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The Steadfast Tin Soldier
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The Steadfast Tin Soldier - Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Andersen

Reading time for children: 13 min

There were once five-and-twenty tin soldiers, who were all brothers, for they had been made out of the same ol tin spoon. They shouldered arms and looked straight before them, and wore a splendid uniform, red and blue. Th first thing in the world they ever heard were the words, „Tin soldiers!“ uttered by a little boy, who clapped his hand with delight when the lid of the box, in which they lay, was taken off. They were given him for a birthday present and he stood at the table to set them up. The soldiers were all exactly alike, excepting one, who had only one leg he had been left to the last, and then there was not enough of the melted tin to finish him, so they made him t stand firmly on one leg, and this caused him to be very remarkable

The table on which the tin soldiers stood, was covered with other playthings, but the most attractive to the eye was a pretty little paper castle. Through the small windows the rooms could be seen. In front of the castle a number of little trees surrounded a piece of looking-glass, which was intended to represent a transparent lake. Swans, made of wax, swam on the lake, and were reflected in it. All this was very pretty, but the prettiest of all was a tiny little lady, who stood at the open door of the castle; she, also, was made of paper, and she wore a dress of clear muslin, with a narrow blue ribbon over her shoulders just like a scarf. In front of these was fixed a glittering tinsel rose, as large as her whole face. The little lady was a dancer, and she stretched out both her arms, and raised one of her legs so high, that the tin soldier could not see it at all, and he thought that she, like himself, had only one leg.

„That is the wife for me,“ he thought. „But she is too grand, and lives in a castle, while I have only a box to live in, five-and-twenty of us altogether, that is no place for her. Still I must try and make her acquaintance.“ Then he laid himself at full length on the table behind a snuff-box that stood upon it, so that he could peep at the little delicate lady, who continued to stand on one leg without losing her balance.

When evening came, the other tin soldiers were all placed in the box, and the people of the house went to bed. Then the playthings began to have their own games together, to pay visits, to have sham fights, and to give balls. The tin soldiers rattled in their box. They wanted to get out and join the amusements, but they could not open the lid. The nut-crackers played at leap-frog, and the pencil jumped about the table. There was such a noise that the canary woke up and began to talk, and in poetry too. Only the tin soldier and the dancer remained in their places. She stood on tiptoe, with her legs stretched out, as firmly as he did on his one leg. He never took his eyes from her for even a moment.

The clock struck twelve, and, with a bounce, up sprang the lid of the snuff-box; but, instead of snuff, there jumped up a little black goblin. For the snuff-box was a toy puzzle.

„Tin soldier,“ said the goblin, „don’t wish for what does not belong to you.“

But the tin soldier pretended not to hear.

„Very well; wait till to-morrow, then,“ said the goblin.

When the children came in the next morning, they placed the tin soldier in the window. Now, whether it was the goblin who did it, or the draught, is not known, but the window flew open, and out fell the tin soldier, heels over head, from the third story, into the street beneath. It was a terrible fall. For he came head downwards, his helmet and his bayonet stuck in between the flagstones, and his one leg up in the air.

The servant maid and the little boy went down stairs directly to look for him; but he was nowhere to be seen, although once they nearly trod upon him. If he had called out, „Here I am,“ it would have been all right, but he was too proud to cry out for help while he wore a uniform.

Presently it began to rain, and the drops fell faster and faster, till there was a heavy shower. When it was over, two boys happened to pass by, and one of them said:

„Look, there is a tin soldier. He ought to have a boat to sail in.“

So they made a boat out of a newspaper, and placed the tin soldier in it, and sent him sailing down the gutter, while the two boys ran by the side of it, and clapped their hands. Good gracious, what large waves arose in that gutter! and how fast the stream rolled on! for the rain had been very heavy. The paper boat rocked up and down, and turned itself round sometimes so quickly that the tin soldier trembled. Yet he remained firm. His countenance did not change. He looked straight before him, and shouldered his musket.

