The Teapot by Hans Christian Andersen
THERE was once a proud teapot; it was proud of being porcelain,
proud of its long spout, proud of its broad handle. It had something
before and behind,the spout before and the handle behind,and that
was what it talked about. But it did not talk of its lid, which was
cracked and riveted; these were defects, and one does not talk of one's
defects, for there are plenty of others to do that. The cups, the cream
pot, and the sugar bowl, the whole tea service, would think much
oftener of the lid's imperfectionsand talk about themthan of the
sound handle and the remarkable spout. The teapot knew it.
I know you, it said within itself. I know, too, my imperfection,
and I am well aware that in that very thing is seen my humility, my
modesty. Imperfections we all have, but we also have compensations. The
cups have a handle, the sugar bowl a lid; I have both, and one thing
besides, in front, which they can never have. I have a spout, and that
makes me the queen of the tea table. I spread abroad a blessing on
thirsting mankind, for in me the Chinese leaves are brewed in the
boiling, tasteless water.
All this said the teapot in its fresh young life. It stood on the
table that was spread for tea; it was lifted by a very delicate hand,
but the delicate hand was awkward. The teapot fell, the spout snapped
off, and the handle snapped off. The lid was no worse to speak of; the
worst had been spoken of that.
The teapot lay in a swoon on the floor, while the boiling water ran
out of it. It was a horrid shame, but the worst was that everybody
jeered at it; they jeered at the teapot and not at the awkward hand.
I never shall forget that experience, said the teapot, when it
afterward talked of its life. I was called an invalid, and placed in a
corner, and the next day was given to a woman who begged for victuals.
I fell into poverty, and stood dumb both outside and in. But then, just
as I was, began my better life. One can be one thing and still become
Earth was placed in me. For a teapot, this is the same as being
buried, but in the earth was placed a flower bulb. Who placed it there,
who gave it, I know not; but given it was, and it became a compensation
for the Chinese leaves and the boiling water, a compensation for the
broken handle and spout.
And the bulb lay in the earth, the bulb lay in me; it became my
heart, my living heart, such as I had never before possessed. There was
life in me, power and might. The heart pulsed, and the bulb put forth
sprouts; it was the springing up of thoughts and feelings which burst
forth into flower.
I saw it, I bore it, I forgot myself in its delight. Blessed is it
to forget oneself in another. The flower gave me no thanks; it did not
think of me. It was admired and praised, and I was glad at that. How
happy it must have been! One day I heard some one say that the flower
deserved a better pot. I was thumped hard on my back, which was a great
affliction, and the flower was put into a better pot. I was thrown out
into the yard, where I lie as an old potsherd. But I have the memory,
and that I can never lose.