Hans Christian Andersen. (18051875) Tales. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
The Flying Trunk
THERE was once a merchant, who was so rich that he could pave the whole street with gold, and almost have enough left for a little lane. But he did not do that; he knew how to employ his money differently. When he spent a shilling he got back a crown, such a clever merchant was he; and this continued till he died.
His son now got all this money; and he lived merrily, going to the masquerade every evening, making kites out of dollar notes, and playing at ducks and drakes on the sea-coast with gold pieces instead of pebbles. In this way the money might soon be spent, and indeed it was so. At last he had no more than four shillings left, and no clothes to wear but a pair of slippers and an old dressing-gown. Now his friends did not trouble themselves any more about him, as they could not walk with him in the street, but one of them, who was good-natured, sent him an old trunk, with the remark, Pack up! Yes, that was all very well, but he had nothing to pack, therefore he seated himself in the trunk.
That was a wonderful trunk. So soon as any one pressed the lock the trunk could fly. He pressed it, and whirr! away flew the trunk with him through the chimney and over the clouds, farther and farther away. But as often as the bottom of the trunk cracked a little he was in great fear lest it might go to pieces, and then he would have flung a fine somersault! In that way he came to the land of the Turks. He did the trunk in a wood under some dry leaves, and then went into the town. He could do that very well, for among the Turks all the people went about dressed like himself in dressing-gown and slippers. Then he met a nurse with a little child.
There dwells the Sultans daughter, replied she. It is prophesied that she will be very unhappy respecting a lover; and therefore nobody may go near her, unless the Sultan and Sultana are there too.
She was lying asleep on the sofa, and she was so beautiful that the Merchants Son was compelled to kiss her. Then she awoke, and was startled very much; but he said he was a Turkish angel who had come down to her through the air, and that pleased her.
They sat down side by side, and he told her stories about her eyes; and he told her they were the most glorious dark lakes, and that thoughts were swimming about in them like mermaids: And he told her about her forehead; that it was a snowy mountain with the most splendid halls and pictures. And he told her about the stork who brings the lovely little children.
But you must come here on Saturday, said she. Then the Sultan and Sultana will be here to tea. They will be very proud that I am to marry a Turkish angel. But take care that you know a very pretty story, for both my parents are very fond indeed of stories. My mother likes them high-flown and moral, but my father likes them merry, so that one can laugh.
There was once a bundle of Matches, and these Matches were particularly proud of their high descent. Their genealogical tree, that is to say, the great fir-tree of which each of them was a little splinter, had been a great old tree out in the forest. The Matches now lay between a Tinder-box and an old Iron Pot; and they were telling about the days of their youth. Yes, when we were upon the green boughs, they said, then we really were upon the green boughs! Every morning and evening there was diamond tea for us,I mean dew; we had sunshine all day long whenever the sun shone, and all the little birds had to tell stories. We could see very well that we were rich, for the other trees were only dressed out in summer, while our family had the means to wear green dresses in the winter as well. But then the wood-cutter came, like a great revolution, and our family was broken up. The head of the family got an appointment as mainmast in a first-rate ship, which could sail round the world if necessary; the other branches went to other places, and now we have the office of kindling a light for the vulgar herd. Thats how we grand people came to be in the kitchen,
My fate was of different kind, said the Iron Pot, which stood next to the Matches. From the beginning, ever since I came into the world, there has been a great deal of scouring and cooking done in me. I look after the practical part, and am the first here in the house. My only pleasure is to sit in my place after dinner, very clean and neat, and to carry on a sensible conversation with my comrades. But except the Water-pot, which is sometimes taken down into the court-yard, we always live within our four walls. Our only news-monger is the Market Basket; but he speaks very uneasily about the government and the people. Yes, the other day there was an old pot that fell down, from fright, and burst. Hes liberal, I can tell you!Now youre talking too much, the Tinder-box interrupted, and the steel struck against the flint, so that sparks flew out. Shall we not have a merry evening?
No, I dont like to talk about myself, retorted the Pot, Let us get up an evening entertainment. I will begin. I will tell a story from real life, something that every one has experienced, so that we can easily imagine the situation, and take pleasure in it. On the Baltic, by the Danish shore
All the Plates rattled with joy, and the Carpet Broom brought some green parsley out of the dust-hole, and put it like a wreath on the Pot, for he knew that it would vex the others. If I crown him to-day, it thought, he will crown me to-morrow.
Now Ill dance, said the Fire Tongs; and they danced. Preserve us! how that implement could lift up one leg! The old chair-cushion burst to see it. Shall I be crowned too? thought the Tongs; and indeed a wreath was awarded.
Now the Tea-urn was to sing; but she said she had taken cold, and could not sing unless she felt boiling within. But that was only affectation: she did not want to sing, except when she was in the parlor with the grand people.
In the window sat an old Quill Pen, with which the maid generally wrote: there was nothing remarkable about this pen, except that it had been dipped too deep into the ink, but she was proud of that. If the Tea-urn wont sing, she said, she may leave it alone. Outside hangs a nightingale in a cage, and he can sing. He hasnt had any education, but this evening well say nothing about that.
I think it very wrong, said the Tea-kettlehe was the kitchen singer, and half-brother to the Tea-urnthat that rich and foreign bird should be listened to! Is that patriotic? Let the Market Basket decide.
I am vexed, said the Market Basket. No one can imagine how much I am secretly vexed. Is that a proper way of spending the evening? Would it not be more sensible to put the house in order? Let each one go to his own place, and I will arrange the whole game. That would be quite another thing.
Yes, let us make a disturbance, cried they all. Then the door opened, and the maid came in, and they all stood still; not one stirred. But there was not one pot among them who did not know what he could do, and how grand he was. Yes, if I had liked, each one thought, it might have been a very merry evening.
The servant until took the Matches and lighted the fire with them. Mercy! how they sputtered and burst out into flame! Now every one can see, thought they, that we are the first. How we shine! what a light!and they burned out.
The wedding was decided on, and on the evening before it the whole city was illuminated. Biscuits and cakes were thrown among the people, the street boys stood on their toes, called out Hurrah! and whistled on their fingers. It was uncommonly splendid.
Yes, I shall have to give something as a treat, thought the Merchants Son. So he bought rockets and crackers, and every imaginable sort of fire-work, put them all into his trunk, and flew up into the air.
Crack! how they went, and how they went off! All the Turks hopped up with such a start that their slippers flew about their ears; such a meteor they had never yet seen. Now they could understand that it must be a Turkish angel who was going to marry the Princess.
Now he went back to the forest to rest himself in his trunk. But what had become of that? A spark from the fire-works had set fire to it, and the trunk was burned to ashes. He could not fly any more, and could not get to his bride.