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The Rags

Hans Christian Andersen

The A-B-C Book The Angel Anne Lisbeth At the Uttermost Parts of the Sea Aunty Aunty Toothache "Beautiful" The Beetle The Bell The Bell Deep The Bird of Folklore The Bishop of Börglum and his Men The Bond of Friendship The Bottle Neck The Brave Tin Soldier The Buckwheat Butterfly The Candles Chicken Grethe's Family The Child in the Grave Children's Prattle Clumsy Hans The Comet The Court Cards The Cripple Croak! The Daisy Dance, Dance, Doll of Mine! Danish Popular Legends The Darning Needle The Days of the Week The Drop of Water The Dryad The Elder-Tree Mother The Elf Mound The Emperor's New Clothes Everything in its Proper Place Danish Popular Legends The Farmyard Cock and the Weathercock The Fir Tree Five Peas from a Pod The Flax The Flea and the Professor The Flying Trunk Folks Say - The Galoshes of Fortune The Gardener and the Noble Family The Garden of Paradise The Gate Key The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf The Goblin and the Grocer The Goblin and the Woman God Can Never Die Godfather's Picture Book Golden Treasure A Good Humor Grandmother Great-Grandfather The Great Sea Serpent The Happy Family Heartache Holger Danske Ib and Little Christine The Ice Maiden In the Children's Room In the Duck Yard It's Quite True! Jack the Dullard The Jewish Girl The Jumpers Kept Secret but not Forgotten The Last Pearl A Leaf from Heaven Little Claus and Big Claus The Little Green Ones Little Ida's Flowers The Little Match Seller The Little Mermaid Little Tuck Luck May Lie in a Pin Lucky Peer The Marsh King's Daughter The Metal Pig The Money Pig The Most Incredible Thing Moving Day The Naughty Boy The Neighboring Families The New Century's Goddess The Nightcap of the "Pebersvend" The Nightingale The Old Church Bell The Old House The Old Oak Tree's Last Dream The Old Street Lamp The Old Tombstone Ole Lukoie Ole, the Tower Keeper On Judgment Day Peiter, Peter, and Peer Pen and Inkstand The Penman The Phoenix Bird Picturebook Without Pictures A Picture from the Ramparts The Pigs The Poor Woman and the Little Canary Bird The Porter's Son The Princess and the Pea The Psyche The Puppet-show Man The Racers The Rags The Red Shoes The Rose Elf A Rose from Homer's Grave The Shadow The Shepherdess and the Chimney-Sweep She Was Good for Nothing The Shirt Collar The Silent Book The Silver Shilling The Snail and the Rosebush The Snowdrop The Snow Man The Snow Queen Something Soup on a Sausage Peg The Stone of the Wise Man The Storks The Storm Shifts the Signboards A Story A Story from the Sand Dunes The Story of a Mother The Story of the Year A String of Pearls Sunshine Stories The Swan's Nest The Sweethearts; or, The Top and the Ball The Swineherd The Talisman The Teapot There is a Difference This Fable is Intended for You The Thorny Road of Honor Thousands of Years from Now Thumbelina The Tinder Box The Toad The Traveling Companion Twelve by the Mail Two Brothers Two Maidens The Ugly Duckling Under The Willow Tree Urbanus A View from Vartou's Window Vänö and Glänö What Happened to the Thistle What Old Johanne Told What One Can Invent What the Old Man Does is Always Right What the Whole Family Said Which Was the Happiest? The Wicked Prince The Wild Swans The Will-o'-the-Wisps Are in Town The Windmill The Wind Tells about Valdemar Daae and His Daughters The World's Fairest Rose

Outside the paper mill, masses of rags lay piled in high stacks; they had been gathered from far and wide. Every rag had a tale to tell, and told it, too; but we can't listen to all of them. Some of the rags were native; others came from foreign countries.

Now here lay a Danish rag beside a rag from Norway; one was decidedly Danish, the other decidedly Norse, and that was the amusing part about the two, as any good Dane or Norwegian could tell you. They could understand each other well enough, though the two languages were as different, according to the Norwegian, as French and Hebrew. "We go to the hills for our language, and there get it pure and firsthand, while the Dane cooks up some sort of a suckling-sweet lingo!"

So the rags talked - and a rag is a rag in every land the world over; they are considered of no value except in the rag heap.

"I am Norse!" said the Norwegian. "And when I've said I'm Norse I guess I've said enough. I'm firm of fiber, like the ancient granite rocks of old Norway. The land up there has a constitution, like the free United States. It makes my fibers tingle to think what I am and to sound out my thoughts in words of granite!"

"But we have literature," said the Danish rag. "Do you understand what that is?"

"Understand?" repeated the Norwegian. "Lowland creature! Shall I give him a shove uphill and show him a northern light, rag that he is? When the sun of Norway has thawed the ice, then Danish fruit barges come up to us with butter and cheese - an eatable cargo, I grant you - but by way of ballast they bring Danish literature, too! We don't need the stuff. You don't need stale beer where fresh springs spout, and up there is a natural well that has never been tapped or been made known to Europeans by the cackling of newspapers, jobbers, and traveling authors in foreign countries. I speak freely from the bottom of my lungs, and the Dane must get used to a free voice. And so he will someday, when as a fellow Scandinavian he wants to cling to our proud mountain country, the summit of the world!"

"Now a Danish rag could never talk like that - never!" said the Dane. "It's not in our nature. I know myself, and all the other rags are like me. We're too good-natured, too unassuming; we think too little of ourselves. Not that we gain much by our modesty, but I like it; I think it's quite charming. Incidentally, I'm perfectly aware of my own good values, I assure you, but I don't talk about them; nobody can ever accuse me of that. I'm soft and easy going; bear everything patiently, envy nobody, and speak good of everybody - though there isn't much good to be said of most other people, but that's their business. I can afford to smile at them; I know I'm so gifted."

"Don't speak to me in that lowland, pasteboard language - it makes me sick!" said the Norwegian, as he caught a puff of wind and fluttered away from his own heap to another.

They both became paper; and, as it turned out, the Norwegian rag became a sheet on which a Norwegian wrote a love letter to a Danish girl, while the Danish rag became the manuscript for a Danish poem praising Norway's beauty and strength.

So something good may come even of rags when they have once come out of the rag heap and the change has been made into truth and beauty; they keep up understanding relations between us, and in that there is a blessing.

That is the story. It's rather amusing and offends no one - but the rags.

The End

Fables & Tales Nonfiction Poetry Short Stories

Aesop Andersen, H.C. Dickinson, Emily Frost, Robert Grimm Henry, O Kipling, Rudyard Longfellow, Henry Poe, Edgar Allan Shakespeare, William Thoreau, Henry Twain, Mark Wilde, Oscar