The Flying Trunk by Hans Christian Andersen
THERE was once a merchant who was so rich that he could have paved a
whole street with gold, and would even then have had enough left for a
small alley. He did not do so; he knew the value of money better than
to use it in this way. So clever was he that every shilling he put out
brought him a crown, and so it continued as long as he lived.
His son inherited his wealth, and lived a merry life with it. He
went to a masquerade every night, made kites out of five-pound notes,
and threw pieces of gold into the sea instead of stones, making ducks
and drakes of them.
In this manner he soon lost all his money. At last he had nothing
left but a pair of slippers, an old dressing gown, and four shillings.
And now all his companions deserted him. They would not walk with him
in the streets, but one of them, who was very good-natured, sent him an
old trunk with this message, Pack up!
Yes, he said, it is all very well to say 'pack up.' But he had
nothing left to pack, therefore he seated himself in the trunk.
It was a very wonderful trunk, for no sooner did any one press on
the lock than the trunk could fly. He shut the lid and pressed the
lock, when away flew the trunk up the chimney, with him in it, right up
into the clouds. Whenever the bottom of the trunk cracked he was in a
great fright, for if the trunk had fallen to pieces, he would have
turned a tremendous somersault over the trees. However, he arrived
safely in Turkey. He hid the trunk in a wood under some dry leaves and
then went into the town. This he could do very well, for among the
Turks people always go about in dressing gowns and slippers, just as he
He happened to meet a nurse with a little child. I say, you Turkish
nurse, cried he, what castle is that near the town, with the windows
placed so high?
The Sultan's daughter lives there, she replied. It has been
prophesied that she will be very unhappy about a lover, and therefore
no one is allowed to visit her unless the king and queen are present.
Thank you, said the merchant's son. So he went back to the wood,
seated himself in his trunk, flew up to the roof of the castle, and
crept through the window into the room where the princess lay asleep on
the sofa. She awoke and was very much frightened, but he told her he
was a Turkish angel who had come down through the air to see her. This
pleased her very much. He sat down by her side and talked to her,
telling her that her eyes were like beautiful dark lakes, in which the
thoughts swam about like little mermaids; and that her forehead was a
snowy mountain which contained splendid halls full of pictures. He
related to her the story about the stork, who brings the beautiful
children from the rivers. These stories delighted the princess, and
when he asked her if she would marry him, she consented immediately.
[Illustration: Will you tell us a story? said the queen....]
But you must come on Saturday, she said, for then my parents will
take tea with me. They will be very proud when they find that I am
going to marry a Turkish angel. But you must think of some very pretty
stories to tell them, for they like to hear stories better than
anything. My mother prefers one that is deep and moral, but my father
likes something funny, to make him laugh.
Very well, he replied, I shall bring you no other marriage
portion than a story; and so they parted. But the princess gave him a
sword studded with gold coins, and these he could make useful.
He flew away to the town and bought a new dressing gown, and
afterwards returned to the wood, where he composed a story so as to be
ready by Saturday; and that was no easy matter. It was ready, however,
when he went to see the princess on Saturday. The king and queen and
the whole court were at tea with the princess, and he was received with
Will you tell us a story? said the queen; one that is instructive
and full of learning.
Yes, but with something in it to laugh at, said the king.
Certainly, he replied, and commenced at once, asking them to
There was once a bundle of matches that were exceedingly proud of
their high descent. Their genealogical treethat is, a great pine tree
from which they had been cutwas at one time a large old tree in the
wood. The matches now lay between a tinder box and an old iron saucepan
and were talking about their youthful days. 'Ah! then we grew on the
green boughs,' said they, 'and every morning and evening we were fed
with diamond drops of dew. Whenever the sun shone we felt his warm
rays, and the little birds would relate stories to us in their songs.
We knew that we were rich, for the other trees only wore their green
dresses in summer, while our family were able to array themselves in
green, summer and winter. But the woodcutter came like a great
disaster, and our family fell under the ax. The head of the house
obtained a situation as mainmast in a very fine ship and can sail round
the world whenever he will. Other branches of the family were taken to
different places, and our own office now is to kindle a light for
common people. This is how such highborn people as we came to be in a
'Mine has been a very different fate,' said the iron pot, which
stood by the matches. 'From my first entrance into the world I have
been used to cooking and scouring. I am the first in this house when
anything solid or useful is required. My only pleasure is to be made
clean and shining after dinner and to sit in my place and have a little
sensible conversation with my neighbors. All of us excepting the water
bucket, which is sometimes taken into the courtyard, live here together
within these four walls. We get our news from the market basket, but it
sometimes tells us very unpleasant things about the people and the
government. Yes, and one day an old pot was so alarmed that it fell
down and was broken in pieces.'
