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Danish Fairy Tales - The Steadfast Tin Soldier

Danish Folktales - Is a literary fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about a tin soldier's love for a paper ballerina. After several adventures, the tin soldier perishes in a fire with the ballerina. The tale was first published in Copenhagen by C.A. Reitzel on 2 October 1838 in the first booklet of Fairy Tales Told for Children. New Collection. The booklet consists of Andersen's "The Daisy" and "The Wild Swans". The tale was Andersen’s first not based upon a folk tale or a literary model. "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" has been adapted to various media including ballet and animated film.

Danish Fairy Tales and Legends

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There were once five-and-twenty tin soldiers, who were all brothers, for they had been made out of the same old tin spoon. They shouldered arms and looked straight before them, and wore a splendid uniform, red and blue. The first thing in the world they ever heard were the words, "Tin soldiers!" Uttered by a little boy, who clapped his hands with delight when the lid of this box, where they lay, was taken off. They had been given him for a birthday present, and he stood at the table to place up them. The soldiers were all precisely alike, excepting one, who had just 1 leg; he was left to the past, and then there wasn't enough of the melted tin to finish him, so that they made him to stand firmly on one leg, and this induced him to be somewhat remarkable.

The table where the tin soldiers stood, was coated with other playthings, but the most appealing to the eye was a pretty little paper castle. Through the tiny windows that the rooms could be viewed. In front of the castle a variety of small trees surrounded a bit of looking-glass, which was intended to symbolize a transparent lake. Swans, made from wax, drifted on the lake, and were reflected in it. All this was very pretty, but the prettiest of all was a tiny little lady, who stood in the open door of the castle; she, also, was made from paper, and she wore a dress of clear muslin, with a narrow blue ribbon on her shoulders just like a scarf. In front of these was mended a glittering tinsel rose, as big as her whole face. The little lady was a dancer, and she stretched out both her arms, and raised one of her legs so high, that the tin soldier couldn't see it at all, and he thought that she, like himself, had just one leg. "That is the wife for me," he thought; "but she is too grand, and lives in a castle, while I have only a box to live in, five-and-twenty of us altogether, that is no place for her. Still I must try and make her acquaintance." Then he put himself at full length on the desk behind a snuff-box that stood upon it, so that he could peep in the little delicate woman, who continued to stand on one leg without losing her balance.

When day came, the other tin soldiers were all placed in the box, and the people of the home went to bed. Subsequently the playthings began to have their very own games collectively, to pay visits, to have sham fights, and also to give balls. The tin soldiers rattled in their box; they wanted to escape and join the amusements, but they couldn't open the lid. The nut-crackers played at leap-frog, and the pencil jumped about the table. There was such a noise that the canary woke up and began to speak, and in poetry too. Just the tin soldier and the priest stayed in their own places. He never took his eyes from her for even a moment. The clock struck twelve, and also, using a bounce, up sprang the lid of this snuff-box; but, instead of snuff, there jumped up a little black goblin; for the snuff-box was a toy puzzle.

However, the tin soldier pretended not to listen.

When the kids came in the following morning, they put the tin soldier at the window. But if it was the goblin who did this, or even the draught, isn't known, however the window flew open, and out fell the tin soldier, heels over head, from the third story, into the road beneath. It was a dreadful fall; for he arrived head downwards, his helmet and his bayonet stuck in between the flagstones, and his one leg up in the air. The servant maid and the little boy went down stairs directly to search for him; but he was nowhere to be observed, although once they almost trod upon him. If he had called out, "Here I am," it would have been all right, but he was too proud to cry out for help while he wore a uniform.

Presently it began to rain, and the drops fell faster and faster, until there was a heavy shower. When it was finished, two boys happened to pass by, and one of them said, "Look, there is a tin soldier. He ought to have a boat to sail in."

They made a boat out of a paper, and placed the tin soldier in it, and sent him sailing down the gutter, while the two boys ran by the side of it, and clapped their hands. Good gracious, what big waves arose in that gutter! And how quickly the stream rolled on! For the rain had been very heavy. The paper boat rocked up and down, and turned itself round sometimes so fast that the tin soldier trembled; yet he remained business; his countenance didn't change; he looked straight before him, and shouldered his musket. Suddenly the boat shot under a bridge that formed a portion of a drain, and then it was as dim as the tin soldier's box.

"Where am I going now?" thought he. "This is the black goblin's fault, I am sure.

Suddenly there seemed a great water-rat, who lived at the drain.

But the tin soldier stayed silent and held his musket tighter than ever before. The boat sailed on and the rat followed it. He did gnash his teeth and cry out to the bits of wood and straw, "Stop him, stop him; he has not paid toll, and has not shown his pass. " But the stream rushed on stronger and stronger. The tin soldier could already see daylight shining where the arch ended. Then he heard a roaring sound quite terrible enough to frighten the bravest guy. At the end of the tunnel the drain fell to a huge canal over a tight place, which left it as dangerous for him as a waterfall would be to us. He was too close to it to cease, so the ship rushed on, and the poor tin soldier could just hold himself as stiffly as possible, without moving an eyelid, to demonstrate that he wasn't afraid. The boat whirled around three or four occasions, and then filled with water to the very edge; nothing can save it from sinking. He now stood up to his neck in water, while deeper and deeper sank the boat, and the newspaper became soft and loose with the wet, till at last the water closed over the soldier's head. He thought of the elegant little dancer whom he must never see again, and also the words of the song sounded in his ears--

"Farewell, warrior! ever brave,

Subsequently the paper ship fell to pieces, and the soldier sank into the water and then immediately afterwards was consumed by a fantastic fish. Oh how dark it was inside the fish! A great deal darker than in the tunnel, and narrower too, but the tin soldier continued firm, and put full length shouldering his musket. After a time, a flash of lightning seemed to pass through him, and then the daylight approached, and a voice cried out, "I declare here is the tin soldier." The fish had been caught, taken to the industry and sold to the cook, who shot him to the kitchen and cut him open with a large knife. She picked up the soldier and held him by the waist between her finger and thumb, and hauled him to the room. They were all anxious to find this wonderful soldier who had travelled about within a fish; but he was not at all proud. They placed him on the table, and--the number of curious things do happen in the world! --there he was in the exact same area from the window where he had fallen, there were the same kids, the same playthings, standing on the dining table, along with the pretty castle with the elegant little dancer at the doorway; she still balanced herself on one leg, and held up the other, so she was as firm as himself.

It touched the tin soldier so much to see her that he almost wept tin tears, but he kept them back. He only looked at her and they both stayed silent. Presently one of the little boys took up the tin soldier, and hauled him into the cooker. He had no motive for doing this, therefore it has to have been the fault of the black goblin who lived at the snuff-box. The flames lighted up the tin soldier, as he stood, the warmth was very dreadful, but whether it proceeded from the real fire or from the flame of love he couldn't tell. Then he would see that the vivid colors were faded from his uniform, but if they were washed off during his trip or from the effects of his sorrow, nobody could say. He looked at the little lady, and she looked at him. He felt himself melting away, but he still remained firm with his gun on his shoulder. Suddenly the door of the room flew open and the draught of air trapped the little dancer, she fluttered like a sylph right to the stove by the side of the tin soldier, and was instantly in flames and was gone. The tin soldier melted down into a lump, and the next morning, when the maid servant took the ashes from the stove, she found him in the shape of a little tin heart. But of the small dancer nothing remained but the tinsel rose, which has been burnt black as a cinder.


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