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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Steadfast Tin Soldier
By Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875)
 
From ‘Collected Fairy Tales,’ newly translated

THERE were once twenty-five tin soldiers, who were all brothers, for they were cast out of one old tin spoon. They held their muskets, and their faces were turned to the enemy; red and blue, ever so fine, were the uniforms. The first thing they heard in this world, when the cover was taken from the box where they lay, were the words, “Tin soldiers!” A little boy shouted it, and clapped his hands. He had got them because it was his birthday, and now he set them up on the table. Each soldier was just like the other, only one was a little different. He had but one leg, for he had been cast last, and there was not enough tin. But he stood on his one leg just as firm as the others on two, so he was just the one to be famous.  1
  On the table where they were set up stood a lot of other playthings; but what caught your eye was a pretty castle of paper. Through the little windows you could see right into the halls. Little trees stood in front, around a bit of looking-glass which was meant for a lake. Wax swans swam on it and were reflected in it. That was all very pretty, but still the prettiest thing was a little girl who stood right in the castle gate. She was cut out of paper too, but she had a silk dress, and a little narrow blue ribbon across her shoulders, on which was a sparkling star as big as her whole face. The little girl lifted her arms gracefully in the air, for she was a dancer; and then she lifted one leg so high that the tin soldier could not find it at all, and thought that she had only one leg, just like himself.  2
  “That would be the wife for me,” thought he, “but she is too fine for me. She lives in a castle, and I have only a box, which I have to share with twenty-four. That is no house for her. But I will see whether I can make her acquaintance.” Then he lay down at full length behind a snuff-box which was on the table. From there he could watch the trig little lady who kept standing on one leg without losing her balance. When evening came, the other tin soldiers were all put in their box, and the people in the house went to bed. Then the playthings began to play, first at “visiting,” then at “war” and at “dancing.” The tin soldiers rattled in their box, for they would have liked to join in it, but they could not get the cover off. The nutcracker turned somersaults, and the pencil scrawled over the slate. There was such a racket that the canary-bird woke up and began to sing, and that in verses. The only ones that did not stir were the tin soldier and the little dancer. She stood straight on tiptoe and stretched up both arms; he was just as steadfast on his one leg. He did not take his eyes from her a moment.  3
  Now it struck twelve, and bang! up went the cover of the snuff-box, but it wasn’t tobacco in it: no, but a little black Troll. It was a trick box.  4
  “Tin soldier!” said the Troll, “will you stare your eyes out?” But the tin soldier made believe he did not hear. “You wait till morning!” said the Troll.  5
  When morning came, and the children got up, the tin soldier was put on the window ledge; and whether it was the Troll, or a gust of wind, all at once the window flew open and the tin soldier fell head first from the third story. That was an awful fall. He stretched his leg straight up, and stuck with his bayonet and cap right between the paving-stones.  6
  The maid and the little boy came right down to hunt for him, but they couldn’t see him, though they came so near that they almost trod on him. If the tin soldier had called “Here I am,” they surely would have found him; but since he was in uniform he did not think it proper to call aloud.  7
  Now it began to rain. The drops chased one another. It was a regular shower. When that was over, two street boys came along.  8
  “Hallo!” said one, “There’s a tin soldier. He must be off and sail.”  9
  Then they made a boat out of a newspaper, put the tin soldier in it, and made him sail down the gutter. Both boys ran beside it, and clapped their hands. Preserve us! What waves there were in the gutter, and what a current! It must have rained torrents. The paper boat rocked up and down, and sometimes it whirled around so that the tin soldier shivered. But he remained steadfast, did not lose color, looked straight ahead and held his musket firm.  10
  All at once the boat plunged under a long gutter-bridge. It was as dark there as it had been in his box.  11
  “Where am I going now?” thought he. “Yes, yes, that is the Troll’s fault. Oh! if the little lady were only in the boat, I would not care if it were twice as dark.”  12
  At that instant there came a great water-rat who lived under the gutter-bridge.  13
  “Have you a pass?” said the rat. “Show me your pass.”  14
  But the tin soldier kept still, and only held his musket the firmer. The boat rushed on, and the rat behind. Oh! how he gnashed his teeth, and called to the sticks and straws:—  15
  “Stop him! Stop him! He has not paid toll. He has showed no pass.”  16
  But the current got stronger and stronger. Before he got to the end of the bridge the tin soldier could see daylight, but he heard also a rushing noise that might frighten a brave man’s heart. Just think! at the end of the bridge the gutter emptied into a great canal, which for him was as dangerous as for us to sail down a great waterfall.  17
  He was so near it already that he could not stop. The boat went down. The poor tin soldier held himself as straight as he could. No one should say of him that he had ever blinked his eyes. The boat whirled three or four times and filled with water. It had to sink. The tin soldier stood up to his neck in water, and deeper, deeper sank the boat. The paper grew weaker and weaker. Now the waves went over the soldier’s head. Then he thought of the pretty little dancer whom he never was to see again, and there rang in the tin soldier’s ears:—
  “Farewell, warrior! farewell!
Death shalt thou suffer.”
  18
  Now the paper burst in two, and the tin soldier fell through,—but in that minute he was swallowed by a big fish.  19
  Oh! wasn’t it dark in there. It was worse even than under the gutter-bridge, and besides, so cramped. But the tin soldier was steadfast, and lay at full length, musket in hand.  20
  The fish rushed around and made the most fearful jumps. At last he was quite still, and something went through him like a lightning flash. Then a bright light rushed in, and somebody called aloud, “The tin soldier!” The fish had been caught, brought to market, sold, and been taken to the kitchen, where the maid had slit it up with a big knife. She caught the soldier around the body and carried him into the parlor, where everybody wanted to see such a remarkable man who had traveled about in a fish’s belly. But the tin soldier was not a bit proud. They put him on the table, and there—well! what strange things do happen in the world—the tin soldier was in the very same room that he had been in before. He saw the same children, and the same playthings were on the table, the splendid castle with the pretty little dancer; she was still standing on one leg, and had the other high in the air. She was steadfast, too. That touched the tin soldier so that he could almost have wept tin tears, but that would not have been proper. He looked at her and she looked at him, but they said nothing at all.  21
  Suddenly one of the little boys seized the tin soldier and threw him right into the tile-stove, although he had no reason to. It was surely the Troll in the box who was to blame.  22
  The tin soldier stood in full light and felt a fearful heat; but whether that came from the real fire, or from his glowing love, he could not tell. All the color had faded from him; but whether this had happened on the journey, or whether it came from care, no one could say. He looked at the little girl and she looked at him. He felt that he was melting, but still he stood steadfast, musket in hand. Then a door opened. A whiff of air caught the dancer, and she flew like a sylph right into the tile-stove to the tin soldier, blazed up in flame, and was gone. Then the tin soldier melted to a lump, and when the maid next day took out the ashes, she found him as a little tin heart. But of the dancer only the star was left, and that was burnt coal-black.  23
 
 
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