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The Tinder-box

from The Yellow Fairy Book





A soldier came marching along the high road--left, right! A
left, right! He had his knapsack on his back and a sword by his
side, for he had been to the wars and was now returning home.

An old Witch met him on the road. She was very ugly to look at:
her under-lip hung down to her breast.

'Good evening, Soldier!' she said. 'What a fine sword and
knapsack you have! You are something like a soldier! You ought
to have as much money as you would like to carry!'

'Thank you, old Witch,' said the Soldier.

'Do you see that great tree there?' said the Witch, pointing to a
tree beside them. 'It is hollow within. You must climb up to
the top, and then you will see a hole through which you can let
yourself down into the tree. I will tie a rope round your waist,
so that I may be able to pull you up again when you call.'

'What shall I do down there?' asked the Soldier.

'Get money!' answered the Witch. 'Listen! When you reach the
bottom of the tree you will find yourself in a large hall; it is
light there, for there are more than three hundred lamps burning.
Then you will see three doors, which you can open--the keys are
in the locks. If you go into the first room, you will see a
great chest in the middle of the floor with a dog sitting upon
it; he has eyes as large as saucers, but you needn't trouble
about him. I will give you my blue-check apron, which you must
spread out on the floor, and then go back quickly and fetch the
dog and set him upon it; open the chest and take as much money as
you like. It is copper there. If you would rather have silver,
you must go into the next room, where there is a dog with eyes as
large as mill-wheels. But don't take any notice of him; just
set him upon my apron, and help yourself to the money. If you
prefer gold, you can get that too, if you go into the third room,
and as much as you like to carry. But the dog that guards the
chest there has eyes as large as the Round Tower at Copenhagen!
He is a savage dog, I can tell you; but you needn't be afraid of
him either. Only, put him on my apron and he won't touch you,
and you can take out of the chest as much gold as you like!'

'Come, this is not bad!' said the Soldier. 'But what am I to
give you, old Witch; for surely you are not going to do this for
nothing?'

'Yes, I am!' replied the Witch. 'Not a single farthing will I
take! For me you shall bring nothing but an old tinder-box which
my grandmother forgot last time she was down there.'

'Well, tie the rope round my waist! 'said the Soldier.

'Here it is,' said the Witch, 'and here is my blue-check apron.'

Then the Soldier climbed up the tree, let himself down through
the hole, and found himself standing, as the Witch had said,
underground in the large hall, where the three hundred lamps were
burning.

Well, he opened the first door. Ugh! there sat the dog with
eyes as big as saucers glaring at him.

'You are a fine fellow!' said the Soldier, and put him on the
Witch's apron, took as much copper as his pockets could hold;
then he shut the chest, put the dog on it again, and went into
the second room. Sure enough there sat the dog with eyes as
large as mill-wheels.

'You had better not look at me so hard!' said the Soldier. 'Your
eyes will come out of their sockets!'

And then he set the dog on the apron. When he saw all the silver
in the chest, he threw away the copper he had taken, and filled
his pockets and knapsack with nothing but silver.

Then he went into the third room. Horrors! the dog there had
two eyes, each as large as the Round Tower at Copenhagen,
spinning round in his head like wheels.

'Good evening!' said the Soldier and saluted, for he had never
seen a dog like this before. But when he had examined him more
closely, he thought to himself: 'Now then, I've had enough of
this!' and put him down on the floor, and opened the chest.
Heavens! what a heap of gold there was! With all that he could
buy up the whole town, and all the sugar pigs, all the tin
soldiers, whips and rocking-horses in the whole world. Now he
threw away all the silver with which he had filled his pockets
and knapsack, and filled them with gold instead--yes, all his
pockets, his knapsack, cap and boots even, so that he could
hardly walk. Now he was rich indeed. He put the dog back upon
the chest, shut the door, and then called up through the tree:

'Now pull me up again, old Witch!'

'Have you got the tinder-box also?' asked the Witch.

'Botheration!' said the Soldier, 'I had clean forgotten it!' And
then he went back and fetched it.

The Witch pulled him up, and there he stood again on the high
road, with pockets, knapsack, cap and boots filled with gold.

