A daisy grows out in a field, and a lark comes down to hang out with the flower and they become quite fond of each other. A couple of boys capture the lark and pull up a patch of grass, including the daisy, to put in its cage. But the boys forget to include any water in the cage, so the lark dies, and the daisy is tossed out on the road.
Tale 12: The Steadfast Tin Soldier
A boy receives a box of twenty-five tin soldiers. All the soldiers are alike except for the last one, which is missing a leg. This soldier falls in love with a paper ballerina cut-out, since she her fancy shmancy ballerina pose also makes it look like she's only got one leg. We here at Shmoop question the validity of the assumption that the same number of legs should be the only prerequisite for a long-lasting relationship, but hey. This soldier didn't have too many options.
At night, a jack-in-the-box catches the soldier staring at the ballerina and threatens him. The next day, the soldier is set near the window and falls out. Coincidence…?!
Some orphans pick up the soldier, put him in a newspaper boat, and let him float down into the gutter. A fish swallows the soldier, but the fish is caught and gutted. Luckily this happens in the house where the soldier lives, so just like that, he's back home with his great love, the one-legged-looking ballerina.
The soldier and the ballerina stare at each other wordlessly, and something passes between them.
Suddenly, one of the boys grabs the soldier and throws him in the stove; the jack-in-the-box probably had something to do with this. The soldier steadfastly holds onto his gun and continues to look at the ballerina. A lucky breeze carries the ballerina into the stove too.
The next morning, the maid opens the stove and finds a little tin heart and a metal spangle from the ballerina's dress.
Tale 13: The Wild Swans
A king has eleven sons and one daughter, Elisa. But the king marries an evil queen, who sends Elisa to live with peasants and curses the boys so they become wild swans.
Elisa returns to the palace when she's fifteen. Just as evil as she's ever been, the queen kisses three toads (yuck) and puts them in Elisa's bath in order to turn her lazy, ugly, and evil. But Elisa's so pure that the spells don't affect her, and the toads are turned into poppies. Since that didn't work, the queen smears her with dirt and walnut juice to turn her black.
Her father doesn't recognize her, so she leaves the palace. She wanders in the forest, bathes in a pool till she looks like herself again, and meets an old woman who says there were eleven swans bathing nearby.
She finally finds her swan brothers, who turn back into boys at sunset. They explain that they're swans during the day and humans at night. They live across the sea in another land, and so they weave a basket so they can bring Elisa with them.
In a dream, a fairy comes to Elisa and explains how to break the curse on her brothers: she must pick nettles and knit eleven shirts from the fibers. But she must not speak a word during the whole ordeal, or else it'll kill all eleven of her brothers.
Nettles, FYI, are weeds that sting when you touch them. So Elisa's hands burn and blister while she's doing this task. Ouchie.
While working the next day, she hears dogs, and a group of hunters come upon her. The king is among them, and he decides to bring her with him to the palace. Since she can't talk, she can't object.
The king marries her, and she continues her task of weaving shirts, working at night. She has to sneak out for more flax. The archbishop sees her sneaking out and thinks she's up to no good.
The king starts to spy on Elisa, and he becomes convinced that she's a witch or something. So she ends up being condemned to burn at the stake. She finishes knitting the last shirt just as she's being brought to the stake. Her brothers fly over the crowd, and she tosses the shirts over them.
They all turn back into humans, except for the littlest brother, who still has a swan's wing instead of an arm, since she didn't have time to finish the sleeve of the last shirt.
Now, she's able to speak. She protests that she's innocent, and her brothers now back up her story. The king realizes his error. The sticks of the bonfire turn to roses, and everyone's happy. Except, maybe, the evil queen, cuz she was actually up to no good.
Tale 14: The Garden of Eden
This prince yearns to find the Garden of Eden. One day while out on a walk, he gets lost, and then sees a big, strong woman roasting a deer in a cave. Turns out she's the mother of the four winds.
Each of the winds comes home and brags about what he's seen. The east wind says he'll be going to the Garden of Eden the next day, and offers to bring the prince with him. When they arrive, it's gorgeous and filled with all kinds of strange animals and plants.
