Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

The Flea and the Professor

The Flea and the ProfessorThe Flea and the Professor

There was once a man who was a showman. He had a boy one time who would go with him in a hot air balloon, but that didn’t last. Then he had a woman with him who would help him with his acts, but she too got tired of being with the professor and went on. The professor finally got a flea, which he trained to do tricks. It was a great sight. People were highly entertained by the flea and the professor decided to travel the world.

He went on a ship, where he got free passage because of the performing flea. He finally arrived in strange countries, often not traveled to by Christian men, because those countries ate Christian men. The Professor figured he was safe enough as he was not entirely a Christian and the flea was not a man.

The professor ended up at a palace, which was ruled by an eight-year old girl. She was delighted by the flea and told the flea it must stay. She tied the flea to a piece of hair, which was secured to her earring. There the flea had to stay. The Professor knew he could not stay always. They ate people here, which was not good. So the professor told the young queen that he would teach her father to shoot off a cannon, but the flea’s cannon was much too small, he would have to cast a new one. He asked for silk and needles and thread, which are not the things cannons are made of at all.

These things were provided. The professor made a hot air balloon and not a cannon. He got inside and said to the people that he was not skilled enough to steer “the cannon” and that the flea must do it. The princess was reluctant to let him go, but she did anyway. The professor said he would be back when “the cannon” was cooled. The “cannon” lifted up into the air and floated away with the flea and the Professor. The people waited and they are waiting still. They talk about the Professor and flea that will come back when the cannon is cooled. The professor has since returned to his native land where he and the flea are both quite comfortable.


I did a bit of research on flea circuses. They used to be a real thing, but they aren’t really a thing anymore. The fleas were not actually trained to perform tasks, but people did watch them to see if they were fleas that jumped a lot or fleas that walked a lot. The fleas were then harassed using a tiny gold thread. This thread could then be attached to other objects. Fleas could push objects by trying to jump away from them or pull objects. Fleas are quite strong for their size so the objects fleas could pull could be quite a bit larger than themselves.

If you find a flea circus where fleas aren’t actually doing anything, but are still there, and mechanics are moving the objects instead, that’s called a “humbug” flea circus.


People can definitely be gullible. The Professor told these natives he was making a cannon, but you can’t make a cannon out of silk. He tricked them and they think he’s still coming back. This just goes to show you that if you’re sheltered in some way, you can be taken advantage of. I’m glad this guy got away; I am, but was it right that he took advantage of some rather peaceful cannibals? Neither of these parties were in the right on this. Each party had something they were guilty of, so should one party triumph over the other? It’s a question of choice, but most of us would say the Professor should have triumphed because the cannibals were cannibals, and nobody likes a cannibal.

While cannibalism isn’t great, this story leads us to question whether it’s good or not to be naive. These cannibals were taken advantage of. We’re not cheering for them because they’re cannibals, but what if they weren’t cannibals and they were Amish people. Would we still cheer on the Professor if that were the case? Wouldn’t we question how people could be so naive as to believe you could make a cannon out of silk? Amish people probably know that you can’t make a cannon out of silk, they’re a bit more worldly than the cannibals in this story.

Forgetting both cannibals and Amish people, there are people who are naive and unaware of certain things in the world. People, like the Professor, end up taking advantage of them because the people simply don’t know otherwise. They simply have no experience in order to fathom why someone would trick them in this manner. While we may laugh at these cannibals, this story is rather unfortunate in the fact that somebody did take advantage of them for their lack of knowledge.


I used to have a friend that believed onions grew on trees. We could not convince her otherwise, especially after a teacher told her that onions grew on trees. She thought we were teasing her.

Weigh In

Do you think it’s ever good to be naive?

We try to shelter our children, but does it do them good in the long run?


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