The Golden Treasure
By Hans Christian Andersen
The drummer's wife went into the church. She
saw the new altar with the painted pictures
and the carved angels : they were so
beautiful, both those upon the canvas, in
colours and with haloes, and those that were
carved in wood, and painted and gilt into
the bargain. Their hair gleamed golden in
the sunshine, lovely to behold ; but the
real sunshine was more beautiful still. It
shone redder, clearer through the dark
trees, when the sun went down. It was lovely
thus to look at the sunshine of heaven. And
she looked at the red sun, and she thought
about it so deeply, and thought of the
little one whom the stork was to bring ; and
the wife of the drummer was very cheerful,
and looked and looked, and wished that the
child might have a gleam
of sunshine given to it, so that it might at
last become like one of the shining angels
over the altar.
And when she really had the little child in
her arms, and held it up to its father, then
it was like one of the angels in the church
to behold, with hair like gold the gleam of
the setting sun was upon it.
' My golden treasure, my riches, my sunshine
! ' said the mother ; and she kissed the
shining locks, and it sounded like music and
song in the room of the drummer ; and there
was joy, and life, and movement. The drummer
beat a roll a roll of joy. And the Drum, the
was beaten when there was a fire in the
town, said :
' Red hair ! the little fellow has red hair
! Believe the drum, and not what your mother
says ! Rub-a-dub, rub- a-dub ! '
And the town repeated what the Fire-drum had
The boy was taken to church ; the boy was
christened. There was nothing much to be
said about his name ; he was called Peter.
The whole town, and the Drum too, called him
' Peter the drummer's boy with the red hair
' ; but his mother kissed his red hair, and
called him her golden
In the hollow way in the clayey bank, many
had scratched their names as a remembrance.
' Celebrity is always something ! ' said the
drummer ; and so he scratched his own name
there, and his little son's name likewise.
And the swallows came : they had, on their
long journey, seen more durable characters
engraven on rocks, and on the walls of the
temples in Hindostan, mighty deeds of great
kings, immortal names, so old that no one
now could read or speak them. Remarkable
In the clayey bank the martins built their
nest : they bored holes in the deep
declivity, and the splashing rain and the
thin mist came and crumbled and washed the
names away, and the drummer's name also, and
that of his little son.
' Peter's name remained, however, a year and
a half ! ' said the father.
' Fool ! ' thought the Fire-drum ; but it
only said, Dub, dub, dub, rub-a-dub ! '
He was a boy full of life and gladness, this
drummer's son with the red hair. He had a
lovely voice : he could sing, and he sang
like a bird in the woodland. There was
melody, and yet no melody.
' He must become a choir-boy,' said his
mother. ' He shall sing in the church, and
stand under the beautiful gilded angels who
are like him ! '
' Fiery cat ! ' said some of the witty ones
of the town.
The Drum heard that from the neighbours'
' Don't go home, Peter,' cried the street
boys. ' If you sleep in the garret, there'll
be a fire in the house, and the fire-drum
will have to be beaten.'
' Look out for the drumsticks,' replied
Peter ; and, small as he was, he ran up
boldly, and gave the foremost such a punch
in the body with his fist that the fellow
lost his legs and tumbled over, and the
others took their legs off with themselves
The town musician was very genteel and fine.
He was the son of the royal plate-washer. He
was very fond of Peter, and would sometimes
take him to his home, and he gave him a
violin, and taught him to play it. It seemed
as if the whole art lay in the boy's fingers
; and he wanted to
be more than a drummer he wanted to become
musician to the town.
' I'll be a soldier said Peter ; for he was
still quite a little lad, and it seemed to
him the finest thing in the world to carry a
gun, and to be able to march ' left, right,
left, right/ and to wear a uniform and a
' Ah, you must learn to obey the drum-skin,
drum, dum, dum ! ' said the Drum.
Yes, if he could only march his way up to be
a general ! ' observed his father ; ' but
before he can do that there must be war.'
