The Tinder-box

The Tinder-boxThe Tinder-box

This story has nothing to do with any adult-friend finder websites, well, never mind, this story is sort of about that.

Once upon a time a soldier was coming home from war. He met an old lady on the road. She asked for his help. There was a tree and that tree had a hollow in it. The woman told him that he must climb down and get all the money he wanted. She only asked that he retrieve her tinder-box when he was down below. She told them there were three dogs down there. One dog had eyes as large as teacups, another had eyes as big as mill wheels, and the third had eyes as big as towers. She told the soldier all he had to do was pick up each dog and set it on her blue-checked tablecloth and the dogs would not bug him.

Down below the soldier found a chest filled with money; he filled his pockets then went to look elsewhere. He then found a room with another dog and another chest. This chest held silver. He put the dog with eyes as big as mill wheels on the tablecloth and filled his pockets with silver. Then he found yet another room with the dog with eyes as big as towers. In that dog’s chest there was gold. After putting that dog on the tablecloth he filled his pockets with gold instead of silver. He went back up; the woman asked him where her tinder-box was; he went back to get it.

When he came up the woman would not tell him what the tinder-box was for, so he killed her. The soldier went on his way and lived richly off of his wealth. He heard of a princess who slept in a tower of copper. It was whispered that she would marry a common soldier. The soldier asked if he could see her and he learned no one was allowed to see her.

After he had spent all of his money he was playing with the tinder-box one night. He struck it and the dog with eyes as big as teacups appeared. The dog asked him what orders he wished to give. The soldier told the dog to bring him money. The dog soon came back with plenty of money. The soldier learned that if he struck the tinder-box once the dog with eyes as big as teacups would appear, twice, and the dog with eyes as big as mill wheels would appear, three times, and the dog with eyes a big as towers would appear.

One night he called the dog with eyes as big as teacups to him and told the dog he wanted to see the princess. The dog rushed off and brought the sleeping princess back on his back. The soldier kissed her. The dog took her back. The next morning she told her parents about her strange dream where a soldier kissed her. They were wise to the whole thing and suspected foul play. They set an old lady to watch the princess.

The dog came again the next night to take the princess. The old lady put on water boots and ran as fast as she could. She marked the house of the soldier with an X so she could show the king the next day. The soldier wised up and marked Xs on all the doors in town. The next day, no one could tell which house had been the soldier’s.

The next night the queen was ready. She made a bag with a hole in it full of buckwheat flour. The dog did not notice the flour spilling out of the bag when he came to get the princess. The trail of flour led right to the soldier’s house. They told him he would be hanged. In jail he bribed a boy to run to his house and get his tinder-box for him. At the gallows he requested to smoke one last pipe. He struck the tinder-box three times and all three dogs appeared. The dogs attacked all the accusers, councilors and judges and killed them.

The king ordered not to be touched, but he was also killed by the dogs.  Everyone was too afraid of the solider to resist, so they said he could be king and he married the princess. The dogs were allowed to sit at the table during the wedding feast.

The End

The Tinder-boxObservations

There is a strange passage in this story.

“Good gracious, what a quantity of gold there was! Enough to buy all the sugar-sticks of the sweet-stuff women.”

I’m guessing that the women were the candy sellers back in the day, but at first glance this passage appears a little strange. I do think this could possibly be taken in more than one manner. Maybe sweet-stuff women isn’t necessarily a descriptor for women who sell candy, maybe they sell other things, you know, like their bodies. I have no basis for this though. I just suggest it could be taken in more than one way.

Why in the world would water boots make you run faster? Boots meant to be worn in water are often heavier than regular boots and more clumsy with their rubber and such. Maybe this woman just really wanted to run through mud puddles or maybe it’s like a video game and how you can equip certain shoes that make you run faster.

For those of you who don’t know, a tinder-box is a little box you would use to start a fire, well, get a spark. You would then have to nourish that spark enough that it would grow into a fire. A tinder-box is basically the equivalent of a lighter. These boxes would have flint, fire steel, and tinder. The tinder would be a piece of char-cloth or other material that would readily hold a spark. Matches eventually came along and replaced tinder-boxes, but if you area  a savvy outdoors-person, you probably take a tinder-box with you on camping trips in case those matches don’t hold up how you want them to.

The Tinder-boxThemes

I wouldn’t call this a story with a happy ending. Sure, he gets to marry the woman(girl) that he wants to marry, but that’s only happy for him. Everyone is not happy. This girl’s parents are dead and her new husband is the reason. The people of this kingdom now have a tyrant ruling over them. Complain all you want about the other guy locking his daughter in a copper tower, this new guy is not nice. He’ll sic his three weird dogs on you and that will be the end of your existence. His people will live in fear.

You don’t have to be a nice guy to win. This soldier is not a nice guy. First off, he just kills this woman out in the woods because she won’t tell him what she wants to do with her own belonging. Then he blows through a large amount of money, seemingly in no time flat. Then he steals a girl from her room three nights in a row. Does he just kiss her or does he do other things to her? Can his dogs get him Rohypnol as well? He then murders all these people including the parents of his soon-to-be wife. He’s not nice. He’s a jerk. He’s using what powers he took by force to make other people do his bidding. What a jerk.

How long until this kingdom is bankrupt? Does the new wife fear for her life daily? What about the people of the kingdom?

This story is not a happy story. This soldier is a harsh person. War might have made him that way or maybe he was that way before he went to war. We could suppose that he was a nice guy before he went to war and came back a tyrant. War does change people; there is no escaping that fact.


This just isn’t a happily ever after. We could even look at this story and see the detriments that war might bring upon a person.

Info: The beautiful illustration for this story was created by Vladislov Erko and he created an entire series of artwork illustrating The Tinder-box.

copper tower, denmark, dog with eyes as big as mill wheels, dog with eyes as big as teacups, dog with eyes as big as towers, hans, Hans Christian Andersen!!, princess, soldier, The Tinder-box, The Tinder-box hans christian andersen, three dogs
Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian


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