Hans Christian Andersen

April 2, 1805 - August 4, 1875


The Buckwheat

by Hans Christian Andersen

If, after a thunderstorm, you go into a field where Buckwheat is growing, you will sometimes see that it looks quite black and singed; just as if a stream of flame had passed over it: and then the farmer says, The lightning has done this. But how is it that the lightning does it? I will tell you what the Sparrow told me, and the sparrow heard it from an old Willow-tree that stood in a field of Buckwheat, and is still standing there. It is a large and quite a venerable Willow, but old and wrinkled, and is cleft from top to bottom; and out of the clefts grow blackberry-bushes and grass. The tree bends forwards, and the branches almost reach the ground -- it looks like long green hair hanging down. In all the fields around grain was growing: Rye, Buckwheat, and Oats. Yes, beautiful Oats, that look, when ripe, like a whole sea of little golden canaries sitting on a bough. The grain stood there in such blessed fullness; and the heavier it was the lower it bowed in pious humility.

A field of Buckwheat was there, too, and it lay just before the old Willow-tree. But the Buckwheat bowed not down as did the other grain; stiff and proud, there it stood.

I am quite as rich as the ears of Corn, it said, and, besides, I am much more beautiful: my flowers are as lovely as the blossom of the Apple-tree: it is quite a pleasure to look at me! Did you ever see anything more splendid than we are, old Willow-tree?

And the Willow nodded as though he would say, Yes, certainly I have. But the Buckwheat was puffed up with pride, and said, The stupid tree! he is so old that grass is growing over his body!

Now, a dreadful thunderstorm drew near; all the flowers of the field folded their leaves, or bowed their heads, while the tempest passed: but the Buckwheat, in his pride, stood quite erect.

Bow thy head, as we do, said the Flowers.

I shall do no such thing! said the Buckwheat.

Bow thy head, as we do, said the Corn; the Spirit of the storm is about to rush by. He hath wings which reach from the clouds unto the earth; he will dash thee down before thou hast time to implore him to be merciful!

No, I will not bend, said the Buckwheat.

Close thy flowers, and bend down thy leaves, said the old Willow-tree; look not into the glare of the lightning when the cloud bursts: men even dare not do that for in the lightning one seeth into God's own heaven, and That sight is enough to dazzle even man: how would it fare with us, mere plants of the earth, if we dared to do it ? we are so much less!

So much less! said the Buckwheat; now just for that I will gaze into God's own heaven! and he did do so in his pride and presumption. It was as if the whole world was in fire and flame, so terribly did it lighten.

Later, when the storm was over, there stood the Flowers and the Corn in the calm pure air refreshed by the rain; but the Buckwheat was burned by the lightning as black as a coal: it lay a dead useless plant upon the field.

And the old Willow moved its branches in the wind, and large drops fell from the green leaves, as though the tree wept. And the Sparrows asked: What are you weeping for? It is so beautiful here! Look how the sun is shining; look how the clouds are sailing on! Do you not smell the fragrance of the flowers and of the bushes! What are you weeping for, then, you old Willow?

And the Willow told them of the pride and presumption of the Buckwheat, and of the punishment that is sure to follow. I, who relate the story, heard it from the Sparrows : they told it me one evening when I begged for a fairy-tale.


Fairy Tales
Copyright 1869
Allen Brothers, New York