THERE were once
five-and-twenty tin soldiers, who were all brothers, for they had
been made out of the same old tin spoon. They shouldered arms and
looked straight before them, and wore a splendid uniform, red and
blue. The first thing in the world they ever heard were the words,
“Tin soldiers!” uttered by a little boy, who clapped his hands 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 to stand firmly on one leg, and this caused him to be very
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.