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Literature / The Steadfast Tin Soldier

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"The Steadfast Tin Soldier" (Danish: "Den Standhaftige Tinsoldat") is a Fairy Tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen about the love a one-legged tin soldier holds for a paper ballerina. After several perilous adventures, the tin soldier and his love perish in a fire. The tale was first published in 1838.

Like "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep" (1845), "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" displays Andersen's talent for investing ordinary household objects with life, character, and personality. Both tales narrate romances between household objects but differ in that the 1838 story ends with the lovers joined in death while the 1845 story ends with the lovers living (in fairy tale fashion) happily ever after. Andersen may have taken inspiration for the tale from memories of his few cherished childhood toys.

Though the title has been translated variously as "The Brave Tin Soldier" and "The Courageous Tin Soldier", the story is generally known in the English-speaking world as "The Steadfast Tin Soldier". Interestingly, in some languages, such as French, he's not a "tin" Soldier but a lead one. The tale has been adapted in various media including ballet and animated film.

You can read this here.

"The Steadfast Tin Soldier" has examples of:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The Disney adaptation for Fantasia 2000 changes the ending so that the Tin Soldier and the Ballerina live. The George Balanchine ballet ends with the Ballerina burning up, but not the Tin Soldier.
  • Adaptation Species Change: The bogey in the snuffbox has been interpreted as a troll in many versions, as a jack-in-the-box in the Fantasia version, and a goblin in the 1992 Ottawa Ballet version and its 2000 television adaptation.
  • Arch-Enemy: The "black bogey" in the snuffbox. He only appears early on to threaten the Tin Soldier, though the narrative constantly insinuates he was involved in his bad luck. Somehow.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The soldier and his love both get destroyed in a fire, but at least get to be Together in Death. Borders on a Downer Ending depending on the version you read.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The Tin Soldier is swallowed by a fish that is caught and sold to, out of anyone else, a cook who lives in the house he fell from, who finds him after gutting the fish and places him back among the other toys.
  • Disneyfication:
    • The Fantasia 2000 segment based on this story had an antagonistic jack-in-the-box burn in the place of our hero and his squeeze. This change was only due to the Soundtrack Dissonance that would have resulted if they kept the original ending, which did make it as far as the storyboarding stage and appears as one of the many bonus features in the Fantasia Legacy DVD box set.
    • The 1992 adaptation The Tin Soldier by Ottawa Ballet also spares the Soldier and Ballerina, while shattering the Jack-in-the-Box in their place.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Burning alive in a stove is not a fun way to go.
  • The Hero: The titular Tin Soldier.
  • Honour Before Reason: The Tin Soldier can talk, but refuses to do so while in uniform. Which is always.
  • Kids Are Cruel: One throws the soldier into a stove for no reason at all.
  • Living Toys: The toys come alive when the humans are asleep, and play their own games.
  • Nameless Narrative: As it is often the case with Andersen's stories, nobody is named.
  • Scary Jack-in-the-Box: One is featured in Fantasia 2000’s adaptation of the tale. He also has a crush on the ballerina and thus tries to kill the Tin Soldier.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The Tin Soldier survives at the end of George Balanchine's ballet, as well as the Fantasia 2000 version and the 1992 Ottawa Ballet version. Unfortunately, the Ballerina isn't so lucky in the first of these...
  • Swallowed Whole: Happens to the titular character in the sewer drains.
  • Together in Death: And all that remains of the lovers the morning after their demise is her sequin star (turned black in the fire) and a heart-shaped lump of tin. The Enchanted Musical Playhouse adaptation from The '80s goes further with this, not only including a version of this detail but also showing the lovers' spirits emerging from the fire, waltzing with each other and drifting out of the playroom window.
  • Tragic Keepsake: George Balanchine's ballet ends with the tin soldier sadly retrieving his heart - which he had given to the ballerina - from the fire, before returning to his post.
  • Uniformity Exception: The titular tin soldier is distinguished from his peers by only having one leg, due to the maker running out of tin.