THE FLYING TRUNK
By Hans Christian Andersen
THERE was once a merchant, who was so rich that he could pave the whole
street with gold, and almost have enough left for a little lane. But
he did not do that; he knew how to employ his money differently. When
he spent a shilling he got back a crown, such a clever merchant was he;
and this continued till he died.
His son now got all this money; and he lived merrily, going to the
masquerade every evening, making kites out of dollar notes, and playing
at ducks and drakes on the seacoast with gold pieces instead of
pebbles. In this way the money might soon be spent, and indeed it was
so. At last he had no more than four shillings left, and no clothes to
wear but a pair of slippers and an old dressing gown.
Now his friends did not trouble themselves any more about him as they
could not walk with him in the street, but one of them, who was good-
natured, sent him an old trunk, with the remark: "Pack up!" Yes, that
was all very well, but he had nothing to pack, therefore he seated
himself in the trunk.
That was a wonderful trunk. So soon as any one pressed the lock the
trunk could fly. He pressed it, and whirr! away flew the trunk with
him through the chimney and over the clouds farther and farther away.
But as often as the bottom of the trunk cracked a little he was in
great fear lest it might go to pieces, and then he would have flung a
fine somersault! In that way he came to the land of the Turks. He hid
the trunk in a wood under some dry leaves, and then went into the town.
He could do that very well, for among the Turks all the people went
about dressed like himself in dressing gown and slippers. Then he met
a nurse with a little child.
"Here, you Turkish nurse," he began, "what kind of a great castle is
that close by the town, in which the windows are so high up?"
"There dwells the Sultan's daughter," replied she. "It is prophesied
that she will be very unhappy respecting a lover; and therefore nobody
may go near her, unless the Sultan and Sultana are there too."
"Thank you!" said the Merchant's Son; and he went out into the forest,
seated himself in his trunk, flew on the roof, and crept through the
window into the Princess's room.
She was lying asleep on the sofa, and she was so beautiful that the
Merchant's Son was compelled to kiss her. Then she awoke, and was
startled very much; but he said he was a Turkish angel who had come
down to her through the air, and that pleased her.
They sat down side by side, and he told her stories about her eyes; and
he told her they were the most glorious dark lakes, and that thoughts
were swimming about in them like mermaids. And he told her about her
forehead; that it was a snowy mountain with the most splendid halls and
pictures. And he told her about the stork who brings the lovely little
Yes, those were fine histories! Then he asked the Princess if she
would marry him, and she said, "Yes," directly.
"But you must come here on Saturday," said she. "Then the Sultan and
Sultana will be here to tea. They will be very proud that I am to
marry a Turkish angel. But take care that you know a very pretty
story, for both my parents are very fond indeed of stories. My mother
likes them high-flown and moral, but my father likes them merry, so
that one can laugh."
"Yes, I shall bring no marriage gift but a story," said he; and so they
parted. But the Princess gave him a saber, the sheath embroidered with
gold pieces and that was very useful to him.
Now he flew away, bought a new dressing gown, and sat in the forest and
made up a story; it was to be ready by Saturday, and that was not an
By the time he had finished it Saturday had come. The Sultan and his
wife and all the court were at the 'Princess's to tea. He was received
"Will you relate us a story?" said the Sultana; "one that is deep and
"Yes, but one that we can laugh at," said the Sultan.
"Certainly," he replied; and so began. And now listen well.
"There was once a bundle of Matches, and these Matches were
particularly proud of their high descent. Their genealogical tree,
that is to say, the great fir tree of which each of them was a little
splinter, had been a great old tree out in the forest. The Matches now
lay between a Tinder-box and an old Iron Pot; and they were telling
about the days of their youth. 'Yes, when we were upon the green
boughs,' they said, 'then we really were upon the green boughs! Every
morning and evening there was diamond tea for us-I mean dew; we had
sunshine all day long whenever the sun shone, and all the little birds
had to tell stories. We could see very well that we were rich, for the
other trees were only dressed out in summer, while our family had the
means to wear green dresses in the winter as well. But then the
woodcutter came, like a great revolution, and our family was broken up.
The head of the family got an appointment as mainmast in a first-rate
ship, which could sail round the world if necessary; the other branches
went to other places, and now we have the office of kindling a light
for the vulgar herd. That's how we grand people came to be in the
"'My fate was of different kind,' said the Iron Pot, which stood next
to the Matches. 'From the beginning, ever since I came into the world,
there has been a great deal of scouring and cooking done in me. I look
after the practical part, and am the first here in the house. My only
pleasure is to sit in my place after dinner, very clean and neat, and
to carry on a sensible conversation with my comrades. But except the
Waterpot, which is sometimes taken down into the courtyard, we always
live within our four walls. Our only newsmonger is the Market Basket;
but he speaks very uneasily about the government and the people. Yes,
the other day there was an old pot that fell down, from fright, and
burst. He's liberal, I can tell you!'- 'Now you're talking too much,'
the Tinder-box interrupted, and the steel struck against the flint, so
that sparks flew out. 'Shall we not have a merry evening?'
