Galoshes of Fortune
By Hans Christian Andersen
It was in Copenhagen, in East Street, and in
one of the houses not far from the King's
New Market, that a large company had
assembled, for one must occasionally give a
party, in order to be invited in return.
Half of the company already sat at the
card-tables, the other half awaited the
result of the hostess's question, ' What
shall we do now ? ' They had progressed so
far, and the
conversation went as best it could. Among
other subjects the conversation turned upon
the Middle Ages. Some considered that period
much more interesting than our own times :
yes, Councillor Knap defended this view so
zealously that the lady of the house went
over at once to
his side ; and both loudly exclaimed against
Oersted's treatise in the Almanac on old and
modern times, in which the chief advantage
is given to our own day. The councillor
considered the times of the Danish King Hans
as the noblest and happiest age.
While the conversation takes this turn, only
interrupted for a moment by the arrival of a
newspaper, which contains nothing worth
reading, we will betake ourselves to the
antechamber, where the cloaks, sticks, and
goloshes had found a place. Here sat two
maids an old one and a young one. One would
have thought they had come to escort their
mistresses home ; but, on looking at them
more closely, the observer could see that
they were not ordinary servants :
their hands were too fine for that, their
bearing and all their movements too majestic,
and the cut of their dresses too uncommon.
They were two fairies. The younger was not
Fortune, but lady's-maid to one of her
ladies of the bed-chamber, who carry about
the more trifling gifts of Fortune. The
elder one looked somewhat more gloomy she
was Care, who always goes herself in her own
exalted person to perform her business, for
then she knows that it is well done.
They were telling each other where they had
been that day. The messenger of Fortune had
ontyjbransacted a few unimportant affairs,
as, for instance, she had preserved a new
bonnet from a shower of rain, had procured
an honest man a bow from a titled Nobody,
and so on ; but
what she had still to relate was something
'I can likewise tell,' said she, ' that
to-day is my birthday ; and in honour of it
a pair of goloshes has been entrusted to me,
which I am to bring to the human race. These
goloshes have the property that every one
who puts them on is at once transported to
the time and place in
which he likes best to be every wish in
reference to time, place, and circumstance
is at once fulfilled ; and so for once man
can be happy here below ! '
' Believe me,' said Care, ' he will be very
unhappy, and will bless the moment when he
can get rid of the goloshes again.'
' What are you thinking of ? ' retorted the
other. ' Now I shall put them at the door.
Somebody will take them by mistake, and
become the happy one ! '
You see, that was the dialogue they held.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COUNCILLOR
It was late. Councillor Knap, lost in
contemplation of the times of King Hans,
wished to get home ; and fate willed that
instead of his own goloshes he should put on
those of Fortune, and thus went out into
East Street. But by the power of the
goloshes he had been put back three hundred
years into the days of King Hans ; and
therefore he put his foot into mud and mire
in the street, because in those days there
was not any pavement.
' Why, this is horrible how dirty it is here
! ' said the councillor. ' The good pavement
is gone, and all the lamps are put out.'
The moon did not yet stand high enough to
give much light, and the air was tolerably
thick, so that all objects seemed to melt
together in the darkness. At the next corner
a lamp hung before a picture of the Madonna,
but the light it gave was as good as none ;
he only noticed it when he stood just under
it, and his eyes fell upon the painted
figure of the mother and child.
That is probably a museum of art,' he
thought, ' where they have forgotten to take
down the sign.'
A couple of men in the costume of those past
days went by him.
' How they look ! ' he said. ' They must
come from a masquerade.'
Suddenly there was a sound of drums and
fifes, and torches gleamed brightly. The
councillor started. And now he saw a strange
procession go past. First came a whole troop
of drummers, beating their instruments very
dexterously ; they were followed by
men-at-arms, with longbows and crossbows.
The chief man in the procession was a
clerical lord. The astonished councillor
asked what was the meaning of this, and who
the man might be.
' That is the Bishop of Zealand.'
' What in the world has come to the bishop ?
' said the councillor, with a sigh, shaking
his head. ' This could not possibly be the
bishop ! '
Ruminating on this, and without looking to
the right or to the left, the councillor
went through the East Street, and over the
Highbridge Place. The bridge which led to
the Palace Square was not to be found ; he
perceived the shore of a shallow water, and
at length encountered two people, who sat in
' Bo you wish to be ferried over to the
Holm, sir ? ' they asked.
