The Darning Needle by Hans Christian Andersen
THERE was once a Darning-needle who thought herself so fine that she
came at last to believe that she was fit for embroidery.
Mind now that you hold me fast, she said to the Fingers that took
her up. Pray don't lose me. If I should fall on the ground I should
certainly be lost, I am so fine.
That's more than you can tell, said the Fingers, as they grasped
her tightly by the waist.
I come with a train, you see, said the Darning-needle, as she drew
her long thread after her; but there was no knot in the thread.
The Fingers pressed the point of the Needle upon an old pair of
slippers, in which the upper leather had burst and must be sewed
together. The slippers belonged to the cook.
This is very coarse work! said the Darning-needle. I shall never
get through alive. There, I'm breaking! I'm breaking! and break she
did. Did I not say so? said the Darning-needle. I'm too delicate for
such work as that.
Now it's quite useless for sewing, said the Fingers; but they
still held her all the same, for the cook presently dropped some melted
sealing wax upon the needle and then pinned her neckerchief in front
See, now I'm a breastpin, said the Darning-needle. I well knew
that I should come to honor; when one is something, one always comes to
something. Merit is sure to rise. And at this she laughed, only
inwardly, of course, for one can never see when a Darning-needle
laughs. There she sat now, quite at her ease, and as proud as if she
sat in a state carriage and gazed upon all about her.
May I take the liberty to ask if you are made of gold? she asked
of the pin, her neighbor. You have a splendid appearance and quite a
remarkable head, though it is so little. You should do what you can to
growof course it is not every one that can have sealing wax dropped
And the Darning-needle drew herself up so proudly that she fell out
of the neckerchief into the sink, which the cook was at that moment
Now I'm going to travel, said the Darning-needle, if only I don't
But that was just what happened to her.
I'm too delicate for this world, she said, as she found herself in
the gutter. But I know who I am, and there is always some little
pleasure in that! It was thus that the Darning-needle kept up her
proud bearing and lost none of her good humor. And now all sorts of
things swam over herchips and straws and scraps of old newspapers.
Only see how they sail along, said the Darning-needle to herself.
They little know what is under them, though it is I, and I sit firmly
here. See! there goes a chip! It thinks of nothing in the world but
itselfof nothing in the world but a chip! There floats a straw; see
how it turns and twirls about. Do think of something besides yourself
or you may easily run against a stone. There swims a bit of a
newspaper. What's written upon it is forgotten long ago, yet how it
spreads itself out and gives itself airs! I sit patiently and quietly
here! I know what I am, and I shall remain the samealways.
One day there lay something beside her that glittered splendidly.
She thought it must be a diamond, but it was really only a bit of
broken glass from a bottle. As it shone so brightly the Darning-needle
spoke to it, introducing herself as a breastpin.
You are a diamond, I suppose, she said.
Why, yes, something of the sort.
So each believed the other to be some rare and costly trinket; and
they began to converse together upon the world, saying how very
conceited it was.
Yes, said the Darning-needle, I have lived in a young lady's box;
and the young lady happened to be a cook. She had five fingers upon
each of her hands, and anything more conceited and arrogant than those
five fingers, I never saw. And yet they were only there that they might
take me out of the box or put me back again.
Were they of high descent? asked the Bit of Bottle. Did they
No, indeed, replied the Darning-needle; but they were none the
less haughty. There were five brothers of themall of the Finger
family. And they held themselves so proudly side by side, though they
were of quite different heights. The outermost, Thumbling he was
called, was short and thick set; he generally stood out of the rank, a
little in front of the others; he had only one joint in his back, and
could only bow once; but he used to say that if he were cut off from a
man, that man would be cut off from military service. Foreman, the
second, put himself forward on all occasions, meddled with sweet and
sour, pointed to sun and moon, and when the fingers wrote, it was he
who pressed the pen. Middleman, the third of the brothers, could look
over the others' heads, and gave himself airs for that. Ringman, the
fourth, went about with a gold belt about his waist; and little
Playman, whom they called Peter Spielman, did nothing at all and was
proud of that, I suppose. There was nothing to be heard but boasting,
and that is why I took myself away.
And now we sit here together and shine, said the Bit of Bottle.
At that very moment some water came rushing along the gutter, so
that it overflowed and carried the glass diamond along with it.
So he is off, said the Darning-needle, and I still remain. I am
left here because I am too slender and genteel. But that's my pride,
and pride is honorable. And proudly she sat, thinking many thoughts.
I could almost believe I had been born of a sunbeam, I'm so fine.
It seems as if the sunbeams were always trying to seek me under the
water. Alas, I'm so delicate that even my own mother cannot find me. If
I had my old eye still, which broke off, I think I should crybut no,
I would not; it's not genteel to weep.
One day a couple of street boys were paddling about in the gutter,
hunting for old nails, pennies, and such like. It was dirty work, but
they seemed to find great pleasure in it.
Hullo! cried one of them, as he pricked himself with the
Darning-needle; here's a fellow for you!
I'm not a fellow! I'm a young lady! said the Darning-needle, but
no one heard it.
The sealing wax had worn off, and she had become quite black; but
black makes one look slender, and is always becoming. She thought
herself finer even than before.
There goes an eggshell sailing along, said the boys; and they
stuck the Darning-needle into the shell.
A lady in black, and within white walls! said the Darning-needle;
that is very striking. Now every one can see me. I hope I shall not be
seasick, for then I shall break.
But the fear was needless; she was not seasick, neither did she
Nothing is so good to prevent seasickness as to have a steel
stomach and to bear in mind that one is something a little more than an
ordinary person. My seasickness is all over now. The more genteel and
honorable one is, the more one can endure.
Crash went the eggshell, as a wagon rolled over both of them. It was
a wonder that she did not break.
Mercy, what a crushing weight! said the Darning-needle. I'm
growing seasick, after all. I'm going to break!
But she was not sick, and she did not break, though the wagon wheels
rolled over her. She lay at full length in the road, and there let her