Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

The Darning Needle

The Darning NeedleThe Darning Needle

There was once a darning needle who fancied herself as an embroidery needle. One day she was used to darn some leather. The needle knew she simply would not get through because of how fine she was and said she would break, and so it was. The needle broke.

The maid who had been sewing, fashioned a bit of wax on the needle and pinned her shirt with it. The needle now fancied herself as a breast-pin. She spoke to another pin on the woman’s shirt.

The darning needle was so proud of herself that she fell out of the woman’s shirt and down the sink where she traveled along. She ended up in the gutter with all the other dirty things. She was turned black. The darning needle made friends with a piece of broken glass. She talked about her past life in a lady’s workbox and how the fingers she worked with had been so conceited. The thumb was ugly. The pointer finger did some things, the middle finger did some things, the ring finger did some things, and the little finger did practically nothing, overall the fingers were rather unimpressive to the needle.

Water washed the piece of glass away and the needle stayed. One day some boys found her and stuck her in a piece of egg shell to be the mast of a ship. A wagon wheel ran over the whole thing. The eggshell cracked. The darning needle thought she would break, but she did not. She stayed where she was.

The End


Needles are important, without needles, you would be running around naked. I’m not going to go into a history of needles, but let’s just say before needles were machine-made, people carried around their sewing needles as prized possessions. If a woman, a poorer woman I might mention, happened to be moving, or what have you, she made sure to take her needles, needle if she only had one. The idea that this needle was reused even though it was broken is a reasonably accurate observation. No one was going to let a needle, even a broken one, go to waste.


I find myself conflicted at this story just a bit. The needle was obviously stuck up. She thought she was something more than she was. Her haughtiness ended her up on a street where the wagon wheels could run over her. At the same time, she believed in herself. She said she was more than just a darning needle and she became more than a darning needle. Sure she ended up on the street, but before that, she had been a darning needle, a breast-pin, and a ship’s mast. That’s more than what could have befallen her had she simply admitted to being a darning needle.

I know Hans was trying to be somewhat moralistic with this story and say that the darning needle was silly because she imagined herself more than a mere darning needle, but I like her for that. I like that she imagined she could be more than simply a darning needle. It turned out that she was able to experience a much richer life than otherwise. There were some hard times involved, but she got to do some cool things.

Doing amazing things doesn’t always mean you’re going to come out on top, but you’ll still be doing amazing things.


I have lost so many needles, this story kind of makes me feel sorry.

Weigh In

Is it better to be only what you are, or is it better to say what you can be?

Where do all the lost needles go?


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