THE CONSTANT TIN SOLDIER
By Hans Christian Andersen
THERE were once five-and-twenty tin soldiers; they were all brothers,
for they had all been born of one old tin spoon. They shouldered their
muskets, and looked straight before them; their uniform was red and
blue, and very splendid. The first thing they had heard in the world,
when the lid was taken off the box, had been the words "Tin soldiers!"
These words were tittered by a little boy, clapping his hands; the
soldiers had been given to him, for it was his birthday; and now he put
them upon the table. Each soldier was exactly like the rest; but one
of them had been cast last of all, and there had not been enough tin to
finish him; but he stood as firmly upon his one leg as the others on
their two; and it was just this soldier who became remarkable.
On the table on which they had been placed stood many other playthings,
but the toy that attracted most attention was a neat castle of
cardboard. Through the little windows one could see straight into the
hall. Before the castle some little trees were placed round a little
looking-glass, which was to represent a clear lake. Waxen swans swam
on this lake, and were mirrored in it. This was all very pretty; but
the prettiest of all was a little Lady, who stood at the open door of
the castle; she was also cut out in paper, but she had a dress of the
clearest gauze, and a little narrow blue ribbon over her shoulders that
looked like a scarf; and in the middle of this ribbon was a shining
tinsel rose, as big as her whole face. The little Lady stretched out
both her arms, for she was a dancer, and then she lifted one leg so
high that the Tin Soldier could not see it at all, and thought that,
like himself, she had but one leg.
"That would be the wife for me," thought he; "but she is very grand.
She lives in a castle, and I have only a box, and there are five-and-
twenty of us in that. It is no place for her. But I must try to make
acquaintance with her."
And then he lay down at full length behind a snuffbox which was on the
table; there he could easily watch the little dainty lady, who
continued to stand on one leg without losing her balance.
When the evening came, all the other tin soldiers were put into their
box, and the people in the house went to bed. Now the toys began to
play at "visiting," and at "war," and "giving balls." The tin soldiers
rattled in their box, for they wanted to join, but could not lift the
lid. The Nutcracker threw somersaults, and the Pencil amused itself on
the table; there was so much noise that the Canary woke up, and began
to speak too, and even in verse. The only two who did not stir from
their places were the Tin Soldier and the Dancing Lady; she stood
straight up on the point of one of her toes, and stretched out both her
arms: and he was just as enduring on his one leg; and he never turned
his eyes away from her.
Now the clock struck twelve-and, bounce! -the lid flew off the
snuffbox; but there was not snuff in it, but a little black goblin; you
see, it was a trick.
"Tin Soldier," said the Goblin, "don't stare at things that don't
But the Tin Soldier pretended not to hear him. "Just you wait till to-
morrow!" said the Goblin. But when the morning came, and the children
got up, the Tin Soldier was placed in the window; and whether it was
the Goblin or the draft that did it, all at once the window flew open,
and the Soldier fell, head over heels, out of the third story. That
was a terrible passage! He put his leg straight up, and struck with
his helmet downward, and his bayonet between the paving stones.
The servant maid and the little boy came down directly to look for him,
but though they almost trod upon him they could not see him. If the
Soldier had cried out, "Here I am!" they would have found him; but he
did not think it fitting to call out loudly, because he was in uniform.
Now it began to rain; the drops soon fell thicker, and at last it came
down in a complete stream. When the rain was past, two street boys
"Just look!" said one of them, "there lies a tin soldier. He must come
out and ride in the boat."
And they made a boat out of a newspaper, and put the Tin Soldier in the
middle of it; and so he sailed down the gutter, and the two boys ran
beside him and clapped their hands. Goodness preserve us! how the
waves rose in that gutter, and how fast the stream ran! But then it
had been a heavy rain. The paper boat rocked up and down, and
sometimes turned round so rapidly that the Tin Soldier trembled; but he
remained firm and never changed countenance, and looked straight before
him, and shouldered his musket.
All at once the boat went into a long drain, and it became as dark as
if he had been in his box.
"Where am I going now?" he thought. "Yes, yes, that's the Goblin's
fault. Ah! if the little Lady only sat here with me in the boat, it
might be twice as dark for what I should care."
Suddenly there came a great water rat, which lived under the drain.
"Have you a passport?" said the Rat. "Give me your passport."
But the Tin Soldier kept silence, and only held his musket tighter than
The boat went on, but the Rat came after it. Hu! how he gnashed his
teeth, and called out to the bits of straw and wood:
"Hold him! hold him! he hasn't paid toll-he hasn't showed his
But the stream became stronger and stronger. The Tin Soldier could see
the bright daylight where the arch ended; but he heard a roaring noise,
which might well frighten a bolder man. Only think-just where the
tunnel ended the drain ran into a great canal; and for him that would
have been as dangerous as for us to be carried down a great waterfall.
Now he was already so near it that he could not stop. The boat was
carried out, the poor Tin Soldier stiffening himself as much as he
could, and no one could say that he moved an eyelid. The boat whirled
round three or four times, and was full of water to the very edge- it
must sink. The Tin Soldier stood up to his neck in water, and the boat
sank deeper and deeper, and the paper was loosened more and more, and
now the water closed over the Soldier's head. Then he thought of the
pretty little dancer, and how he should never see her again; and it
sounded in the Soldier's ears:
'Farewell, farewell, thou warrior brave,
Die shalt thou this day."
And now the paper parted, and the Tin Soldier fell out; but at that
moment he was snapped up by a great fish.
Oh, how dark it was in that fish's body! It was darker yet than in the
drain tunnel; and then it was very narrow, too. But the Tin Soldier
remained unmoved, and lay at full length, shouldering his musket.
The fish swam to and fro; he made the most wonderful movements, and
then became quite still. At last something flashed through him like
lightning. The daylight shone quite clear, and a voice said aloud,
"The Tin Soldier!" The fish had been caught, carried to market, bought,
and taken into the kitchen, where the cook cut him open with a large
knife. She seized the Soldier round the body with both her hands, and
carried him into the room, where all were anxious to see the remarkable
man who had traveled about in the inside of a fish; but the Tin Soldier
was not at all proud. They placed him on the table, and there-no!
What curious things may happen in the world! The Tin Soldier was in
the very room in which he had been before! he saw the same children,
and the same toys stood upon the table; and there was the pretty castle
with the graceful little Dancer. She was still balancing herself on
one leg and held the other extended in the air. She was faithful, too.
That moved the Tin Soldier: he was very near weeping tin tears, but
that would not have been proper. He looked at her, but they said
nothing to each other.
Then one of the little boys took the Tin Soldier and flung him into the
stove. He gave no reason for doing this. It must have been the fault
of the Goblin in the snuffbox.
The Tin Soldier stood there quite illuminated, and felt a heat that was
terrible; but whether this heat proceeded from the real fire or from
love he did not know. The colors had quite gone off from him; but
whether that had happened on the journey, or had been caused by grief,
no one could say. He looked at the little Lady, she looked at him, and
he felt that he was melting; but he stood firm, shouldering his musket.
Then suddenly the door flew open, and the draft of air caught the
Dancer, and she flew like a sylph just into the stove to the Tin
Soldier, and flashed up in a flame, and then was gone! Then the Tin
Soldier melted down into a lump, and when the servant maid took the
ashes out next day, she found him in the shape of a little tin heart.
But of the Dancer nothing remained but the tinsel rose, and that was
burned as black as coal.