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THE TIN SOLDIEROnce upon a time . . . there lived a child who had a lot of toys. The child kept his toys in his room and spent many happy hours everyday playing with them. One of his favourite games was the battle with the tin soldiers. He arranged the little toy soldiers in their respective ranks and fought imaginary battles.

When the boy received the soldiersas a presenthe noticed that one of them had been madeby mistakewith just one leg. Despite the missing limbthe boy placed the little mutilated soldier in the front linesencouraging him to be the most valorous of all the little soldiers. The child did not know thatat nightthe toys became animated and talked between themselves.

It often happened thatwhen lining up the soldiers after playing with themthe little boy would forget about the little tin soldier without a leg and left him with all the other toys. It was thus that the little metal soldier got to talk to a pretty tin ballerina.

A great friendship was born between the twoand pretty soon the little soldier fell in love with the ballerina. But the nights went by quicklyand he did not find the courage to declare his love to her. When the child played with the soldiers and positioned him in the front linesthe little soldier hoped that the ballerina would notice his courage in battle. And in the eveningwhen the ballerina asked the soldier if he had been afraidhe proudly answered"No."

But the loving stares and sighs of the little soldier did not go unnoticed by the jack-in-the-box. One nightthe jackin-the-box said to the little soldier: "Hey you! Don't look at the ballerina like that!" The poor little soldier was confused and he blushedbut the kind ballerina cheered him up.

"Don't listen to himhe is ugly and jealous. I am very happy to talk to you" she said blushing too. The two little tin flgurines were both too shy to speak of their love.

One day they were separated. The boy picked up the tin soldier and placed him on the window-sill.

"You stay here and watch for the enemy" he said. Then the boy played inside with the other soliders.

It was summer and in the days that followed the soldier remained on the window-sill. But one afternoon there was a sudden storm and a strong wind shook the windows. The Iittle soldier fell head first off the window-sill. His bayonet stuck into the ground. It kept raining and storming and pretty soon the rain formed big puddles and the gutters were full. A group of boys in the nearby school waited for the storm to end and when it stopped raining hard they ran outdoors.

Joking and laughingthe boys hopped over the bigger puddles while two of them cautiously walked next to the wall so that the sprinkling rain wouldn't wet them. These two boys noticed the little tin soldier stuck in the sodden earth.

"Too bad he has just one leg. OtherwiseI'd take him home with me" one of the boys said. The other boy picked him up and put him in his pocket.

"Let's take him anyway" he said. "We could use him for something." On the other side of the streetthe gutter was overflowing and the current carried a little paper boat.

"Let's put the little soldier in the boat and make him a sailor" said the boy who had picked up the tin soldier.And so the little soldier became a sailor.

The whirling gutter flowed into a sewer and the little boat was carried down the drain. The water in the underground sewage was deep and muddy. Big rats gnashed their teeth as the vessel and its unusual passenger flowed by. The boat was soaked and about to sink. But the little soldierwho had faced far greater dangers in battlewas not afraid. The water of the sewer then flowed into the river and the little boatnow overturnedwas swept by the high waves. The little tin soldier realized his end was near. After the paper boat was wreckedhe sank in deep waters. A thousand thoughts went through the little soldier's mindbut one in particular anguished him:

"I will never see my sweet little ballerina again!" But a huge mouth swallowed the little tin soldier andonce againhis destiny took an unexpected turn.

The little soldier found himself in the stomach of a large fish who had been lured by the glittering colours of his uniform. The fishhoweverdid not even have time to digest his meal becauseshortly after having swallowed the soldierhe was caught in the net of a fisherman. Shortly afterthe gasping fish ended up in a big basket and was brought to the market.

Meanwhilea cook was on her way to the market. She worked in the very same house where the little soldier used to live.

"This fish will be perfect for tonight's guests" the cook said when she saw the big fish on the fish market's counter. The fish ended up in the kitchen and when the cook slit its belly to clean it she found the little tin soldier.

"This looks like one of our boy's toy soldiers . . ." she thoughtand ran to the boy to show him her discovery.

"That's rightit's my soldier!" the little boy cheeredwhen he recognized the soldier with the missing leg.

"I wonder how he got into the fish's belly? Poor soldierhe must have gone through a lot of trouble since he fell off the window-sill!" The little boy placed the soldier on the mantleright next to his sister's ballerina.

The amazing ways of destiny had once again reunited the two lovers. The little soldier and the ballerina were very happy to be close to each other. At night they talked about what had happened after their separation. But the ill disposition of fate had another surprise in store for them.

One day a sudden gust of wind lifted the heavy drape of the window and hit the ballerinawho fell into the flreplace. The little soldier saw his friend fall into the fireplace and he was frightened. He knew a fire was lit because he could feel its warmth. He was desperateconscious of not being able to do anything to save the ballerina. In factfire is the greatest enemy of tin figurines because it melts metals. Rocking back and forth on his one legthe little soldier tried to move the metal base under his feet that held him in place.

He kept trying to move until he fell into the fire as well. The two figurines were reunited in their misfortune. They were so close to each other nowthat their metal bases began melting together. The tin of one base melted with the metal of the otherand the metal strangely moulded into the shape of a heart. As their bodies were about to begin melting as wellthe little boy went by the fireplace and saw the two little figurines enveloped by the flames and moved them away from the blaze with his foot.

Ever since then the soldier and the ballerina have been melted close to each othersharing their destiny and a common base shaped like a heart.




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