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Annotations for Steadfast Tin Soldier

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Hans Christian Andersen
Father of the Modern Fairy Tale 
by Terri Windling


The annotations for the Steadfast Tin Soldier fairy tale are below. Sources have been cited in parenthetical references, but I have not linked them directly to their full citations which appear on the Steadfast Tin Soldier Bibliography page. I have provided links back to the Annotated Steadfast Tin Soldier to facilitate referencing between the notes and the tale.

Special thanks to Christine Ethier, an adjunct teacher of English writing at both Community College of Philadelphia and Camden County College, for providing the annotations to this tale.

1. Steadfast Tin Soldier: Most translations use the word “Steadfast” to describe the tin soldier, although some use "brave".  Some give the word courageous.  According to Webster’s Dictionary, ‘Brave’ means to have courage (Misk 176).  Steadfast is immovable, “firmly fixed in place” (Misk 1153).  Courageous is to have courage.  Robert MacLean points out that the word ‘steadfast’ “signifies standing firm . . . to stand securely in one place, rooted which is what a solider does on official guard duty and as training for actual battle” (27). 

Tin is “a soft faintly bluish white lustrous low melting crystalline metallic element that is malleable and ductile at ordinary temperatures and that is used as a protective coating in tinfoil, and in soft soldiers and alloys” (Misk 1236).  Symbolically tin is associated with blue (Biedermann 74).  According to J. E. Cirlot, tin is one of the inferior metals (209) and “. . . Jung has asserted that the base metals are the desires and lusts of the flesh” (209).

According to Maria Tatar, “Andersen wrote this tale at a time when he was deeply absorbed in the conflict between life and art” (Ann, 223).  Joan Haahr points out that this is the first Andersen tale to use inanimate objects (496).     

Jackie Wullschlager writes that “in Andersen’s time the soldier was seen as both and inspirational and consoling figure” (187).
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2: Five and twenty: The number is one more than the hours in the day, and the hero is the last one, the odd man out.
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3: Tin soldiers: Types of model soldiers can be dated from 2000 B.C.E. (Dilley 4).  The earliest “toy” soldiers date from Roman times (Rose 6).  From the 16th-18th centuries, toy soldiers were made in complete armies, cast in precious metals, and given to nobility (Dilley 4) [There is a collection at Rosenberg Palace in Copenhagen].  The oldest toy solider company still in existence is Lucotte, a French firm that is now part of C. B. G. Mignot (Rose 24).

Considering the tale’s date and the material used, the toy soldiers in Andersen’s story are most likely Zinnfurgen (flats) or halb massif (semi flats).  While fully rounded figures (ronde bosse) like today’s Britains were available, they were made out of lead, preferred by the French (Rose 24), and produced by Lucotte (Rose 6). Lucotte’s soldiers were primarily French Revolutionary or First Empire figures (Rose 24). Zinnfurgen were immensely popular in Germany, and even outside of Germany, German manufacturers dominated the trade (Rose 8).   Zinnfurgen were first produced in the 1730s by Nuremberg tinsmiths (Rose 6) and were “at first a sideline to pewter ware or jewelry making” (Rose 6).  The soldiers were cast from slate molds and were usually 1.18 in (30mm) thick, while varying in size (Rose 6) until the Nuremberg scale was introduced in 1848 (Rose 20).  Example of Zinnfurgen: http://www.flats-zinnfiguren.com/contents1.html

