By Hans Christian Andersen
THERE came a soldier marching along the high road-one, two! one, two!
He had his knapsack on his back and a saber by his side, for he had
been in the wars, and now he wanted to go home. And on the way he met
with an old Witch: she was very hideous and her under lip hung down
upon her breast. She said: "Good evening, Soldier. What a fine sword
you have, and what a big knapsack! You're a proper soldier! Now you
shall have as much money as you like to have."
"I thank you, you old Witch" said the Soldier.
"Do you see that great tree?" quoth the Witch; and she pointed to a
tree which stood beside them.
"It's quite hollow inside. You must climb to the top, and then you'll
see a hole, through which you can let yourself down and get deep into
the tree. I'll tie a rope round your body, so that I can pull you up
again when you call me."
"What am I to do down in the tree?" asked the Soldier.
"Get money," replied the Witch. "Listen to me. When you come down to
the earth under the tree, you will find yourself in a great hall: it is
quite light, for above three hundred lamps are burning there. Then you
will see three doors; these you can open, for the keys are hanging
there. If you go into the first chamber, you'll see a great chest in
the middle of the floor; on this chest sits a dog, and he's got a pair
of eyes as big as two teacups. But you need not care for that. I'll
give you my blue-checked apron, and you can spread it out upon the
floor; then go up quickly and take the dog, and set him on my apron;
then open the chest, and take as many shillings as you like. They are
of copper; if you prefer silver, you must go into the second chamber.
But there sits a dog with a pair of eyes as big as mill wheels. But do
not you care for that. Set him upon my apron, and take some of the
money. And if you want gold, you can have that too-in fact, as much as
you can carry-if you go into the third chamber. But the dog that sits
on the money chest there has two eyes as big as round towers. He is a
fierce dog, you may be sure; but you needn't be afraid, for all that.
Only set him on my apron, and he won't hurt you; and take out of the
chest as much gold as you like."
"That's not so bad," said the Soldier. "But what am I to give you, you
old Witch? for you will not do it for nothing, I fancy."
"No," replied the Witch, "not a single shilling will I have. You shall
only bring me an old Tinder-box which my grandmother forgot when she
was down there last."
"Then tie the rope round my body," cried the Soldier.
"Here it is," said the Witch, "and here's my blue-checked apron."
Then the Soldier climbed up into the tree, let himself slip down into
the hole, and stood, as the Witch had said, in the great hall where the
three hundred lamps were burning.
Now he opened the first door. Ugh! there sat the dog with eyes as big
as teacups, staring at him.
"You're a nice fellow!" exclaimed the Soldier; and he set him on the
Witch's apron, and took as many shillings as his pockets would hold,
and then locked the chest, set the dog on it again, and went into the
second chamber, Aha! there sat the dog with eyes as big as mill
"You should not stare so hard at me," said the Soldier; "you might
strain your eyes." And he set the dog upon the Witch's apron. And when
he saw the silver money in the chest, he threw away all the copper
money he had and filled his pockets and his knapsack with silver only.
Then he went into the third chamber. Oh, but that was horrid! The dog
there really had eyes as big as towers, and they turned round and round
in his head like wheels.
"Good evening!" said the Soldier; and he touched his cap, for he had
never seen such a dog as that before. When he had looked at him a
little more closely, he thought: "That will do," and lifted him down to
the floor, and opened the chest. Mercy! What a quantity of gold was
there! He could buy with it the whole town, and the sugar sucking pigs
of the cake woman, and all the tin soldiers, whips, and rocking-horses
in the whole world. Yes, that was a quantity of money! Now the
Soldier threw away all the silver coin with which he had filled his
pockets and his knapsack, and took gold instead; yes, all his pockets,
his knapsack, his boots, and his cap were filled, so that he could
scarcely walk. Now indeed he had plenty of money. He put the dog on
the chest shut the door, and then called up through the tree: "Now pull
me up, you old Witch!"
"Have you the Tinder-box?" asked the Witch.
"Plague on it!" exclaimed the Soldier, "I had clean forgotten that."
