Off the Shelf: The Steadfast Tin Soldier


It isn’t often that you find an entire book dedicated to just one of Hans Christian Andersen’s lesser known tales. I found this copy of “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” at this great secondhand bookstore here in San Diego, and I want to share the illustrations with you.

I get a kick of comparing how different artists interpret the same scenes from literature. So, here is Rachel Isadora’s take on this sad, sad story.

Here is the little boy playing with the steadfast tin soldier, who stands just as steadfastly on one leg as the other soldiers do on two.



And here is the soldier spotting the beautiful paper ballerina and falling instantly in love. He’s drawn to her because he thinks she only has one leg, too, although she’s just frozen in a dance pose.




Here is the mysterious goblin that causes all the trouble. Seriously, what is he supposed to represent?



Uh-oh. A gust of wind blows the little man out the window and onto the street…




Where he ends up in a paper boat, which then sinks, and he has his famous encounter with the fish.



Here’s the tin soldier inside the fish.


I think this one is really interesting with the fish’s body all gutted. Kid-appropriate?


Oh joy! The steadfast tin solider is returned to his owner and reunited with the lovely ballerina. But not for long…


Any other story would end happily ever after at this point, but this is a Hans Christian Andersen story, so it’s going to end in DEATH.



The two incinerate together. But, Andersen doesn’t leave it there. He has to tug on our heartstrings a little bit. So, the next morning, the housekeeper is cleaning out the stove, and she finds a black jewel, the miraculous remains of the ballerina, and a lump of tin in the shape of a heart, the soldier.



Does this story depress you or inspire you?



2 thoughts on “Off the Shelf: The Steadfast Tin Soldier

  1. Hi, thanks for sharing this story. I had completely forgotten about this one. I have a sewing pattern for the solider and the ballerina from Tilda’s fairy tale wonderland. I should make them one day. Beautiful illustrations. Thanks again.

  2. Sad and beautiful! Men tend to die before their wives. This couple died together and left behind an enduring symbol of their love.

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