Once upon a time, there were five and twenty tin soldiers - they were all brothers because they were all made of the same tin spoon. Their uniforms were red and blue, carried rifles on their shoulders, and stared straight ahead. The first words they heard when the lid of the box in which they were lying were removed were: "Tin soldiers!" uttered by a little boy, who clapped his hands with delight when the lid of the box, in which they lay, was taken off". Each soldier was exactly like the other, except for one, which was made last, and as the material ran out, the toy maker had to throw something out. So a soldier stood on one leg only, while all the other soldiers stood on two.
Other toys were arranged on the table on which the boy had placed them, but the most beautiful of all was a beautiful, small cardboard castle, with windows through which one could see the rooms. In front of the castle stood small trees, and in front of a tiny mirror that served as a lake, on which wax swans swam. Everything was very beautiful, but the most beautiful was a little girl standing at the open door of the castle. She was cut out of paper, with a ballet dress of the finest muslin, a scarf of narrow blue ribbon around her shoulders, fastened in the middle with a glittering rose of golden paper, as large as her head. The beautiful paper girl had both arms outstretched because she was a ballerina, and the one-legged tin soldier immediately fell in love with her.
"That is the wife for me," he thought; "but she is too grand, and lives in a castle, while I have only a box to live in, five-and-twenty of us altogether, that is no place for her. Still I must try and make her acquaintance."
He then hid behind a snuffbox lying on a table from where he could watch the gentle ballerina continue to stand on one leg without losing her balance.
When night fell, all the other tin soldiers got into their box and the people went to bed. Then the toys started playing, dancing and fighting. The tin soldiers rattled in their box because they, too, wanted to be outside, but could not lift the lid. The nutcrackers began to fidget, and the pen slid across the tile; such a noise was heard that the canary woke up and began to talk to them in rhymes! The only two who did not move from their seats were a tin soldier and a little ballerina. She stood on the tip of her finger, arms outstretched, and he stood steadfastly on one leg, not taking his eyes off her face.
The clock struck twelve! The snuff lid opened; but there was no snuff inside, just a little black goblin, a magical creature, like a fairy, just more naughty and greeted the tin soldier.
"Tin soldier," said the goblin, "don’t wish for what does not belong to you."
He thought he told him not to look at the little ballerina, but the tin soldier pretended he hadn't heard him.
When it was morning and the boy got up, he moved the soldier to the window, but suddenly the window opened and the draft blew the soldier out onto the sidewalk.
"Now, whether it was the goblin who did it, or the draught, is not known, but the window flew open, and out fell the tin soldier, heels over head, from the third story, into the street beneath. It was a terrible fall; for he came head downwards, his helmet and his bayonet stuck in between the flagstones, and his one leg up in the air."
The maid and the little boy immediately went down to look for him, but although they were so close to him that they almost trampled him, they did not notice him. If the soldier just called out, "Here I am!" they would have found him for sure, but he didn't think it was right for him to shout for help, because he had a uniform.
It soon began to dew, and then the drops began to fall faster and faster until they turned into a downpour. When the rain stopped, two boys came along and saw a tin soldier. They thought it would be a good idea to put him sailing in a paper boat.
So they made a small boat out of the newspaper, put a tin soldier in it, and made him sail up and down the gutter, and both boys ran beside him, clapping their hands.
"Good gracious, what large waves arose in that gutter! and how fast the stream rolled on!"
The paper boat hurried up and down, and in the middle of the creek it went so fast that the tin soldier shivered at one point; but he remained persistent, showing no emotion, looking straight ahead, holding his rifle over his shoulder. The boat suddenly passed under a long tunnel that was as dark as its box.
"Where am I going now?" thought he. "This is the black goblin’s fault, I am sure. Ah, well, if the little lady were only here with me in the boat, I should not care for any darkness."
Suddenly he came across a large water rat that lived in the tunnel and asked him if he had a passport. But the tin soldier was silent and gripped his rifle tighter. The boat raced on, and the rat ran after him.
How he did gnash his teeth and cry out to the bits of wood and straw, "Stop him, stop him; he has not paid toll, and has not shown his pass."
But the current became faster and stronger. The tin soldier had already seen the light of day where the tunnel ended; but such a sound resounded in his ears that any brave man would be frightened. At the end of the tunnel, a gutter spilled into a large canal and it was just as dangerous for the tin soldier as it was for us to go down the waterfall.
He was so close to him now that he couldn't take it anymore. The boat set off, and the poor tin soldier held on as stiff as he could. The boat spun three or four times in a circle, filled to the brim with water and began to sink!
The tin soldier stood still as the boat sank deeper and deeper and the paper grew softer and softer. Now the water was above his head. He was thinking of a beautiful little ballerina, whose face he would never see again, and in his ears it just echoed: "Farewell, warrior! ever brave, Drifting onward to thy grave."
The paper was torn in two, and the soldier sank deeper and deeper - until at one point he was swallowed by a large fish.
"Oh how dark it was inside the fish! A great deal darker than in the tunnel, and narrower too, but the tin soldier continued firm, and lay at full length shouldering his musket."
The fish swam up and down, squirmed, swayed, and then suddenly calmed down completely. Then it was as if a flash of lightning had passed through him; daylight poured in and a voice shouted, "I declare here is the tin soldier."
The fish was caught, taken to the market, sold, and now it has been found by a chef who cut the fish with a knife to clean it and prepare it for lunch. The cook took the soldier between his fingers and took him to a room where everyone wanted to see the hero found in the fish. But the tin soldier was not at all proud. When he was put on the table soon he realized he had been in this room before!
He saw the same child and the same toys on the table as well as the same big castle with a beautiful little ballerina. She was still standing on one leg, with her hands high in the air. She was resilient in standing, which especially impressed the tin soldier. He almost shed tin tears, but that is not appropriate for a soldier. He looked at her, but she said nothing.
Suddenly the little boy took the tin soldier and threw him into the furnace, for no reason at all; but no doubt the goblin was in some way responsible for this.
So the tin soldier lay in the furnace and felt the heat of the fire burning inside.
"The flames lighted up the tin soldier, as he stood, the heat was very terrible, but whether it proceeded from the real fire or from the fire of love he could not tell. Then he could see that the bright colors were faded from his uniform, but whether they had been washed off during his journey or from the effects of his sorrow, no one could say. He looked at the little lady, and she looked at him. He felt himself melting away, but he still remained firm with his gun on his shoulder."
Suddenly the door opened, the draft caught up with the little ballerina and she flew like a fairy to the tin soldier in the furnace, blazed - and that was the end of it! The tin soldier melted into a small lump, and when the maid took out the ashes the next morning, she found a melted tin heart shape. There was nothing left of the little ballerina, but her rose was gilded, burnt, and remained black as coal.