'What do you want to do with the tinder-box?' asked the Soldier.

'That doesn't matter to you,' replied the Witch. 'You have got
your money, give me my tinder-box.'

'We'll see!' said the Soldier. 'Tell me at once what you want to
do with it, or I will draw my sword, and cut off your head!'

'No!' screamed the Witch.

The Soldier immediately cut off her head. That was the end of
her! But he tied up all his gold in her apron, slung it like a
bundle over his shoulder, put the tinder-box in his pocket, and
set out towards the town.

It was a splendid town! He turned into the finest inn, ordered
the best chamber and his favourite dinner; for now that he had so
much money he was really rich.

It certainly occurred to the servant who had to clean his boots
that they were astonishingly old boots for such a rich lord. But
that was because he had not yet bought new ones; next day he
appeared in respectable boots and fine clothes. Now, instead of
a common soldier he had become a noble lord, and the people told
him about all the grand doings of the town and the King, and what
a beautiful Princess his daughter was.

'How can one get to see her?' asked the Soldier.

'She is never to be seen at all!' they told him; 'she lives in a
great copper castle, surrounded by many walls and towers! No one
except the King may go in or out, for it is prophesied that she
will marry a common soldier, and the King cannot submit to that.'

'I should very much like to see her,' thought the Soldier; but he
could not get permission.

Now he lived very gaily, went to the theatre, drove in the King's
garden, and gave the poor a great deal of money, which was very
nice of him; he had experienced in former times how hard it is
not to have a farthing in the world. Now he was rich, wore fine
clothes, and made many friends, who all said that he was an
excellent man, a real nobleman. And the Soldier liked that. But
as he was always spending money, and never made any more, at last
the day came when he had nothing left but two shillings, and he
had to leave the beautiful rooms in which he had been living, and
go into a little attic under the roof, and clean his own boots,
and mend them with a darning-needle. None of his friends came to
visit him there, for there were too many stairs to climb.

It was a dark evening, and he could not even buy a light. But
all at once it flashed across him that there was a little end of
tinder in the tinder-box, which he had taken from the hollow tree
into which the Witch had helped him down. He found the box with
the tinder in it; but just as he was kindling a light, and had
struck a spark out of the tinder-box, the door burst open, and
the dog with eyes as large as saucers, which he had seen down in
the tree, stood before him and said:

'What does my lord command?'

'What's the meaning of this?' exclaimed the Soldier. 'This is a
pretty kind of tinder-box, if I can get whatever I want like
this. Get me money!' he cried to the dog, and hey, presto! he
was off and back again, holding a great purse full of money in
his mouth.

Now the Soldier knew what a capital tinder-box this was. If he
rubbed once, the dog that sat on the chest of copper appeared; if
he rubbed twice, there came the dog that watched over the silver
chest; and if he rubbed three times, the one that guarded the
gold appeared. Now, the Soldier went down again to his beautiful
rooms, and appeared once more in splendid clothes. All his
friends immediately recognised him again, and paid him great
court.

One day he thought to himself: 'It is very strange that no one
can get to see the Princess. They all say she is very pretty,
but what's the use of that if she has to sit for ever in the
great copper castle with all the towers? Can I not manage to see
her somehow? Where is my tinder-box?' and so he struck a spark,
and, presto! there came the dog with eyes as large as saucers.

'It is the middle of the night, I know,' said the Soldier; 'but I
should very much like to see the Princess for a moment.'

The dog was already outside the door, and before the Soldier
could look round, in he came with the Princess. She was lying
asleep on the dog's back, and was so beautiful that anyone could
see she was a real Princess. The Soldier really could not
refrain from kissing her--he was such a thorough Soldier. Then
the dog ran back with the Princess. But when it was morning, and
the King and Queen were drinking tea, the Princess said that the
night before she had had such a strange dream about a dog and a
Soldier: she had ridden on the dog's back, and the Soldier had
kissed her.

'That is certainly a fine story,' said the Queen. But the next
night one of the ladies-in-waiting was to watch at the Princess's
bed, to see if it was only a dream, or if it had actually
happened.

