The Goblin And The Huckster

: Hans Andersens Fairy Tales

THERE was once a regular student, who lived in a garret and had no

possessions. And there was also a regular huckster, to whom the house

belonged, and who occupied the ground floor. A goblin lived with the

huckster because at Christmas he always had a large dishful of jam, with

a great piece of butter in the middle. The huckster could afford this,

and therefore the goblin remained with him--which was very shrewd of the


One evening the student came into the shop through the back door to buy

candles and cheese for himself; he had no one to send, and therefore he

came himself. He obtained what he wished, and then the huckster and his

wife nodded good evening to him. The huckster's wife was a woman who

could do more than merely nod, for she usually had plenty to say for

herself. The student nodded also, as he turned to leave, then suddenly

stopped and began reading the piece of paper in which the cheese was

wrapped. It was a leaf torn out of an old book; a book that ought not to

have been torn up, for it was full of poetry.

"Yonder lies some more of the same sort," said the huckster. "I gave an

old woman a few coffee berries for it; you shall have the rest for

sixpence if you will."

"Indeed I will," said the student. "Give me the book instead of the

cheese; I can eat my bread and butter without cheese. It would be a sin

to tear up a book like this. You are a clever man and a practical man,

but you understand no more about poetry than that cask yonder."

This was a very rude speech, especially against the cask, but the

huckster and the student both laughed, for it was only said in fun. The

goblin, however, felt very angry that any man should venture to say such

things to a huckster who was a householder and sold the best butter. As

soon as it was night, the shop closed, and every one in bed except the

student, the goblin stepped softly into the bedroom where the huckster's

wife slept, and took away her tongue, which of course she did not then

want. Whatever object in the room he placed this tongue upon,

immediately received voice and speech and was able to express its

thoughts and feelings as readily as the lady herself could do. It could

only be used by one object at a time, which was a good thing, as a

number speaking at once would have caused great confusion. The goblin

laid the tongue upon the cask, in which lay a quantity of old


"Is it really true," he asked, "that you do not know what poetry is?"

"Of course I know," replied the cask. "Poetry is something that always

stands in the corner of a newspaper and is sometimes cut out. And I may

venture to affirm that I have more of it in me than the student has,

even if I am only a poor tub of the huckster's."

Then the goblin placed the tongue on the coffee mill, and how it did go,

to be sure! Then he put it on the butter-tub, and the cash-box, and

they all expressed the same opinion as the waste-paper tub. A majority

must always be respected.

"Now I shall go and tell the student," said the goblin. With these words

he went quietly up the back stairs to the garret, where the student

lived. The student's candle was burning still, and the goblin peeped

through the keyhole and saw that he was reading in the torn book which

he had bought out of the shop. But how light the room was! From the book

shot forth a ray of light which grew broad and full like the stem of a

tree, from which bright rays spread upward and over the student's head.

Each leaf was fresh, and each flower was like a beautiful female

head--some with dark and sparkling eyes and others with eyes that were

wonderfully blue and clear. The fruit gleamed like stars, and the room

was filled with sounds of beautiful music. The little goblin had never

imagined, much less seen or heard of, any sight so glorious as this. He

stood still on tiptoe, peeping in, till the light went out. The student

no doubt had blown out his candle and gone to bed, but the little

goblin remained standing there, listening to the music which still

sounded, soft and beautiful--a sweet cradle song for the student who had

lain down to rest.

"This is a wonderful place," said the goblin; "I never expected such a

thing. I should like to stay here with the student." Then the little man

thought it over, for he was a sensible sprite. At last he sighed, "But

the student has no jam!" So he went downstairs again to the huckster's

shop, and it was a good thing he got back when he did, for the cask had

almost worn out the lady's tongue. He had given a description of all

that he contained on one side, and was just about to turn himself over

to the other side to describe what was there, when the goblin entered

and restored the tongue to the lady. From that time forward, the whole

shop, from the cash-box down to the pine-wood logs, formed their

opinions from that of the cask. They all had such confidence in him and

treated him with so much respect that when, in the evening, the huckster

read the criticisms on theatricals and art, they fancied it must all

come from the cask.

After what he had seen, the goblin could no longer sit and listen

quietly to the wisdom and understanding downstairs. As soon as the

evening light glimmered in the garret, he took courage, for it seemed to

him that the rays of light were strong cables, drawing him up and

obliging him to go and peep through the keyhole. While there, a feeling

of vastness came over him, such as we experience by the ever-moving sea

when the storm breaks forth, and it brought tears into his eyes. He did

not himself know why he wept, yet a kind of pleasant feeling mingled

with his tears. "How wonderfully glorious it would be to sit with the

student under such a tree!" But that was out of the question; he must be

content to look through the keyhole and be thankful for even that.

There he stood on the cold landing, with the autumn wind blowing down

upon him through the trapdoor. It was very cold, but the little creature

did not really feel it till the light in the garret went out and the

tones of music died away. Then how he shivered and crept downstairs

again to his warm corner, where he felt at home and comfortable! And

when Christmas came again and brought the dish of jam and the great

lump of butter, he liked the huckster best of all.

Soon after, the goblin was waked in the middle of the night by a

terrible noise and knocking against the window shutters and the house

doors and by the sound of the watchman's horn. A great fire had broken

out, and the whole street seemed full of flames. Was it in their house

or a neighbor's? No one could tell, for terror had seized upon all. The

huckster's wife was so bewildered that she took her gold earrings out of

her ears and put them in her pocket, that she might save something at

least. The huckster ran to get his business papers, and the servant

resolved to save her black silk mantle, which she had managed to buy.

All wished to keep the best things they had. The goblin had the same

wish, for with one spring he was upstairs in the student's room. He

found him standing by the open window and looking quite calmly at the

fire, which was raging in the house of a neighbor opposite.

The goblin caught up the wonderful book, which lay on the table, and

popped it into his red cap, which he held tightly with both hands. The

greatest treasure in the house was saved, and he ran away with it to the

roof and seated himself on the chimney. The flames of the burning house

opposite illuminated him as he sat with both hands pressed tightly over

his cap, in which the treasure lay. It was then that he understood what

feelings were really strongest in his heart and knew exactly which way

they tended. Yet, when the fire was extinguished and the goblin again

began to reflect, he hesitated, and said at last, "I must divide myself

between the two; I cannot quite give up the huckster, because of the


This is a representation of human nature. We are like the goblin; we all

go to visit the huckster, "because of the jam."