And he went and brought it.
The Witch drew him up, and he stood on the high road again, with
pockets, boots, knapsack, and cap full of gold.
"What are you going to do with the Tinder-box?" asked the Soldier.
"That's nothing to you," retorted the Witch. "You've had your money;
just give me the Tinder-box."
"Nonsense!" said the Soldier. "Tell me directly what you're going to
do with it or I'll draw my sword and cut off your head."
"No!" cried the Witch.
So the Soldier cut off her head. There she lay! But he tied up all
his money in her apron, took it on his back like a bundle, put the
Tinder-box in his pocket, and went straight off toward the town.
That was a splendid town! And he put up at the very best inn, and
asked for the finest rooms, and ordered his favorite dishes, for now he
was rich, as he had so much money. The servant who had to clean his
boots certainly thought them a remarkably old pair for such a rich
gentleman; but he had not bought any new ones yet. The next day he
procured proper boots and handsome clothes. Now our Soldier had become
a fine gentleman; and the people told him of all the splendid things
which were in their city, and about the King, and what a pretty
Princess the King's daughter was.
"Where can one get to see her?" asked the Soldier.
"She is not to be seen at all," said they all together; "she lives in a
great copper castle, with a great many walls and towers round about it:
no one but the King may go in and out there, for it has been prophesied
that she shall marry a common soldier, and the King can't bear that."
"I should like to see her," thought the Soldier; but he could not get
leave to do so. Now he lived merrily, went to the theater, drove in
the King's garden, and gave much money to the poor; and this was very
kind of him, for he knew from old times how hard it is when one has not
Now he was rich, had new clothes, and gained many friends, who all said
he was a rare one, a true cavalier; and that pleased the Soldier well.
But as he spent money every day and never carried any, he had at last
only two shillings left; and he was obliged to turn out of the fine
rooms in which he had dwelt, and had to live in a little garret under
the roof, and clean his boots for himself, and mend them with a
darning-needle. None of his friends came to see him, for there were
too many stairs to climb.
It was quite dark one evening, and he could not even buy himself a
candle, when it occurred to him that there was a candle end in the
Tinder-box which he had taken out of the hollow tree into which the
Witch had helped him. He brought out the Tinder-box and the candle
end; but as soon as he struck fire and the sparks rose up from the
flint, the door flew open, and the dog who had eyes as big as a couple
of teacups, and whom he had seen in the tree, stood before him, and
"What are my lord's commands?"
"What is this?" said the Soldier. "That's a famous Tinder-box, if I
can get everything with it that I want! Bring me some money," said he
to the dog; and whisk! the dog was gone, and whisk! he was back
again, with a great bag full of shillings in his mouth.
Now the Soldier knew what a capital Tinder-box this was. If he struck
it once, the dog came who sat upon the chest of copper money; if he
struck it twice, the dog came who had the silver; and if he struck it
three times, then appeared the dog who had the gold. Now the Soldier
moved back into the fine rooms, and appeared again in handsome clothes;
and all his friends knew him again, and cared very much for him indeed.
Once he thought to himself: "It is a very strange thing that one cannot
get to see the Princess. They all say she is very beautiful; but what
is the use of that, if she has always to sit in the great copper castle
with the many towers? Can I not get to see her at all? Where is my
Tinder-box?" And so he struck a light, and whisk! came the dog with
eyes as big as teacups.
"It is midnight, certainly," said the Soldier, "but I should very much
like to see the Princess, only for one little moment."
And the dog was outside the door directly, and, before the Soldier
thought it, came back with the Princess. She sat upon the dogs back
and slept; and everyone could see she was a real Princess, for she was
so lovely. The Soldier could not refrain from kissing her, for he was
a thorough soldier. Then the dog ran back again with the Princess.
But when morning came, and the King and Queen were drinking tea, the
Princess said she had had a strange dream the night before about a dog
and a soldier-that she had ridden upon the dog, and the soldier had
"That would be a fine history!" said the Queen.
So one of the old court ladies had to watch the next night by the
Princess's bed, to see if this was really a dream, or what it might be.
