Good Luck Can Lie in a Pin (1869)
Hans Christian Andersen
NOW I shall tell a story about good luck. We all know good luck: some see it from year’s end to year’s end, others only at certain seasons, on a certain day; there are even people who only see it once in their lives, but see it we all do.
Now I need not tell you, for every one knows it, that God sends the little child and lays it in a mother’s lap, it may be in the rich castle, and in the well-to-do house, but it may also be in the open field where the cold wind blows. Every one does not know, however, but it is true all the same, that God, when He brings the child, brings also a lucky gift for it: but it is not laid openly by its side; it is laid in some place in the world where one would least expect to find it, and yet it always is found: that is the best of it. It may be laid in an apple; it was so for a learned man who was called Newton: the apple fell, and so he found his good luck. If you do not know the story, then ask some one who knows it to tell it you. I have another story to tell, and that is a story about a pear.
Once upon a time there was a man who was born in poverty, had grown up in poverty, and in poverty he had married. He was a turner by trade and made, especially, umbrella handles and rings; but he only lived from hand to mouth. “I never find good luck,” he said. This is a story that really happened, and one could name the country and the place where the man lived, but that doesn’t matter.
The red, sour rowan-berries grew in richest profusion about his house and garden. In the garden there was also a pear-tree, but it did not bear a single pear, and yet the good luck was laid in that pear-tree, laid in the invisible pears.
One night the wind blew a terrible storm. They told in the newspapers that the big stage-coach was lifted off the road and thrown aside like a rag. It could very well happen then that a great branch was broken off the pear-tree.
The branch was put into the workshop, and the man, as a joke, made a big pear out of it, and then another big one, then a smaller one, and then some very little ones. “The tree must some time or other have pears,” the man said, and he gave them to the children to play with.
One of the necessities of life in a wet country is an umbrella. The whole house had only one for common use; if the wind blew too strongly, the umbrella turned inside out; it also snapped two or three times, but the man soon put it right again. The most provoking thing, however, was that the button which held it together when it was down, too often jumped off, or the ring which was round it broke in two.
One day the button flew off; the man searched for it on the floor, and there got hold of one of the smallest of the wooden pears which the children had got to play with. “The button is not to be found,” said the man, “but this little thing will serve the same purpose.” So he bored a hole in it, pulled a string through it, and the little pear fitted very well into the broken ring. It was assuredly the very best fastener the umbrella had ever had.
Next year when the man was sending umbrella handles to the town, as he regularly did, he also sent some of the little wooden pears, and begged that they might be tried, and so they came to America. There they very soon noticed that the little pears held much better than any other button, and now they demanded of the merchant that all the umbrellas which were sent after that should be fastened with a little pear.
Now, there was something to do! Pears in thousands! Wooden pears on all umbrellas! The man must set to work. He turned and turned. The whole pear-tree was cut up into little pears! It brought in pennies, it brought in shillings!
“My good luck was laid in the pear-tree,” said the man.
He now got a big workshop with workmen and boys. He was always in a good humour, and said, “Good luck can lie in a pin!”
I also, who tell the story, say so. People have a saying, “Take a white pin in your mouth and you will be invisible,” but it must be the right pin, the one which was given us as a lucky gift by our Lord. I got that, and I also, like the man, can catch chinking gold, gleaming gold, the very best, that kind which shines from children’s eyes, the kind that sounds from children’s mouths, and from father and mother too. They read the stories , and I stand among them in the middle of the room, but invisible, for I have the white pin in my mouth. If I see that they are delighted with what I tell them, then I also say, “Good luck can lie in a pin!”