Halb massif, the semi-flat figures, were also introduced in Germany.  According to Andrew Rose, semi-flats “are thicker than flats, giving a rounded appearance when viewed from the side.  They are rather looked down on by most collectors, and indeed at their worst they can be very crude or uninspired” (22).  They also had a higher lead content (Rose 6).  Example of halb massif : http://www.angelfire.com/tx/ToySoldier/images/flat.jpg
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4: Old tin spoon: See above about how Nuremberg smiths started making the soldiers. There is a dichotomy with brave soldiers coming from an old spoon (MacLean 27).  Note the connection to the kitchen, to the lower classes, and to something unwanted, perhaps no longer useful.  The tin spoon was unwanted and could no longer be used for its original purpose.  MacLean contends that “on an autobiographical level, the tinsmith represents Andersen’s cobbler father who installed in his son a love of literature; and Andersen, with his famous inferiority complex, dovetails into the one legged solider” (39).
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5. Shouldered arms: Hersholt gives the translation “rifle” (10). Other translations use gun or musket. A rifle is “a shoulder weapon with a rifled bore [a hole with spiral grove]” (Misk 1015). A musket is “a heavy large-caliber smooth bore shoulder firearm (as a flintlock or matchlock); broadly: a shoulder gun carried by infantry” (Misk 782).
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6. Splendid uniform red and blue: Danish Royal Life Guards wear red and blue uniforms (red jacket, blue pants).  During Andersen’s time, the charging of the guard occurred at a corner of Kongens Nytorv [King’s New Square] around midday (Moller 18).  The Royal Theatre is just off Kongens Nytorv.  The current Royal Theatre (Danish National Theatre) was built in 1870 (Moller 16).  It is built on the site of the Royal Theatre that existed when Andersen arrived in Copenhagen.  Andersen himself lived just off the square in various houses during his life (No. 6 and No. 7 Vingardsstraede) [Moller 17].  Kongens Nytorv website: http://www.copenhagenpictures.dk/cop_harb.html

Robert MacLean believes that the soldier’s box is equated with Andersen’s own home (27).
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7. Who had only one leg: MacLean writes, “The outsider status of the tin soldier is based on this impairment, for he generates anxiety to everyone he meets, who are reminded that soldiers come back from the glorious war with parts of their body missing” (29).

n 1806, Andersen’s father became a member of the Odense regiment (Wullschlager 25).  The next year, Denmark entered the Napoleonic Wars.  In 1812, Andersen’s father “enlisted as a musketeer” (Wullschlager 25).  While he never saw action, Andersen’s father’s health was damaged due to a long march, and he was sick after his return in 1814 until his death in 1816 (Wullschlager 25).

Tatar cites John Griffith in pointing out that “Andersen’s central characters are small, frail, more likely to be female than male –above all delicate, an embodiment of that innocence which is harmlessness, that purity which is incapacity for lust” (Classic, 213).  Additionally, “on occasion the fragility of Andersen’s protagonist takes a form so extreme that it manifests itself in some form of immobility” (Tatar, Classic 213).   A soldier is not usually thought of as fragile, and Andersen is playing on that idea here.
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8. This caused him to be very remarkable: Lucas and Paul give the translation, “In fact, he was the very one who became famous” (269).  Tatar and Julie K. Allen (Tatar’s co-translator) translate, “. . . he’s the one who turned out to be astonishing” (Tatar, Ann., 226).  Hersholt translates, “But you just see, he’ll be the remarkable one” (111).
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9. Other playthings: MacLean points out that the soldier is “a paradigm of early nineteenth century bourgeois Europe” (28) and because of his duty he sees everything (MacLean 28).
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10. Pretty little paper castle: Tatar and Allen translate, “a charming castle made out of cardboard” (226).

According to Roy Dilley, some toy soldiers were produced during the 18th century by being printed on souvenir sheets (6).  The soldiers could be punched out and mounted on cardboard (Dilley 6).  This could be possibly be the case with the castle and dancer.

Tatar suggests that the castle “is a monument to art, beauty, and mobility” (Ann, 227) The castle could be a stand in for the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen.  Wullschalger describes the Royal Theatre of Andersen’s day as “the scene of his [Andersen’s] happiness, and wildest longings” (38). Andersen first tried to join the Royal Theatre as a dancer [see below].  He was admitted as a dance pupil and took singing and acting lessons from people connected to the theatre [see below].         The Royal Theatre was located at Kongens Nytorv.  It “served as both a symbolic and tangible stage in the whole illusion about what life was like for Danes under God and the rule of kings . . .” (J. Andersen 31).  It was the only public theater at the time (J. Andersen 31). Website: http://www.kglteater.dk/?sc_lang=en

