THE STEADFAST TIN SOLDIER
BY HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN
There were once five and twenty tin soldiers,
all brothers, for they were the offspring of
the same old tin spoon. Each man shouldered
his gun, kept his eyes well to the front, and
wore the smartest red and blue uniform imaginable.
The first thing they heard in their new world,
when the lid was taken off the box, was a little
boy clapping his hands and crying, "Soldiers,
soldiers!" It was his birthday, and they had
just been given to him; so he lost no time in
setting them up on the table. All the soldiers
were exactly alike, with one exception, and he
differed from the rest in having only one leg.
For he was made last, and there was not quite
enough tin left to finish him. However, he stood
just as well on his one leg as the others on
two; in fact, he is the very one who is to become
famous. On the table where they were being set
up were many other toys; but the chief thing
which caught the eye was a delightful paper
castle. You could see through the tiny windows,
right into the rooms. Outside there were some
little trees surrounding a small mirror,
representing a lake, whose surface reflected
the waxen swans which were swimming about on it.
It was altogether charming, but the prettiest
thing of all was a little maiden standing at
the open door of the castle. She, too, was
cut out of paper, but she wore a dress of
the lightest gauze, with a dainty little blue
ribbon over her shoulders, by way of a scarf,
set off by a brilliant spangle as big as her
whole face. The little maid was stretching
out both arms, for she was a dancer, and in
the dance, one of her legs was raised so high
into the air that the tin soldier could see
absolutely nothing of it, and supposed that
she, like himself, had but one leg.
"That would be the very wife for me!" he
thought; "but she is much too grand; she
lives in a palace, while I only have a box,
and then there are five and twenty of us to
share it. No, that would be no place for her!
but I must try to make her acquaintance!"
Then he lay down full length behind a snuffbox,
which stood on the table. From that point he
could have a good look at the little lady,
who continued to stand on one leg without
losing her balance.
Late in the evening the other soldiers were
put into their box, and the people of the
house went to bed. Now was the time for the
toys to play; they amused themselves with
paying visits, fighting battles, and giving
balls. The tin soldiers rustled about in
their box, for they wanted to join the games,
but they could not get the lid off. The
nutcrackers turned somersaults, and the
pencil scribbled nonsense on the slate.
There was such a noise that the canary woke
up and joined in, but his remarks were in
verse. The only two who did not move were
the tin soldier and the little dancer. She
stood as stiff as ever on tiptoe, with her
arms spread out; he was equally firm on his
one leg, and he did not take his eyes off
her for a moment.
Then the clock struck twelve, when pop! up
flew the lid of the snuffbox, but there was
no snuff in it, no! There was a little black
goblin, a sort of Jack-in-the-box.
"Tin soldier!" said the goblin, "have the
goodness to keep your eyes to yourself."
But the tin soldier feigned not to hear.
"Ah! you just wait till tomorrow," said
In the morning, when the children got up,
they put the tin soldier on the window frame,
and, whether it was caused by the goblin or
by a puff of wind, I do not know, but all
at once the window burst open, and the
soldier fell head foremost from the third
It was a terrific descent, and he landed at
last, with his leg in the air, and rested
on his cap, with his bayonet fixed between
two paving stones. The maidservant and the
little boy ran down at once to look for him;
but although they almost trod on him, they
could not see him. Had the soldier only called
out, "Here I am," they would easily have found
him; but he did not think it proper to shout
when he was in uniform.
Presently it began to rain, and the drops fell
faster and faster, till there was a regular
torrent. When it was over, two street boys
"Look out!" said one; "there is a tin soldier!
He shall go for a sail."
So they made a boat out of a newspaper and
put the soldier into the middle of it, and
he sailed away down the gutter; both boys ran
alongside, clapping their hands. Good heavens!
what waves there were in the gutter, and what
a current, but then it certainly had rained
cats and dogs. The paper boat danced up and
down, and now and then whirled round and round.
A shudder ran through the tin soldier, but he
remained undaunted, and did not move a muscle,
only looked straight before him with his gun
shouldered. All at once the boat drifted under
a long wooden tunnel, and it became as dark
as it was in his box.
"Where on earth am I going now!" thought he.
"Well, well, it is all the fault of that
goblin! Oh, if only the little maiden were
with me in the boat, it might be twice as
dark for all I should care!"
At this moment a big water rat, who lived in
the tunnel, came up.
"Have you a pass?" asked the rat. "Hand up
The tin soldier did not speak, but clung still
tighter to his gun. The boat rushed on, the
rat close behind. Phew, how he gnashed his
teeth and shouted to the bits of stick and
"Stop him, stop him, he hasn't paid his toll;
he hasn't shown his pass!"
But the current grew stronger and stronger;
the tin soldier could already see daylight
before him at the end of the tunnel; but he
also heard a roaring sound, fit to strike
terror to the bravest heart. Just imagine!
Where the tunnel ended the stream rushed
straight into the big canal. That would be
just as dangerous for him as it would be for
us to shoot a great rapid.
He was so near the end now that it was impossible
to stop. The boat dashed out; the poor tin
soldier held himself as stiff as he could; no
one should say of him that he even winced.
The boat swirled round three or four times,
and filled with water to the edge; it must
sink. The tin soldier stood up to his neck
in water, and the boat sank deeper and deeper.
The paper became limper and limper, and at
last the water went over his head -- then
he thought of the pretty little dancer, whom
he was never to see again, and this refrain
rang in his ears:
"Onward! Onward! Soldier!
For death thou canst not shun."
At last the paper gave way entirely and the
soldier fell through -- but at the same moment
he was swallowed by a big fish.
Oh! how dark it was inside that fish; it was
worse than being in the tunnel even; and
then it was so narrow! But the tin soldier
was as dauntless as ever, and lay full length,
shouldering his gun.
The fish rushed about and made the most frantic
movements. At last it became quite quiet, and
after a time, a flash like lightning pierced
it. The soldier was once more in the broad
daylight, and someone called out loudly, "A
tin soldier!" The fish had been caught, taken
to market, sold, and brought into the kitchen,
where the cook cut it open with a large knife.
She took the soldier up by the waist, with two
fingers, and carried him into the parlor,
where everyone wanted to see the wonderful man,
who had traveled about in the stomach of a fish;
but the tin soldier was not at all proud. They
set him up on the table, and, wonder of wonders!
he found himself in the very same room that he
had been in before. He saw the very same children,
and the toys were still standing on the table,
as well as the beautiful castle with the pretty
She still stood on one leg, and held the other
up in the air. You see she also was unbending.
The soldier was so much moved that he was ready
to shed tears of tin, but that would not have
been fitting. He looked at her, and she looked
at him, but they said never a word. At this
moment one of the little boys took up the tin
soldier, and without rhyme or reason, threw him
into the fire. No doubt the little goblin in
the snuffbox was to blame for that. The tin
soldier stood there, lighted up by the flame,
and in the most horrible heat; but whether it
was the heat of the real fire, or the warmth
of his feelings, he did not know. He had lost
all his gay color; it might have been from his
perilous journey, or it might have been from
grief, who can tell?
He looked at the little maiden, and she looked
at him; and he felt that he was melting away,
but he still managed to keep himself erect,
shouldering his gun bravely.
A door was suddenly opened, the draught caught
the little dancer, and she fluttered like a
sylph, straight into the fire, to the soldier,
blazed up, and was gone!
By this time the soldier was reduced to a mere
lump, and when the maid took away the ashes
next morning, she found him, in the shape of a
small tin heart. All that was left of the dancer
was her spangle, and that was burned as black
as a coal.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~