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The Silver Shilling
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The Silver Shilling - Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Andersen

Reading time for children: 14 min

There was once a shilling, which came forth from the mint springing and shouting, „Hurrah! now I am going out into the wide world.“ And truly it did go out into the wide world. The children held it with warm hands, the miser with a cold and convulsive grasp, and the old people turned it about, goodness knows how many times, while the young people soon allowed it to roll away from them. The shilling was made of silver, it contained very little copper, and considered itself quite out in the world when it had been circulated for a year in the country in which it had been coined.

One day, it really did go out into the world, for it belonged to a gentleman who was about to travel in foreign lands. This gentleman was not aware that the shilling lay at the bottom of his purse when he started, till he one day found it between his fingers. „Why,“ cried he, „here is a shilling from home; well, it must go on its travels with me now!“ and the shilling jumped and rattled for joy, when it was put back again into the purse. Here it lay among a number of foreign companions, who were always coming and going, one taking the place of another, but the shilling from home was always put back, and had to remain in the purse, which was certainly a mark of distinction.

Many weeks passed, during which the shilling had travelled a long distance in the purse, without in the least knowing where he was. He had found out that the other coins were French and Italian; and one coin said they were in this town, and another said they were in that, but the shilling was unable to make out or imagine what they meant. A man certainly cannot see much of the world if he is tied up in a bag, and this was really the shilling’s fate. But one day, as he was lying in the purse, he noticed that it was not quite closed, and so he slipped near to the opening to have a little peep into society.

He certainly had not the least idea of what would follow, but he was curious, and curiosity often brings its own punishment. In his eagerness, he came so near the edge of the purse that he slipped out into the pocket of the trousers; and when, in the evening, the purse was taken out, the shilling was left behind in the corner to which it had fallen. As the clothes were being carried into the hall, the shilling fell out on the floor, unheard and unnoticed by any one. The next morning the clothes were taken back to the room, the gentleman put them on, and started on his journey again; but the shilling remained behind on the floor.

After a time it was found, and being considered a good coin, was placed with three other coins. „Ah,“ thought the shilling, „this is pleasant. I shall now see the world, become acquainted with other people, and learn other customs.“ – „Do you call that a shilling?“ said some one the next moment. „That is not a genuine coin of the country,– it is false. It is good for nothing.“ Now begins the story as it was afterwards related by the shilling himself. „False! good for nothing!“ said he. That remark went through and through me like a dagger. I knew that I had a true ring, and that mine was a genuine stamp.

These people must at all events be wrong, or they could not mean me. But yes, I was the one they called „false, and good for nothing.“ – „Then I must pay it away in the dark,“ said the man who had received me. So I was to be got rid of in the darkness, and be again insulted in broad daylight. „False! good for nothing!“ Oh, I must contrive to get lost, thought I. And I trembled between the fingers of the people every time they tried to pass me off slyly as a coin of the country. Ah! unhappy shilling that I was! Of what use were my silver, my stamp, and my real value here, where all these qualities were worthless.

In the eyes of the world, a man is valued just according to the opinion formed of him. It must be a shocking thing to have a guilty conscience, and to be sneaking about on account of wicked deeds. As for me, innocent as I was, I could not help shuddering before their eyes whenever they brought me out, for I knew I should be thrown back again up the table as a false pretender. At length I was paid away to a poor old woman, who received me as wages for a hard day’s work. But she could not again get rid of me. No one would take me. I was to the woman a most unlucky shilling.

„I am positively obliged to pass this shilling to somebody,“ said she. „I cannot, with the best intentions, lay by a bad shilling. The rich baker shall have it, – he can bear the loss better than I can. But, after all, it is not a right thing to do.“ – „Ah!“ sighed I to myself, „am I also to be a burden on the conscience of this poor woman? Am I then in my old days so completely changed?“ The woman offered me to the rich baker, but he knew the current money too well, and as soon as he received me he threw me almost in the woman’s face. She could get no bread for me, and I felt quite grieved to the heart that I should be cause of so much trouble to another, and be treated as a cast-off coin.

I who, in my young days, felt so joyful in the certainty of my own value, and knew so well that I bore a genuine stamp. I was as sorrowful now as a poor shilling can be when nobody will have him. The woman took me home again with her, and looking at me very earnestly, she said, „No, I will not try to deceive any one with thee again. I will bore a hole through thee, that everyone may know that thou art a false and worthless thing; and yet, why should I do that? Very likely thou art a lucky shilling. A thought has just struck me that it is so, and I believe it.

Yes, I will make a hole in the shilling,“ said she, „and run a string through it, and then give it to my neighbor’s little one to hang round her neck, as a lucky shilling.“ So she drilled a hole through me. It is really not at all pleasant to have a hole bored through one, but we can submit to a great deal when it is done with a good intention. A string was drawn through the hole, and I became a kind of medal. They hung me round the neck of a little child, and the child laughed at me and kissed me, and I rested for one whole night on the warm, innocent breast of a child.

