Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

The Court Cards

The Court CardsThe Court Cards

A little boy named William once had a castle made out of cutout paper. The castle took up an entire table. Inside the castle where playing cards. William looked through the draw bridge at them.

There were kings and queens and knaves there. One of the knaves spoke to William and said that if he lit a candle, he would tell William the history of the castle. The cards were one human, or near enough to it. He told William of the King and Queen of hearts. They were the oldest and had been able to play all day while growing up.

The knave of diamonds stepped forward to tell of his king and queen, but he also wanted a candle lit. The King and Queen of diamonds had glass plates on their chests that people could look into, otherwise they were normal human beings. They ruled with great honor and a monument was erected in their favor, but only stood seven years.

Then the knave of clubs stepped forward; he told a story that wasn’t quite as prosperous as the other two. The King and Queen of clubs had to go to school to learn. They also had plates of glass on their chests, but nobody looked through them expect to find something wrong. William lit a candle for this knave also because he felt sorry for him.

The knave of spades stepped forward to tell his story. He said that each of the queens and kings should have three candles. He had been injured and had been called terrible names. William lit candles for the knave and for the kings and queens. There were candles everywhere. The kings and queens began to dance, but the whole thing was soon aflame. The fire rose and the cards said they were riding the red horse now. William shouted to his parents that his castle was on fire, but all the cards burned up and the castle with it.

William did not burn the castle and was innocent of the whole thing.


Playing cards have been around a while, obviously, as this story is from the 1800s. Playing cards have been around since around the 11th century. They were first created in China, but Egypt had playing cards as well. The history of playing cards and why they are the way they are, is too long for me to relay here. Let it suffice that playing cards have been around an extremely long time. Anyone in the 1800s would have been quite familiar with the idea of playing cards, including little boys.

I am guessing that this story attempts to tell reasons why each card is given the symbol it is. I don’t know the reason behind why we use clubs, spades, hearts, and diamonds, but there is probably a reason. Again, that reason being too complex to relay in just a paragraph or two.

Some people think playing cards are the devil. This is because of their close association with both gambling, which is a sin according to some, and tarot cards, fortune-telling also being a sin according to some, or tarot cards are just plain devil worship. When you live in the South, lots of things are the devil. You wouldn’t think that in the United States, in this day and age, that there would be people who claim that playing cards are the devil, but there are. I have actually met people who will refuse to play a game of solitaire, let alone poker, because playing cards are evil. Seriously, I have met people like that. Don’t you dare take a pack of cards to their house, you sinner.


This story is a little morbid to me. If William didn’t set the castle on fire, who did? If he didn’t do it, it had to be the cards. One, or more, of the cards set their own darn castle on fire. For meanness? Were they suicidal? Really, what was going on here? Their stories were somewhat sad, you have to admit, but was it so bad that death would be better?

The whole of the cards seemed tired out. If one of your cards in a deck gets ruined, you can’t play a game because you don’t have all your cards. Fifty-one card pickup, just isn’t the same as fifty-two card pickup. You can’t play crazy eights or solitaire with a missing card, nor can you substitute in a piece of paper with three clubs drawn on it. Once one card is ruined, the entire deck is worthless, as far as games go. You throw the entire pack away, or you make card castles out of it, whatever. One card goes–they all go.

The cards were beaten and played. Their time was up.

For someone who has had a hard, rough life, death is a rest. It’s a welcomed thing. These cards took their deaths into their own hands, because they weren’t really of use anymore. Their lives had been difficult and now it was done. I get the desire to go ahead and have it done with. If the cards took their own lives, it’s not William’s fault.


This story is a little dark for children.

Weigh In

Did William burn them or did the cards burn themselves?

Are playing cards really this sad?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s