In one of my visits to the Takapuna Sunday market I was chatting to a woman who was selling life-size wooden bulldogs. I made a smart comment about people who purchase wooden dogs and she said that she owns a real one. A week later she visited my studio together with her daughter. Being so heavy, the dog would not climb and kept drooling so they both made a huge effort to lift him off the floor and onto the armchair. The image sat in my collection until I trespassed into this fire damaged house in Sunnynook!
“The Steadfast Tin Soldier” is a literary fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about a tin soldier’s love for a paper ballerina. The tale was first published in October 1838 in the first booklet of Fairy Tales Told for Children. It has since been adapted to various media including ballet and animated film.
On his birthday, a boy receives a set of 25 toy soldiers all cast from one old tin spoon and arrays them on a table top. One soldier stands on a single leg because, as he was the last one cast, there was not enough metal to make him whole. Nearby, the soldier spies a pretty paper ballerina with a spangle on her sash. She, too, is standing on one leg, and the soldier falls in love. That night, a goblin among the toys in the form of a jack-in-the-box, who also loves the ballerina, angrily warns the soldier to take his eyes off her, but the soldier ignores him.
The next day, the soldier falls from a windowsill (presumably the work of the goblin) and lands in the street. Two boys find the soldier, place him in a paper boat, and set him sailing in the gutter. The boat and its passenger wash into a storm drain, where a rat demands the soldier pay a toll.
Sailing on, the boat is washed into a canal, where the tin soldier is swallowed by a fish. When this fish is caught and cut open, the tin soldier finds himself once again on the table top before the ballerina. Inexplicably, the boy throws the tin soldier into the fire, which is most likely the work of the jack-in-the-box goblin. A wind blows the ballerina into the fire with him; she is consumed by it. The maid cleans the fireplace in the morning and finds that the soldier has melted into a little tin heart, along with the ballerina’s spangle, which is now burned black as coal.