H. C. Andersen also performed at the Court Theatre.  The Court Theatre is located on Slotsholmen (Palace Island) and is now the Teatermuseet (Theater Museum).  The Court Theatre was originally built by Nicolas Henri Jardin in 1766-1767 and redone in 1842 by Jorgen Kraugh (“Slotsholmen” 42-43).  Website: http://www.teatermuseet.dk/?sid=6

The castle could also be a reference to Amalienborg Palace which became a royal residence in 1794 after the fire at Christiansborg Palace.  Amalienborg was originally built for four noblemen (“Amalienborg”). During his early years in Copenhagen, Andersen visited Brockdorff’s Palace, which today is called Frederick VIII’s Palace, to see Admiral Peter Frederick Wulff, who was in charge of the Naval College located there at the time (Hartmann 23).  Website for Amalienborg Palace: http://kongehuset.dk/publish.php?dogtag=k_en_pal_ama

Symbolically, a castle can be an “embattled, spiritual power, ever on the watch” (Cirlot 38-39).  When the castle is combined with treasure, knight, and lady it equals the will of the soul to salvation (Cirlot 39).
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11. A piece of looking glass: A mirror.  According to Cirlot, a mirror “is a symbol of the imagination – or, of consciousness – in its capacity to reflect the formal reality of the visible world” (211).  There is a belief that people are linked to their reflection (Biedermann 222).  According to Aeppli, to dream of a mirror is to foretell death (Biedermann 223).
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12. Swans, made of wax: The swan is considered to be feminine grace (Biedermann 333).  There was a medieval belief that the swan had black flesh (Biedermann 334).  The swan can also symbolize a hypocrite (Biedermann 334).  According to Cirlot, the swan is connected to hermaphroditism (322) and “always points to the complete satisfaction of desire” (322).

Marina Warner notes that wax “gives rise to thoughts of morality: it melts, it burns down, it suggests the vanity of the word” (23) and “the material implies organic change . . . wax cheats death; it simulates life, it proves true and false” (23).
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13. A tiny little lady: Lucas and Paul translate “maiden” (269).  The lady is in front of the castle, near the mirror.  There could be an allusion to the legend of Narcissus (Biedermann 223). There is also a connection to vanity because of her nearness to the mirror (Biedermann 223).  Johan de Mylius points out that the lady “only mirrors herself” (“Our Time” 171).

MacLean identifies the lady as Riborg Voigt (40).  She was the sister of a Christian Viogt, a friend of Andersen’s.  Andersen proposed to Riborg Voigt [see below].  She, however, already had a suitor, whom she loved and whom Andersen knew about (Wullschlager 97).  Jackie Wullschlager writes that Andersen knowledge of the suitor made Riborg Voigt “safely unreachable, but not so unattainable that he could not dream of her” (97).

Lisa Andersen lists the dancer as one of Andersen’s female characters who has a relation to the femme fatale.  The dancer is also one Andersen’s doll like women (L. Andersen).

The open door is a gate or portal and is “associated with entry into a sphere, realm, or domanin of great significance” (Biedermann 150).
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14.  She was made of paper: She could be constructed like the castle [see above].  She also is not as durable as the soldier.
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15. A dress of clear muslin: Hersholt translates this as gauze (111) as do Lucas and Paul (270).  Tatar and Allen translate it as tulle (226).  Muslin is an “a plain-woven sheer to coarse cotton fabric” (Misk 782).  Gauze is “a thin often transparent fabric used chiefly for clothing or drapes” (Misk 508).  Tulle is “a sheer often stiffed silk, rayon, or nylon net used chiefly for veils or ballet costumes” (Misk 782).
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16.  Narrow blue ribbon: Blue is “the color of fidelity, but also of mystery” (Biedermann 44).  It is associated with Jupiter, and, therefore, with tin (Biedermann 74).  Jupiter is connected to “haughty and self satisfied” (Biedermann 193).Return to place in story.

17.  Glittering tinsel rose: Most translations use the word “spangle”.  A spangle is “a small plate of shinning metal or plastic used for ornamentation, esp. in clothing” (Misk 1130).

