The Steadfast Tin Soldier: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

A tin soldier only has eyes for the ballerina, yet both meet a tragic end. In this lesson, we'll look at the Hans Christian Andersen tale, ''The Steadfast Tin Soldier,'' and a few of the tale's central characters.

Eyes on the Prize

When was the last time you were ultra-determined to get what you want? Maybe it was winning an important game, saving for vacation, or earning a high school or college degree. Whatever it was, your determination was unwavering. In fact, some of the people who know you best might have called you committed, devoted or even steadfast. The subject of this lesson, and the namesake of the story, ''The Steadfast Tin Soldier,'' by Hans Christian Andersen, knew a thing or two about standing firm--particularly in the midst of some pretty incredible circumstances.

Let's take a look at the story and its central characters.

''The Steadfast Tin Soldier''

The story opens with an explanation of the group of tin soldiers--25 in total--given to a young boy for his birthday. Andersen keys in on one particular soldier, however, who, like in a litter of kittens, might have been considered the runt of the soldier brothers. He was the last soldier crafted from tin, as the artist ran out of his materials, leaving the soldier with only one leg. Yet, the author tells us that the one-legged soldier was ''remarkable.''

The Steadfast Tin Soldier ultimately meets his paper ballerina in a most unfortunate way.
the steadfast tin soldier, hans christian andersen

The soldiers made their home on a tabletop where there were lovely things to look at, including a paper castle, wax swans, and the centerpiece: a beautiful woman. ''The little lady was a dancer, and she stretched out both her arms, and raised one of her legs so high that the tin soldier could not see it at all, and he thought that she, like himself, had only one leg.'' The soldier was immediately smitten with the dancer.

A Warning and a Fall

Later that evening, a goblin (a small mischievous creature) warns the soldier not to pine for the dancer, but the soldier refuses to listen.

The next morning, the children place the soldier on the windowsill while playing, and he falls from his perch into the street below. The soldier blames the goblin from the previous night for his fateful fall.

Soon, two boys come along and play with the soldier, crafting a paper boat for him to sail in while it rained. The paper boat sails to a drain where the soldier finds a rat waiting to collect a toll. The boat continues on until it falls apart in the water, and a fish gobbles up the tin soldier. Yet, the soldier remains firm.

Spit Out

The fish, having been caught, sold, and taken home to cook, is sliced open to reveal the soldier in its belly. The soldier had managed to find his way back to the same home, with the same paper castle and paper ballerina waiting for him.

The soldier is delighted by how fate has returned him to his ballerina, until one of the children tosses the tin soldier into a nearby fireplace. Though he ''felt himself melting away,'' he remained steadfast watching the ballerina.

Just then, a door in the room is opened and a draft of wind causes the paper ballerina to be swept into the fireplace, where she burns up immediately. The next morning, all that's left of the soldier and the ballerina are a heart-shaped lump of tin and a spangle (or shiny object) from the ballerina's dress.

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