Brave Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen
THERE were once five-and-twenty tin soldierswho were all brothersfor theyhad been made out of the same old tin spoon. They shouldered arms and lookedstraight before themand wore a splendid uniformred and blue. The first thingin the world they ever heard were the words"Tin soldiers!" utteredby a little boywho clapped his hands with delight when the lid of the boxinwhich they laywas taken off. They were given him for a birthday presentandhe stood at the table to set them up. The soldiers were all exactly alikeexcepting onewho had only one leg; he had been left to the lastand thenthere was not enough of the melted tin to finish himso they made him to standfirmly on one legand this caused him to be very remarkable.
The table on which the tin soldiers stoodwas covered with other playthingsbut the most attractive to the eye was a pretty little paper castle. Through thesmall windows the rooms could be seen. In front of the castle a number of littletrees surrounded a piece of looking-glasswhich was intended to represent atransparent lake. Swansmade of waxswam on the lakeand were reflected init. All this was very prettybut the prettiest of all was a tiny little ladywho stood at the open door of the castle; shealsowas made of paperand shewore a dress of clear muslinwith a narrow blue ribbon over her shoulders justlike a scarf. In front of these was fixed a glittering tinsel roseas large asher whole face. The little lady was a dancerand she stretched out both herarmsand raised one of her legs so highthat the tin soldier could not see itat alland he thought that shelike himselfhad only one leg. "That isthe wife for me" he thought; "but she is too grandand lives in acastlewhile I have only a box to live infive-and-twenty of us altogetherthat is no place for her. Still I must try and make her acquaintance." Thenhe laid himself at full length on the table behind a snuff-box that stood uponitso that he could peep at the little delicate ladywho continued to stand onone leg without losing her balance. When evening camethe other tin soldierswere all placed in the boxand the people of the house went to bed. Then theplaythings began to have their own games togetherto pay visitsto have shamfightsand to give balls. The tin soldiers rattled in their box; they wanted toget out and join the amusementsbut they could not open the lid. Thenut-crackers played at leap-frogand the pencil jumped about the table. Therewas such a noise that the canary woke up and began to talkand in poetry too.Only the tin soldier and the dancer remained in their places. She stood ontiptoewith her legs stretched outas firmly as he did on his one leg. Henever took his eyes from her for even a moment. The clock struck twelveandwith a bounceup sprang the lid of the snuff-box; butinstead of snufftherejumped up a little black goblin; for the snuff-box was a toy puzzle.
"Tin soldier" said the goblin"don't wish for what does notbelong to you.
But the tin soldier pretended not to hear.
"Very well; wait till to-morrowthen" said the goblin.
When the children came in the next morningthey placed the tin soldier inthe window. Nowwhether it was the goblin who did itor the draughtis notknownbut the window flew openand out fell the tin soldierheels over headfrom the third storyinto the street beneath. It was a terrible fall; for hecame head downwardshis helmet and his bayonet stuck in between the flagstonesand his one leg up in the air. The servant maid and the little boy went downstairs directly to look for him; but he was nowhere to be seenalthough oncethey nearly trod upon him. If he had called out"Here I am" it wouldhave been all rightbut he was too proud to cry out for help while he wore auniform.
Presently it began to rainand the drops fell faster and fastertill therewas a heavy shower. When it was overtwo boys happened to pass byand one ofthem said"Lookthere is a tin soldier. He ought to have a boat to sailin."
So they made a boat out of a newspaperand placed the tin soldier in itandsent him sailing down the gutterwhile the two boys ran by the side of itandclapped their hands. Good graciouswhat large waves arose in that gutter! andhow fast the stream rolled on! for the rain had been very heavy. The paper boatrocked up and downand turned itself round sometimes so quickly that the tinsoldier trembled; yet he remained firm; his countenance did not change; helooked straight before himand shouldered his musket. Suddenly the boat shotunder a bridge which formed a part of a drainand then it was as dark as thetin soldier's box.
"Where am I going now?" thought he. "This is the blackgoblin's faultI am sure. Ahwellif the little lady were only here with mein the boatI should not care for any darkness."
Suddenly there appeared a great water-ratwho lived in the drain.
"Have you a passport?" asked the rat"give it to me atonce." But the tin soldier remained silent and held his musket tighter thanever. The boat sailed on and the rat followed it. How he did gnash his teeth andcry out to the bits of wood and straw"Stop himstop him; he has not paidtolland has not shown his pass." But the stream rushed on stronger andstronger. The tin soldier could already see daylight shining where the archended. Then he heard a roaring sound quite terrible enough to frighten thebravest man. At the end of the tunnel the drain fell into a large canal over asteep placewhich made it as dangerous for him as a waterfall would be to us.He was too close to it to stopso the boat rushed onand the poor tin soldiercould only hold himself as stiffly as possiblewithout moving an eyelidtoshow that he was not afraid. The boat whirled round three or four timesandthen filled with water to the very edge; nothing could save it from sinking. Henow stood up to his neck in waterwhile deeper and deeper sank the boatandthe paper became soft and loose with the wettill at last the water closed overthe soldier's head. He thought of the elegant little dancer whom he should neversee againand the words of the song sounded in his ears- -
"Farewellwarrior! ever brave
Drifting onward to thy grave." -
Then the paper boat fell to piecesand the soldier sank into the water andimmediately afterwards was swallowed up by a great fish. Oh how dark it wasinside the fish! A great deal darker than in the tunneland narrower toobutthe tin soldier continued firmand lay at full length shouldering his musket.The fish swam to and fromaking the most wonderful movementsbut at last hebecame quite still. After a whilea flash of lightning seemed to pass throughhimand then the daylight approachedand a voice cried out"I declarehere is the tin soldier." The fish had been caughttaken to the market andsold to the cookwho took him into the kitchen and cut him open with a largeknife. She picked up the soldier and held him by the waist between her fingerand thumband carried him into the room. They were all anxious to see thiswonderful soldier who had travelled about inside a fish; but he was not at allproud. They placed him on the tableand- how many curious things do happen inthe world!- there he was in the very same room from the window of which he hadfallenthere were the same childrenthe same playthingsstanding on the tableand the pretty castle with the elegant little dancer at the door; she stillbalanced herself on one legand held up the otherso she was as firm ashimself. It touched the tin soldier so much to see her that he almost wept tintearsbut he kept them back. He only looked at her and they both remainedsilent. Presently one of the little boys took up the tin soldierand threw himinto the stove. He had no reason for doing sotherefore it must have been thefault of the black goblin who lived in the snuff-box. The flames lighted up thetin soldieras he stoodthe heat was very terriblebut whether it proceededfrom the real fire or from the fire of love he could not tell. Then he could seethat the bright colors were faded from his uniformbut whether they had beenwashed off during his journey or from the effects of his sorrowno one couldsay. He looked at the little ladyand she looked at him. He felt himselfmelting awaybut he still remained firm with his gun on his shoulder. Suddenlythe door of the room flew open and the draught of air caught up the littledancershe fluttered like a sylph right into the stove by the side of the tinsoldierand was instantly in flames and was gone. The tin soldier melted downinto a lumpand the next morningwhen the maid servant took the ashes out ofthe stoveshe found him in the shape of a little tin heart. But of the littledancer nothing remained but the tinsel rosewhich was burnt black as a cinder.- -