story of the snowdrop

Winter is certainly blustering its way around the country lately, leaving its mark in some surprising places (snow in Jackson, Mississippi??) and refusing to succumb to spring’s advances just yet.

Photo by Peter Eimon via

But that makes today the perfect day to share a tidbit of literary wonder called “The Snowdrop” by Hans Christian Andersen. This classic little tale chronicles the emergence of a brave flower that simply cannot wait for spring.

It was wintertime; the air was cold, the wind sharp, but indoors all was snug and well. Indoors lay the flower; it lay in its bulb, under earth and snow.

Photo by Emmanuel Boutet via Wikimedia Commons

One day, though, a slender sunbeam reaches down to the bulb and taps on it. Anxiously, the snowdrop implores the sun to help her break free from the bulb so that she may stretch and grow. But the sun is not yet strong enough. Wait, he tells her. He will be very strong by summer.

Photo by Amanda Slater via

“How long this lasts! How long this lasts!” said the Flower. “I feel a tingling and tickling. I must stretch myself; I must extend myself. I must open up; I must come out and wave good morning to the summer; that will be a wonderful time!”

Déjà vu? I’m sure I just heard you say that yesterday.

And the Flower stretched itself and extended itself against the thin shell that had been softened by the rain water, warmed by the blanket of earth and snow, and tapped upon by the Sunbeam. It burst forth beneath the snow, with a white and green bud on its green stalk, with narrow, thick leaves, curled around it as if for protection. The snow was cold, but light radiated down into it, making it quite easy to break through; and here now the Sunbeam streamed down with greater strength than before.


“Beautiful flower!” sang all the Sunbeams. “How fresh and pure you are! You are the first; you are the only one! You are our love! You ring out the call of summer, lovely summer, over town and country! All the snow shall melt, the cold winds be driven away! We shall reign! Everything shall grow green! And then you shall have company, the lilacs and laburnums and finally the roses. But you are the first, so tender and pure!”

Photo by Jonas Bergsten via Wikimedia Commons

But summertime was far off; clouds shrouded the sun; sharp winds blew. It was weather to freeze such a delicate little flower to bits. But there was more strength in her than even she realized. That strength was in her happy faith that summer must come, and this had been imparted by her own deep desire and confirmed by the warm sunlight. And so with patient hope she stood there in her white dress, in the white snow, bowing her head when the snowflakes fell thick and heavy or while the icy winds swept over her.

And if the snowdrop can hold her own until spring, we can, too. Have you seen your first 2015 snowdrop yet?

Photo by Ian Kirk via Wikimedia Commons

While wandering around the Internet in search of snowdrop lore, I happened upon this charming video by the folks at BBC that whimsically spins the snowdrop’s story for all ages to enjoy. Share, share, share …




  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I love this story by Hans Christian Anderson about the Snowdrop. How did I miss this as a child when we read so many of his other stories? It is an amazing feat of nature. I remember clearly the purple, yellow and white crocuses in our front yard sort of doing the same thing. They would get snowed on and still open and bloom. We always looked forward to their arrival, in Virginia, because no matter what else Winter had in store, Spring was on the winning side! Spring is truly a season marked by determination and grit. No matter what curve balls Winter insists on throwing, we always arrive at grass turning green, daffodils and tulips blooming and sunny days without wool layers.

  2. Ah snowdrops the true harbingers of spring. I had some wonderful antique ones at my previous house but alas couldn’t find those tiny bulbs to dig up when I moved. I didn’t find any here at my farmette, but later I will have the supreme pleasure of a carpet of yellow daffodils deep in the woods that I can just barely see form the edge. They are so deep inside that you can’t even walk there. I suppose many years back you could.
    Thanks for bringing one of my favorite fairly tales to light. I just had a fruitless search looking for it in my library. I think it was in one of the beautifully illustrated antique children’s books I sold when I needed money. People buy them for the prints that they ( shudder) cut out and frame.

  3. Cindi says:

    They what Lisa?!! Cut out the pictures of antique books to frame?! My antique book is staying in the family album I made then, never to show to anyone who would do such a thing.
    What a lovely story of hope, strength and determination. Oh how I love Hans Christian Anderson. I don’t know why the full collection of his stories that I had as a child is not on my bookshelf… the Shirley Temple book is there. Hmmm. Now I must make a trip to the bookstore, or antique store maybe, to find a copy. The grandchildren are voracious readers but I’ll bet they have not read Hans Christian Anderson. I must remedy that!
    Ah, and speaking of spring… there is a Killdeer outside already searching for a companion! We are close.

    • Sadly, Karlyne the antique business does a lot of cutting of old books, especially ones of botanical drawings. And all the old Audubon books are usually not complete anymore. I didn’t knowingly sell to a ” cutter” but to a dedicated collector , so my books were saved from that fate at least.

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