He who spoke was a king's son, and therefore the others said that
such a one always wishes to be cleverer than other people.
Therefore they let him go alone; and as he walked on, the solitude of
the wood produced a feeling of reverence in his breast; but still he
heard the little bell about which the others rejoiced, and sometimes,
when the wind blew in that direction, he could hear the sounds from the
confectioner's stall, where the others were singing at tea. But the deep
sounds of the bell were much stronger; soon it seemed to him as if an
organ played an accompaniment- the sound came from the left, from the
side where the heart is.
Now something rustled among the bushes, and a
little boy stood before the king's son, in wooden shoes and such a short
jacket that the sleeves did not reach to his wrists. They knew each
other: the boy was the one who had not been able to go with them because
he had to take the coat and boots back to his landlord's son. That he had
done, and had started again in his wooden shoes and old clothes, for the
sound of the bell was too enticing- he felt he must go on.
"We might go together," said the king's son. But the poor boy with
the wooden shoes was quite ashamed; he pulled at the short sleeves of his
jacket, and said that he was afraid he could not walk so fast; besides,
he was of opinion that the bell ought to be sought at the right, for
there was all that was grand and magnificent.
"Then we shall not meet," said the king's son, nodding to the poor
boy, who went into the deepest part of the wood, where the thorns tore
his shabby clothes and scratched his hands, face, and feet until they
bled. The king's son also received several good scratches, but the sun
was shining on his way, and it is he whom we will now follow, for he was
a quick fellow. "I will and must find the bell," he said, "if I have to
go to the end of the world."
Ugly monkeys sat high in the branches and clenched their teeth.
"Shall we beat him?" they said. "Shall we thrash him? He is a king's
But he walked on undaunted, deeper and deeper into the wood, where
the most wonderful flowers were growing; there were standing white star
lilies with blood-red stamens, sky-blue tulips shining when the wind
moved them; apple-trees covered with apples like large glittering soap
bubbles: only think how resplendent these trees were in the sunshine! All
around were beautiful green meadows, where hart and hind played in the
There grew magnificent oaks and beech-trees; and if the bark was
split of any of them, long blades of grass grew out of the clefts; there
were also large smooth lakes in the wood, on which the swans were
swimming about and flapping their wings. The king's son often stood still
and listened; sometimes he thought that the sound of the bell rose up to
him out of one of these deep lakes, but soon he found that this was a
mistake, and that the bell was ringing still farther in the wood. Then
the sun set, the clouds were as red as fire; it became quiet in the wood;
he sank down on his knees, sang an evening hymn and said: "I shall never
find what I am looking for!
Now the sun is setting, and the night, the
dark night, is approaching. Yet I may perhaps see the round sun once more
before he disappears beneath the horizon. I will climb up these rocks,
they are as high as the highest trees!" And then, taking hold of the
creepers and roots, he climbed up on the wet stones, where water-snakes
were wriggling and the toads, as it were, barked at him: he reached the
top before the sun, seen from such a height, had quite set. "Oh, what a
The sea, the great majestic sea, which was rolling its long
waves against the shore, stretched out before him, and the sun was
standing like a large bright altar and there where sea and heaven met-
all melted together in the most glowing colours; the wood was singing,
and his heart too.
The whole of nature was one large holy church, in
which the trees and hovering clouds formed the pillars, the flowers and
grass the woven velvet carpet, and heaven itself was the great cupola; up
there the flame colour vanished as soon as the sun disappeared, but
millions of stars were lighted; diamond lamps were shining, and the
king's son stretched his arms out towards heaven, towards the sea, and
towards the wood.
Then suddenly the poor boy with the short-sleeved
jacket and the wooden shoes appeared; he had arrived just as quickly on
the road he had chosen. And they ran towards each other and took one
another's hand, in the great cathedral of nature and poesy, and above
them sounded the invisible holy bell; happy spirits surrounded them,
singing hallelujahs and rejoicing.