The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen, 1838
The magic trick:
The power of personification
Look, I know this story is immature in a lot of ways. Andersen writes about two toys as if they are humans with real emotions. I found it really touching, though. I’m not embarrassed. Mock me if you must.
The thing is, the personification technique is kind of a half-and-half deal. He gives the tin soldier and the ballerina the understanding and awareness of children. But he also gives them the emotions of adults. The tin soldier is an idiot. But he’s an idiot in love. And that has been a guaranteed tearjerker of a character since the beginning of time. Who can resist the lovable innocent?
Like I said, make fun of me all day. I really liked the story. It’s actually a very moving romance. And that’s quite a trick on the Andersen’s part.
“That would be a wife for me,” he thought. “But maybe she’s too grand. She lives in a castle. I have only a box, with four-and-twenty roommates to share it. That’s no place for her. But I must try to make her acquaintance.” Still as stiff as when he stood at attention, he lay down on the table behind a snuffbox, where he could admire the dainty little dancer who kept standing on one leg without ever losing her balance.