Suddenly the boat shot under a bridge which formed a part of a drain, and then it was as dark as the tin soldier’s box.

„Where am I going now?“ thought he. „This is the black goblin’s fault, I am sure. Ah, well, if the little lady were only here with me in the boat, I should not care for any darkness.“

Suddenly there appeared a great water-rat, who lived in the drain.

„Have you a passport?“ asked the rat, „give it to me at once.“

But the tin soldier remained silent and held his musket tighter than ever. The boat sailed on and the rat followed it. How he did gnash his teeth and cry out to the bits of wood and straw:

„Stop him, stop him. He has not paid toll, and has not shown his pass.“

But the stream rushed on stronger and stronger. The tin soldier could already see daylight shining where the arch ended. Then he heard a roaring sound quite terrible enough to frighten the bravest man. At the end of the tunnel the drain fell into a large canal over a steep place, which made it as dangerous for him as a waterfall would be to us.

He was too close to it to stop, so the boat rushed on, and the poor tin soldier could only hold himself as stiffly as possible, without moving an eyelid, to show that he was not afraid. The boat whirled round three or four times, and then filled with water to the very edge; nothing could save it from sinking. He now stood up to his neck in water, while deeper and deeper sank the boat, and the paper became soft and loose with the wet, till at last the water closed over the soldier’s head. He thought of the elegant little dancer whom he should never see again, and the words of the song sounded in his ears–

„Farewell, warrior! ever brave,
Drifting onward to thy grave.“

Then the paper boat fell to pieces, and the soldier sank into the water and immediately afterwards was swallowed up by a great fish.

Oh how dark it was inside the fish! A great deal darker than in the tunnel, and narrower too, but the tin soldier continued firm, and lay at full length shouldering his musket.

The fish swam to and fro, making the most wonderful movements, but at last he became quite still. After a while, a flash of lightning seemed to pass through him, and then the daylight approached, and a voice cried out, „I declare here is the tin soldier.“ The fish had been caught, taken to the market and sold to the cook, who took him into the kitchen and cut him open with a large knife. She picked up the soldier and held him by the waist between her finger and thumb, and carried him into the room. They were all anxious to see this wonderful soldier who had travelled about inside a fish; but he was not at all proud. They placed him on the table, and– how many curious things do happen in the world!– there he was in the very same room from the window of which he had fallen, there were the same children, the same playthings, standing on the table, and the pretty castle with the elegant little dancer at the door. She still balanced herself on one leg, and held up the other, so she was as firm as himself. It touched the tin soldier so much to see her that he almost wept tin tears, but he kept them back. He only looked at her and they both remained silent.

Presently one of the little boys took up the tin soldier, and threw him into the stove. He had no reason for doing so, therefore it must have been the fault of the black goblin who lived in the snuff-box.

The flames lighted up the tin soldier, as he stood, the heat was very terrible, but whether it proceeded from the real fire or from the fire of love he could not tell. Then he could see that the bright colors were faded from his uniform, but whether they had been washed off during his journey or from the effects of his sorrow, no one could say. He looked at the little lady, and she looked at him. He felt himself melting away, but he still remained firm with his gun on his shoulder. Suddenly the door of the room flew open and the draught of air caught up the little dancer, she fluttered like a sylph right into the stove by the side of the tin soldier, and was instantly in flames and was gone. The tin soldier melted down into a lump, and the next morning, when the maid servant took the ashes out of the stove, she found him in the shape of a little tin heart. But of the little dancer nothing remained but the tinsel rose, which was burnt black as a cinder.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“

„The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ is a fairy tale by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, first published in 1838 as part of his collection of fairy tales for children called „Fairy Tales Told for Children. New Collection. First Booklet“. This story is unique because it is one of Andersen’s original creations, rather than an adaptation of an existing folktale. The tale has been adapted into various forms of media, such as animated films, television shows, and stage productions.