The rose is connected to the Greek myth of Adonis and is “symbolic of love that transcended even death and of resurrection itself” (Biedermann 289).
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18.  Was a dancer: It is possible that the dancer represents Anne Margrethe Schall, the prima donna of Andersen’s day.  It was Madame Schall whom Andersen first called upon when he arrived in Copenhagen to help gain entry to the Royal Theatre (it didn’t work).  Andersen and Madame Schall are buried in Assitens Cementary in Copenhagen.  Interestingly, on her page on Findagrave.com, Madame Schall’s portrait shows her dancing in a gown that has blue strips, resembling ribbons, on it.  The dress looks like it could be made of muslin or gauze.  Website: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=12587538

The dancer could also represent art.  Maria Tatar points out that “Andersen’s choice of soldier and ballerina is mildly ironic in that both are associated with movement – marching and dancing.  And both are figures to be admired for their display of colors and beauty” (Ann. 227).
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19. That is the wife for me: Johan de Mylius points out that the soldier’s desire for the dancer is a facet of his disability and that the solider has a sexual fascination with the dancer (“Our Time” 171).Return to place in story.

20.  But she is too grand: Tatar and Allen translate noble (Ann. 226).

MacLean states that the dancer “is an aristocratic extension of the castle, utterly out of reach for a one-legged tin solider living in a box, and newly arrived at that” (29).  Jens Andersen writes that there was “a sharp line between rich and poor had been drawn in Denmark - a line that the paternal King Frederick VI was intent on maintaining” (31).  The line could refer to the class system in the Royal Theatre itself that was based on age (J. Andersen 41).
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21.  Laid himself: This is the one occasion where the tin soldier moves on his own (MacLean 30).  MacLean points out that the dancer “becomes a center of gravity, a polarity which defines and yet threatens his [the soldier’s] stability” (30).  MacLean equates the soldier’s action to the fit of dizziness Andersen says he suffered from after proposing by letter to Riborg Viogt (30).

Snuff is the “pulverized tobacco to be inhaled though the nostrils, chewed, or placed against the gums” (Misk 1117).  Tobacco flowers can mean “‘you awaken feelings that slumber sweetly within me’”  (Biedermann 138).
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22.  Nutcrackers: Most likely a reference to the Hoffman story that the ballet The Nutcracker is based on (Tatar Ann. 228).

Hersholt translates that the pencil “squeaked out jokes” (112).

Tatar notes that:

The uncanny effect of toys coming to life is marvelous and magical yet also dark and sinister, suggesting a grotesque, topsy-turvy world in which the mechanical comes real. Andersen’s story, like Hoffman’s, locates romance, violence, adventure, and passion in a childhood setting. (Ann. 228). 

Neither the Brave Tin Soldier nor the dancer move, but all the other toys, including the soldiers in the box, do move.  MacLean asserts that “the tin soldier and the ballerina paradoxically more authentic because they do not attempt to be human” (31).
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23.  The clock struck twelve: The witching hour.  The other toys, with the expectation of the snuffbox, have already moved, and, therefore, do not have a connection to the evil hour.
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24.  A little black goblin: Tatar and Allen translate this to be a troll (Ann. 228).  Other translations use bogey.  Bogey and goblin are more English.  According to Simpson and Road, a bogey is a term “applied to any figure deliberately used to frighten others, almost always children, to control their behavior” (28).  A goblin “is a general term for fairy creatures of malicious or evil nature” (Simpson 146).  John and Caitlin Matthews note that the term goblin comes from the Greek word Kabaloi, meaning evil spirit (242) and is in general a name for small evil spirits including boggarts and bogies (242).

The word troll means “to tread” (Mercante Vol 2 846) or “monster” in Old Norse (Matthews 571).  Additionally, “in Swedish and Danish folklore in particular ‘troll’ is a name used to mean brownie” (Matthews 571).  Trolls are “hostile, though in the literature of the Middle Ages they appear more often as fiends who are sometimes responsible for black magic” (Matthews 571). In Danish tradition, trolls are extremely ugly with big noses; they steal women, and live in caves (Matthews 571).  Andersen played a troll in a performance of Armida (J. Andersen 38).

