THE CONSTANT TIN SOLDIER
HERE 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 tin 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 their box, had
been the words "Tin soldiers!" These words were uttered
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
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
And then he lay down at full length behind a snuff-box
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 Nut-cracker 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 snuff-box; 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 concern you."
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 draught 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
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
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 came by.
"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 his 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
"Have you a passport?" said the Rat. "Give me your
But the Tin Soldier kept silence and only held his
musket tighter than ever.
The boat went on, but the Rat came after it. Hu! how he
gnashed his teeth and called out to the bits of straw
"Hold him! Hold him! He hasn't paid the toll—he
hasn't shown his passport!"
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
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 Solder!" 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 into 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.
The 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
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 draught 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
ser-  vant-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 a coal.