These great illustrations by Heinrich Strub were created for Das Feuerzeug (The Tinderbox ) by Hans Christian Andersen (Switzerland, 1956). They reach us via Michael Dumontier at Stopping Off Place. Das Feuerzeug was published first in Copenhagen, Denmark, by C. A. Reitzel on 8 May 1835.
The story opens with a poor soldier returning home from war. He meets a witch, who asks him to climb into a hollow tree to retrieve a magic tinderbox. The witch gives the man permission to take anything he finds inside the chambers, but he must return the tinderbox. In the tree, he finds three chambers filled with precious coins guarded by three monstrous dogs, “one with eyes the size of teacups”, who guards a vault filled with pennies, one with “eyes the size of water wheels”, who guards a vault filled with silver, and one with eyes “the size of Round Tower”, who guards a vault filled with gold. He fills his pockets with money, finds the tinderbox, and returns to the witch. When she demands the tinderbox without giving a reason, the soldier lops off her head with his sword.
In the following scene, the soldier enters a large city and buys himself splendid clothing and lives in a magnificent apartment. He makes many friends, He learns of a princess kept in a tower after a prophecy foretold her marriage to a common soldier; his interest is piqued and he wants to see her but realizes his whim cannot be satisfied. Eventually, the soldier’s money is depleted and he is forced to live in a dark attic. He strikes the tinderbox to light the room, and one of the dogs appears before him. The soldier then discovers he can summon all three dogs and order them to bring him money from their subterranean dwelling. Again, he lives splendidly.
One night, he recalls the story of the princess in the locked tower, and desires to see her. He strikes the tinderbox and sends the dog with eyes the size of teacups to bring her to his apartment. The soldier is overwhelmed with her beauty, kisses her and orders the dog to return her to the tower. The following morning, the princess tells her parents she has had a strange dream and relates the night’s adventure. The royal couple then watch her closely. When the princess is carried away again, they unsuccessfully use a trail of flour and chalk marks on neighborhood doors to find where she spends her nights. Eventually, her whereabouts are discovered and the soldier is clapped in prison and sentenced to death. The tinderbox got left behind, so he cannot summon its help.
On the day of execution, the soldier sends a boy for his tinderbox, and, at the scaffold, asks to have a last smoke. He then strikes the tinderbox and the three monstrous dogs appear. They toss the judge and the councillors, the King and Queen into the air. All are dashed to pieces when they fall to earth. The soldier and the princess are united, and the dogs join the wedding feast.
And the artist:
Heiri Strub was born in 1916 and trained as a typesetter, then becoming a graphic designer and a painter. From 1945, he was working as a freelance artist. He illustrated books for young adults, and modern fiction. His colourful picture books, allowing a fresh view of classic texts, are still impressive. Just as impressive as Strub‘s political biography: After Hitler‘s assumption of power, seventeen-year-old Strub joined the Youth Committee Against War and Fascism, and he still is an active trade unionist. Because he was impeded in his work by the authorities, he moved to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) with his family in 1957. In 1971, he returned to Switzerland.
Via: 50 Watts