The Brave Tin Soldier
Narrated by Sharon Blumberg
There were once twenty-five tin soldiers. They were brothers, for they had all been made out of the same old tin spoon. They all held their rifles against their shoulders, stood upright, and looked straight ahead. Their uniforms were very smart-looking—red and blue—and very splendid. The first thing they heard in the world, when the lid was taken off the box in which they lay, was the words “Tin soldiers!” These words were spoken by a little boy, who clapped his hands for joy. The soldiers had been given him because it was his birthday, and now he was putting them out upon the table.
All of them were exactly the same, except one who only had one leg. He had been made last of all, and there had not been quite enough tin left to finish him. But he stood as firmly on his one leg as the others upon their two, and it is his story that we will hear about.
On the table where the tin soldiers had been set up were some other toys, but the one that was most popular was a pretty little paper castle. Through its tiny windows you could see straight into the hall. In front of the castle stood little trees around a small mirror which was meant to be the lake. Little toy swans swam on it, in which you could see their reflections.
All this was very pretty, but prettiest of all was a little lady who stood at the castle’s open door. She too was cut out of paper, but she wore a lovely dress and a narrow blue ribbon over her shoulders, like a scarf, and in the middle of the ribbon was a shining tinsel rose. The little lady stretched out both her arms, for she was a dancer, and then she lifted one leg so high that the Soldier quite lost sight of it. He thought that she had only one leg as well.
That would be just the wife for me, he thought, if she wasn’t so grand. But she lives in a castle, while I have only a box, and there are twenty-five of us in that. It would be no place for a lady. Still, I must try to meet her. He lay down behind a snuffbox on the table and from here he could easily watch the dainty little lady, who still remained standing on one leg without losing her balance.
When the evening came all the other tin soldiers were put away in their box, and the people in the house went to bed. Now it was time for the toys to begin to play. They visited each other, sometimes had fights, and gave balls. The tin soldiers rattled in the box, for they wanted to join the rest, but they could not lift the lid of their box. The nutcrackers did somersaults, and the pencil jumped about in a funny way. They made such a noise that the canary woke and began to speak. The only ones who did not move from their places were our little tin soldier and the lady dancer. She stood on tiptoe with outstretched arms, and he never once turned away his eyes from her.
The clock struck twelve o’clock struck when suddenly there was a crash. Up sprang the lid of the box the soldier was hiding behind. Out popped a goblin, for the box was a jack-in-the-box.
“Tin soldier,” said the Goblin, “keep your eyes to yourself. Do not look at something nothing to do with you.”
But the Tin Soldier pretended not to hear.
“Only wait, then, till to-morrow,” remarked the Goblin.
Next morning, when the children got up, the tin soldier was placed on the window sill, and, whether it was the Goblin or the wind that did it, all at once the window flew open and the tin soldier fell head first out of it to the street below. It was a big fall! Over and over he turned in the air, till at last he landed, his cap and rifle stuck between the paving stones, while his one leg stood upright in the air.
The little boy came down at once to look for him, but could not find him. If the soldier had called “Here I am!” he might easily enough have heard him, but he did not think it was right to cry out for help, as he was supposed to be a brave soldier.
It now began to rain. Faster and faster fell the drops, until there was a heavy shower and when it was over, two street boys came by.
“Look you,” said one, “there’s a tin soldier. He must come out and sail in a boat.”
So they made a boat out of an old newspaper and put the tin soldier in the middle of it, and away he sailed down the gutter, while the boys ran along by his side, clapping their hands.
Goodness! How the waves rocked that paper boat, and how fast the stream ran! The tin soldier became quite giddy, the boat moved around so quickly. Still he did not move an inch, but looked straight ahead and held his rifle tightly.
All at once the boat went into a drain, and it became dark. Where am I going now? he thought. Yes, the Goblin did this to me. If only the little lady was sailing with me in the boat, I would not care if it was twice as dark.
Just then a great water rat, that lived under the drain, suddenly darted out.
“Have you a passport?” asked the rat. “Where is your passport?”
But the tin soldier kept silence and only held his rifle with a firmer grasp.
The boat sailed on, but the rat followed, gnashing his teeth and crying out “Stop him! Stop him! He hasn’t paid toll! He hasn’t shown his passport!”
But the stream grew stronger and stronger. Already the tin soldier could see daylight at the point where the tunnel ended. At the same time he heard a rushing, roaring noise, which would have even made a braver man scared. Where the tunnel ended, the drain widened and fell into the mouth of a sewer. It was as dangerous for the soldier as sailing down a big waterfall would be for us.
He was now so near it that he couldn’t stop. The boat dashed on, and the tin soldier held himself so well that he didn’t even wink an eye. Three or four times the boat whirled round and round. It was full of water to the brim and was about to sink.
The tin soldier stood up to his neck in water; deeper and deeper sank the boat, softer and softer grew the paper; and now the water closed over the Soldier’s head. He thought of the pretty little dancer he would never see again, and in his ears he heard the words of the song:
Wild adventure, full of danger,
Take it on, brave young stranger.
The paper boat parted in the middle, and the soldier was about to sink, when he was swallowed by a great fish.
Oh, how dark it was! Darker even than in the drain, and so narrow, but the tin soldier remained brave. There he lay inside the fish, shouldering his rifle as before.
To and fro swam the fish, turning and twisting and making the strangest movements, till at last he became perfectly still.
Suddenly he saw a flash of light and a voice said, “Tin soldier!” The fish had been caught, taken to market, sold and bought, and taken to the kitchen, where the cook had cut him with a large knife. She seized the tin soldier between her finger and thumb and took him to the room where the family sat, and where everyone wanted to see the man who had traveled in the stomach of a fish. But the tin soldier didn’t feel proud, was not at all big-headed.
They put him on the table. But how could so curious a thing happen? The soldier was back in the very same room he had been before. He saw the same children, the same toys stood on the table, and among them the pretty dancing lady, who still stood upon one leg. She too was always the same, never changing. That touched the tin soldier’s heart. He could have wept tin tears, but that would not have been right. He looked at her and she looked at him, but neither spoke a word. But he could feel warm, loving glow coming from her and thought that his heart might burst.
And now one of the little boys took the Tin Soldier and threw him into the stove. He gave no reason for doing it, but no doubt the Goblin had something to do with it.
The tin soldier stood now in a blaze of red light. It was so hot, but he didn’t know if it came from the fire or from the love in his heart. He saw that the colours were gone from his uniform, but whether that had happened on the journey or not, no one could say. He looked at the little lady, she looked at him, and he felt himself melting. Still he stood firm as ever, with his rifle on his shoulder. Then suddenly the door flew open. The wind caught the dancer, and she flew straight into the stove to the tin soldier. She wrapped around him and they merged together as they melted and burned. Never had the little soldier felt so happy.
The next day the maid was cleaning out the ashes of the stove. She found the soldier, melted now into the shape of a little tin heart wrapped around the dancer’s tinsel rose. The maid liked it very much, she thought it looked so pretty. She had it put onto a chain and from then on always wore it around her neck.