The Soldier had an overpowering longing to see the Princess
again, and so the dog came in the middle of the night and fetched
her, running as fast as he could. But the lady-in-waiting
slipped on indiarubber shoes and followed them. When she saw
them disappear into a large house, she thought to herself: 'Now I
know where it is; 'and made a great cross on the door with a
piece of chalk. Then she went home and lay down, and the dog
came back also, with the Princess. But when he saw that a cross
had been made on the door of the house where the Soldier lived,
he took a piece of chalk also, and made crosses on all the doors
in the town; and that was very clever, for now the
lady-in-waiting could not find the right house, as there were
crosses on all the doors.

Early next morning the King, Queen, ladies-in-waiting, and
officers came out to see where the Princess had been.

'There it is!' said the King, when he saw the first door with a
cross on it.

'No, there it is, my dear!' said the Queen, when she likewise saw
a door with a cross.

'But here is one, and there is another!' they all exclaimed;
wherever they looked there was a cross on the door. Then they
realised that the sign would not help them at all.

But the Queen was an extremely clever woman, who could do a great
deal more than just drive in a coach. She took her great golden
scissors, cut up a piece of silk, and made a pretty little bag of
it. This she filled with the finest buckwheat grains, and tied
it round the Princess' neck; this done, she cut a little hole in
the bag, so that the grains would strew the whole road wherever
the Princess went.

In the night the dog came again, took the Princess on his back
and ran away with her to the Soldier, who was very much in love
with her, and would have liked to have been a Prince, so that he
might have had her for his wife.

The dog did not notice how the grains were strewn right from the
castle to the Soldier's window, where he ran up the wall with the
Princess.

In the morning the King and the Queen saw plainly where their
daughter had been, and they took the Soldier and put him into
prison.

There he sat. Oh, how dark and dull it was there! And they told
him: 'To-morrow you are to be hanged.' Hearing that did not
exactly cheer him, and he had left his tinder-box in the inn.

Next morning he could see through the iron grating in front of
his little window how the people were hurrying out of the town to
see him hanged. He heard the drums and saw the soldiers
marching; all the people were running to and fro. Just below his
window was a shoemaker's apprentice, with leather apron and
shoes; he was skipping along so merrily that one of his shoes
flew off and fell against the wall, just where the Soldier was
sitting peeping through the iron grating.

'Oh, shoemaker's boy, you needn't be in such a hurry!' said the
Soldier to him. 'There's nothing going on till I arrive. But if
you will run back to the house where I lived, and fetch me my
tinder-box, I will give you four shillings. But you must put
your best foot foremost.'

The shoemaker's boy was very willing to earn four shillings, and
fetched the tinder-box, gave it to the Soldier, and--yes--now you
shall hear.

Outside the town a great scaffold had been erected, and all round
were standing the soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of people.
The King and Queen were sitting on a magnificent throne opposite
the judges and the whole council.

The Soldier was already standing on the top of the ladder; but
when they wanted to put the rope round his neck, he said that the
fulfilment of one innocent request was always granted to a poor
criminal before he underwent his punishment. He would so much
like to smoke a small pipe of tobacco; it would be his last pipe
in this world.

The King could not refuse him this, and so he took out his
tinder-box, and rubbed it once, twice, three times. And lo, and
behold I there stood all three dogs--the one with eyes as large
as saucers, the second with eyes as large as mill-wheels, and the
third with eyes each as large as the Round Tower of Copenhagen.

'Help me now, so that I may not be hanged!' cried the Soldier.
And thereupon the dogs fell upon the judges and the whole
council, seized some by the legs, others by the nose, and threw
them so high into the air that they fell and were smashed into
pieces.

'I won't stand this!' said the King; but the largest dog seized
him too, and the Queen as well, and threw them up after the
others. This frightened the soldiers, and all the people cried:
'Good Soldier, you shall be our King, and marry the beautiful
Princess!'

Then they put the Soldier into the King's coach, and the three
dogs danced in front, crying 'Hurrah!' And the boys whistled and
the soldiers presented arms.

The Princess came out of the copper castle, and became Queen; and
that pleased her very much.

The wedding festivities lasted for eight days, and the dogs sat
at table and made eyes at everyone.





Next: The Witch In The Stone Boat

Previous: The Blue Mountains



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