Background and Origins:

Literary influences: Hans Christian Andersen was known for his ability to create imaginative stories that capture the hearts and minds of readers. „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ is one of his original creations, showcasing his talent for inventing engaging characters and exploring universal themes like love, courage, and fate.

Cultural context: Andersen’s fairy tales were written during the 19th century, which was marked by a fascination with fairy tales and folklore. His stories were part of the broader Romantic movement, which emphasized the importance of emotion, imagination, and individualism. „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ contains many elements typical of Romantic literature, such as a focus on emotions and the exploration of themes like love, fate, and sacrifice.

Personal experiences: As with many of his stories, Andersen’s personal life may have influenced the themes and characters in „The Steadfast Tin Soldier.“ Growing up in poverty, he often felt like an outsider and experienced a deep longing for acceptance and success. The steadfast tin soldier’s unwavering loyalty and bravery in the face of adversity might reflect Andersen’s own determination to overcome challenges and find his place in the world.

Social commentary: „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ can also be seen as a commentary on social class and the limitations it can impose on love and happiness. The tin soldier and the paper ballerina, despite their mutual affection, are kept apart by their different social standings – the soldier being a common toy and the ballerina perceived as more delicate and refined. The story might be Andersen’s way of critiquing societal expectations and the restrictions they place on individuals.

„The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ tells the story of a one-legged tin soldier who falls in love with a paper ballerina. Despite many trials and tribulations, the soldier remains loyal and brave, ultimately meeting a tragic yet poetic end. The tale explores themes like love, courage, fate, and sacrifice, and its captivating narrative has ensured its lasting popularity.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“

„The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ is a multi-layered fairy tale that can be interpreted in various ways. Some common interpretations include:

Love and devotion: The unwavering love and devotion between the tin soldier and the paper ballerina are central to the story. Despite facing numerous obstacles and never sharing a single word, their love remains steadfast. This theme highlights the power of love to transcend boundaries and remain constant even in the face of adversity.

Courage and determination: The tin soldier embodies the virtues of courage and determination. He faces numerous challenges, including being swallowed by a fish and facing the prospect of being melted in a stove, yet he never wavers from his devotion to the ballerina. This theme encourages readers to face their own challenges with bravery and perseverance.

Fate and destiny: The story of the tin soldier can be seen as a commentary on the role of fate and destiny in our lives. Despite his courage and devotion, the tin soldier ultimately meets a tragic end. This interpretation explores the idea that some things are beyond our control and that life can be unpredictable and sometimes cruel.

Social class and barriers: The tin soldier and the paper ballerina represent different social classes, with the soldier being a common toy and the ballerina perceived as more delicate and refined. The story can be interpreted as a critique of societal expectations and the limitations they impose on love and happiness.

The imperfections of life: The tin soldier is unique in that he has only one leg, symbolizing the imperfections that everyone possesses. Despite his apparent flaw, the soldier remains steadfast and brave, teaching readers that even those who seem imperfect can possess great inner strength and resilience.

The power of imagination: „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ is a tale that celebrates the power of imagination. The love story between the tin soldier and the paper ballerina takes place entirely within the realm of imagination, as the two characters never interact directly. Andersen’s ability to create such a vivid and engaging narrative within this imaginative space is a testament to the power of storytelling and the human capacity for creativity.

Overall, „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ offers a wealth of interpretations, inviting readers to explore its themes and consider their own personal connections to the story.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“

„The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ has been adapted into various forms of media over the years, including films, television series, animated features, and stage productions. Some notable adaptations include:

Film: „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ (1955) – A Russian animated short film directed by Lev Atamanov. This adaptation closely follows the original story and features beautiful hand-drawn animation, with a captivating score by Tikhon Khrennikov.

Television: „Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theater“ (1984) – A live-action television anthology series that retells classic fairy tales. The series includes an adaptation of „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ in Season 4, Episode 4, starring Tim Curry and Jessica Harper.

