The fire appliance

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15 min

HC Andersen

A soldier came marching along the main road: "Left, right - left, right." He had a backpack on his back and a sword at his side. He had been away in the war and was now on his way home.

During his trek, he met a terrifying old witch on the way. Her lower lip almost hung down on her chest. She stopped and said: “Good evening, soldier! You have a very nice sword and a big backpack. Since you are a real soldier, you will get as much money as you ever want.

"Thank you, you old witch," said the soldier.

"Do you see the big tree?" said the witch, pointing to a tree standing next to them. "It's almost completely hollow inside. If you climb up to the top, you'll see a big hole. There you can climb deep into the tree. I'll tie a rope around you, so I can pull you up when you call to me.”

"But what shall I do down there?" asked the soldier.

“Get money.” she replied, “When you have come down to the ground under the tree, you will see a great hall, lit by 300 lamps. You will then see three doors, which can be easily opened because the keys are in the locks. When you enter the first room, you will see a large chest in the middle of the room. On top of the coffin sits a dog with eyes as big as teacups, but you don't have to be afraid of him. You shall take my blue checkered apron with you and lay it on the floor in front of the coffin. If you lift the dog off the chest and place it on the apron, you can then open the chest and take as many coins as you wish. There are only copper coins in the chest. If you would rather have silver coins, you should go into the other room. There you will find a dog with eyes as big as mill wheels but don't worry about that. Just put him on my apron and take as many silver coins as you want. If, on the other hand, you want gold coins, you must go into the third room. There you will find another chest full of gold coins. The dog sitting on this coffin is very terrifying. His eyes are big as ferris wheels, but don't mind him. If you place him on my apron he won't hurt you and you can take as many gold coins as you want.

“This was not a bad story,” said the soldier, “but what shall I give you, you old hag? Because of course you didn't tell all this without you getting something out of it yourself."

“No,” said the witch, “but I don't want a single coin. You just have to promise me to bring an old fire device, which my grandmother forgot the last time she was down there."

“OK, I promise. Now tie a rope around my body.”

"Here it is," replied the witch, "and here is the blue checkered apron,"

As soon as the soldier tied the rope around his body, he climbed up the tree and made his way down through the hole to the ground under the tree. Here he saw, just as the witch had said, a large hall, where hundreds of lamps were burning. He opened the first door and there sat the dog with eyes as big as teacups, staring at him.
"You were a beautiful dog bark to me," said the soldier, lifting him from the coffin and placing him on the witch's apron. He then opened the chest and filled his pockets with coins. Then he closed the lid, placed the dog on top and went into the next room. There, of course, sat the dog with eyes as big as mill wheels.

"You shouldn't look at me like that," said the soldier, "you might hurt your eyes." He then lifted the dog down from the coffin, placed it on the apron and opened the coffin. When he saw how many silver coins were in it, he threw away all the copper coins he had picked up and instead filled both his pockets and knapsack full of silver coins.

He then went into the third room and there sat a dog that was truly terrifying. His eyes were really big like Ferris wheels and they were rolling around, around in his head.

"Good morning," said the soldier, raising his hand to his cap in salute. He had never seen such a dog before, but after looking at him for a while, he plucked up courage, lifted him to the floor, and opened the chest. Gentle times, so much gold there was! Enough to buy any amount of candy, all the tin soldiers and all the rocking horses in the entire world. Yes, he could certainly buy the whole city. There were indeed many gold coins in the chest. He now threw away all the silver coins he had taken and filled his pockets and his knapsack with gold coins. He also filled his cap with coins and even his boots, so that he could hardly walk.

He then put the dog back on the coffin, closed the door, and called up through the tree: "Pull me up now, you old witch."

“Do you have the stove?” asked the witch.
"No, I forgot that one." Answered the soldier and went back and got the fire device. The witch then pulled him out of the tree and he was now once again on the road. Now with pockets, backpack, hat and boots full of gold coins.

"What are you going to do with the fire device?" asked the soldier.

"You have nothing to do with that." replied the witch. "You have your money, now give me the fire device."

"You know what," said the soldier, "if you don't tell me what to do with the fire device, I'll cut your head off."

"No, I won't tell you." said the witch.

The soldier then immediately cut off the witch's head. He put all his coins in the apron he had been given by the witch, tied it together like a sack, threw it on his back, put the fire device in his pocket and started walking towards the nearest town. It was a very nice city. There he entered the best inn in town and ordered a sumptuous dinner, as he was now rich and had plenty of money.

The servant who polished the soldier's shoes wondered why such a rich man had such worn shoes. The very next day, however, he went out into town and bought new, nice clothes and real shoes. Our soldier soon became known as a fine gentleman whom people visited. They then told about all the nice places you could visit in the city and about the king's beautiful daughter, the princess.

“Where can I see her?” asked the soldier.

"You can't see her at all." it was told, “She lives in a great copper castle, surrounded by a high wall. No one but the king himself is allowed to pass in or out of the castle, because there is a prediction that the princess will marry a simple soldier and such a marriage the king cannot imagine.”

"I would very much like to see her," thought the soldier, but he could get no permission to do so. However, he lived well, he went to the theater and walked in the king's garden. He also gave away a lot of money to the poor, because he remembered how it had been in the old days, when he was forced to live without a single nickel. Now he was rich, had fine clothes and many friends, all of whom thought he was a good person and a real gentleman. However, the money didn't last forever and since he gave away a lot every day and had no income, he suddenly found himself one day with only a few coins left. He then had to leave his nice rooms and move into a small scrub up in the attic. He now had to polish his boots and mend his clothes himself. None of his friends visited him anymore. One dark night he didn't even have money to buy a candle. Then he remembered the fire device he had brought with him from the hollow tree.

