In the Nursery

In the Nursery –  Illustration

By Hans Christian Andersen (1865)

Father, and mother, and brothers, and sisters, were gone to the play ; only little Anna and her godfather were left at home.

We’ll have a play too,’ he said ; ‘ and it may begin immediately.’

‘ But we have no theatre,’ cried little Anna, ‘ and we have no one to act for us : my old doll cannot, for she is a fright, and my new one cannot, for she must not rumple her new clothes.

‘ One can always get actors if one makes use of what one has,’ observed Godfather.

‘ Now we build the theatre. Here we will put up a book, there another, and there a third, in a sloping row. Now three on the other side ; so, now we have the side-scenes.

The old box that lies yonder may be the background ; and we’ll turn the bottom outwards. The stage represents a room, as every one may see. Now we want the actors. Let us see what we can find in the play-box. First the personages, and then we will get the play ready : one after the other, that will be capital ! Here’s a pipe-head, and yonder an odd glove ; they will do very well for father and daughter.’

But those are only two characters,’ said little Anna. Here ‘s my brother’s old waistcoat could not that play in our piece, too ? ‘

‘ It ‘s big enough, certainly,’ replied Godfather. ‘ It shall be the lover. There’s nothing in the pockets, and that ‘s very interesting, for that ‘s half of an unfortunate attachment. And here we have the nut-crackers’ boots, with spurs to them. Row, dow, dow ! how they can stamp and strut ! They shall represent the unwelcome wooer, whom the lady does not like. What kind of play will you have now ? Shall it be a tragedy, or a domestic drama ? ‘

‘ A domestic drama, please,’ said little Anna ; ‘ for the others are so fond of that. Do you know one ? ‘

‘ I know a hundred,’ said Godfather. ‘ Those that are most in favour are from the French, but they are not good for little girls. In the meantime, we may take one of the prettiest, for inside they’re all very much alike. Now I shake the pen ! Cock-a-lorum ! So now, here ‘s the play, brin-bran-span new ! Now listen to the play -bill.’

And Godfather took a newspaper, and read as if he were reading from it :


A Family Drama in one Act


MR. PIPE- HEAD, a father. MR. WAISTCOAT, a lover.

Miss GLOVE, a daughter. MR. DE BOOTS, a suitor.

And now we’re going to begin. The curtain rises : we have no curtain, so it has risen already. All the characters are there, and so we have them at hand. Now I speak as Papa Pipe-head ! he ‘s angry to-day. One can see that he ‘s a coloured meerschaum.

‘ “Snip-snap-snurre, bassellurre ! I’m master in my own house ! I’m the father of my daughter ! Will you hear what I have to say ? Mr. de Boots is a person in whom one may see one’s face ; his upper part is of morocco, and he has spurs into the bargain. Snip -snap -snurre ! He shall have my daughter ! ”

‘ Now listen to what the Waistcoat says, little Anna,’ said Godfather. ‘ Now the Waistcoat ‘s speaking. The Waistcoat has a lie-down collar, and is very modest ; but he knows his own value, and has quite a right to say what he says :

‘”I haven’t a spot on me ! Goodness of material ought to be appreciated. I am of real silk, and have strings to me.” ‘

‘ ” On the wedding day, but no longer ; you don’t keep your colour in the wash.” This is Mr. Pipe-head who is speaking. “Mr. de Boots is water-tight, of strong leather, and yet very delicate ; he can creak, and clank with his spurs, and has an Italian physiognomy’

But they ought to speak in verse,’ said Anna, ‘ for I’ve heard that ‘s the most charming way of all.’

‘ They can do that too,’ replied Godfather ; ‘ and as the public demands, so one talks. Just look at little Miss Glove, how she ‘s pointing her fingers !

Rather live and wait,

A glove without a mate !


If I from him must part,

I’m sure ’twill break my heart !

‘ Bah ! ‘

That last word was spoken by Mr. Pipe-head ; and now it ‘s Mr. Waistcoat’s turn :

Glove, my own dear,

Though it cost thee a tear,

Thou must be mine,

For Holger the Dane has sworn it !

Mr. de Boots, hearing this, kicks up, jingles his spurs, and knocks down three of the sidescenes.’

‘ That ‘s exceedingly charming ! ‘ cried little Anna. ‘ Silence ! silence ! ‘ said Godfather. ‘ Silent approbation will show that you are the educated public in the stalls. Now Miss Glove sings her great song with startling effects :

I cannot talk, heigho !

And therefore I will crow !

Kikkeriki, in the lofty hall !

‘ Now comes the exciting part, little Anna. This is the most important in all the play. Mr. Waistcoat undoes himself, and addresses his speech to you, that you may applaud ; but leave it alone, that ‘s considered more genteel.

‘ “I am driven to extremities ! Take care of yourself ! Now comes the plot ! You are the Pipe-head, and I am the good head snap ! there you go ! ”

‘ Do you notice this, little Anna ? ‘ asked Godfather. ‘ That ‘s a most charming scene and comedy. Mr. Waistcoat seized the old Pipe-head, and put him in his pocket ; there he lies, and the Waistcoat says :

” You are in my pocket ; you can’t come out till you promise to unite me to your daughter Glove on the left : I hold out my right hand.” ‘ That ‘s awfully pretty,’ said little Anna. ‘ And now the old Pipe-head replies :

My head’s in a hum,

So confused I’ve become ;

Where ‘s my humour ? Gone, I fear,

And I feel my hollow stick’s not here.

Ah ! never, my dear,

Did I feel so queer.

Oh ! take out my head

From your pocket, I pray ;

And my daughter and you

May be married to-day.

Is the play over already ? asked little Anna. ‘ By no means,’ replied Godfather. ‘ It ‘s only all over with Mr. de Boots. Now the lovers kneel down, and one of them sings :

Father! and the other,

Take back your head again,

And bless your son and daughter.

And they receive his blessing, and celebrate their wedding, and all the pieces of furniture sing in chorus,

Clink! clanks!

A thousand thanks ;

And now the play is over !

‘ And now we’ll applaud said Godfather. We’ll call them all out, and the pieces of furniture too, for they are of mahogany.’

‘ And is our play just as good as those which the others have in the real theatre ? ‘

‘ Our play is much better said Godfather. ‘ It is shorter, it has been given free, and it ha^ passed away the hour before tea-time.’

  Indeks over H.C. Andersens eventyr — Index of Hans Christian Andersen Fairy tales