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The Tinder-Box

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 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. Climb up to the top, and then you will see a hole. You can let yourself down into the tree through it. I will tie a rope round your waist, so that I can 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 a hundred lamps burning. Then you will see three doors that 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 on it; he has eyes as large as saucers, but you eedn't trouble about him. I will give you my blue-check apron to spread out on the floor. Fetch the dog and set him on it; open the chest and take as much money as you like. It is copper there.

If you would rather have silver, 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 on my apron, and help yourself to the money.v If you rather would have gold, go into the third room, and take as much as you like to carry. But the dog that guards the chest there has eyes as large as the midnight sun! 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!"

"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?"

"Not a single farthing will I take!" replied the witch. "Bring me only 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 underground in the large hall, where the hundred lamps were burning.

He opened the first door. 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. There sat the dog with eyes as large as mill-wheels. 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. The dog there had two eyes, each as large as the midnight sun spinning round in his head like a wheel.

"Good evening!" said the soldier and saluted, for he had never seen a dog like this before. But he managed to put him down on the floor and opened the chest. What a heap of gold there was! With all that he could buy up the whole town, all the sugar pigs, and all the tin soldiers, whips and rocking-horses in the country.

Now he threw away all the silver that he had filled his pockets and knapsack with to make room for gold instead in all his pockets, his knapsack, cap and boots till he could hardly walk. Now he was rich. He put the dog back on 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 too?" she asked.

"Botheration!" said the soldier, "I had 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."

She reached forward, but as she did, she tripped over a tree root and struck her head violently against a rock that was lying on the ground.

The soldier 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, now that he had so much money that he was taken for a noble lord. 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 cannot be seen, for 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 accept that."

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

Now he lived gaily for a while and gave the poor a great deal of money. He was rich, wore fine clothes, and everyone around said he was a real nobleman. The soldier liked that. But one day he had nothing left but two shillings. Then he had to leave the beautiful rooms he had been living in and go into a little attic under the roof. None came to visit him any longer. Maybe there were too many stairs to climb.

One dark evening 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 that he had taken from the hollow tree that the witch had helped him down into. He found the box with the tinder in it; but just as he had struck a spark out of the tinder-box, the door burst open, and the dog with eyes as large as saucers stood before him and said: "What does my lord command?"

"What?" exclaimed the soldier. "I want more money!" Soon the dog came back again with a great purse full of money in his mouth.

The soldier also found out that 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 got into his former, beautiful rooms and splendid clothes again. Everyone spoke with him again.

One day he thought to himself: "No one can get to see the princess, but still they all say she is very pretty. That seems strange enough. Maybe I can see her? Where is my tinder-box?" he said and struck a spark. The dog with eyes as large as saucers came to him at once.

"It is the middle of the night," said the soldier; "but I should very much like to see the princess for a moment."

The dog rushed out of 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 he could not refrain from kissing her once or twice. Then the dog ran back with the princess.

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 next night one of the ladies-in-waiting was to watch at the princess's bed, in case something like that actually happened.

The soldier longed to see the princess again, 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 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 and made crosses on all the doors in town. How smart it was was seen early next morning, when 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 at all.

But the queen could do a great deal more than give up. Later that day she took her scissors, cut up a piece of silk, and made a little bag that she filled with buckwheat grains. She tied the bag round the princess' neck and cut a little hole in the bag. Now the grains would fall on the 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. He had fallen so in love with her by now that he wished he could have 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. Thus, next morning the king and the queen saw plainly where their daughter had been and took the soldier and put him into prison.

There he sat. How dark and dull it was. And they told him: "Tomorrow you will 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 town to see his hanging. He heard drums and saw soldiers marching. 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 run as fast as you can."

The shoemaker's boy was eager to earn four shillings. He fetched the tinder-box, gave it to the soldier, and – yes –

Outside the town a great scaffold had been erected, and all round were soldiers arrayed, and thousands of people. The king and queen were sitting on a 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 he had a last wish, and expected it to be granted, as was the custom. He would so much like to smoke his last pipe in this world.

The king could not refuse him this, and so the soldier took out his tinder-box, and rubbed it once, twice, three times. And at once all three dogs stood there with their big eyes.

"Help me so that I may not be hanged!" said the soldier to them. The dogs fell on the judges and the whole council and were ferocious to them.

"I won't stand this!" said the king; but the largest dog seized him too, and the queen as well.

This frightened the soldiers, but all the people cried: "Soldier, you may marry the pretty princess!" Then they put the soldier into the king's coach, and the three dogs barked something like "Hurrah!" as the soldier was taken to the copper castle. The princess came out and became his queen, very much so.

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




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