In the morning the child’s mother took me between her fingers, and had certain thoughts about me, which I very soon found out. First, she looked for a pair of scissors, and cut the string. „Lucky shilling!“ said she, „certainly this is what I mean to try.“ Then she laid me in vinegar till I became quite green, and after that she filled up the hole with cement, rubbed me a little to brighten me up, and went out in the twilight hour to the lottery collector, to buy herself a ticket, with a shilling that should bring luck. How everything seemed to cause me trouble. The lottery collector pressed me so hard that I thought I should crack.

I had been called false, I had been thrown away,– that I knew; and there were many shillings and coins with inscriptions and stamps of all kinds lying about. I well knew how proud they were, so I avoided them from very shame. With the collector were several men who seemed to have a great deal to do, so I fell unnoticed into a chest, among several other coins. Whether the lottery ticket gained a prize, I know not; but this I know, that in a very few days after, I was recognized as a bad shilling, and laid aside. Everything that happened seemed always to add to my sorrow.

Even if a man has a good character, it is of no use for him to deny what is said of him, for he is not considered an impartial judge of himself. A year passed, and in this way I had been changed from hand to hand; always abused, always looked at with displeasure, and trusted by no one; but I trusted in myself, and had no confidence in the world. Yes, that was a very dark time. At length one day I was passed to a traveller, a foreigner, the very same who had brought me away from home; and he was simple and true-hearted enough to take me for current coin. But would he also attempt to pass me?

And should I again hear the outcry, „False! good-for-nothing!“ The traveller examined me attentively, „I took thee for good coin,“ said he. Then suddenly a smile spread all over his face. I have never seen such a smile on any other face as on his. „Now this is singular,“ said he, „it is a coin from my own country. A good, true, shilling from home. Some one has bored a hole through it, and people have no doubt called it false. How curious that it should come into my hands. I will take it home with me to my own house.“ Joy thrilled through me when I heard this.

I had been once more called a good, honest shilling, and I was to go back to my own home, where each and all would recognize me, and know that I was made of good silver, and bore a true, genuine stamp. I should have been glad in my joy to throw out sparks of fire, but it has never at any time been my nature to sparkle. Steel can do so, but not silver. I was wrapped up in fine, white paper, that I might not mix with the other coins and be lost; and on special occasions, when people from my own country happened to be present, I was brought forward and spoken of very kindly.

They said I was very interesting, and it was really quite worth while to notice that those who are interesting have often not a single word to say for themselves. At length I reached home. All my cares were at an end. Joy again overwhelmed me. For was I not good silver, and had I not a genuine stamp? I had no more insults or disappointments to endure. Although, indeed, there was a hole through me, as if I were false; but suspicions are nothing when a man is really true, and every one should persevere in acting honestly, for an will be made right in time. That is my firm belief,“ said the shilling.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Silver Shilling“

„The Silver Shilling“ is a fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish author who is best known for his timeless and universally loved fairy tales. Born on April 2, 1805, in Odense, Denmark, Andersen grew up in a poor family, but his talent and ambition led him to become a prolific writer. Over his lifetime, he wrote novels, plays, poems, and travelogues, but it is his fairy tales that have gained worldwide recognition.

Andersen began publishing his fairy tales in 1835, and his first collection included classics like „The Tinderbox“ and „The Princess and the Pea.“ He continued to write and publish fairy tales throughout his life, with many of them becoming an integral part of children’s literature across the globe. Some of his most famous works include „The Little Mermaid,“ „The Ugly Duckling,“ „The Emperor’s New Clothes,“ and „The Snow Queen.“

In his stories, Andersen often incorporated elements from traditional folklore and his own experiences, infusing them with moral lessons and social commentaries. „The Silver Shilling“ is one such tale that reflects on themes like self-worth, resilience, perception, and honesty. Although not as famous as some of his other works, „The Silver Shilling“ still carries the charm and depth characteristic of Andersen’s storytelling.

Hans Christian Andersen passed away on August 4, 1875, in Copenhagen, Denmark, but his fairy tales have continued to enchant readers of all ages, and his stories have been translated into more than 150 languages. His work has also inspired countless adaptations, including films, plays, ballets, and musicals, solidifying his legacy as one of the most influential storytellers in the world of children’s literature.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Silver Shilling“

„The Silver Shilling“ is a lesser-known fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. It was first published in 1862 as a part of a collection of his stories. The tale is set in the world of coins and currency, offering a unique perspective on life and the value of things. It explores themes such as self-worth, transformation, and morality. „The Silver Shilling“ offers several interpretations that touch on themes of self-worth, resilience, perception, and honesty.

Self-worth and resilience: The shilling’s journey is a metaphor for the trials and tribulations that an individual might face in their own life. Despite being made of genuine silver and having a true stamp, the shilling’s reputation is tarnished due to a hole drilled through it. This represents how people might be wrongly judged or misunderstood by others. The story emphasizes the importance of maintaining self-worth and resilience in the face of adversity and false accusations.

Perception and judgment: The tale also explores how perception influences judgment. The shilling is repeatedly labeled as false currency, despite its genuine nature, due to its physical appearance. This serves as a reminder to look beyond surface appearances and to be cautious of making hasty judgments about others based on superficial traits.

