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"The Steadfast Tin Soldier," by Hans Christian Anderson, is a tale of one of twenty-five tin soldiers that are purchased for a little boy's birthday. The steadfast soldier was the last one cast (all from the same spoon), and because there was not enough lead left for him, he has only one leg, but he still stands perfectly straight.
When the soldiers are removed from the box, the last soldier sees a beautiful cardboard castle, with a lovely dancer poised in its doorway. She has her arms outstretched and is standing up on one foot while the other is raised behind her. To the steadfast soldier, it looks like she, too, only has one leg. She is only a paper doll, but has a beautiful dress of "the fluffiest gauze" with a spangle on it. He is sure that she is too good for him, she with her castle, and he only with a box and twenty-four roommates, but he decides to meet her. He lays down next to the box, and when the other soldiers are put away, he is missed.
When the children go to bed, it is time for the toys to play, which they do. The soldier and the young woman gaze steadfastly at each other: he is standing tall and she is reaching for him. However, at midnight, the jack-in-the-box pops out and issues a warning to the soldier which he ignores. Forebodingly, the "black bogey" tells the soldier to wait to see what happens the next day.
When the children come in to play the next day, the soldier is on the window sill. It is uncertain how he came to be there. When the window is opened, however, the tin soldier falls into the bushes below. And though the little boy and the housemaid search and search, they cannot find him. Then it rains "buckets," and two "young rapscallions" find the soldier and put him in a newspaper boat. They launch the boat in the gutter (with all the rainwater) and run along side it. Faster and faster the soldier moves, until he hits an obstacle and the boat—with the steadfast soldier—flows down into the sewer drain. The water is moving really fast, when all at once, a rat pops out under the gutter plank (in the sewer drain) asking for the soldier's passport. The soldier does not respond, though the rat gives chase.
The next thing he knows, the tin soldier and his boat are dumped out into the canal. The water is swirling around and the soldier is sure he is done-for when he is swallowed by a giant fish. It is very dark inside; the fish flops around and abruptly is still. All of a sudden a light appears in a flash, and someone exclaims, "The tin soldier!" He had been swallowed by a fish, which was caught and sold at the market, and had amazingly been purchased by the family to which he belonged.
Everyone makes a great fuss when he is returned to the playroom, though the tin soldier does not feel it necessary. Still waiting in the doorway to the castle is the lovely dancer, and the two gaze steadfastly at each other. Finally, it seems as if things will finally go well for the steadfast tin soldier until one of the boys grabs him and throws him in the fire. The soldier knows this is it. He gazes at the dancer as he starts to melt; but then, the door to the stove blows open and the dancer is swept into the fire as well, disintegrating immediately. Slowly the steadfast tin soldier melts away.
When the maid cleans up the ashes the next day, all that is left is a tin heart and the blackened spangle.