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The Sweethearts; or, The Top and the Ball

"The Sweethearts; or, The Top and the Ball" (Danish: Kjærestefolkene [Toppen og bolden]) is a fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen about the unrequited love a gilded mahogany top suffers for a leather ball.

The tale was first published in Copenhagen 11 November 1843 by C.A. Reitzel as a part of New Fairy Tales. First Volume. First Collection. 1844. (Nye Eventyr. Første Bind. Første Samling. 1844.) The tale was third in the volume that also included (in contents order) "The Angel" (Engelen), "The Nightingale" (Nattergalen), and "The Ugly Duckling" (Den grimme Ælling). The tale was republished 18 December 1849 as a part of Fairy Tales. 1850. (Eventyr. 1850.) and again on 15 December 1862 as a part of Fairy Tales and Stories. First Volume. 1862. (Eventyr og Historier. Første Bind. 1862.).

With "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep", "The Teapot" and several other tales, "The Sweethearts" demonstrates Andersen's talent for investing household objects with life, character, and personality.

Plot summary

In a drawer filled with playthings, a mahogany top woos a leather ball. The ball spurns the top, thinking she is much finer than he and deserves better. One day, the ball is taken outdoors, is thrown high into the air, and disappears. The top believes the ball has become the wife of a swallow dwelling nearby and is living in his nest. Not being able to possess her, the top's infatuation deepens. Years pass, and, one day, the top is spun and jumps into the dust bin. Among the trash lying about, he sees the ball. She has lain in the roof gutter soaked with rain for five years before falling into the dustbin. The maid finds the top, and carries him into the house where the children rejoice at his recovery. The top puts aside the passion he once felt for the ball, "for love vanishes when one's sweetheart has been soaking in a gutter for five years. You don't even recognize her when you meet her in a dustbin."


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