Hans Andersen's fairy tales (Robinson)/The Flying Trunk

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THERE was once a merchant, so rich that he might have paved the whole street where he lived and an alley besides with pieces of silver, but this he did not do; he knew another way of using his money, and whenever he laid out a shilling he gained a crown in return: a merchant he lived, and a merchant he died.

All his money then went to his son. But the son lived merrily and spent all his time in pleasures, went to masquerades every evening, made bank-notes into paper kites, and played at ducks and drakes in the pond with gold pieces instead of stones. In this manner his money soon vanished, until at last he had only a few pennies left, and his wardrobe was reduced to a pair of slippers and an old dressing-gown. His friends cared no more about him, now that they could no longer walk abroad with him; one of them, however, more good-natured than the rest, sent him an old trunk, with this advice, 'Pack up, and be off!' This was all very fine, but he had nothing that he could pack up, so he put himself into the trunk.

It was a droll trunk! When the lock was pressed close it could fly. The merchant's son did press the lock, and lo! up flew the trunk with him through the chimney, high into the clouds, on and on, higher and higher; the lower part cracked, which rather frightened him, for if it had broken in two, a pretty fall he would have had!

However, it descended safely, and he found himself in Turkey. He hid the trunk under a heap of dry leaves in a wood, and walked into the next town: he could do so very well, for among the Turks everybody goes about clad as he was, in dressing-gown and slippers. He met a nurse, carrying a little child in her arms. 'Hark ye, Turkish nurse,' quoth he; 'what palace is that with the high windows close by the town?'


'The King's daughter dwells there,' replied the nurse; 'it has been prophesied of her that she shall be made very unhappy by a lover, and therefore no one may visit her, except when the King and Queen are with her.'

'Thank you,' said the merchant's son, and he immediately went back into the wood, sat down in his trunk, flew up to the roof of the palace, and crept through the window into the Princess's apartment.

She was lying asleep on the sofa. She was so beautiful that the merchant's son could not help kneeling down to kiss her hand, whereupon she awoke, and was not a little frightened at the sight of this unexpected visitor; but he told her, however, that he was the Turkish prophet, and had come down from the sky on purpose to woo her, and on hearing this she was well pleased. So they sat down side by side, and he talked to her about her eyes, how that they were beautiful dark-blue seas, and that thoughts and feelings floated like mermaidens therein; and he spoke of her brow, how that it was a fair snowy mountain, with splendid halls and pictures, and many other such like things he told her.


Oh, these were charming stories! and thus he wooed the Princess, and she immediately said 'Yes!'

'But you must come here on Saturday,' said she; 'the King and Queen have promised to drink tea with me that evening; they will be so proud and so pleased when they hear that I am to marry the Turkish prophet! And mind you tell them a very pretty story, for they are exceedingly fond of stories; my mother likes them to be very moral and aristocratic, and my father likes them to be merry, so as to make him laugh.'

'Yes, I shall bring no other bridal present than a tale,' replied the merchant's son; and here they parted, but not before the Princess had given her lover a sabre all covered with gold. He knew excellently well what use to make of this present.

So he flew away, bought a new dressing-gown, and then sat down in the wood to compose the tale which was to be ready by Saturday, and certainly he found composition not the easiest thing in the world.

At last he was ready, and at last Saturday came.

The King, the Queen, and the whole court were waiting tea for him at the Princess's palace. The suitor was received with much ceremony.

'Will you not tell us a story?' asked the Queen; 'a story that is instructive and full of deep meaning.'

'But let it make us laugh,' said the King.

'With pleasure,' replied the merchant's son; and now you must hear his story:

There was once a bundle of matches, who were all extremely proud of their high descent, for their genealogical tree, that is to say, the tall fir-tree, from which each of them was a splinter, had been a tree of great antiquity, and distinguished by his height from all the other trees of the forest. The matches were now lying on the mantlepiece, between a tinderbox and an old iron saucepan, and to these two they often talked about their youth. 'Ah, when we were upon the green branches,' said they; 'when we really lived upon green branches—that was a happy time! Every morning and evening we had diamond-tea—that is, dew; the whole day long we had sunshine, at least whenever the sun shone, and all the little birds used to tell stories to us. It might easily be seen, too, that we were rich, for the other trees were clothed with leaves only during the summer, whereas our family could afford to wear green clothes both summer and winter. But at last came the wood-cutters: then was the great revolution, and our family was dispersed. The paternal trunk obtained a situation as mainmast to a magnificent ship, which could sail round the world if it chose; the boughs were transported to various places, and our vocation was henceforth to kindle lights for low, common people. Now you will understand how it comes to pass that persons of such high descent as we are should be living in a kitchen.'

'To be sure, mine is a very different history,' remarked the iron saucepan, near which the matches were lying. 'From the moment I came into the world until now, I have been rubbed and scrubbed, and boiled over and over again—oh, how many times! I love to have to do with what is solidly good, and am really of the first importance in this house. My only recreation is to stand clean and bright upon this mantlepiece after dinner, and hold some rational conversation with my companions. However, excepting the water-pail, who now and then goes out into the court, we all of us lead a very quiet domestic life here. Our only newsmonger is the turf-basket, but he talks in such a democratic way about "government" and the "people"—why, I assure you, not long ago, there was an old jar standing here, who was so much shocked by what he heard said that he fell down from the mantlepiece and broke into a thousand pieces! That turf-basket is a Liberal, that's the fact.'


