Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

The Elf of the Rose

The Elf of the RoseThe Elf of the Rose

Some people just don’t want other people to have love.

Once upon a time there was a tiny little elf. He was so small that we could not see him. He lived in a rose. Behind each petal of the rose there was a nice room. He enjoyed his house and he enjoyed his life. One day he decided to fly around, but he stayed out too long. It became dark. His flower was closed up and he could not get back in. He feared his death of the night, so he flew to an arbor where he knew there was lots of honeysuckle.

There he found a man and a woman. They were professing their love for one another, but it was not to be because the woman’s brother was sending the man very far away to work. The woman went home but the man remained. The woman’s brother showed up and stabbed the man. Then he cut his body up and buried it there in the ground. He threw some leaves over the misplaced dirt for good measure. The elf had seen all.

He flew to the girl’s room. He alit in her ear. He told her all that had gone on. She supposed it a dream, but she went to the spot anyway and dug. There she found the body of her beloved. She could not take the entire body, so she took his head. She put it in a large flower-pot and covered it with dirt. In the pot began to grow a jasmine plant. As the plant grew the woman got sicker and sicker. Finally, she died. The elf talked to the elves who lived in the flowers of the jasmine plant. Did they know what thing they had been born of? Did they know what a terrible man their new owner was? The brother had taken the jasmine plant for his own.

They knew about him. They what had happened. The elf still wasn’t satisfied and also talked to the bees. The bees agreed to kill the brother, but they were too late. He was already dead. The elves knew what they had come from and decided to take action. They took poison spears and stabbed the man in the tongue. In the morning he was dead. There was nothing for the bees to do when they got there.

People said the man died of the smell of the jasmine, but the bees caused such a ruckus that somehow the flower pot was knocked over. Inside was the white skull of the man who had been killed. Everyone then knew that the brother was a murderer.

The Elf of the RoseObservations

Who kills another person because they don’t want two people to be together? Who does that? Well, apparently lots of people do that. This story of Hans’ is just one example of this happened. Our history, our legend, and our lore is just filled with stories about one person murdering another because they desired that there should not be love between two people.

Hans was coming up on an age that prized flowers and the symbolism of those flowers. That fad wasn’t quite yet, but it soon would be. The jasmine flower is known for its fragrance and was an import to Europe. This is not exactly a flower the people of this story would have been familiar with. They would have thought it smelled great, but they might also be suspicious of it because of that smell. How could something smell so enticing and not come to any evil? You must remember that people are and can be superstitious. There was also a lot more religion floating around during the time in which these stories were written. The people who were more religious than others had a bit of a suspicion of things that were overly good and alluring. After all, the Bible has multiple references to whores. That may be a terrible example, but it gets my point across. Some people find the idea of a prostitute pretty great because of the sexual satisfaction they would get out of an encounter, but that same encounter could also damage their eternal soul and their body, if any STDs were floating around. Prostitutes looked enticing, but could hide some nasty things.

The Jasmine flower was enticing. It smelled good. Perhaps it smelled too good. The first thought people had upon finding this dead man was that he had died from smelling this over-powering and appealing scent. They were not familiar with the flower. It’s just a flower, nothing more, but tell that to someone who had never seen the plant and then found a dead man just near it.

Going to the lovers, the Jasmine flower can symbolize attachment. Look, this girl was so attached to this guy that she took his dead head home and planted it. Kept it in her room. Looked at it every day. Watered it. Probably talked to it. If that’s not attachment, I don’t know what is. Look, I may like a guy. Maybe he dies, maybe he’s murdered, whatever, I may like him, but I’m not taking part of his body home to keep in my room. That’s just weird. What’s in the pot? Don’t ask.

This girl obviously wasn’t herself. She was ruined because of this happening. She loved this guy. She became so distraught with grief that she took his head home and put it in a pot. Then she died because she pined away for her love. Was this worse than her believing the man had simply vanished at sea? Would she have died if she believed her boyfriend had just went away and was lost? I have to wonder if telling her that her boyfriend had been murdered was the correct thing to do because she ended up dying. Wouldn’t it be better if at least one of them were alive? As it is, three people ended up dead. We can talk about justice all day long, but that doesn’t seem very just.

The Elf of the RoseThemes

You may think you’re hiding a crime, but someone might be watching. The brother could not see this little elf, but the little elf saw all. His crime came to light, even if it was after his death. The brother died for what he did. In the end, you cannot hide a crime. You may think you can, but there is always going to be someone or something that has taken witness of that crime.

To someone on the outside, this man’s reception of justice may appear to be God-given, which is definitely on par with the religious beliefs of the day. You may commit a crime and maybe nobody on the Earth knows you did it, but God knows. You will receive your punishment one way or the other. You can never escape it. That’s kind of the moral of this story. Someone will see you and you will face the consequences.

In a more secular look at this story, it’s not that easy to hide a crime. You may think it is, really, criminals try all the time to hide the crimes they’ve committed, but they underestimate the world. We are observers. We watch. I may see you dragging that body. Someone may hear that gunshot. The man down the road may smell a strange smell like dead decaying things. A dog might dig up a bone that nobody wanted dug up. If you escape from this life without your crime being discovered, consider yourself lucky, because that’s often not the case, but you’re never going to escape whatever mental torture you’ve placed upon yourself by worrying if you’ll be discovered. That in and of itself is quite a punishment for some wrong-doers.


I feel for bad for everyone involved in this story. I guess the elf ended up ok though.

Weigh In

What’s your take? Should the elf have told the woman that her boyfriend was dead or should he have left it be?

If your boyfriend died, would you keep part of his body as a memento?


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