open to her and to everyone else in the world at any time, if they just knew where it was. It could be opened in front or at the back and at every side and corner; it was a real work of art and yet appeared to be only an alder stump. Poets of all countries, and especially of our own land, had been reproduced here; the essence of each had been extracted, refined, criticized, distilled, and then put into bottles. With great skill - as it's called, if one doesn't want to call it genius - the grandmother had taken a little of this poet and a little of that, added a touch of deviltry, and then corked up the bottles for the use of future ages.

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