THE DARNING NEEDLE
By Hans Christian Andersen
THERE was once a darning needle, who thought herself so fine, she
imagined she was an embroidery needle.
"Take care, and mind you hold me tight!" she said to the Fingers that
took her out. "Don't let me fall! If I fall on the ground I shall
certainly never be found again, for I am so fine!"
"That's as it may be," said the Fingers; and they grasped her round the
"See, I'm coming with a train!" said the Darning Needle, and she drew a
long thread after her, but there was no knot in the thread.
The Fingers pointed the needle just at the cook's slipper, in which the
upper leather had burst, and was to be sewn together.
"That's vulgar work," said the Darning Needle. "I shall never get
through. I'm breaking! I'm breaking!" And she really broke. "Did I
not say so?" said the Darning Needle; "I'm too fine!"
"Now it's quite useless," said the Fingers; but they were obliged to
hold her fast, all the same; for the cook dropped some sealing wax upon
the needle, and pinned her handkerchief together with it in front.
"So, now I'm a breastpin!" said the Darning Needle. "I knew very well
that I should come to honor: when one is something, one comes to
And she laughed quietly to herself-and one can never see when a darning
needle laughs. There she sat, as proud as if she was in a state coach,
and looked all about her.
"May I be permitted to ask if you are of gold?" she inquired of the
pin, her neighbor. "You have a very pretty appearance, and a peculiar
head, but it is only little. You must take pains to grow, for it's not
everyone that has sealing wax dropped upon him."
And the Darning Needle drew herself up so proudly that she fell out of
the handkerchief right into the sink, which the cook was rinsing out.
"Now we're going on a journey," said the Darning Needle. "If I only
don't get lost!"
But she really was lost.
"I'm too fine for this world," she observed, as she lay in the gutter.
"But I know who I am, and there's always something in that!"
So the Darning Needle kept her proud behavior, and did not lose her
good humor. And things of many kinds swam over her, chips and straws
and pieces of old newspapers.
"Only look how they sail!" said the Darning Needle. "They don't know
what is under them! I'm here, I remain firmly here. See, there goes a
chip thinking of nothing in the world but of himself-of a chip!
There's a straw going by now. How he turns! how he twirls about!
Don't think only of yourself, you might easily run up against a stone.
There swims a bit of newspaper. What's written upon it has long been
forgotten, and yet it gives itself airs. I sit quietly and patiently
here. I know who I am, and I shall remain what I am."
One day something lay close beside her that glittered splendidly; then
the Darning Needle believed that it was a diamond; but it was a bit of
broken bottle; and because it shone, the Darning Needle spoke to it,
introducing herself as a breastpin.
"I suppose you are a diamond?" she observed.
"Why, yes, something of that kind."
And then each believed the other to be a very valuable thing; and they
began speaking about the world, and how very conceited it was.
"I have been in a lady's box," said the Darning Needle, "and this lady
was a cook. She had five fingers on each hand, and I never saw
anything so conceited as those five fingers. And yet they were only
there that they might take me out of the box and put me back into it."
"Were they of good birth?" asked the Bit of Bottle.
"No, indeed," cried the Darning Needle, "but very haughty. There were
five brothers, all of the finger family. They kept very proudly
together, though they were of different lengths: the outermost, the
thumbling, was short and fat; he walked out in front of the ranks, and
only had one joint in his back, and could only make a single bow; but
he said that if he were hacked off a man, that man was useless for
service in war. Daintymouth, the second finger, thrust himself into
sweet and sour, pointed to sun and moon, and gave the impression when
they wrote. Longrnan, the third, looked at all the others over his
shoulder. Goldborder, the fourth, went about with a golden belt round
his waist; and little Playman did nothing at all, and was proud of it.
There was nothing but bragging among them, and therefore I went away."
"And now we sit here and glitter!" said the Bit of Bottle.
At that moment more water came into the gutter, so that it overflowed,
and the Bit of Bottle was carried away.
"So he is disposed of," observed the Darning Needle. "I remain here, I
am too fine. But that's my pride, and my pride is honorable." And
proudly she sat there, and had many great thoughts. "I could almost
believe I had been born of a sunbeam, I'm so fine! It really appears
as if the sunbeams were always seeking for me under the water. Ah!
I'm so fine that my mother cannot find me. If I had my old eye, which
broke off, I think I should cry; but, no, I should not do that: it's
not genteel to cry."
One day a couple of street boys lay grubbing in the gutter where they
sometimes find old nails, farthings, and similar treasures. It was
dirty work, but they took great delight in it.
"Oh!" cried one, who had pricked himself with the Darning Needle,
there's a fellow for you!"
"I'm not a fellow; I'm a young lady!" said the Darning Needle.
But nobody listened to her. The sealing wax had come off, and she had
turned black; but black makes one look slender, and she thought herself
finer even than before.
"Here comes an eggshell sailing along!" said the boys; and they stuck
the Darning Needle fast in the eggshell.
"White walls, and black myself! that looks well," remarked the Darning
Needle. "Now one can see me. I only hope I shall not be seasick!"
But she was not seasick at all. "It is good against seasickness, if
one has a steel stomach, and does not forget that one is a little more
than an ordinary person! Now my seasickness is over. The finer one
is, the more one can bear."
"Crack!" went the eggshell, for a wagon went over her.
"Good heavens, how it crushes one!" said the Darning Needle. "I'm
getting seasick now-I'm quite sick."
But she was not really sick, though the wagon went over her; she lay
there at full length, and there she may lie.