The Shepherdess And The Chimney Sweep
: Hans Andersens Fairy Tales
HAVE you ever seen an old wooden cabinet, quite worn black with age, and
ornamented with all sorts of carved figures and flourishes?
Just such a one stood in a certain parlor. It was a legacy from the
great-grandmother, and was covered from top to bottom with carved roses
and tulips. The most curious flourishes were on it, too; and between
them peered forth little stags' heads, with their zigzag antlers. On the
door panel had been carved the entire figure of a man, a most ridiculous
man to look at, for he grinned--you could not call it smiling or
laughing--in the drollest way. Moreover, he had crooked legs, little
horns upon his forehead, and a long beard.
The children used to call him the "crooked-legged
field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant," which was a long, hard
name to pronounce. Very few there are, whether in wood or in stone, who
could get such a title. Surely to have cut him out in wood was no
trifling task. However, there he was. His eyes were always fixed upon
the table below, and toward the mirror, for upon this table stood a
charming little porcelain shepherdess, her mantle gathered gracefully
about her and fastened with a red rose. Her shoes and hat were gilded,
and her hand held a shepherd's crook; she was very lovely. Close by her
stood a little chimney sweep, also of porcelain. He was as clean and
neat as any other figure. Indeed, he might as well have been made a
prince as a sweep, since he was only make-believe; for though everywhere
else he was as black as a coal, his round, bright face was as fresh and
rosy as a girl's. This was certainly a mistake--it ought to have been
There he stood so prettily, with his ladder in his hand, quite close to
the shepherdess. From the first he had been placed there, and he always
remained on the same spot; for they had promised to be true to each
other. They suited each other exactly--they were both young, both of the
same kind of porcelain, and both equally fragile.
Close to them stood another figure three times as large as themselves.
It was an old Chinaman, a mandarin, who could nod his head. He was of
porcelain, too, and he said he was the grandfather of the shepherdess; but
this he could not prove. He insisted that he had authority over her, and
so when the crooked-legged field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant
made proposals to the little shepherdess, he nodded his head, in token
of his consent.
"You will have a husband," said the old mandarin to her, "a husband who,
I verily believe, is of mahogany wood. You will be the wife of a
field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant, of a man who has a whole
cabinet full of silver plate, besides a store of no one knows what in
the secret drawers."
"I will never go into that dismal cabinet," declared the little
shepherdess. "I have heard it said that there are eleven porcelain
ladies already imprisoned there."
"Then," rejoined the mandarin, "you will be the twelfth, and you will be
in good company. This very night, when the old cabinet creaks, we shall
keep the wedding, as surely as I am a Chinese mandarin." And upon this
he nodded his head and fell asleep.
But the little shepherdess wept, and turned to the beloved of her heart,
the porcelain chimney sweep.
"I believe I must ask you," she said, "to go out with me into the wide
world, for here it is not possible for us to stay."
"I will do in everything as you wish," replied the little chimney sweep.
"Let us go at once. I am sure I can support you by my trade."
"If we were only down from the table," said she. "I shall not feel safe
till we are far away out in the wide world and free."
The little chimney sweep comforted her, and showed her how to set her
little foot on the carved edges, and on the gilded foliage twining round
the leg of the table, till at last they both reached the floor. But,
turning for a last look at the old cabinet, they saw that everything was
in commotion. All the carved stags stretched their heads farther out
than before, raised their antlers, and moved their throats, while the
crooked-legged field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant sprang up
and shouted to the old Chinese mandarin, "Look! they are eloping! they
They were not a little frightened at this, and jumped quickly into an
open drawer in the window seat.
Here lay three or four packs of cards that were not quite complete, and
a little doll's theater, which had been set up as nicely as could be. A
play was going on, and all the queens sat in the front row, and fanned
themselves with the flowers which they held in their hands, while behind
them stood the knaves, each with two heads, one above and one below, as
playing cards have. The play was about two persons who were not allowed
to marry, and the shepherdess cried, for it seemed so like her own
"I cannot bear this!" she said. "Let us leave the drawer."