Film: „Fantasia 2000“ (1999) – Disney’s sequel to the original 1940 „Fantasia“ features a segment inspired by „The Steadfast Tin Soldier.“ This adaptation is set to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and combines traditional hand-drawn animation with computer-generated imagery.

Stage production: „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ (2007) – A stage adaptation by the Lookingglass Theater Company in Chicago, written and directed by Mary Zimmerman. This production combines puppetry, live music, and acting to bring the story to life.

Ballet: „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ (2012) – A ballet adaptation by the Royal Danish Ballet, choreographed by former principal dancer and choreographer Gregory Dean. This production stays true to Andersen’s tale and explores themes of love, courage, and sacrifice through dance.

Film: „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ (2016) – A short animated film directed by Gabriel Grapperon, featuring a unique visual style and a touching narrative that remains faithful to the original story.

Illustrated books: Numerous illustrated editions of „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ have been published over the years, featuring artwork by renowned illustrators such as Marcia Brown, P.J. Lynch, and Fred Marcellino.

These adaptations showcase the enduring appeal of „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ and its ability to captivate audiences across different cultures and generations. The story’s themes of love, courage, and fate continue to resonate with readers and viewers, making it a timeless classic.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“

„The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ has been adapted in various forms over the years, including:

Films: There have been several film adaptations of the story, including a 1955 Soviet stop-motion animation film, a 1992 Japanese anime film, and a 1997 animated short film by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Ballets: The story has been adapted into a ballet, with music by Sergei Prokofiev, which premiered in Moscow in 1949. The ballet has since been performed around the world and is considered a classic of the ballet repertoire.

Children’s books: The story has been adapted into many children’s books, including illustrated versions and pop-up books.

Theater: The story has been adapted for the stage, including a 2008 production by the Little Angel Theater in London, which used puppets to tell the story.

Video games: The story has been adapted into a video game called „The Steadfast Tin Soldier: A Toy’s Adventure,“ which was released for the Nintendo DS in 2010.

Music: The story has inspired musical compositions, including a symphonic poem by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.

Overall, „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ has proven to be a popular and enduring story that continues to inspire adaptations in various forms.

Summary of the plot

„The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ is a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen that tells the story of a one-legged tin soldier who falls in love with a beautiful paper ballerina. The ballerina stands en pointe on one leg, making the soldier believe they have something in common.

The soldier is accidentally knocked out of the window and embarks on a series of adventures. He travels through a gutter, sails down a river in a paper boat, and is swallowed by a large fish. Miraculously, the fish is caught and brought to the house where the tin soldier originated, and he is found inside when the fish is cut open.

Returned to the playroom with the other toys, the soldier continues to admire the ballerina from afar. However, a mischievous boy places the soldier close to a stove, and the heat begins to melt him. At the same moment, a gust of wind blows the ballerina into the fire, where she is consumed by the flames.

Heartbroken, the tin soldier melts into the shape of a heart, symbolizing his unwavering love and devotion for the paper ballerina. The story is a poignant exploration of love, courage, fate, and sacrifice, demonstrating the power of devotion and the unpredictable nature of life.


Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“

„The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ is a literary fairy tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, first published in 1838. Andersen, born in 1805, was a prolific writer of plays, novels, and poems, but he is most famous for his fairy tales. Some of his other well-known stories include „The Little Mermaid,“ „The Ugly Duckling,“ „The Snow Queen,“ and „The Emperor’s New Clothes.“

Andersen’s fairy tales were often inspired by traditional folktales and legends, but he added his own original twists and moral lessons. His stories were initially written for children, but they gained widespread popularity among adults as well, thanks to their timeless themes, poetic language, and emotional depth. Many of his tales deal with issues such as love, sacrifice, and the struggle between good and evil, reflecting the social and cultural context of 19th-century Denmark.