The Soldier had a great longing to see the lovely Princess again; so
the dog came in the night, took her away, and ran as fast as he could.
But the old lady put on water boots, and ran just as fast after him.
When she saw that they both entered a great house, she thought: "Now I
know where it is; and with a bit of chalk she drew a great cross on the
door. Then she went home and lay down, and the dog came up with the
Princess; but when he saw that there was a cross drawn on the door
where the Soldier lived, he took a piece of chalk too, and drew crosses
on all the doors in the town. And that was cleverly done, for now the
lady could not find the right door, because all the doors had crosses
In the morning early came the King and Queen, the old court lady and
all the officers, to see where it was the Princess had been. "Here it
is!" said the King, when he saw the first door with a cross upon it.
"No, my dear husband, it is there!" said the Queen, who descried
another door which also showed a cross. "But there is one, and there
is one!" said all, for wherever they looked there were crosses on the
doors. So they saw that it would avail them nothing if they searched
But the Queen was an exceedingly clever woman, who could do more than
ride in a coach. She took her great gold scissors, cut a piece of silk
into pieces, and made a neat little bag; this bag she filled with fine
wheat flour, and tied it on the Princess's back, and when that was
done, she cut a little hole in the bag, so that the flour would be
scattered along all the way which the Princess should take.
In the night the dog came again, took the Princess on his back, and ran
with her to the Soldier, who loved her very much, and would gladly have
been a prince, so that he might have her for his wife. The dog did not
notice at all how the flour ran out in a stream from the castle to the
windows of the Soldier's house, where he ran up the wall with the
Princess. In the morning the King and Queen saw well enough where
their daughter had been, and they took the Soldier and put him in
There he sat. Oh, but it was dark and disagreeable there! And they
said to him: "To-morrow you shall be hanged." That was not amusing to
hear, and he had left his Tinder-box at the inn. In the morning he
could see, through the iron grating of the little window, how the
people were hurrying out of the town to see him hanged. He heard the
drums beat and saw the soldiers marching. All the people were running
out, and among them was the shoemaker's boy with leather apron and
slippers, and he galloped so fast that one of his slippers flew off,
and came right against the wall where the Soldier sat looking through
the iron grating.
"Halloo, you shoemaker's boy! you needn't be in such a hurry," cried
the Soldier to him: "it will not begin till I come. But if you will
run to where I lived and bring me my Tinder-box, you shall have four
shillings: but you must put your best leg foremost."
The shoemaker's boy wanted to get the four shillings, so he went and
brought the Tinder-box, and-well, we shall hear now what happened.
Outside the town a great gallows had been built, and round it stood the
soldiers and many hundred thousand people. The King and Queen sat on a
splendid throne, opposite to the judges and the whole council. The
soldiers already stood upon the ladder; but as they were about to put
the rope round his neck, he said that before a poor criminal suffered
his punishment an innocent request was always granted to him. He
wanted very much to smoke a pipe of tobacco, and it would be the last
pipe he should smoke in the world. The King would not say "No" to
this; so the Soldier took his Tinder-box and struck fire. One-two-
three! - and there suddenly stood all the dogs-the one with eyes as big
as teacups, the one with eyes as large as mill wheels, and the one
whose eyes were as big as round towers.
"Help me now, so that I may not be hanged," said the Soldier.
And the dogs fell upon the judges and all the council, seized one by
the leg and another by the nose, and tossed them many feet into the
air, so that they fell down and were all broken to pieces.
"I won't!" cried the King; but the biggest dog took him and the Queen,
and threw them after the others. Then the soldiers were afraid, and
the people cried: "Little Soldier, you shall be our king, and marry the
So they put the Soldier into the King's coach, and all the three dogs
darted on in front and cried "Hurrah!" and the boys whistled through
their fingers, and the soldiers presented arms. The Princess came out
of the copper castle, and became Queen, and she liked that well enough.
The wedding lasted a week, and the three dogs sat at the table too, and
opened their eyes wider than ever at all they saw.