Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Andersen's 'The Darning Needle'


The Darning Needle

There was once a darning needle who found herself so fine she imagined she was a sewing needle.
‘Just take care of what you’re holding!’ the darning needle said to the fingers that took it out. ‘Don’t drop me! If I fall on the floor I may well never be found again, I am that fine!’
‘That’s pushing it a bit!’ the fingers said, and gave her waist a squeeze.
‘Just look, here I come with my retinue!’ the darning needle said and pulled a long thread after herself, though not one that had a knot .
The fingers guided the needle straight towards the kitchen-maid’s slipper, where the upper had split and now was to be sewn together again.
‘This is a base task!’ the darning needle said. ‘I’ll never get through, I’ll snap! I’ll snap!’ – and then she snapped. ‘Wasn’t that exactly what I just said!’ the darning needle said, ‘I’m too fine!’
Now she’s no use for anything, the fingers thought, but they had to go on holding her, the kitchen maid dripped sealing wax on her, and then inserted her in the front of her scarf.
‘Look, now I’m a pin brooch!’ the darning needle said; ‘I knew I’d go up in the world; when one is something, one will always amount to something,’ and she smiled to herself, for you can never outwardly see if a darning needle is smiling; there she now sat so proudly as if she was riding in a carriage and looking all around her.
‘May I have the honour of asking you if you are made of gold,’ she asked the pin next to her. ‘You have a lovely appearance and your own head, but it is rather small! You must get it to grow more, for not everyone’s end can be dipped in sealing wax!’ and then the darning needle stretched up so proudly that she fell off the scarf into the sink, just as the kitchen maid was rinsing it out.
‘Now we’re off on a journey!’ the darning needle said, ‘I only hope I won’t get lost!’ But that’s precisely what happened.
‘I’m too fine for this world!’ she said when she ended up in the gutter. ‘I am well aware of who I am though and that is always a small source of pleasure!’ and the darning needle held herself erect and did not lose her good humour.
And all sorts of things sailed over her, sticks, straws, bits of newspapers. ‘Just see how they sail!’ the darning needle said. ‘They’ve no idea of what’s sticking under them! I’m sticking, I’m sitting tight. See, there a stick goes that thinks of nothing else in the world than “stick” and that is itself; there a straw floats, see how it’s drawn this way and that! don’t think so much about yourself, you could crash into the cobblestones! – there floats a newspaper! – everything printed in it has been forgotten yet it goes on spreading out! – I sit patient and still! I know what I am and what I will also amount to!’
One day there was something glittering so delightfully close by, and then the darning needle thought that it was a diamond, but it was a piece of broken bottle and since it glittered the darning needle spoke to it and presented itself as a pin brooch! ‘You are a diamond, I presume!’ – ‘Yes, something like that!’ and then each believe about the other that they were really precious and they talked about how conceited the world was.
‘Yes, I have lived in a yoüng lady’s case,’ the darning needle said, ‘and that young lady was a kitchen maid; on each hand she had five fingers, but I have never known the likes of anything as stuck-up as those five fingers, and they were only there to hold me, take me out of the case and put me back in the case!’
‘Was there any glitter about them?’ the piece of broken glass asked.
‘Glitter!’ the darning needle said, ‘no, there was conceit! they were five brothers, all born “fingers”, they claimed to measure up to each other in rank, even though they were of different lengths; the outermost one: thumb, was short and far, he often broke ranks, and he only had one bend in his back, he could only bow once, but he said that if he was chopped off a persons’ hand, that person would be entirely unsuited for military service. First finger poked into sweet and sour, pointed at sun and moon, and he was the one that squeezed when they wrote; long finger looked over the other’s heads; ring finger wore a gold ring round his stomach, and little finger didn’t do a thing and was proud of the fact. It was all boasting and all amounted to boasting and I ended up down the drain!’
‘And now we sit here glittering!’ the piece of glass said. At that moment more water came into the gutter, it overflowed and carried the piece of glass off with it.
‘Just look, now it’s been moved on!’ the darning needle said, ‘I stay put, I am too fine, but that is my pride and most commendable too!’ and it sat there erect and had many thoughts.
‘I would almost believe I was born of a sun’s ray, I am that fine! It would also almost seem as if the sun always seeks me out under the water. Ah, I am so fine that my mother cannot find me. If I had my old eye, which snapped, I think I might be able to cry! – though that I didn’t do – crying isn’t at all fine!’
One day some street urchins were lying raking around in the gutter, where they found old nails, small coins and the like. It was a messy pastime, but they took pleasure in it.
‘Ow!’ one of them said, he had pricked himself on the darning needle. ‘There’s a shaver here too!’
‘I am not a shaver, I am a young lady!’ the darning needle said, though none of them heard this; the sealing wax had fallen off it and it had turned black, but black makes one look thinner and so she thought that she was even finer than before.
‘Here comes an egg-shell sailing along!’ the boys said, and they fixed the darning needle to the shell.
‘White walls and black myself!’ the darning needle said, ‘very becoming! and that makes me most visible! – I only hope I don’t get seasick, for then I’ll snap!’ – but she didn’t get seasick and she didn’t snap.
‘Having steel in one’s stomach is good against seasickness and always remembering that one is a bit more than a human being! Now mine’s completely gone! the finer one is, the more one can put up with.’
‘Crack!’ the egg-shell said – a loaded cart ran over it. ‘Ooh, how it squeezes!’ the darning needle said, ‘How seasick I feel even so! I’ll snap! I’ll snap!’ but she didn’t snap, even though a loaded cart ran over her, for she lay full length – and there we can leave her lying!


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