The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep by Hans Christian Andersen
HAVE you ever seen an old wooden cabinet, quite worn black with age,
and ornamented with all sorts of carved figures and flourishes?
Just such a one stood in a certain parlor. It was a legacy from the
great-grandmother, and was covered from top to bottom with carved roses
and tulips. The most curious flourishes were on it, too; and between
them peered forth little stags' heads, with their zigzag antlers. On
the door panel had been carved the entire figure of a man, a most
ridiculous man to look at, for he grinnedyou could not call it
smiling or laughingin the drollest way. Moreover, he had crooked
legs, little horns upon his forehead, and a long beard.
The children used to call him the crooked-legged
field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant, which was a long, hard
name to pronounce. Very few there are, whether in wood or in stone, who
could get such a title. Surely to have cut him out in wood was no
trifling task. However, there he was. His eyes were always fixed upon
the table below, and toward the mirror, for upon this table stood a
charming little porcelain shepherdess, her mantle gathered gracefully
about her and fastened with a red rose. Her shoes and hat were gilded,
and her hand held a shepherd's crook; she was very lovely. Close by her
stood a little chimney sweep, also of porcelain. He was as clean and
neat as any other figure. Indeed, he might as well have been made a
prince as a sweep, since he was only make-believe; for though
everywhere else he was as black as a coal, his round, bright face was
as fresh and rosy as a girl's. This was certainly a mistakeit ought
to have been black.
There he stood so prettily, with his ladder in his hand, quite close
to the shepherdess. From the first he had been placed there, and he
always remained on the same spot; for they had promised to be true to
each other. They suited each other exactlythey were both young, both
of the same kind of porcelain, and both equally fragile.
Close to them stood another figure three times as large as
themselves. It was an old Chinaman, a mandarin, who could nod his head.
He was of porcelain, too, and he said he was the grandfather of the
shepherdess; but this he could not prove. He insisted that he had
authority over her, and so when the crooked-legged
field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant made proposals to the
little shepherdess, he nodded his head, in token of his consent.
You will have a husband, said the old mandarin to her, a husband
who, I verily believe, is of mahogany wood. You will be the wife of a
field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant, of a man who has a whole
cabinet full of silver plate, besides a store of no one knows what in
the secret drawers.
I will never go into that dismal cabinet, declared the little
shepherdess. I have heard it said that there are eleven porcelain
ladies already imprisoned there.
Then, rejoined the mandarin, you will be the twelfth, and you
will be in good company. This very night, when the old cabinet creaks,
we shall keep the wedding, as surely as I am a Chinese mandarin. And
upon this he nodded his head and fell asleep.
But the little shepherdess wept, and turned to the beloved of her
heart, the porcelain chimney sweep.
I believe I must ask you, she said, to go out with me into the
wide world, for here it is not possible for us to stay.
I will do in everything as you wish, replied the little chimney
sweep. Let us go at once. I am sure I can support you by my trade.
If we were only down from the table, said she. I shall not feel
safe till we are far away out in the wide world and free.
The little chimney sweep comforted her, and showed her how to set
her little foot on the carved edges, and on the gilded foliage twining
round the leg of the table, till at last they both reached the floor.
But, turning for a last look at the old cabinet, they saw that
everything was in commotion. All the carved stags stretched their heads
farther out than before, raised their antlers, and moved their throats,
while the crooked-legged field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant
sprang up and shouted to the old Chinese mandarin, Look! they are
eloping! they are eloping!
They were not a little frightened at this, and jumped quickly into
an open drawer in the window seat.
Here lay three or four packs of cards that were not quite complete,
and a little doll's theater, which had been set up as nicely as could
be. A play was going on, and all the queens sat in the front row, and
fanned themselves with the flowers which they held in their hands,
while behind them stood the knaves, each with two heads, one above and
one below, as playing cards have. The play was about two persons who
were not allowed to marry, and the shepherdess cried, for it seemed so
like her own story.
I cannot bear this! she said. Let us leave the drawer.
