In the woods there grew a little pine tree, and its leaves were long, slender, green needles. It was very little, indeed, and although there were many other trees around it, it felt quite alone as there were no other pine trees near by.
The little pine tree was proud of its fine, green needles when the other trees in the forest were bare, and the snow was white on the ground. But in summer time, when the other trees had beautiful, large, green leaves, the pine tree thought that it would be nice if it could have large leaves also.
"I wish that I could have beautiful large leaves, but leaves which are more beautiful than those of any of the other trees," it thought. "If I could have my wish, I would have leaves of shining gold."
"How very beautiful I am," it thought. "How my leaves glisten in the sun: Now I shall always be happy."
In the afternoon a man came through the woods along a path which passed by the little pine tree.
When he came to the little tree and saw the beautiful golden leaves, he stopped and picked them all and put them into the bag which he was carrying and took them home with him.
Then the poor little tree had no leaves.
"What shall I do?" it cried. "I will not wish for gold leaves again.
If I could have another wish, I would have leaves of glass.
They would sparkle in the sun, and no one would take them away."
Again the little pine tree slept through the night, and when it awoke the next morning it had leaves of sparkling glass.
"How beautiful I am now." it thought, "my leaves are of clear crystal and they tinkle as the wind passes through them."
All through the morning, the little tree was very happy.
But, in the afternoon, black clouds hid the sun, and the rain came down, and the wind turned cold and harsh.
The little tree shivered. It shook and shook, and when the storm was over, all of the glass leaves had been broken and had fallen to the ground. Again the poor little tree had no leaves.
"What can I do now?" it cried. "A man took my leaves of gold, and the storm broke my leaves of glass. If I could have still another wish, I would have large green leaves like the other trees in the forest."
Once more the little pine tree slept through the night and when it awoke the next morning it had beautiful, large, green leaves.
"Now I am like the other trees and as beautiful as they are," it thought.
The little tree was happy once more. But soon a goat came along the path looking for something to eat.
The little tree was so small that the goat could easily reach the leaves, and they looked so good and juicy that he nibbled at each of the branches and ate up all the leaves.
"Alas!" cried the little tree, "a man took my leaves of gold; the storm broke my leaves of glass; a goat ate my large green leaves! If I could have just one more wish, I would have my long green needles again."
Toward evening, the little tree fell asleep and again slept through the night. And when it awoke in the morning it had its long slender green needles again. The birds flew to the little pine tree, and they were as happy as it was that it was covered again with long green pine needles.
"Gold leaves, glass leaves, and large, green leaves are very fine;" thought the little tree, "but there is nothing so good for a little pine tree as its own long needles."
An Old German Legend