The snuff box in various other translations, such as Lucas and Hersholt, is described as a jack-in-the-box.  Tatar and Allen also translate at the end of the sentence “What a tricky little move that was” (Ann. 228).

MacLean notes that “the snuffbox location may be significant, for it signifies a trick played on everyone who opens the elegant box expecting snuff, and its presences in a child’s room shows the background milieu of bourgeois adult life” (40).
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25. Don’t wish for what does not belong to you: Tatar and Allen translate “keep your eyes to yourself” (Ann. 228) as do Lucas and Hersholt.

MacLean believes that the goblin and his remark are “Andersen’s prophetic representation of a totalitarian state” (32) and “on a more generalized level, he exemplifies the acculturation process whereof any society locks the individuals into circumscribed molds of behavior which are destructive our true potential” (32).

The goblin’s warning can also be a reference to Andersen’s rejection from the Royal Theatre.  Jens Andersen writes that Andersen was “humiliated, mocked, and tormented by teachers and students alike at the theatre” (33).  In 1820, Andersen petitioned various people in order to aid him in gaining financial aid from the Theatre (Prince 55).  Prince provides a translation for part of the Theatre Board’s response to the royal petition:

When the suppliant [Andersen] presented himself before the board about nine months ago with a wish to be employed in the Theatre, he was found, after having been tests, to lack both the talent and the appearance necessary for the stage. None the less, Mr Siboni had the kindness voluntarily to give him lessons in singing in the hope that it might be possible to train him to sing in the choir of the Theatre, but he was forced to abandon even this. He then took refuge in Mr Dahlen’s dancing school to be trained in this subject, for which, according to Mr Dahlen, he also lacks the ability and outward appearance. In view of the fact that the board regard it as their duty to advise against Employing him in any subject in the Theatre, they cannot recommend that he be given any financial support from the Theatre’s chest. (55) 

Ferdinand Lindgren tried giving Andersen acting lessons but eventually told his pupil that he looked “ridiculous” (Wullschlager 50) and was unfit for acting (Wullschlager 50). On May 1822, Andersen was dismissed from the Royal Theatre (Wullschlager 56).  Additionally several of Andersen’s early plays were rejected by the Theatre.

The goblin might also be referring to Simon Meisling, Andersen’s grammar school teacher.  Wullschalger describes Meisling as playing tricks on other teachers (61), and Meisling “worked out his rage on his pupils” (Wullschlager 60).  Finally, Meisling “forbade Andersen to write creatively” (Wullschlager 62).
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26.  Pretended not to hear: Hersholt translates, “But he thought it contemptible to raise an uproar while he was wearing a uniform” (112).
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27.  Whether it was the goblin who did it: The soldier’s obsession with the dancer leads to him getting lost (MacLean 32).  Because it is unclear what causes the soldiers fall, the wind or the goblin, “ambiguity becomes part of the enigma of evil” (MacLean 37). 

Symbolically, wind is the “. . .  supernatural manifestation of divine intention” (Biedermann 382).
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28.  Third story: Note the appearance of three.  Most fairy tales make use of the number three.
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29. If he had called out: Tatar notes of this scene:

The tin soldier’s pride is not necessarily admirable – in many instances it undermines his chances for survival. But there is an added layer of irony in the fact that the solider does not have the power to speak, yet rationalizes his silence with the alibi of preserving his military dignity. Here pride is affiliated with vanity. . . but, in this case, it leads to stoicism. (Ann. 229). 