'You are talking too much,' said the tinder box; and the steel
struck against the flint till some sparks flew out, crying, 'We want a
merry evening, don't we?'
'Yes, of course,' said the matches. 'Let us talk about those who
are the highest born.'
'No, I don't like to be always talking of what we are,' remarked
the saucepan. 'Let us think of some other amusement; I will begin. We
will tell something that has happened to ourselves; that will be very
easy, and interesting as well. On the Baltic Sea, near the Danish
'What a pretty commencement!' said the plates. 'We shall all like
that story, I am sure.'
'Yes. Well, in my youth I lived in a quiet family where the
furniture was polished, the floors scoured, and clean curtains put up,
'What an interesting way you have of relating a story,' said the
carpet broom. 'It is easy to perceive that you have been a great deal
in society, something so pure runs through what you say.'
'That is quite true,' said the water bucket; and it made a spring
with joy and splashed some water on the floor.
Then the saucepan went on with its story, and the end was as good
as the beginning.
The plates rattled with pleasure, and the carpet broom brought some
green parsley out of the dust hole and crowned the saucepan. It knew
this would vex the others, but it thought, 'If I crown him to-day, he
will crown me to-morrow.'
'Now let us have a dance,' said the fire tongs. Then how they
danced and stuck one leg in the air! The chair cushion in the corner
burst with laughter at the sight.
'Shall I be crowned now?' asked the fire tongs. So the broom found
another wreath for the tongs.
'They are only common people after all,' thought the matches. The
tea urn was now asked to sing, but she said she had a cold and could
not sing unless she felt boiling heat within. They all thought this was
affectation; they also considered it affectation that she did not wish
to sing except in the parlor, when on the table with the grand people.
In the window sat an old quill pen, with which the maid generally
wrote. There was nothing remarkable about the pen, except that it had
been dipped too deeply in the ink; but it was proud of that.
'If the tea urn won't sing,' said the pen, 'she needn't. There's a
nightingale in a cage outside, that can sing. She has not been taught
much, certainly, but we need not say anything this evening about that.'
'I think it highly improper,' said the teakettle, who was kitchen
singer and half brother to the tea urn, 'that a rich foreign bird
should be listened to here. Is it patriotic? Let the market basket
decide what is right.'
'I certainly am vexed,' said the basket, 'inwardly vexed, more than
any one can imagine. Are we spending the evening properly? Would it not
be more sensible to put the house in order? If each were in his own
place, I would lead a game. This would be quite another thing.'
'Let us act a play,' said they all. At the same moment the door
opened and the maid came in. Then not one stirred; they remained quite
still, although there was not a single pot among them that had not a
high opinion of himself and of what he could do if he chose.
'Yes, if we had chosen,' each of them thought, 'we might have spent
a very pleasant evening.'
The maid took the matches and lighted them, and dear me, how they
spluttered and blazed up!
'Now then,' they thought, 'every one will see that we are the
first. How we shine! What a light we give!' But even while they spoke
their lights went out.
What a capital story! said the queen. I feel as if I were really
in the kitchen and could see the matches. Yes, you shall marry our
Certainly, said the king, thou shalt have our daughter. The king
said thou to him because he was going to be one of the family. The
wedding day was fixed, and on the evening before, the whole city was
illuminated. Cakes and sweetmeats were thrown among the people. The
street boys stood on tiptoe and shouted Hurrah, and whistled between
their fingers. Altogether it was a very splendid affair.
I will give them another treat, said the merchant's son. So he
went and bought rockets and crackers and every kind of fireworks that
could be thought of, packed them in his trunk, and flew up with it into
the air. What a whizzing and popping they made as they went off! The
Turks, when they saw the sight, jumped so high that their slippers flew
about their ears. It was easy to believe after this that the princess
was really going to marry a Turkish angel.
As soon as the merchant's son had come down to the wood after the
fireworks, he thought, I will go back into the town now and hear what
they think of the entertainment. It was very natural that he should
wish to know. And what strange things people did say, to be sure! Every
one whom he questioned had a different tale to tell, though they all
thought it very beautiful.
I saw the Turkish angel myself, said one. He had eyes like
glittering stars and a head like foaming water.
He flew in a mantle of fire, said another, and lovely little
cherubs peeped out from the folds.
He heard many more fine things about himself and that the next day
he was to be married. After this he went back to the forest to rest
himself in his trunk. It had disappeared! A spark from the fireworks
which remained had set it on fire. It was burned to ashes. So the
merchant's son could not fly any more, nor go to meet his bride. She
stood all day on the roof, waiting for him, and most likely she is
waiting there still, while he wanders through the world telling fairy
talesbut none of them so amusing as the one he related about the