The Tinderbox - The Story Part One
Our story begins with a weary soldier walking along a road returning from a war in which he has fought well and survived. The day is hot and he sings a song to himself. The song suggests that he may be unhappy at the way he has been treated by the King for whom he has been to battle for. The King methinks has not paid the soldier's wages.
One two, one two, I'm free at last to roam One two, one two, To look for a new home With all my pride I served the King But he didn't give me anything Well well, well well, One two, one two, He said "Come stand before" One two, one two, You'll fight for me no more Let God pay you my dearest son Reward in heaven, a Princely sum Well well, well well, One two, one two, The town is where I'll stay One two, one two, I'm not too far away I'll tell the King and royalty You've had your share of my loyalty Well well, well well, Left right, left right, Be off with you my friend Left right, left right, My patience is at itsd end Get off your lofty golden throne Fetch your pay from Satan alone Go to, go to,
Up ahead the soldier comes across the huge and slightly menacing looking stump of an old Oak tree. As he stares at it, a voice calls out to him. The voice belongs to an old woman (really an old witch). She offers the soldier vast amounts of money if he can only climb into the tree stump and fetch her an old Tinderbox that lies somewhere inside. The old witch does not want any of the money that he will find, simply an old Tinderbox that her grandmother left down there a long time ago. Our soldier has no money or food and is extremely hungry. He agrees to the offer and so the old witch throws an long rope around the top of the tree. She remains at the bottom of the stump while he climbs up. All the time she reminds him of the Tinderbox. The soldier climbs up into the tree and then down through the hollow trunk. At the bottom he sees that there is a large corridor which has three doors in it. Tentatively, he opens the first door. Inside he sees a huge dog with eyes as big as teacups standing on a chest. After saying greetings, the dog steps down off the chest. The soldier opens the chest to find that it contains copper coins - thousands of them. The soldier fills his satchels and pockets with as much as he can carry and then leaves the room. He then enters the second room, inside there is an even bigger dog with eyes as big as saucers and this time the chest it is guarding is filled with silver coins. The soldier empties his bags of the copper coins and fills them with silver. He then thanks the dog and departs the room. Behind the third door is the biggest dog of the three with eyes as big as millstones and he is guarding a chest containing gold coins. Out go the silver coins and in goes the gold coins, as much as the soldier can carry. He then makes his way to the rope and request the witch to pull. She asks about the Tinderbox and so goes to find it. On the way up the witch demands that the soldier throws her the Tinderbox. The soldier refuses as he wants to get out of the tree. The evil witch lets go of the rope and when the soldier climbs down from the tree, the hold hag turns on him. She first attacks him with her staff and then turns herself into a snake. The soldier is forced to defend himself and so he draws his sword and cuts her head off. The soldier then makes sure she is dead and then goes on his way.
After arriving at the local town the soldier makes his way to the finest inn in the village (after all he is now rich). He is soon befriended by a small boy called Hans who is seeking work as an apprentice shoemaker. The King's shoemaker will have none of it and chases the boy away. Hans really wants to work for Master Schaft who is the best shoemaker in the village but alas for Hans Master Schaft is very poor. The soldier goes to see Master Schaft and gives him ten Florins for Hans to be trained. The soldier then leaves and searches for a place to stay. The landlord of the Inn and the trio of snooty guests (lazy town scoundrels) suggest that the soldier may want to try another place to stay. The landlord soon changes his mind when he sees the gold that the soldier has. Soon they cannot do enough for him as he orders his first meal. He then goes up to his room and spends a peaceful night in a comfy soft bed. The next day he requests that the town tailor and shoe maker Schaft make a new uniform and boots to match. This they do and each is handsomely rewarded. Our soldier is spending money as though it were going out of fashion. The soldier goes into the village and generously buys all the local children sweets and toys. In fact he is so generous, he buys the entire stock of both stalls. He also buys an old woman some food and gets the local children to help her with it.
The soldier hears about the town Princess who is locked up in the Copper Castle by her nasty mother and father (the King and Queen). They wish her to marry a horrible Prince from a neighbouring Kingdom. The soldier is determined to visit the Princess and even goes to the Castle gates and tries to bribe the guard. He fails and goes back to the inn where he meets the three scoundrels who offer to help him for money. The innkeepers cook and servant are watching the proceedings and note that the soldier has made the wrong friends and that he spends gold as though it were pennies.