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The Sweethearts; or, The Top and the Ball facts for kids

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"The Sweethearts;
or, The Top and the Ball"
C.A. Jensen 1836 - HC Andersen.jpg
Andersen in 1836
Author Hans Christian Andersen
Original title "Kjærestefolkene [Toppen og bolden]"
Country Denmark
Language Danish
Genre(s) Literary fairy tale
Published in New Fairy Tales. First Volume. First Collection (Nye Eventyr. Første Bind. Første Samling)
Publication type Fairy tale collection
Publisher C.A. Reitzel
Media type Print
Publication date 11 November 1843
Preceded by "The Nightingale"
Followed by "The Ugly Duckling"

"The Sweethearts; or, The Top and the Ball" (Danish: Kjærestefolkene [Toppen og bolden]) is a literary fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about the unrequited love a mahogany spinning top suffers for a leather ball. It is likely the tale's inspiration lies in Andersen’s youthful relationship with Riborg Voight, a woman who declined his marriage proposal in 1830. "The Sweethearts" was published by C.A. Reitzel in Copenhagen in November 1843 with several other tales by Andersen in the book New Fairy Tales. First Volume. First Collection. The collection was received by Danish critics and the public with great acclaim.


In a drawer filled with playthings, a mahogany top woos a leather ball. The ball spurns the top, thinking she deserves a finer suitor. One day, the ball is taken outdoors, thrown high into the air, and disappears. The ball has landed in the roof gutter but the top believes she has become the wife of a swallow living in a nearby tree. Not being able to possess her, the top's infatuation deepens. Years pass, and, one day, the top is refurbished with gilding. He is spun and jumps into the dust bin. Among the trash lying about, he sees the ball who has suffered much from exposure to the elements. She doesn't recognize him as her former suitor and tells him she spent five years in the roof gutter soaked with rain before falling into the dustbin. The maid suddenly arrives, finds the top, and carries him into the house. The top puts aside the passion he 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."


"The Sweethearts" is original with Andersen and owes no debt to traditional folk or fairy material. The tale's inspiration is likely found in Andersen’s relationship with Riborg Voight, the daughter of a Danish merchant who declined his marriage proposal in 1830. Following her rejection, Andersen slipped into a deep depression. He questioned his artistic abilities. He needed to get away from Denmark and planned a trip to Germany – his first excursion abroad. Andersen met Voight again in 1843 while on holiday on Funen and discovered she had become a frumpy, middle-aged matron.

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