This is also the start of the soldier’s trials.  Jon Cech notes, “he [Andersen’s hero] frequently must undergo great suffering and trails but nevertheless remains steadfast and true to his principles and, this, to his own inner nature and its humanity”.
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30.  Rain: Rain can be seen as washing away sin (Biedermann 277).  Water, in general, is the source of life and can refer to deeper layers of the psyche (Biedermann 373).
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31.  Boys: Lucas and Paul translate “street boys” (272), while Tatar and Allen translate “street urchins” (229).  Hersholt translates “rapscallions” [rascal].  The boys seem to be of a lower class than the boy who was given the soldier in the beginning of the story.  Some translates even use the word scullion, kitchen helpers, to describe the boys. 
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32.  Boat to sail in: Tatar and Allen translate the boys as saying, “let’s send him off to sea” (229).  Andersen traveled by boat when he left Odense for Copenhagen and when he left Denmark to travel though Europe.

A ship is sometimes used to symbolize the voyage though life (Biedermann 306).
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33. Down the gutter: Jens Andersen writes that the gutters of Copenhagen “were always filled with rainwater, food scraps, and excrement” (30).

Tatar sees the gutter as a rite of passage (Ann. 230).  The rite of passage contains a movement away from bondage and towards freedom (Clute 813).  It can be an initiation of the soul (Clute 813) and contains departure, absence, and return (Clute 813).  The Rite of Passage can sometimes take the form of a night journey [which is what Andersen’s ugly duckling goes though].  In a night journey, “the protagonist travels into a dark country, which may be the underside of the land or some interior territory occupied by his or her shadow.  Here matters of significance to that protagonist’s life are met, confronted, and defeated (or, possibly not defeated” (Kaveny 686).  An initiation of the soul involves a transition to a spiritually higher, more adult, or more powerful state (Langford 500).
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34. Dark as the soldier’s box: Biedermann notes “darkness is primarily a symbol of removal from God . . . “(90).  Despite being in darkness, the tin soldier sees far more than his fellows who are either still in the box or still in the playroom.  Andersen, himself, was considered well traveled for his day (J. Andersen 479), spending long amounts of time outside of Denmark.  Jens Andersen writes of Andersen and travel:

For Andersen, ‘traveling’ was not merely a cure for melancholy or a sudden, refreshing break from the endless daily routines; it was part of a universal rhythm and higher idea: life as a journey of discovery. And Andersen’s travels should be viewed and understood in this context – as an expression of God’s great, coherent plan for humanity created as we are for constant movement in body and soul. (483-484).                     

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35. This is the goblin’s fault: Tatar and Allen translate “This must be the troll’s revenge” (Ann. 229).
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36. Water-rat: Symbolically, the rat can be seen as in league with the devil and connected to misfortune (Biedermann).  Here, “the appearance of the rat signifies that he is crossing the border into a foreign country” (MacLean 34).

Andersen seems to have been anxious about traveling in terms of making sure he had everything (Wullschalger 105).  Jens Andersen writes that Andersen always planned his trips in great detail (480-481).  The rat could represent the officials he had to deal with when traveling.
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37. Whirled round three or four times: A whirlpool can stand for “sinking into the waters of death” (Biedermann 318).
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38. Farewell, warrior! ever brave, Drifting onward to thy grave: Lucas and Paul translate the song, “Onward! Onward!  Soldier!/For death thou cans’t not shun” (273).  Tatar and Allen translate, “Flee the waters, warrior brave,/Here below is thy shadowy grave” (Ann. 230).  Hersholt translates, “Farewell, farewell, O Warrior brave/Nobody can from Death thee save” (113).Return to place in story.

39. Sank into the water: MacLean connects the sinking of the boat to falling in love (34).  However, Tatar writes of the solider and love, that solider “seems less in pursuit of transcendent love than aiming to display his fortitude through his upright position” (Ann. 231).  Andersen himself was fearful of drowning (J. Andersen 480).Return to place in story.

40. By a great fish: An allusion to Jonah and the whale.  Symbolically, a fish is connected to the maternal (Biedermann 131).  It is associated with various love goddesses as well as saints, good luck, and sacrifice (Bidermann 131).
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41. Daylight approached: Symbollically, light is the “universal symbol of divinity and the spiritual” (Biedermann 204).  In essence, the solider is reborn in a kitchen.  Notice that the solider is uncomfortable about the attention he is getting.Return to place in story.

