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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Teapot

By Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875)

From ‘Riverside Literature Series’

THERE was a proud Teapot, proud of being porcelain, proud of its long spout, proud of its broad handle. It had something before and behind—the spout before, the handle behind—and that was what it talked about. But it did not talk of its lid—that was cracked, it was riveted, it had faults; and one does not talk about one’s faults—there are plenty of others to do that. The cups, the cream-pot, the sugar-bowl, the whole tea-service would be reminded much more of the lid’s weakness, and talk about that, than of the sound handle and the remarkable spout. The Teapot knew it.

“I know you,” it said within itself, “I know well enough, too, my fault; and I am well aware that in that very thing is seen my humility, my modesty. We all have faults, but then one also has a talent. The cups get a handle, the sugar-bowl a lid; I get both, and one thing besides in front which they never got,—I get a spout, and that makes me a queen on the tea-table. The sugar-bowl and cream-pot are good-looking serving maids; but I am the one who gives, yes, the one high in council. I spread abroad a blessing among thirsty mankind. In my insides the Chinese leaves are worked up in the boiling, tasteless water.”

All this said the Teapot in its fresh young life. It stood on the table that was spread for tea, it was lifted by a very delicate hand; but the very delicate hand was awkward, the Teapot fell. The spout snapped off, the handle snapped off; the lid was no worse to speak of—the worst had been spoken of that. The Teapot lay in a swoon on the floor, while the boiling water ran out of it. It was a horrid shame, but the worst was that they jeered at it; they jeered at it, and not at the awkward hand.

“I never shall lose the memory of that!” said the Teapot, when it afterward talked to itself of the course of its life. “I was called an invalid, and placed in a corner, and the day after was given away to a woman who begged victuals. I fell into poverty, and stood dumb both outside and in; but there, as I stood, began my better life. One is one thing and becomes quite another. Earth was placed in me: for a Teapot that is the same as being buried, but in the earth was placed a flower bulb. Who placed it there, who gave it, I know not; given it was, and it took the place of the Chinese leaves and the boiling water, the broken handle and spout. And the bulb lay in the earth, the bulb lay in me, it became my heart, my living heart, such as I never before had. There was life in me, power and might. My pulses beat, the bulb put forth sprouts, it was the springing up of thoughts and feelings; they burst forth in flower. I saw it, I bore it, I forgot myself in its delight. Blessed is it to forget one’s self in another. The bulb gave me no thanks, it did not think of me—it was admired and praised. I was so glad at that: how happy must it have been! One day I heard it said that it ought to have a better pot. I was thumped on my back—that was rather hard to bear; but the flower was put in a better pot—and I was thrown away in the yard, where I lie as an old crock. But I have the memory: that I can never lose.”