„The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ is unique among Andersen’s tales because it is one of his few stories that do not involve any magical or supernatural elements. The only exception is the presence of the goblin in the snuff-box. Instead, the story focuses on the adventures and emotions of the tin soldier, a seemingly inanimate object that displays human-like characteristics such as love, loyalty, and courage.

Andersen’s fairy tales have had a significant impact on literature and popular culture. Many of his stories have been adapted into various forms, including stage plays, ballets, films, and animated features. The enduring appeal of „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ and other Andersen tales can be attributed to their timeless themes, memorable characters, and universal messages that continue to resonate with readers of all ages.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Steadfast Tin Soldier“

„The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ can be interpreted in various ways, with themes such as love, courage, fate, and sacrifice prevalent throughout the story.

Love and Devotion: The unwavering love between the tin soldier and the paper dancer is one of the central themes in the story. Despite their seemingly insurmountable differences in status and the various obstacles they encounter, their love remains steadfast, ultimately leading to their tragic end.

Courage and Perseverance: The tin soldier’s bravery and determination are consistently displayed throughout the story. Despite facing numerous challenges, he remains stoic and never wavers from his duty. This theme highlights the importance of courage and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Fate and Destiny: The story also explores the idea of fate and the inevitability of certain events. The tin soldier and the paper dancer are brought together and torn apart by circumstances beyond their control, ultimately reuniting in the stove. This theme suggests that some events in life are predestined, and that individuals may have little control over their own destinies.

Sacrifice and Loss: The story ends with the tin soldier and the paper dancer consumed by the flames, symbolizing the sacrifices made in the name of love. Their tragic end underscores the idea that love can sometimes lead to loss and suffering.

Class and Social Status: The story also touches on issues of class and social status, as the tin soldier initially believes the paper dancer is too grand for him. Despite these perceived differences, their love transcends these barriers, illustrating that love knows no bounds and can overcome societal constraints.

Resilience and Transformation: The tin soldier’s journey can also be seen as a metaphor for personal growth and transformation. Despite facing adversity and numerous challenges, the tin soldier remains resilient and strong. In the end, he is transformed into a tin heart, symbolizing the power of love and the strength it can provide.

Summary of the plot

„The Steadfast Tin Soldier“ by Hans Christian Andersen tells the story of twenty-five tin soldiers made from the same tin spoon, all identical except for one with a single leg. The one-legged soldier falls in love with a beautiful paper dancer who, like him, appears to have only one leg. The tin soldiers are placed in a box, and when the household goes to bed, the toys come to life.

A goblin in a snuff-box warns the tin soldier not to desire the dancer, but he ignores the warning. The next day, the soldier falls from a window into the street below. After a rainstorm, two boys find him and create a paper boat for him to sail in. As he journeys through a dark drain, a water-rat demands a passport, which the soldier does not provide. The boat continues through the drain, eventually falling into a canal and disintegrating. A fish swallows the tin soldier.

The fish is caught and brought to the same house from which the soldier had fallen. The cook discovers the soldier in the fish’s belly and brings him to the children’s room. One of the boys throws the tin soldier into the stove, where he begins to melt. The paper dancer is blown into the stove by a gust of wind, and both are consumed by the flames. The next morning, the maid finds the tin soldier in the shape of a heart among the ashes, while all that remains of the dancer is a burnt tinsel rose.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
TranslationsDE, EN, DA, ES, FR, IT, NL, RO
Readability Index by Björnsson29.5
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index79.9
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level6.7
Gunning Fog Index9.5
Coleman–Liau Index7.7
SMOG Index8.9
Automated Readability Index6.7
Character Count9.095
Letter Count6.986
Sentence Count94
Word Count1.747
Average Words per Sentence18,59
Words with more than 6 letters191
Percentage of long words10.9%
Number of Syllables2.231
Average Syllables per Word1,28
Words with three Syllables90
Percentage Words with three Syllables5.2%
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