The princess of the Garden of Eden is a pretty fairy who says the prince can stay with her. But only if he can resist following her to the grove where the tree of knowledge grows and kissing her while she sleeps there.
The prince swears that he'll be able to resist the temptation for one hundred years (since that's how long he'll be there, till the east wind returns for him). But on the very first night, he's unable to resist, and he follows the princess to the tree of knowledge and kisses her.
He's whisked back to the real world, and Death shows up and says that the prince will wander the earth, atoning for his sins. Then he'll die and be put in a black coffin. If he's become a good man, he'll rest in peace, but if he's sinful, his coffin will sink deeper and deeper into the earth. This is one of those real feel-good stories.
Tale 15: The Flying Trunk
A merchant's son spends all his money and has nothing left but a trunk. Luckily, it's a magical trunk, so it flies him to Turkey. Once there, he flies up to a tower where there's an eye-catching princess.
He falls in love with her, and lies and says he's God of the Turks. She agrees to marry him, but he has to come back in a week and meet her parents.
Apparently the king and queen love fairy tales, so he has to tell them one. He tells them a story about a family of matches that gets split up and talks to the other household tools. The king and queen enjoy the story, so they give permission for their daughter to marry the guy (that was easy, huh?).
The merchant's son flies around setting off fireworks from his trunk prior to the wedding, but then his trunk burns up so he can't get back to his bride. She waits for him on the roof, and continues to wait, telling fairy tales (but not happy ones).
Tale 16: The Storks
A family of storks lives near some humans. A couple of little boys sing a song mocking the baby storks and saying they'll die nasty deaths. The baby storks want revenge, but their mother makes them wait. Finally, the storks learn to fly, and their mother tells them that they'll be delivering babies. All the good kids who didn't make fun of the storks will get little siblings, the bad kids won't get any siblings, and the kid who started the nasty song will get a stillborn baby for a sibling. The kind child who didn't make fun of them will get a sister, and since his name is Peter, storks in Denmark will be called Peter. Now that's some justice for ya.
Tale 17: The Bronze Pig
A poor young boy in Florence is begging for money, but is unsuccessful. He curls up to sleep on top of a bronze pig that's actually a fountain. At night, the pig comes alive and brings the boy through the Uffizi (a palace-turned-museum), where the boy sees a bunch of well-known art.
The next morning, the boy wakes up and goes home. His mother threatens to kill him for not bringing in any money, so he runs away. A glovemaker and his wife take him in. He meets an artist and starts to draw.
Eventually, the artist mentors the boy, and he grows up to become a very talented artist who exhibits his work (including a portrait of the bronze pig, which everyone is familiar with). But then he dies before his biggest exhibition! Tragic.
Tale 18: The Pact of Friendship
The first-person narrator of this story is a boy growing up in Delphi, Greece, at a time in history when the Turks are ruling there. The boy's dad comes home from the war with a little orphaned girl that the family names Anastasia. They raise Anastasia.
The boy's dad is killed in the war, so the family is displaced. In church, he meets a boy his age named Aphtanides. They become friends, but part when Aphtanides becomes a sailor.
The kids grow up, and the narrator realizes he's falling in love with Anastasia (which is okay, we guess, because she's only his adopted sister?). He and Aphtanides swear a pact to be lifelong friends, and they confess that they each love Anastasia. But Aphtanides is supposed to marry someone else, so he lets the narrator have her (luckily, she loves the narrator back). As in any great bromance, Aphtanides puts his bro before his true love. High-five.
Tale 19: A Rose from Homer's Grave
A rose grows over Homer's grave. A nightingale falls in love with the rose but the rose won't blossom for it, because how can its song compare to the poetry of Homer? So the nightingale dies. The rose dreams that a Frenchman comes and plucks it and preserves it in the pages of a book… and then that's exactly what happens to the rose. Freaky.
Tale 20: The Sandman
The sandman loves children and tells them stories to help them sleep. The sandman visits one boy named Hjalmar for a week, and tells various stories about being on a ship, shrinking and going into a mousehole, meeting Death, and stuff like that. Yep, that's all, folks.