But when she had again reached the floor she looked up at the table and
saw that the old Chinese mandarin was awake, and that he was rocking
his whole body to and fro with rage.
"The old mandarin is coming!" cried she, and down she fell on her
porcelain knees, so frightened was she.
"I have thought of a plan," said the chimney sweep. "Suppose we creep
into the jar of perfumes, the potpourri vase which stands in the corner.
There we can rest upon roses and lavender, and throw salt in his eyes if
he comes near."
"That will not do at all," she said. "Besides, I know that the old
mandarin and the potpourri vase were once betrothed; and no doubt some
slight friendship still exists between them. No, there is no help for
it; we must wander forth together into the wide world."
"Have you really the courage to go out into the wide world with me?"
asked the chimney sweep. "Have you considered how large it is, and that
if we go, we can never come back?"
"I have," replied she.
And the chimney sweep looked earnestly at her and said, "My way lies
through the chimney. Have you really the courage to go with me through
the stove, and creep through the flues and the tunnel? Well do I know
the way! we shall come out by the chimney, and then I shall know how to
manage. We shall mount so high that they can never reach us, and at the
top there is an opening that leads out into the wide world."
And he led her to the door of the stove.
"Oh, how black it looks!" she said. Still she went on with him, through
the stove, the flues, and the tunnel, where it was as dark as pitch.
"Now we are in the chimney," said he; "and see what a lovely star shines
There actually was a star in the sky, that was shining right down upon
them, as if to show them the way. Now they climbed and crept--a
frightful way it was, so steep and high! But he went first to guide, and
to smooth the way as much as he could. He showed her the best places on
which to set her little china foot, till at last they came to the edge
of the chimney and sat down to rest, for they were very tired, as may
well be supposed.
The sky and all its stars were above them, and below lay all the roofs
of the town. They saw all around them the great, wide world. It was not
like what the poor little shepherdess had fancied it, and she leaned her
little head upon her chimney sweep's shoulder and wept so bitterly that
the gilding was washed from her golden sash.
"This is too much," said she; "it is more than I can bear. The world is
too large! I wish I were safe back again upon the little table under the
mirror. I shall never be happy till I am there once more. I have
followed you out into the wide world. Surely, if you really love me, you
will follow me back."
The chimney sweep tried to reason with her. He reminded her of the old
mandarin, and the crooked-legged field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant,
but she wept so bitterly, and kissed her little chimney sweep so fondly,
that he could not do otherwise than as she wished, foolish as it was.
So they climbed down the chimney, though with the greatest difficulty,
crept through the flues, and into the stove, where they paused to listen
behind the door, to discover what might be going on in the room.
All was quiet, and they peeped out. Alas! there on the floor lay the old
mandarin. He had fallen from the table in his attempt to follow the
runaways, and had broken into three pieces. His whole back had come off
in a single piece, and his head had rolled into a corner. The
crooked-legged field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant stood where
he had always stood, reflecting upon what had happened.
"This is shocking!" said the little shepherdess. "My old grandfather is
broken in pieces, and we are the cause of it," and she wrung her little
"He can be riveted," said the chimney sweep; "he can certainly be
riveted. Do not grieve so! If they cement his back and put a rivet
through his neck, he will be just as good as new, and will be able to
say as many disagreeable things to us as ever."
"Do you really think so?" asked she. Then they climbed again up to the
place where they had stood before.
"How far we have been," observed the chimney sweep, "and since we have
got no farther than this, we might have saved ourselves all the
"I wish grandfather were mended," said the shepherdess; "I wonder if it
will cost very much."
Mended he was. The family had his back cemented and his neck riveted, so
that he was as good as new, only he could not nod.
"You have become proud since you were broken to shivers," observed the
crooked-legged field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant, "but I
must say, for my part, I don't see much to be proud of. Am I to have
her, or am I not? Just answer me that."
The chimney sweep and the shepherdess looked most piteously at the old
mandarin. They were so afraid that he would nod his head. But he could
not, and it would have been beneath his dignity to have confessed to
having a rivet in his neck. So the young porcelain people always
remained together, and they blessed the grandfather's rivet and loved
each other till they were broken in pieces.