'Now, you talk too much,' interrupted the tinder-box, and the steel struck the flint, so that the sparks flew out. 'Why should we not spend a pleasant evening?'

Yes, let us settle who is of highest rank among us!' proposed the matches.

'Oh no; for my part I would rather not speak of myself,' objected the earthen-ware pitcher. 'Suppose we have an intellectual entertainment? I will begin; I will relate something of everyday life, such as we have all experienced; one can easily transport oneself into it, and that is so interesting! Near the Baltic, among the Danish beech-groves—'

'That is a capital beginning!' cried all the plates at once; 'it will certainly be just the sort of story for me!'

'Yes, there I spent my youth in a very quiet family; the furniture was rubbed, the floors were washed, clean curtains were hung up every fortnight.'

'How very interesting! what a charming way you have of describing things!' said the hair-broom. 'Any one might guess immediately that it is a lady who is speaking; the tale breathes such a spirit of cleanliness!'

'Very true; so it does!' exclaimed the water-pail, and in the excess of his delight he gave a little jump, so that some of the water splashed upon the floor.

And the pitcher went on with her tale, and the end proved as good as the beginning.

All the plates clattered applause, and the hair-broom took some green parsley out of the sand-hole and crowned the pitcher, for he knew that this would vex the others; and, thought he, 'If I crown her to-day, she will crown me tomorrow.'


'Now I will dance,' said the fire-tongs, and accordingly she did dance, and oh! it was wonderful to see how high she threw one of her legs up into the air; the old chair-cover in the corner tore with horror at seeing her. 'Am not I to be crowned too?' asked the tongs, and she was crowned forthwith.

'These are the vulgar rabble!' thought the matches.

The tea-urn was now called upon to sing, but she had a cold; she said she could only sing when she was boiling; however, this was all her pride and affectation. The fact was she never cared to sing except when she was standing on the parlour-table before company.

On the window-ledge lay an old quill-pen, with which the maids used to write; there was nothing remarkable about her, except that she had been dipped too low in the ink; however, she was proud of that. 'If the tea-urn does not choose to sing,' quoth she, 'she may let it alone; there is a nightingale in the cage hung just outside—he can sing; to be sure, he had never learnt the notes—never mind, we will not speak evil of any one this evening!'

'I think it highly indecorous,' observed the tea-kettle, who was the vocalist of the kitchen, and a half-brother of the tea-urn's, 'that a foreign bird should be listened to. Is it patriotic? I appeal to the turf-basket.'

'I am only vexed,' said the turf-basket. 'I am vexed from my inmost soul that such things are thought of at all. Is it a becoming way of spending the evening? Would it not be much more rational to reform the whole house, and establish a totally new order of things, rather more according to nature? Then every one would get into his right place, and I would undertake to direct the revolution. What say you to it? That would be something worth the doing!'

'Oh yes, we will make a grand commotion!' cried they all. Just then the door opened—it was the servant-maid. They all stood perfectly still, not one dared stir, yet there was not a single kitchen utensil among them all but was thinking about the great things he could have done, and how great was his superiority over the others.

'Ah, if I had chosen it,' thought each of them, 'what a merry evening we might have had!'

The maid took the matches and struck a light—oh, how they sputtered and blazed up!

'Now every one may see,' thought they, 'that we are of highest rank; what a splendid, dazzling light we give, how glorious!'—and in another moment they were burnt out.

'That is a capital story,' said the Queen; 'I quite felt myself transported into the kitchen; yes, thou shalt have our daughter!'

'With all my heart,' said the King; 'on Monday thou shalt marry our daughter.' They said 'thou' to him now, since he was so soon to become one of the family.

The wedding was a settled thing; and on the evening preceding, the whole city was illuminated; cakes, buns, and sugar-plums were thrown out among the people; all the little boys


in the streets stood upon tiptoes, shouting 'Hurrah!' and whistling through their fingers it was famous!

'Well, I suppose I ought to do my part too,' thought the merchant's son, so he went and bought sky-rockets, squibs, Catherine-wheels, Roman-candles, and all kinds of fireworks conceivable; put them all into his trunk, and flew up into the air, letting them off as he flew.

Hurrah! what a glorious sky-rocket was that!

All the Turks jumped up to look, so hastily that their slippers flew about their ears; such a meteor they had never seen before. Now they might be sure that it was indeed the prophet who was to marry their Princess.

As soon as the merchant's son had returned in his trunk to the wood, he said to himself, 'I will now go into the city and hear what people say about me, and what sort of figure I made in the air.' And, certainly, this was a very natural idea.

Oh, what strange accounts were given! Every one whom he accosted had beheld the bright vision in a way peculiar to himself, but all agreed that it was marvellously beautiful.

'I saw the great prophet with my own eyes,' declared one; 'he had eyes like sparkling stars, and a beard like foaming water.'

'He flew enveloped in a mantle of fire,' said another; ' the prettiest little cherubs were peeping forth from under its folds.'

Yes; he heard of many beautiful things, and the morrow was to be his wedding-day.

He now went back to the wood, intending to get into his trunk again, but where was it?

Alas! the trunk was burnt. One spark from the fireworks had been left in it, and set it on fire; the trunk now lay in ashes. The poor merchant's son could never fly again could never again visit his bride.

She sat the livelong day upon the roof of her palace expecting him; she expects him still; he, meantime, goes about the world telling stories, but none of his stories now are so pleasant as that one which he related in the Princess's palace about the Brimstone Matches.

She sat the live-long day upon the roof of her palace, expecting him