Honesty and integrity: Throughout the story, the shilling is used in various dishonest ways, such as attempting to pass it off as a local coin or as a lucky charm. However, the shilling remains steadfast in its belief in the power of honesty and integrity. The story emphasizes the importance of standing by one’s principles, even when faced with dishonesty and deceit.

The power of home and belonging: The shilling’s journey takes it far from home, where it experiences the most challenging moments. When the traveler eventually brings the shilling back to its homeland, it finds appreciation and understanding among those who recognize its true worth. This theme highlights the significance of home, a sense of belonging, and the comfort that comes from being surrounded by people who truly understand and value us.

Overall, „The Silver Shilling“ serves as a timeless reminder of the importance of maintaining self-worth, resilience, and honesty in the face of adversity, while also stressing the significance of looking beyond appearances and valuing the power of home and belonging.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Silver Shilling“

„The Silver Shilling“ is not one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most well-known fairy tales, and as a result, there are relatively few adaptations of the story. However, there are a few notable adaptations:

Theater: „The Silver Shilling,“ a play by A.P. Møller: In 1907, Danish playwright A.P. Møller wrote a stage adaptation of „The Silver Shilling“ that was produced at the Royal Danish Theater in Copenhagen. The play was well-received and is considered a classic of Danish theater. The fairy tale was adapted for theater or puppet shows, especially for children, emphasizing its themes of self-worth, personal growth, and empathy. Such performances can serve as an educational and entertaining experience for young audiences, helping them to learn valuable life lessons.

Animated films: „The Silver Shilling,“ a short film by Lotte Reiniger: In 1954, German animator Lotte Reiniger created a short film based on „The Silver Shilling.“ The film, which features Reiniger’s signature silhouette animation style, follows the basic plot of the story and has been praised for its visual beauty. Although there may not be any direct animated adaptations of „The Silver Shilling,“ the story’s themes of self-worth and personal growth can be found in many animated films and television episodes. For instance, various children’s shows often have episodes that explore the importance of self-confidence and overcoming personal obstacles.

Radio Play: „The Silver Shilling,“ a radio play by Alan Beck: In 1960, BBC Radio produced a radio play adaptation of „The Silver Shilling“ written by Alan Beck. The play was part of a larger series of radio adaptations of Andersen’s fairy tales.

Literature: „The Silver Shilling,“ a novel by Mary Hayden Green Pike: In 1995, American author Mary Hayden Green Pike published a novel called „The Silver Shilling,“ which is based on Andersen’s fairy tale. The novel expands on the characters and events of the original story and has been praised for its vivid portrayal of life in rural Denmark. The themes of „The Silver Shilling“ are an inspiration for modern children’s books that teach about the importance of self-worth, empathy, and personal growth. Some authors might create stories with similar messages, using different objects or characters to convey them.

Educational materials: The themes and moral lessons from „The Silver Shilling“ have been integrated into classroom materials such as lesson plans, activities, or discussion topics. Teachers have used the story to teach children self-esteem, empathy, and personal growth, and to help them develop important social and emotional skills.

Art and illustrations: Artists draw inspiration from „The Silver Shilling“ to create artwork or illustrations that capture the story’s essence and themes. These illustrations can accompany modern retellings of the story, further enhancing its messages and emotional impact.

Overall, while there are relatively few adaptations of „The Silver Shilling,“ the story’s themes of greed, human connection, and the corrupting influence of money continue to resonate with audiences today.

Summary of the plot

„The Silver Shilling“ by Hans Christian Andersen tells the tale of a shilling that embarks on a journey around the world, experiencing a variety of hardships and adventures. Initially excited to see the world, the shilling becomes disheartened when it is labeled as false currency and treated poorly. Despite its genuine silver content and legitimate stamp, the shilling’s reputation is tainted by the hole bored through it.

Throughout the story, the shilling encounters different people and situations, all of which contribute to its growing disillusionment with the world. It is passed around as a lucky charm, discolored and tampered with, and even left behind as a bad coin. The shilling’s hope is restored when it is found by the traveler who had originally taken it from its homeland. Recognizing the shilling as a true coin from his country, the traveler takes the shilling home where it is appreciated and admired.

The tale concludes with the shilling sharing its belief in the importance of perseverance and honesty. Despite the trials it faced, the shilling remains steadfast in its faith that truth and integrity will ultimately prevail. This heartwarming story serves as a reminder of the importance of resilience and self-worth, even in the face of adversity and false accusations.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, IT
Readability Index by Björnsson30.2
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index81.2
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.3
Gunning Fog Index9
Coleman–Liau Index7.3
SMOG Index8.7
Automated Readability Index5.8
Character Count9.797
Letter Count7.493
Sentence Count109
Word Count1.910
Average Words per Sentence17,52
Words with more than 6 letters243
Percentage of long words12.7%
Number of Syllables2.435
Average Syllables per Word1,27
Words with three Syllables98
Percentage Words with three Syllables5.1%
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