But when she had again reached the floor she looked up at the table
and saw that the old Chinese mandarin was awake, and that he was
rocking his whole body to and fro with rage.
The old mandarin is coming! cried she, and down she fell on her
porcelain knees, so frightened was she.
I have thought of a plan, said the chimney sweep. Suppose we
creep into the jar of perfumes, the potpourri vase which stands in the
corner. There we can rest upon roses and lavender, and throw salt in
his eyes if he comes near.
That will not do at all, she said. Besides, I know that the old
mandarin and the potpourri vase were once betrothed; and no doubt some
slight friendship still exists between them. No, there is no help for
it; we must wander forth together into the wide world.
Have you really the courage to go out into the wide world with me?
asked the chimney sweep. Have you considered how large it is, and that
if we go, we can never come back?
I have, replied she.
And the chimney sweep looked earnestly at her and said, My way lies
through the chimney. Have you really the courage to go with me through
the stove, and creep through the flues and the tunnel? Well do I know
the way! we shall come out by the chimney, and then I shall know how to
manage. We shall mount so high that they can never reach us, and at the
top there is an opening that leads out into the wide world.
And he led her to the door of the stove.
Oh, how black it looks! she said. Still she went on with him,
through the stove, the flues, and the tunnel, where it was as dark as
Now we are in the chimney, said he; and see what a lovely star
shines above us.
There actually was a star in the sky, that was shining right down
upon them, as if to show them the way. Now they climbed and crepta
frightful way it was, so steep and high! But he went first to guide,
and to smooth the way as much as he could. He showed her the best
places on which to set her little china foot, till at last they came to
the edge of the chimney and sat down to rest, for they were very tired,
as may well be supposed.
The sky and all its stars were above them, and below lay all the
roofs of the town. They saw all around them the great, wide world. It
was not like what the poor little shepherdess had fancied it, and she
leaned her little head upon her chimney sweep's shoulder and wept so
bitterly that the gilding was washed from her golden sash.
This is too much, said she; it is more than I can bear. The world
is too large! I wish I were safe back again upon the little table under
the mirror. I shall never be happy till I am there once more. I have
followed you out into the wide world. Surely, if you really love me,
you will follow me back.
The chimney sweep tried to reason with her. He reminded her of the
old mandarin, and the crooked-legged
field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant, but she wept so
bitterly, and kissed her little chimney sweep so fondly, that he could
not do otherwise than as she wished, foolish as it was.
So they climbed down the chimney, though with the greatest
difficulty, crept through the flues, and into the stove, where they
paused to listen behind the door, to discover what might be going on in
All was quiet, and they peeped out. Alas! there on the floor lay the
old mandarin. He had fallen from the table in his attempt to follow the
runaways, and had broken into three pieces. His whole back had come off
in a single piece, and his head had rolled into a corner. The
crooked-legged field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant stood
where he had always stood, reflecting upon what had happened.
This is shocking! said the little shepherdess. My old grandfather
is broken in pieces, and we are the cause of it, and she wrung her
He can be riveted, said the chimney sweep; he can certainly be
riveted. Do not grieve so! If they cement his back and put a rivet
through his neck, he will be just as good as new, and will be able to
say as many disagreeable things to us as ever.
Do you really think so? asked she. Then they climbed again up to
the place where they had stood before.
How far we have been, observed the chimney sweep, and since we
have got no farther than this, we might have saved ourselves all the
I wish grandfather were mended, said the shepherdess; I wonder if
it will cost very much.
Mended he was. The family had his back cemented and his neck
riveted, so that he was as good as new, only he could not nod.
You have become proud since you were broken to shivers, observed
the crooked-legged field-marshal-major-general-corporal-sergeant, but
I must say, for my part, I don't see much to be proud of. Am I to have
her, or am I not? Just answer me that.
The chimney sweep and the shepherdess looked most piteously at the
old mandarin. They were so afraid that he would nod his head. But he
could not, and it would have been beneath his dignity to have confessed
to having a rivet in his neck. So the young porcelain people always
remained together, and they blessed the grandfather's rivet and loved
each other till they were broken in pieces.