February 25, 2009

Theme Thursday - Don't Toy With Me

Hey, look!" one of them said, "there's a tin soldier. Let's send him sailing."

They made a boat out of newspaper, put the tin soldier in the middle of it, and away he went down the gutter with the two young rapscallions running beside him and clapping their hands. High heavens! How the waves splashed, and how fast the water ran down the gutter. Don't forget that it had just been raining by the bucketful. The paper boat pitched, and tossed, and sometimes it whirled about so rapidly that it made the soldier's head spin. But he stood as steady as ever. Never once flinching, he kept his eyes front, and carried his gun shoulder-high. Suddenly the boat rushed under a long plank where the gutter was boarded over. It was as dark as the soldier's own box.

"Where can I be going?" the soldier wondered. "This must be that jack-in-the box’s revenge. Ah! If only I had the little lady with me, it could be twice as dark here for all that I would care."

Out popped a great water rat who lived under the gutter plank.

"Have you a passport?" said the rat. "Hand it over."

The soldier kept quiet and held his musket tighter. On rushed the boat, and the rat came right after it, gnashing his teeth as he called to the sticks and straws:

"Halt him! Stop him! He didn't pay his toll. He hasn't shown his passport. "But the current ran stronger and stronger. The soldier could see daylight ahead where the board ended, but he also heard a roar that would frighten the bravest of us. Hold on! Right at the end of that gutter plank the water poured into the great canal. It was as dangerous to him as a waterfall would be to us.

He was so near it he could not possibly stop. The boat plunged into the whirlpool. The poor tin soldier stood as staunch as he could, and no one can say that he so much as blinked an eye. Thrice and again the boat spun around. It filled to the top - and was bound to sink. The water was up to his neck and still the boat went down, deeper, deeper, deeper, and the paper got soft and limp. Then the water rushed over his head. He thought of the pretty little dancer whom he'd never see again, and in his ears rang an old, old song:

"Farewell, farewell, O warrior brave,
Nobody can from Death thee save."

And now the paper boat broke beneath him, and the soldier sank right through. And just at that moment he was swallowed by a most enormous fish.

My how dark it was inside that fish! It was darker than under the gutter-plank and it was so cramped, but the tin soldier still was staunch. He lay there full length, soldier fashion, with musket to shoulder.

Then the fish flopped and floundered in a most unaccountable way. Finally it was perfectly still, and after a while something struck through him like a flash of lightning. The tin soldier saw daylight again, and he heard a voice say, "The Tin Soldier!" The fish had been caught, carried to market, bought, and brought to a kitchen where the cook cut him open with her big knife.

She picked the soldier up bodily between her two fingers, and carried him off upstairs. Everyone wanted to see this remarkable traveler who had traveled about in a fish's stomach, but the tin soldier took no pride in it. They put him on the table and-lo and behold, what curious things can happen in this world-there he was, back in the same room as before. He saw the same children, the same toys were on the table, and there was the same fine castle with the pretty little dancer. She still balanced on one leg, with the other raised high. She too was steadfast. That touched the soldier so deeply that he would have cried tin tears, only soldiers never cry. He looked at her, and she looked at him, and never a word was said. Just as things were going so nicely for them, one of the little boys snatched up the tin soldier and threw him into the stove. He did it for no reason at all. That jack-in-the box must have put him up to it.

The tin soldier stood there dressed in flames. He felt a terrible heat, but whether it came from the flames or from his love he didn't know. He'd lost his splendid colors, maybe from his hard journey, maybe from grief, nobody can say.
He looked at the little lady, and she looked at him, and he felt himself melting. But still he stood steadfast, with his musket held trim on his shoulder.

Then the door blew open. A puff of wind struck the dancer. She flew like a sylph, straight into the fire with the soldier, blazed up in a flash, and was gone. The tin soldier melted, all in a lump. The next day, when a servant took up the ashes she found him in the shape of a little tin heart. But of the pretty dancer nothing was left except her spangle, and it was burned as black as a coal.

Excerpt from The Steadfast Tin Soldier, A translation of Hans Christian Andersen’s "Den standhaftige Tinsoldat" by Jean Hersholt.

The above illustration by Mabel Lucie Attwell was found on http://www.blogger.com/www.surlalunefairytales.com. Thank you very much.


Blicky Kitty said...

Thank you so much for visiting. It's a happy treat to come across such a treasure of a blog. And you listen to Paolo Conte!

:( I have a clever girl pup who is very bored at school at present. I decided to bring her to her first opera in Rome last year. I'm shorter on cash and her absence made the school cranky, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

I love your paintings and I look forward to reading more of your posts!

sallymandy said...

This is a lovely story. The old stories a la Hans Christian Anderson are more brutal and somewhat harsh than modern stories, but there's also a realness in them that is satisfying. Thanks for sharing.

tony said...

"The tin soldier stood there dressed in flames........................"Hans told it like it was!

R.L. Bourges said...

oh, lovely - the illustration and the story, both. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Dakota Bear said...

Thank you for the story.

willow said...

This is one of my favorite children's stories. And I adore the Attwell!! Lovely post, Hazel.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

i seemed to have either missed or forgotten this classic hca story.... thank you and wonderful attwell illustration!

Megan said...

Ooh, thank you for the excerpt. I wish I had that illustration when I was preparing the Theme Thursday announcement - I would have used it for sure!

tut-tut said...

Thanks for posting this; I've got something else to look for, now.

Kris said...

Was the soldier court martialed for going AWOL?

Anonymous said...

Yes, a beautiful illustration and an enjoyable tale. Fairytales like this- and those of the Brothers Grimm, are timeless.

I do like your artwork too.

Ronda Laveen said...

...nothing was left but her spangle. Thanks for the refresher of the story. It has been a while. Some days I feel like her.

Tina said...

Thank you for sharing the story! And look at your photo!

You are not only clever but also beautiful!

Have a great weekend!


Anonymous said...

I love your blog especially the pictures. I remember the library tune so well. Life was good then.