Front cover of a 2009 Japanese picture book edition of "Little ida's Flowers".

"Little Ida's Flowers" (Danish: "Den lille Idas blomster") is a short fantasy story for children by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It was first published in an inexpensive booklet without a cover, along with "The Tinderbox", "Little Claus and Big Claus" and "The Princess and the Pea", on May 8, 1835. "Little Ida's Flowers" is the only one of the four stories in the booklet which is entirely of Andersen's own invention and not based on an earlier folktale. It was written for Ida Thiele, the daughter of Matthias Thiele, a folklorist and an early benefactor of Andersen.

In the story, a little girl named Ida is worried because her flowers are wilting. She is told that her flowers are tired because they have been dancing all night. Ida is keen to see the dancing flowers for herself.


The lawyer looks on in disgust while the student tells Ida about dancing flowers. 1895 illustration by Alfred Walter Bayes.

The story takes place in the early autumn. A girl named Ida is upset because the heads of her flowers are drooping. A student tells her that the flowers are exhausted because they have been dancing all night at a ball. He tells her that the flowers hold balls almost every night at the castle on the edge of town. In the summer, the castle is home to the king. When the king leaves in the autumn, all of the flowers from the castle garden go inside the building. Flowers from all over town go to the castle to dance at night, some take the form of butterflies to fly there. A lawyer[1] complains that the student is filling Ida's head with nonsense. Ida, however, finds the idea of dancing flowers delightful.

in order to help her flowers get better, Ida puts them into a doll's bed in her playroom. She takes her doll Sophie out of the bed and puts her in a drawer. At night, Ida hears the faint sound of a piano coming from her playroom. She is certain that the flowers are dancing there. She hopes that the flowers will dance into her bedroom. When they do not, she goes to peek into the playroom, the door of which has been left ajar. She sees a yellow lily playing the piano and the flowers from her garden dancing. Ida's sick flowers get out of the doll's bed and join them.

The wax doll on the stick takes on the shape of the lawyer. Illustration by Anne Anderson.

A stick with a wax doll on it joins in the dance. The wax doll grows to human size and takes on the form of the lawyer. The lawyer again complains about the nonsense that the student has been telling Ida, before shrinking and becoming a wax doll again. The stick dances very quickly, making the wax doll dizzy, until some of the flowers plead with it to stop.

Sophie the doll emerges from the drawer. She is unhappy that a ball is being held to which she was not invited. A shabby old male doll asks her to dance with him but she turns him down. The shabby old doll then happily dances by himself. Wanting to get attention, Sophie falls out of the drawer and lands on the floor. Several flowers rush over to see if she is all right. Ida's sick flowers thank her for letting them sleep in her bed. They say that, unfortunately, they will be dead by the morning. They ask Sophie to pass on a message to Ida. The flowers want Ida to bury them in the garden. They would then be able to grow again the following summer and be more beautiful than they were before.

Several more flowers then arrive, which Ida is certain have come from the castle. The flowers continue dancing for some time.

In the morning, Ida scolds Sophie for not passing on the message which the flowers gave her. Ida carries out the flowers' last request and buries them in the garden.


  1. In the 1850 English translation of "Little Ida's Flowers" from Little Ellie and other tales, the character is a Professor of Mathematics instead of a lawyer. In the 1914 English translation by William Alexander Craigie and Jessie Kinmond Craigie, he is referred to as a privy councilor.

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