The marsh, the river, the meadow, the whole world was too big for me! When winter came I wandered into a cornfield that had been harvested. Only the dry, bare stubble stuck out of the frozen ground, and the stalks were like a forest to me.
I was so cold I thought for sure I would freeze to death. Then I saw a little door in a mound. I knocked, and a field mouse opened it. She seemed kind-hearted, and I begged her for a little bit of barley because I hadn’t eaten anything for two days.
“Why, you poor little thing,” said the field mouse. “You must come in and share my dinner.”
She took me into her warm and cozy burrow. She had a whole store-room of grain down there, and the most wonderful kitchen and pantry.
By the end of our meal together, she had taken quite a fancy to me. She said, “If you care to, you may stay with me all winter, but you must keep my room tidy, and tell me stories, for I am very fond of them.”
I said it would be my pleasure, and so I kept her house and told her all sorts of wonderful tales about the big world I had seen.
One day, she said, “Soon we shall have a visitor.” She seemed very excited. “Once every week my neighbor comes to see me, and he is even better off than I am. His rooms are large, and he wears such a beautiful black velvet coat. If you could get him for a husband you would be well taken care of. But he can’t see anything. You must tell him the very best stories you know.”
When he came to visit in his black velvet coat, he certainly seemed very worldly and wise. But for all his knowledge he cared nothing at all for the sun and the flowers. He had nothing good to say about them, for he had never laid eyes on them. He asked me to sing a song for him, and he liked my sweet voice, especially when I sang mournful tunes.
I didn’t want to marry the blind mole, but he had already begun to dig a tunnel to join his burrow to the rooms of the field mouse. He said we could use the passage to visit him whenever we pleased, but he warned us not to be alarmed by the dead bird who lay in the passage.
I thought, ‘That dead bird will be me if I marry the mole.’ On the other hand, he would keep me safe, and, after everything I had been through, I wanted safety more than anything.
Yet I would not see the sun again, nor sing of any happy thing that he had never seen.
Tiny in the Big World in Thumbelina, Hans Christian Andersen. Illustration by Adrienne Segur.
Tiny had been overwhelmed by the big world, so she was powerfully attached to the idea of staying safe. When in your life have you had to make a decision between staying safe or stepping into a new arena? If you were standing at a crossroads with signs pointing to those two different destinations, what would you name them? Describe each state using five adjectives. If you feel inspired, write the travel brochure to those two destinations, either for yourself, or for Tiny.