' To the Holm ! ' repeated the councillor,
who did not know, you see, in what period he
was. ' I want to go to Christian's Haven and
to Little Turf Street.'
The men stared at him.
' Pray tell me where the bridge is ? ' said
he. 'It is shameful that no lanterns are
lighted here ; and it is as muddy, too, as
if one were walking in a marsh.' But the
longer he talked with the boatmen the less
could he understand them. ' I don't
understand your Bornholm talk,' he at last
cried, angrily, and turned his back upon
He could not find the bridge, nor was there
any paling. ' It is quite scandalous how
things look -here 1 ' he said never had he
thought his own times so miserable as this
evening. ' I think it will be best if I take
a cab,' thought he. But where were the cabs
? not one was to be seen. ' I shall have to
go back to the King's New Market, where
there are many carriages standing, otherwise
I shall never get as far as Christian's
Now he went towards East Street, and had
almost gone through it when the moon burst
' What in the world have they been erecting
here ? ' he exclaimed, when he saw the East
Gate, which in those days stood at the end
of East Street.
In the meantime, however, he found a passage
open, and through this he came out upon our
New Market ; but it was a broad meadow.
Single bushes stood forth, and across the
meadow ran a great canal or stream. A few
miserable wooden booths for skippers from
erected on the opposite shore.
' Either I behold a Fata Morgana, or I am
tipsy,' sighed the councillor. ' What can
that be ? what can that be ? '
He turned back, in the full persuasion that
he must be ill. In walking up the street he
looked more closely at the houses ; most of
them were built of laths, and many were only
thatched with straw.
' No, I don't feel well at all ! ' he
lamented. ' And yet I only drank one glass
of punch ! But I cannot stand that ; and
besides, it was very foolish to give us
punch and warm salmon. I shall mention that
to our hostess the agent's lady. Suppose I
go back, and say how I feel ? But that
looks ridiculous, and it is a question if
they will be up still.'
He looked for the house, but could not find
' That is dreadful ! ' he cried ; ' I don't
know East Street again. Not one shop is to
be seen ; old, miserable, tumble-down huts
are all I see, as if I were at Roskilde or
Ringstedt. Oh, I am ill ! It 's no use to
make cere- mony. But where in all the world
is the agent's house ? It is no longer the
same ; but within there are people up still.
I certainly must be ill ! '
He now reached a half -open door, where the
light shone through a chink. It was a tavern
of that date a kind of beer-house. The room
had the appearance of a farmhouse kitchen in
Holstein ; a number of people, consisting of
seamen, citizens of Copenhagen, and a few
in deep conversation over their jugs, and
paid little attention to the new-comer.
' I beg pardon,' said the councillor to the
hostess, ' but I feel very unwell ; would
you let them get me a fly to go to
Christian's Haven ? '
The woman looked at him and shook her head ;
then she spoke to him in German.
The councillor now supposed that she did not
understand Danish, so he repeated his wish
in the German language. This, and his
costume, convinced the woman that he was a
foreigner. She soon understood that he felt
unwell, and therefore brought him a jug of
water. It certainly tasted a little of sea
water, though it had been taken from the
The councillor leaned his head on his hand,
drew a deep breath, and thought of all the
strange things that were happening about him.
' Is that to-day's number of the Day ? ' he
said, quite mechanically, for he saw that
the woman was putting away a large sheet of
She did not understand what he meant, but
handed him the leaf : it was a woodcut
representing a strange appearance in the air
which had been seen in the city of Cologne.
' That is very old ! ' said the councillor,
who became quite cheerful at sight of this
antiquity. ' How did you come by this
strange leaf ? That is very interesting,
although the whole thing is a fable.
Nowadays these appearances are explained to
be northern lights that have been seen ;
probably they arise from electricity.
Those who sat nearest to him and heard his
speech, looked at him in surprise, and one
of them rose, took off his hat respectfully,
and said, with a very grave face, ' You must
certainly be a very learned man, sir ! '
' Oh, no ! ' replied the councillor ; ' I
can only say a word or two about things one
ought to understand.'
