The Steadfast Tin Soldier
There were once five-and-twenty tin soldiers. They were all brothers for they had been born of al old tin spoon. They shouldered their arms, they faced straight ahead and their uniform all red and blue was so lovely. The very first thing they heard in this world, when the lid was taken off the box in which they were lying, were the words: «Tin soldiers!» They were shouted by a little boy and he clapped his hands. They had been given to him for his birthday. Each soldier was exactly like the other. Only one was slightly different: he had but one leg. And yet he stood just as firmly on his one leg as the others did on their two.
The tin soldiers were placed on the table with many other play things. But the one stood out most. It was a lovely paper castle. And the loveliest of all was a little maiden that was standing in the open door of the castle. She too had been cut out of paper but she was wearing a skirt of the sheerest lawn and a narrow ribbon over her shoulder just like a drapery; in the very center of it was a shining spangle as big as her whole face. The little maiden was streching out both her arms, for she was a dancer, and then she raised one leg so high in the air that the tin soldier could not find it al all, and he thought that she had one leg, just like himself. «That’s the wife for me!» he thought.
In the morning the tin soldier was placed over in the window. Then the window suddenly flew open and the tin soldier went headlong out from the third floor with a terrible speed. He turned his leg up in the air and landed on his cap, with his bayonet stuck between the paving stones. The maid and the little boy went down to look for him, but they could not see him.
Now it started to rain. The drops fell thick and fast. It turned into a regular downpour. When it was over, two boys came along. They made a boat out of paper and put the tin soldier into it. And now he was sailing down the gutter. What waves there were in that gutter and what a current! The paper boat bobbed up and down, sending a shudder through the tin soldier. But he was just as steadfast, looked straight ahead, and shouldered his gun.
At once the boat drifted in under a long gutter plank; it was as dark as if he were in his box. At the same moment a big water rat, who lived under the gutter plank, came along. «Do you have a passport» asked the rat. «Hand over your passport!» But the tin soldier remained silent and held the gun even tighter.
The current grew stronger and the gutter poured right into a big canal! It was just as dangerous for him as it would be for us to sail down a great wasterfall. The boat whirled around three or four times and filled with water right up to the edge and had to sink. The tin soldier thought of a lovely dancer, whom he would never see again. Now the paper was torn to pieces and the tin soldier plunged through — but at the same moment he was gobbled up by a big fish. My, how dark it was in there! It was even worse than under the gutter plank, and then it was so cramped! But the tin soldier was steadfast and lay at full length, shouldering his gun.
The fish had been caught, taken to the market, and sold, and had ended up in the kitchen, where the maid had cut it open with a big knife. She picked the tin soldier by the middle and carried him into the parlour, where they all wanted to see this remarkable man who had juourneyed about in the stomach of a fish. But the soldier wasn’t proud at all.
They stood him on the table. And the tin soldier saw that he was in the very same room he had been before! He saw the same children and playthings standing on the table, and the lovely castle with the beautiful little dancer. She was still standing on one leg — she was steadfast too. The tin soldier looked at her and she looked at him, but they did not say anything.
Then they married and had many children, all with two legs, of course.