At length they came to the warm countries.
There the sun shone far more brightly than it ever does here,
and the sky seemed twice as high.
Along the ditches the hedgerows grew marvelous green and blue grapes.
Lemons and oranges hung in the woods.
The air smelled sweet of myrtle and thyme.
By the wayside, the loveliest children ran hither and thither,
playing with the brightly colored butterflies.
But the swallow flew on still farther,
and it became more and more beautiful.
Under magnificent green trees,
on the shore of a blue lake there stood
an ancient palace of dazzling white marble.
The lofty pillars were wreathed with vines,
and at the top of them many swallows had made their nests.
One nest belonged to the swallow who carried Thumbelina.
"This is my home," the swallow told her.
"If you will choose one of those glorious flowers in bloom down below,
I shall place you in it, and you will have all that your heart desires."
"That will be lovely," she cried, and clapped her tiny hands.
A great white pillar had fallen to the ground,
where it lay in three broken pieces.
Between these pieces grew the loveliest large white flowers.
The swallow flew down with Thumbelina
and put her on one of the large petals.
How surprised she was to find in the center of the flower a little man,
as shining and transparent as if he had been made of glass.
On his head was the daintiest of little gold crowns,
on his shoulders were the brightest shining wings,
and he was not a bit bigger than Thumbelina.
He was the spirit of the flower.
In every flower there lived a small man or woman just like him,
but he was the king over all of them.
"Oh, isn't he handsome?" Thumbelina said softly to the swallow.
The king was somewhat afraid of the swallow,
which seemed a very giant of a bird to anyone as small as he.
But when he saw Thumbelina he rejoiced,
for she was the prettiest little girl he had ever laid eyes on.
So he took off his golden crown and put it on her head.
He asked if he might know her name,
and he asked her to be his wife,
which would make her queen over all the flowers.
Here indeed was a different sort of husband
from the toad's son
and the mole with his black velvet coat.
So she said "Yes" to this charming king.
From all the flowers trooped
little ladies and gentlemen delighted to behold.
Every one of them brought Thumbelina a present,
but the best gift of all was a pair of wings that had belonged to a large silver fly.
When these were made fast to her back, she too could flit from flower to flower.
Everyone rejoiced, as the swallow perched above them in his nest
and sang his very best songs for them. He was sad though,
deep down in his heart, for he liked Thumbelina
so much that he wanted never to part with her. ..
excerpt from "Thumbelina" by Hans Christian Andersen
all photos by Anna.