He took the lighter out of his pocket and struck the flint against the steel to make fire. Already after the first spark the door flew open and the dog with eyes as big as teacups stood before him and said: "What can I do for my master?"

"Oh well," thought the soldier, "this was a funny fire device. Can you wish for anything?”
"Get me some money," he said to the dog.

The dog ran away at once, but returned after a while carrying a bag of copper coins in its mouth. The soldier soon understood the value of the fire device. If he struck once with the flint, the dog sitting on the chest came with copper coins. If he hit twice the dog came from the silver chest and if he hit three times the dog came from the chest with gold coins. The soldier now again had plenty of money, returned to the fine rooms, and again appeared in fine clothes. His old friends returned to him and socialized with him as before.

The soldier again began to think of the princess and thought it very strange that no one could see henna. “Everyone says she's beautiful,” he thought to himself, “but what's the use if she has to be locked up in a copper castle with great protective walls all around. There must be a way to be able to see her. Of course!”, he suddenly thought, “Where is the fire device?” Then he struck a spark and immediately the dog stood before him with eyes as big as teacups.

"It is midnight," said the soldier, "but I would still like to see the princess, if only for a little while."

The dog immediately disappeared and immediately returned with the princess. She lay on the dog's back and slept. She was so beautiful that everyone who saw her immediately understood that she was a real princess. The soldier was so captivated by her that he could not resist kissing her. Then the dog ran back to the castle with the princess.

The next morning, when the princess was breakfasting with the king and queen, she told what a strange dream she had had during the night. It had been about a dog and a soldier. She had ridden on the dog's back and she had been kissed by the soldier.

"It was indeed a sweet story," said the Queen. However, she became worried about her and the next night one of her court ladies was made to sit with her to see if it was really a dream or if it might be something else.

The soldier so longed to see the princess again, that he again sent for the dog and asked it to fetch her for him during the night. However, the court lady on guard saw what was happening and when the dog ran away with the princess, she put on her hunting boots and ran after the dog. She then saw that the dog carried the princess into a large house. To make it easier to remember which house it was, she drew a large cross on the gate with a piece of chalk. The court lady then returned to the castle and the dog carried the princess back to her bed. However, the dog saw the cross on the gate and understood that it was the woman he had seen following who had done it. The dog then took another piece of chalk and painted crosses on all the gates in the city so that the woman would not see which door she herself had marked.

The next morning the king and queen went with the lady-in-waiting to see where the princess had been. They also had with them all the officers of the king's guard.

"Here it is," said the king, when they came to the first gate on which there was a cross drawn.

“No, my dear husband, it must be this one,” said the queen, pointing to the next gate which also had a cross.

"And here's one, and here's another!" they all exclaimed for there were crosses on every door in every direction.

They then felt that it was pointless to look for the right house. The queen, however, was an intelligent woman, who could do more than ride in the king's carriage. She took large gold scissors and cut out small squares from a piece of fine silk, which she then made into a small bag. She filled the bag with wheat groats, tied it around her neck, and then cut a small hole in the bag so that the groats would be sprinkled on the ground when the princess was taken away.

During the night the dog came again, took the princess on his back and ran back with her to the soldier who loved her very much and wished he had been a prince so that he could have married her. The dog had not noticed that the grit had fallen out of the bag along the way and formed a string all the way from the castle wall to the house where the soldier lived. Therefore, the king and queen could easily find where their daughter had been and the soldier was put in prison.

In the prison it was really dark and horrible in every way. One day they said to him: "Tomorrow you will be hanged." It wasn't good news, besides, the fire apparatus had been left at the inn. In the morning he could see through the barred window how people gathered to watch him being hanged. He heard the drums and saw the soldiers marching. All the people gathered to watch the hanging. One of them was a shoemaker's boy in a leather apron and wooden slippers who ran so fast that one of his slippers flew off and bounced against the wall where the soldier sat peering out the barred window. "Hey there, shoemaker boy, you don't need to be in such a hurry." he called to the boy. “Still, there will be no hanging before I come. But if you want to run away to the house where I lived and get my fire device, you will get four gold coins, but you must run as fast as possible.” The shoemaker's boy wanted the money, so he ran as fast as he could to the inn, fetched the lighter, and gave it to the soldier, who put it in his pocket.

The soldier was then taken out to be hanged. Around the gallows stood soldiers and thousands of people. The king and queen sat on their stately thrones facing the judges and the king's council. When the soldier stood on the ladder of the gallows, just before the rope was to be put around his neck, he said: "It is customary to let a prisoner who was about to die have his last wish fulfilled. I would like to smoke a pipe before I die.” The king granted him this last wish. The soldier then took out his incendiary device and struck out sparks once, twice, three times. Immediately all three dogs stood there. The one with eyes as big as teacups, the one with eyes as big as mill wheels and the one with eyes as big as ferris wheels.
"Now help me so I don't get hanged." cried the soldier.

The dogs then put their teeth into the judges and council members and tossed them into the air so that they fell hard to the ground. "Do not touch me!" cried the king. But the biggest dog did the same dance with both him and the queen and threw them after the others.

The soldiers and the people then became afraid and shouted: "Good soldier, you will be our king and you will marry the beautiful princess."

They then placed the soldier in the king's chariot and the three dogs ran ahead. The people shouted: "Hurrah!", the boy whistled and the soldiers fired rifles. The princess came out of the copper castle and became queen, which she liked very much. The wedding went on for a whole week and the dogs sat at the table and stared with their strange eyes.

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