The Steadfast Tin Soldier

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This article is about Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale. For George Balanchine's 1975 ballet based on the story, see The Steadfast Tin Soldier (ballet).
"The Steadfast Tin Soldier"
Author Hans Christian Andersen
Original title "Den Standhaftige Tinsoldat"
Country Denmark
Language Danish
Genre(s) Literary fairy tale
Published in Fairy Tales Told for Children. New Collection. First Booklet. 1838. (Eventyr, fortalte for Børn. Ny Samling. Første Hefte. 1838.)
Publication type Fairy tale collection
Publisher C.A. Reitzel
Media type Print
Publication date 2 October 1838
Preceded by "The Daisy"
Followed by "The Wild Swans"

"The Steadfast Tin Soldier" (Danish: Den standhaftige tinsoldat) is a literary fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about a tin soldier's love for a paper ballerina. After several adventures, the tin soldier perishes in a fire with the ballerina. The tale was first published in Copenhagen by C.A. Reitzel on 2 October 1838 in the first booklet of Fairy Tales Told for Children. New Collection. The booklet consists of Andersen's "The Daisy" and "The Wild Swans". The tale was Andersen’s first not based upon a folk tale or a literary model. "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" has been adapted to various media including ballet and animated film.


On his birthday, a boy receives a set of 25 toy soldiers and arrays them on a table top. One soldier stands on a single leg, having been the last one cast from an old tin spoon. Nearby, the soldier spies a paper ballerina with a spangle on her sash. She too is standing on one leg and the soldier falls in love. That night, a goblin among the toys in the form of a Jack in the box angrily warns the soldier to take his eyes off the ballerina, but the soldier ignores him. The next day, the soldier falls from a windowsill (presumably the work of the goblin) and lands in the street. Two boys find the soldier, place him in a paper boat, and set him sailing in the gutter. The boat and its passenger wash into a storm drain, where a rat demands the soldier pay a toll. Sailing on, the boat is washed into a canal, where the tin soldier is swallowed by a fish. When the fish is caught and cut open, the tin soldier finds himself once again on the table top before the ballerina. Inexplicably, the boy throws the tin soldier into the fire. A wind blows the ballerina into the fire with him; she is consumed at once but her spangle remains. The tin soldier melts into the shape of a heart.


The tale was first published in Copenhagen, Denmark by C. A. Reitzel on 2 October 1838 in Fairy Tales Told for Children. New Collection. First booklet. Other tales in the booklet include "The Daisy" and "The Wild Swans". The tale was republished in collected editions of Andersen's work, first, on 18 December 1849 in Fairy Tales and again on 15 December 1862 in the first volume of Fairy Tales and Stories.[1]


Andersen in 1836

"The Steadfast Tin Soldier" is the first tale Andersen wrote that has neither a literary model nor a folk tale source. It marks a new independence in his writing, and is the zenith of his evocation of the nineteenth century nursery world with its toy dancers, castles, and swans.

Joan G. Haahr writes in The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales: "The story is unusual among Andersen's early tales, both in its emphasis on sensual desire and in its ambiguities. Blind fate, not intention, determines all events. Moreover, the narrative questions the very decorum it praises. The tin soldier's passive acceptance of whatever happens to him, while exemplifying pietistic ideals of self-denial, also contributes to his doom. Were he to speak and act, the soldier might gain both life and love. Restrained, however, by inhibition and convention, he finds only tragedy and death. The tale is often read autobiographically, with the soldier viewed as symbolizing Andersen's feelings of inadequacy with women, his passive acceptance of bourgeois class attitudes, or his sense of alienation as an artist and an outsider, from full participation in everyday life."[2]


Illustration by Vilhelm Pedersen, Andersen's first illustrator (1850)

Ub Iwerks did a 1934 Cinecolor cartoon The Brave Tin Soldier that features an evil jack in the box.

Paul Grimault (with Jacques Prévert) did a 1947 colour French cartoon Le Petit Soldat that portrayed the title character as a toy acrobat who is called to war and returns crippled but determined to rescue his ballerina.

In 1976, Soyuzmultfilm made an animated adaptation.

In 1986, Atkinson Film-Arts made an animated adaptation featuring the voices of Rick Jones, Terrence Scammell, and Robert Bockstael, with narration by Christopher Plummer.

Children's author Tor Seidler adapted the book in 1992, with illustrations by Fred Marcellino.[3]

In 1992, it was adapted into an animated television movie which was produced by Hanna-Barbera.

In Disney's film Fantasia 2000, an adaptation of the tale is set to the first movement of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major by Dmitri Shostakovich. The segment differs slightly from Andersen's tale: the ballerina appears to be made of porcelain; the soldier is disappointed to discover the ballerina has two legs, but the ballerina still accepts him; at the end, the jack-in-the-box villain is the one that perishes in the fire instead of the soldier and ballerina.[4] Other animated films for children have been produced on the tale, and, in 1975, a science fiction fantasy feature film, The Tin Soldier.[2]

Andersen's contemporary August Bournonville choreographed the tale for his ballet A Fairy Tale in Pictures, and George Balanchine choreographed the tale in 1975, allowing the soldier and the ballerina to express their love before the ballerina is blown into the fire.[4] George Bizet set the tale to music in Jeux d'Enfants.[4]

Mike Mignola's graphic novel Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire fuses the poignancy of "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" with supernatural Dracula myths, set in a post-World War I environment.[5] Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (2006) makes use of the tale's themes.[4]

In Stieg Larsson's thriller The Girl Who Played with Fire, the fiercely independent protagonist Lisbeth Salander compares the journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who had stayed loyal to her despite her repeated blatant rejection of him, with Andersen's steadfast tin soldier (implicitly comparing herself with Andersen's ballerina).[6]

In Anirudh Arun's 2013 bildungsroman The Steadfast Tin Soldier?, the protagonist Ashwin is compared to the tin soldier by his successful brother Abhinav (the society thus plays the part of the dangerous jack-in-the-box).[7]

Daft Punk's music video for the song "Instant Crush" is said to have been inspired by "The Steadfast Tin Soldier".

Donavan's 1965 'Little Tin Soldier' written by Shawn Phillips is also based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale.

The Hanson song Soldier is also based on this fairy tale. The song doesn't mention the goblin, instead the soldier fell when the wind blew into the window.

A character from One Piece, Kyros (also known as "Thunder Soldier of Rage"), is loosely based on the Tin Soldier.


  1. ^ "Hans Christian Andersen: The Steadfast Tin Soldier". The Hans Christian Andersen Center. Retrieved 2009-09-22. 
  2. ^ a b Zipes 497
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d Andersen 2008 224
  5. ^ Fiction Reviews: Week of 7/30/2007 at Publishers Weekly.
  6. ^ The Girl Who Played with Fire, Chapter 29.
  7. ^ The Steadfast Tin Soldier?, Chapter "There and Back Again"
Works cited
  • Andersen, Hans Christian; Tatar, Maria (Ed. and transl.) (2008), The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen, New Yorkand London: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., ISBN 978-0-393-06081-2 
  • Andersen, Hans Christian; Nunnally, Tiina (Transl.); Wullschlager, Jackie (Ed.) (2005) [2004], Fairy Tales, New York: Viking, ISBN 0-670-03377-4 
  • Zipes, Jack (Ed.) (2003), The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales: The Western Fairy Tale Tradition from Medieval to Modern, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-860509-9 

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