Trivia: The Tinderbox

Alright, haven’t done any fairy tale trivia yet. This is a pretty obscure tale from the great Hans Christian Anderson. While he’s known for classics like The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling, he also has some really weird ones. This is definitely a questionable one.

Let’s begin with a quick telling of the tale, cause the trivia isn’t about the story itself, but a certain element of it.

Once upon a time, a poor soldier was returning home from war. On his way he met a witch (as you do). The witch asked the soldier to climb into a hollow tree and retrieve a magic tinderbox for her. He could anything else he found down there, but he had to give her the tinderbox.

Inside the tree he finds three chambers filled with treasure and guarded by three monstrous dogs. The only description given to these dogs is the size of their eyes. The first dog, who guards a chamber full of copper coins, has eyes “the size of teacups.” The second, who guards a room full of silver coins, has eyes “the size of water wheels.” And the final dog, guarding a room of gold coins, has eyes “the size of the Round Tower.” (The Round Tower is a famous place in Denmark, its basically what it sounds like) So they are some really big dogs.

The soldier fills his pockets with coins, finds the tinderbox, and returns to the witch. However, when the witch asks for the tinderbox as promised, the soldier asks why she wants it. When she refuses to answer, the soldier CUTS OFF HER HEAD!

Our hero everybody.

Anyway, after committing 2nd degree murder, the soldier goes to the big city and lives it up with all that money he took from the tree. But since this guy clearly isn’t the forward thinking man, he goes the way of Vegas and ends up broke and living in an attic with nothing but the tinderbox left. After trying to light a candle with the tinderbox, he discovers he can summon any or all of the dogs that were guarding the rooms full of treasure and that the dogs can bring the treasure to him on command. (Why he didn’t try using the clearly important tinderbox until now is anybodies guess.)

Now that he essentially has access to unlimited money, the soldier starts living it up again. Luckily this is fairy tale logic so he doesn’t immediately tank the economy.

While he’s cavorting around, he hears about the princess of the city who has been locked in a tower by her parents after there was a prophecy stating that she would marry a common soldier. Despite probably being drunk as a sailor 24/7, our protagonist puts two-and-two together and decides to fulfill the prophecy.

Of course, being the stand up guy he is (cough cough), he doesn’t offer to use his giant dogs to save the kingdom or anything. No instead, he waits till night has fallen, summons the smallest dog with his tinderbox, and has the dog fetch the princess and bring her to him (oh no). The soldier, smitten by her beauty (of course), kisses the SLEEPING princess and has the dog return her to her bed. (That could have gone much worse considering what happened to another sleeping princess)

The princess reports to her parents about having a dream about a strange man kissing her. Her parents, showing some surprising competence for fairy tale parents, get suspicious and try to track her location as she is abducted two more times for the soldier to smooch. Finally they find and arrest the soldier who is sentenced to hang.

However, before the soldier can get his just desserts, he asks for a last smoke and uses the tinderbox to summon all three dogs and KILL THE KING, QUEEN, AND PRETTY MUCH THE WHOLE OF THE TOWN’S LAW ENFORCEMENT. He then marries the princess (who just watched her parents get gruesomely murdered) and presumably becomes king of the city. Happily ever after???

Ok, so this story is pretty messed up (what with the supposed good guy murdering, cavorting, and creeping his way into kingship), but that’s not the part I want to talk about. See, the dogs in this story are only ever described by the size of their eyes. Now to me that sounds like a poetic way of saying “these are some really big doggos.” But apparently, not everyone seems to think so, as you can see in this illustration below:

I…I just…WHAT?

This is simultaneously hilarious and horrifying, which I guess describes the fairy tale pretty accurately as well. And this isn’t the only one, take a look on Google and you’ll find some of the most bizarre and twisted illustrations of these dogs. Some don’t even look like dogs, like this one:

I don’t know what these…things are, but they are not dogs.

Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got for today. Hope you all enjoyed!

2 thoughts on “Trivia: The Tinderbox”

  1. My Russian friend read me this story today, practicing his English, and I perceived this story exactly the same way! Haha what an awful story 😂
    However, I will say this first picture of the dogs is about what I was imagining. Neat!

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