42. Market: The fish market in Copenhagen used to be found on Gammelstrand across from the island of Slotsholmen, which housed the Court Theatre. 
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43. She was as firm as himself: Lucas and Paul use the word “unbending” (274) to describe the dancer here.  Tatar and Allen translate “she too was steadfast” (Ann. 231) as does Hersholt (114).

In regards to the soldier and his tears, Lucas and Paul translate “but that would not have been fitting” (274), and Tatar and Allen translate, “but soldiers are not suppose to cry” (Ann. 231).
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44. Threw him into the stove: Tatar notes that the boy is not bonded to the soldier like the soldier is to the maiden (Ann. 224) and “in Andersen’s stories about objects with inner lives, humans are often presented as callous, materialistic beings” (Ann. 224). 

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45. Must have been the fault of the black goblin who lived in the snuff-box: “The soldier attributes the boy’s urge to an evil power suggesting the troll [goblin] has engineered his death” (Tatar, Ann. 231).
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46. Flames: Fire purifies and destroys (Biedermann 129-130).  Notice also the ambiguity over where the heat comes from, either from the oven or from love.
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47. Melting away: Haahr notes “the tin soldier’s passive acceptance of whatever happens to him, while exemplify pietistic ideals of self-denial, also contributes to his doom” (497).  In a way, his steadfastness (his bravery) is his tragic flaw.
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48. She fluttered like a sylph: Unlike the case of the solider, there is no ambiguity to what cause the dancer to end in the fire. It is a wind. This is the second time that air or wind plays a role in the tale.

According to John and Caitlin Matthews a sylph is “an elemental spirit of the air” (543).  The name is formed by combining the Latin for wood (silva) with the Greek nymphe (Matthews 543).  Ivor Evans writes that “any mortal who has preserved inviolate chastity might enjoy intimate familiarity with these gentle spirits, and deceased coquettes were said to become sylphs” (1055).
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49.  Was gone: Johan de Mylius writes “thus the story punishes the woman for her vanity and for not having responded to the silent and never expressed male desire” (“Our Time” 171).
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50.  Tin heart: “Death has given birth to his hidden self” (Mylius, “Our Time”, 171).  Tatar points out that “judgment in favor of the soldier is inferred though the symbolic nature of the remains” (Ann. 233).  Besides love, a heart can symbolize the inner person (Bidermann 166).

MacLean believes that because tin is so malleable, it is “ideal for Andersen’s metaphor. A soft metal easily melted: the male psyche” (41). 

Wullschlager notes that at his death, Andersen was found wearing a leather bag with a letter from Riborg Voigt in it (100).  She notes, however, “the fact that he wanted to be found wearing it speaks of his pride in loyalty, romanticism, fidelity to all that he lost” (100).
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51. Burnt black as cinder: Cinder is “the slag from a metal furnace” (Misk 241).

Johan de Mylius comments on the end of the story that the soldier is:

. . . Reshaped or reborn in death. And the ballerina? She only consisted of paper and is burnt to ashes. Only her palette [here, the tinsel rose] made of some kind of shining metal is left; her self-reflecting narcissism is punished. She is nothing more than this piece of cheap jewelry, which now, after having been in the flames, is shining no more. (Religious Views 33).

Haahr notes of the story that the soldier symbolizes, “Andersen’s feelings of inadequacy with women, his passive acceptance of bourgeoisie class attitudes or his sense of alienation as an artist and outside, from full partipation in everyday life” (497).

Jens Andersen writes of death in Andersen’s tales, “In Andersen’s universe death is not a painful and traumatic ending to a life but an optimistic and promising beginning. . . . He regards death as a release for the one who is suffering and as a new chance for the one who has failed” (539).

Bruno Bettelheim sees the story as more of a myth that a fairy tale because of the pessism (37).

Special thanks to Christine Ethier, an adjunct teacher of English writing at both Community College of Philadelphia and Camden County College, for providing the annotations to this tale.


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©Heidi Anne Heiner, SurLaLune Fairy Tales
Page created 7/2008; Last updated 7/24/13