The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen
THERE were once five and twenty tin soldiers. They were brothers,
for they had all been made out of the same old tin spoon. They all
shouldered their bayonets, held themselves upright, and looked straight
before them. Their uniforms were very smart-lookingred and blueand
very splendid. The first thing they heard in the world, when the lid
was taken off the box in which they lay, was the words Tin soldiers!
These words were spoken by a little boy, who clapped his hands for joy.
The soldiers had been given him because it was his birthday, and now he
was putting them out upon the table.
Each was exactly like the rest to a hair, except one who had but one
leg. He had been cast last of all, and there had not been quite enough
tin to finish him; but he stood as firmly upon his one leg as the
others upon their two, and it was he whose fortunes became so
On the table where the tin soldiers had been set up were several
other toys, but the one that attracted most attention was a pretty
little paper castle. Through its tiny windows one could see straight
into the hall. In front of the castle stood little trees, clustering
round a small mirror which was meant to represent a transparent lake.
Swans of wax swam upon its surface, and it reflected back their images.
All this was very pretty, but prettiest of all was a little lady who
stood at the castle's open door. She too was cut out of paper, but she
wore a frock of the clearest gauze and a narrow blue ribbon over her
shoulders, like a scarf, and in the middle of the ribbon was placed a
shining tinsel rose. The little lady stretched out both her arms, for
she was a dancer, and then she lifted one leg so high that the Soldier
quite lost sight of it. He thought that, like himself, she had but one
That would be just the wife for me, thought he, if she were not
too grand. But she lives in a castle, while I have only a box, and
there are five and twenty of us in that. It would be no place for a
lady. Still, I must try to make her acquaintance. A snuffbox happened
to be upon the table and he lay down at full length behind it, and here
he could easily watch the dainty little lady, who still remained
standing on one leg without losing her balance.
When the evening came all the other tin soldiers were put away in
their box, and the people in the house went to bed. Now the playthings
began to play in their turn. They visited, fought battles, and gave
balls. The tin soldiers rattled in the box, for they wished to join the
rest, but they could not lift the lid. The nutcrackers turned
somersaults, and the pencil jumped about in a most amusing way. There
was such a din that the canary woke and began to speakand in verse,
too. The only ones who did not move from their places were the Tin
Soldier and the Lady Dancer. She stood on tiptoe with outstretched
arms, and he was just as persevering on his one leg; he never once
turned away his eyes from her.
Twelve o'clock struckcrash! up sprang the lid of the snuffbox.
There was no snuff in it, but a little black goblin. You see it was not
a real snuffbox, but a jack-in-the-box.
Tin Soldier, said the Goblin, keep thine eyes to thyself. Gaze
not at what does not concern thee!
But the Tin Soldier pretended not to hear.
Only wait, then, till to-morrow, remarked the Goblin.
Next morning, when the children got up, the Tin Soldier was placed
on the window sill, and, whether it was the Goblin or the wind that did
it, all at once the window flew open and the Tin Soldier fell head
foremost from the third story to the street below. It was a tremendous
fall! Over and over he turned in the air, till at last he rested, his
cap and bayonet sticking fast between the paving stones, while his one
leg stood upright in the air.
[Illustration: Away he sailed ... down the gutter...]
The maidservant and the little boy came down at once to look for
him, but, though they nearly trod upon him, they could not manage to
find him. If the Soldier had but once called Here am I! they might
easily enough have heard him, but he did not think it becoming to cry
out for help, being in uniform.
It now began to rain; faster and faster fell the drops, until there
was a heavy shower; and when it was over, two street boys came by.
Look you, said one, there lies a tin soldier. He must come out
and sail in a boat.
So they made a boat out of an old newspaper and put the Tin Soldier
in the middle of it, and away he sailed down the gutter, while the boys
ran along by his side, clapping their hands.
Goodness! how the waves rocked that paper boat, and how fast the
stream ran! The Tin Soldier became quite giddy, the boat veered round
so quickly; still he moved not a muscle, but looked straight before him
and held his bayonet tightly.
All at once the boat passed into a drain, and it became as dark as
his own old home in the box. Where am I going now? thought he. Yes,
to be sure, it is all that Goblin's doing. Ah! if the little lady were
but sailing with me in the boat, I would not care if it were twice as
Just then a great water rat, that lived under the drain, darted
Have you a passport? asked the rat. Where is your passport?
But the Tin Soldier kept silence and only held his bayonet with a
The boat sailed on, but the rat followed. Whew! how he gnashed his
teeth and cried to the sticks and straws: Stop him! stop him! He
hasn't paid toll! He hasn't shown his passport!
But the stream grew stronger and stronger. Already the Tin Soldier
could see daylight at the point where the tunnel ended; but at the same
time he heard a rushing, roaring noise, at which a bolder man might
have trembled. Think! just where the tunnel ended, the drain widened
into a great sheet that fell into the mouth of a sewer. It was as
perilous a situation for the Soldier as sailing down a mighty waterfall
would be for us.
He was now so near it that he could not stop. The boat dashed on,
and the Tin Soldier held himself so well that no one might say of him
that he so much as winked an eye. Three or four times the boat whirled
round and round; it was full of water to the brim and must certainly
The Tin Soldier stood up to his neck in water; deeper and deeper
sank the boat, softer and softer grew the paper; and now the water
closed over the Soldier's head. He thought of the pretty little dancer
whom he should never see again, and in his ears rang the words of the
Wild adventure, mortal danger,
Be thy portion, valiant stranger.
The paper boat parted in the middle, and the Soldier was about to
sink, when he was swallowed by a great fish.
Oh, how dark it was! darker even than in the drain, and so narrow;
but the Tin Soldier retained his courage; there he lay at full length,
shouldering his bayonet as before.
To and fro swam the fish, turning and twisting and making the
strangest movements, till at last he became perfectly still.
Something like a flash of daylight passed through him, and a voice
said, Tin Soldier! The fish had been caught, taken to market, sold
and bought, and taken to the kitchen, where the cook had cut him with a
large knife. She seized the Tin Soldier between her finger and thumb
and took him to the room where the family sat, and where all were eager
to see the celebrated man who had traveled in the maw of a fish; but
the Tin Soldier remained unmoved. He was not at all proud.
They set him upon the table there. But how could so curious a thing
happen? The Soldier was in the very same room in which he had been
before. He saw the same children, the same toys stood upon the table,
and among them the pretty dancing maiden, who still stood upon one leg.
She too was steadfast. That touched the Tin Soldier's heart. He could
have wept tin tears, but that would not have been proper. He looked at
her and she looked at him, but neither spoke a word.
And now one of the little boys took the Tin Soldier and threw him
into the stove. He gave no reason for doing so, but no doubt the Goblin
in the snuffbox had something to do with it.
The Tin Soldier stood now in a blaze of red light. The heat he felt
was terrible, but whether it proceeded from the fire or from the love
in his heart, he did not know. He saw that the colors were quite gone
from his uniform, but whether that had happened on the journey or had
been caused by grief, no one could say. He looked at the little lady,
she looked at him, and he felt himself melting; still he stood firm as
ever, with his bayonet on his shoulder. Then suddenly the door flew
open; the wind caught the Dancer, and she flew straight into the stove
to the Tin Soldier, flashed up in a flame, and was gone! The Tin
Soldier melted into a lump; and in the ashes the maid found him next
day, in the shape of a little tin heart, while of the Dancer nothing
remained save the tinsel rose, and that was burned as black as a coal.