Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

The Old Bachelor’s Nightcap

The Old Bachelor's Nightcap The Old Bachelor’s Nightcap

There is a certain area of town where men sell spices and pepper. The people in this area of town are known as the pepper gentry. The men who sell the wares there dress in an odd fashion and are single. They never married and remained bachelors their entire lives.

One such bachelor was named Anthony. He wore two nightcaps. He was so accustomed to wearing them, that he always wore at least one. At night he would cry into his nightcap because he was alone.

Anthony had not always been poor; he had not always been alone. When Anthony was young, he was friends with a girl named Molly. Both their families were fairly well off, but Molly’s family was better off than Anthony’s. They vexed each other as children. Molly tried to get a pack of girls to kiss Anthony. Molly and Anthony were still good friends though. They planted an apple seed together and it grew into a tree.

When the two were a little older, Molly told Anthony that they could not be together because they were so different in background. This made Anthony very angry. He swore he would tear down the apple tree, but never got around to it because he became ill. Soon after, Anthony’s family went bankrupt. Anthony had to go and learn a trade. This was how he became a pepperer. He lived alone in a sad little place. It was cold and Anthony’s bones grew tired.

He stayed made for many years at Molly and was also sad about it. He cried many nights into his night-cap.

There came a terrible snow and the neighbors didn’t notice that Anthony hadn’t been out of his house in several days. This was finally investigated and Anthony was found dead clutching his night-cap. He was buried with a night-cap still, but a new one. On his deathbed, he thought of saints and youth. Years later someone bought his night-cap. Inside of it was something unexpected, pearls. The tears Anthony had cried so many nights had turned into peals. Each person who put on Anthony’s night-cap felt a little bit of the sorrow Anthony had felt in his life. It is said that no one should wish for a bachelor’s nightcap.


I jut have to wonder if there were really spice sellers who dressed all crazy in Germany. I wonder how and why such a tradition developed. It would be very interesting to read more on the subject.

You might be wondering why in the heck a person would sleep with a cap on. The simple answer is that it got freaking cold at night. We’re talking about Germany and the Scandinavian region. It gets cold up there. You didn’t have central heat, back in the day, so your head would have been freezing at night. You wore a night-cap to keep your head warm. Maybe Anthony was especially sensitive to cold, thus explaining why he would wear two nightcaps.


Anthony, poor Anthony–what a terrible life. He had friendship and then lost it. He had a comfortable state, then lost it. He had sorrows by the bucket full. His life was awful. He lived alone and worked for someone else. Anthony’s life was a shadow of a real life.

The scriptures say a man is that he might have joy. Anthony didn’t have joy; he mostly had sorrow. People are meant to be around other people. People are meant to have families in one form or another. People are not meant to be alone. Anthony experienced a profound loneliness and bitterness his entire life. No one else would want to experience that. The guy cried pretty much every single night. We’ve all had ourselves a night-time cry, but we don’t do it every night, unless we’re depressed.

Nobody wanted Anthony’s life. That’s the whole idea in this story. Even a small object connected with him, his night-cap, held enough sorrow that it affected people. We don’t want loneliness. We don’t want poverty. We don’t want to cry ourselves to sleep every night. We don’t want to be Anthony. We don’t want to possess a bachelor’s night-cap.


Poor Anthony. I’m glad he’s not suffering anymore.

Weigh In

Is there an object you would choose not to possess because of the mental state of its previous owner?

Why do you think Anthony never put more joy into his life?


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