"'Yes, let us talk about who is the grandest,' said the Matches.
"'No, I don't like to talk about myself,' retorted the Pot. 'Let us get
up an evening entertainment. I will begin. I will tell a story from
real life, something that everyone has experienced, so that we can
easily imagine the situation, and take pleasure in it. On the Baltic,
by the Danish shore-'
"'That's a pretty beginning!' cried all the Plates. 'That will be a
story we shall like.'
"'Yes, it happened to me in my youth, when I lived in a family where
the furniture was polished, the floors scoured, and new curtains were
put up every fortnight.'
"'What an interesting way you have of telling a story!' said the Carpet
Broom. 'One can tell directly that a man is speaking who has been in
woman's society. There's something pure runs through it.'
"And the Pot went on telling the story, and the end was as good as the
"All the Plates rattled with joy, and the Carpet Broom brought some
green parsley out of the dust hole, and put it like a wreath on the
Pot, for he knew that it would vex the others. 'If I crown him to-
day,' it thought, 'he will crown me tomorrow.'
"'Now I'll dance,' said the Fire Tongs; and they danced. Preserve us!
how that implement could lift up one leg! The old chair-cushion burst
to see it. 'Shall I be crowned too?' thought the Tongs; and indeed a
wreath was awarded.
"'They're only common people, after all!' thought the Matches.
"Now the Tea Urn was to sing; but she said she had taken cold and could
not sing unless she felt boiling within. But that was only
affectation: she did not want to sing, except when she was in the
parlor with the grand people.
"In the window sat an old Quill Pen, with which the maid generally
wrote: there was nothing remarkable about this pen, except that it had
been dipped too deep into the ink, but she was proud of that. 'If the
Tea Urn won't sing,' she said, 'she may leave it alone. Outside hangs
a nightingale in a cage, and he can sing. He hasn't had any education,
but this evening we'll say nothing about that.'
"'I think it very wrong,' said the Teakettle- he was the kitchen
singer, and half brother to the Tea Urn-'that that rich and foreign
bird should be listened to. Is that patriotic? Let the Market Basket
"'I am vexed,' said the Market Basket. 'No one can imagine how much I
am secretly vexed. Is that a proper way of spending the evening?
Would it not be more sensible to put the house in order? Let each one
go to his own place, and I will arrange the whole game. That would be
quite another thing.'
'Yes, let us make a disturbance, cried they all. Then the door opened,
and the maid came in, and they all stood still; not one stirred. But
there was not one pot among them who did not know what he could do and
how grand he was. 'Yes, if I had liked,' each one thought, 'it might
have been a very merry evening.'
"The servant girl took the Matches and lighted the fire with them.
mercy! how they sputtered and burst out into flame! 'Now everyone can
see,' thought they, 'that we are the first. How we shine! what a
light!'-and they burned out."
"That was a capital story," said the Sultana. "I feel myself quite
carried away to the kitchen, to the Matches. Yes, now thou shalt marry
"Yes, certainly," said the Sultan, "thou shalt marry our daughter on
And they called him thou, because he was to belong to the family.
The wedding was decided on, and on the evening before it the whole city
was illuminated. Biscuits and cakes were thrown among the people, the
street boys stood on their toes, called out "Hurrah!" and whistled on
their fingers. It was uncommonly splendid.
"Yes, I shall have to give something as a treat," thought the
Merchant's Son. So he bought rockets and crackers, and every
imaginable sort of fire-work, put them all into his trunk, and flew up
into the air.
"Crack!" how they went, and how they went off! All the Turks hopped up
with such a start that their slippers flew about their ears; such a
meteor they had never yet seen. Now they could understand that it must
be a Turkish angel who was going to marry the Princess.
What stories people tell! Everyone whom he asked about it had seen it
in a separate way; but one and all thought it fine.
"I saw the Turkish angel himself," said one. "He had eyes like glowing
stars, and a beard like foaming water."
"He flew up in a fiery mantle," said another; "the most lovely little
cherub peeped forth from among the folds."
Yes, they were wonderful things that he heard; and on the following day
he was to be married.
Now he went back to the forest to rest himself in his trunk. But what
had become of that? A spark from the fireworks had set fire to it, and
the trunk was burned to ashes. He could not fly any more, and could
not get to his bride.
She stood all day on the roof waiting; and most likely she is waiting
still. But he wanders through the world, telling fairy tales; but they
are not so merry as that one he told about the Matches.