' Modestia is a beautiful virtue,' said the
man. ' Moreover, I must say to your speech,
mihi secus videtur ; yet I will gladly
suspend my judicium'
' May I ask with whom I have the pleasure of
speaking ? ' asked the councillor.
' I am a bachelor of theology,' replied the
This answer sufficed for the councillor ;
the title corresponded with the garb.
' Certainly,' he thought, ' this must be an
old village schoolmaster, a queer character,
such as one finds sometimes over in Jutland.'
' This is certainly not a locus docendi,'
began the man ; ' but I beg you to take the
trouble to speak. You are doubtless well
read in the ancients ? '
' Oh, yes,' replied the councillor. ' I am
fond of reading useful old books ; and am
fond of the modern ones, too, with the
exception of the " Every -day Stories ", of
which we have enough, in all conscience.'
' Every-day Stories ? ' replied the
' Yes, I mean the new romances we have now.'
' Oh ! ' said the man, with a smile, ' they
are very witty, and are much read at court.
The king is especially partial to the
romance by Messieurs Iffven and Gaudian,
which talks about King Arthur and his
knights of the Round Table. He has jested
about it with his noble lords.'
' That I have certainly not yet read,' said
the councillor ; ' that must be quite a new
book published by Heiberg.'
' No,' retorted the man, ' it is not
published by Heiberg, but by Godfrey von
' Indeed ! is he the author ? ' asked the
councillor. ' That is a very old name : was
not that the name of about the first printer
who appeared in Denmark ? '
' Why, he is our first printer,' replied the
So far it had gone well. Now one of the men
began to speak of a pestilence which he said
had been raging a few years ago : he meant
the plague of 1484. The councillor supposed
that he meant the cholera, and so the
conversation went on tolerably. The
Freebooters' War of 1490 was so recent that
it could not escape mention. The English
pirates had taken ships from the very
The first printer and publisher in Denmark,
under King Hans. said the man ; and the
councillor, who was well acquainted with the
events of 1801, joined in manfully against
the English. The rest of the talk, however,
did not pass over so well ; every moment
there was a contradiction. The
good bachelor was terribly ignorant, and the
simplest assertion of the councillor seemed
too bold or too fantastic. They looked at
each other, and when it became too bad, the
bachelor spoke Latin, in the hope that he
would be better understood ; but it was of
' How are you now ? ' asked the hostess, and
she plucked the councillor by the sleeve.
Now his recollection came back : in the
course of the conversation he had forgotten
everything that had happened.
' Good heavens ! where am I ? ' he said, and
he felt dizzy when he thought of it.
' We'll drink claret, mead, and Bremen beer/
cried one of the guests, ' and you shall
drink with us.'
Two girls came in. One of them had on a cap
of two colours. They poured out drink and
bowed : the coun- cillor felt a cold shudder
running all down his back. ' What 's that ?
what 's that ? ' he cried ; but he was
obliged to drink with them. They took
possession of the good man quite politely.
He was in despair, and when one said that he
was tipsy he felt not the slightest doubt
regarding the truth of the statement, and
only begged them to procure him a droshky.
Now they thought he was speaking Muscovite.
Never had he been in such rude vulgar
' One would think the country was falling
back into heathenism,' was his reflection. '
This is the most terrible moment of my life.'
But at the same time the idea occurred to
him to bend down under the table, and then
to creep to the door. He did so ; but just
as he had reached the entry the others
discovered his intention. They seized him by
the feet ; and now the goloshes, to his
great good fortune, came off, and the whole
The councillor saw quite plainly, in front
of him, a lamp burning, and behind it a
great building ; everything looked familiar
and splendid, It was East Street, as we know
it now. He lay with his legs turned towards
a porch, and opposite to him sat the
' Good heavens ! have I been lying here in
the street dreaming ? ' he exclaimed. ' Yes,
this is East Street sure enough ! how
splendidly bright and gay ! It is terrible
what an effect that one glass of punch must
have had on me ! '
Two minutes afterwards he was sitting in a
fly, which drove him out to Christian's
Haven. He thought of the terror and anxiety
he had undergone, and praised from his heart
the happy present, our own time, which, with
all its shortcomings, was far better than
the period in which
he had been placed a short time before.