Heaven forbid ! ' said his mother. We have
nothing to lose/ remarked the father. Yes,
we have my boy/ she retorted. But suppose he
came back a general ! ' said the
father.Without arms and legs ! ' cried the
mother. ' No, I would rather keep my golden
' Drum, dum, dum ! ' The Fire-drum and all
the other drums were beating, for war had
come. The soldiers all set out, and the son
of the drummer followed them. ' Redhead.
Golden treasure ! '
The mother wept ; the father in fancy saw
him ' famous ' ; the town musician was of
opinion that he ought not to go to war, but
should stay at home and learn music.
' Red-head/ said the soldiers, and little
Peter laughed ; but when one of them
sometimes said to another, ' Foxey he would
bite his teeth together and look another way
into the wide world : he did not care for
The boy was active, pleasant of speech, and
good humoured ; and these qualities are the
best canteen, said his elder comrades.
And many a night he had to sleep under the
open sky, wet through with the driving rain
or the falling mist ; but his good humour
never forsook him. The drum-sticks sounded,
' Rub-a-dub, all up, all up ! ' Yes, he was
certainly born to be a drummer.
The day of battle dawned. The sun had not
yet risen, but the morning was come. The air
was cold, the battle was hot, there was mist
in the air, but still more gunpowder-smoke.
The bullets and shells flew over the
soldiers' heads, and into their heads, into
their bodies and limbs ; but still they
pressed forward. Here or there one or other
of them would sink on his knees, with
bleeding temples and a face as white as
chalk. The little drummer still kept his
healthy colour ; he had suffered no damage ;
he looked cheerfully at the dog of the
regiment, which was jumping
along as merrily as if the whole thing had
been got up for his amusement, and as if the
bullets were only flying about that he might
have a game of play with them.
' March ! Forward ! March ! ' These were the
words of command for the drum, and they were
words not to be taken back ; but they may be
taken back at times, and there may be wisdom
in doing so ; and now at last the word '
Retire ' was given ; but our little drummer
ward ! march ! ' for so he had understood
the command, and the soldiers obeyed the
sound of the drum. That was a good roll, and
proved the summons to victory for the men,
who had already begun to give way.
Life and limb were lost in the battle.
Bomb-shells tore away the flesh in red
strips ; bomb-shells lit up into a terrible
glow the straw-heaps to which the wounded
had dragged themselves, to lie untended for
many hours, perhaps for all the hours they
had to live.
It 's no use thinking of it ; and yet one
cannot help thinking of it, even far away in
the peaceful town. The drummer and his wife
also thought of it, for Peter was at the
' Now, I'm tired of these complaints/ said
Again the day of battle dawned ; the sun had
not yet risen, but it was morning. The
drummer and his wife were asleep, which they
had not been nearly all night : they had
been talking about their son, who was out
yonder, in God's hand. And the father dreamt
that the war was over, that the soldiers had
returned home, and that Peter wore a silver
cross on his breast. But the mother dreamt
that she had gone into the church, and had
seen the painted pictures and the carved
angels with the gilded hair, and her own
dear boy, the golden treasure of her heart,
who was standing among the angels in white
robes, singing so sweetly, as surely only
the angels can sing ; and that he had soared
up with them into the sunshine, and nodded
so kindly at his mother.
' My golden treasure ! ' she cried out ; and
she awoke. ' Now the good God has taken him
to Himself ! ' She folded her hands, and hid
her face in the cotton curtains of the bed,
and wept. ' Where does he rest now ? among
the many in the big grave that they have dug
for the dead ?
Perhaps he 's in the water in the marsh !
Nobody knows his grave ; no holy words have
been read over it ! ' And the Lord's Prayer
went inaudibly over her lips ; she bowed her
head, and was so weary that she went to
And the days went by, in life and in dreams
It was evening : over the battle-field a
rainbow spread, which touched the forest and
the deep marsh.
It has been said, and is preserved in
popular belief, that where the rainbow
touches the earth a treasure lies buried, a
golden treasure ; and here there was one. No
one but his mother thought of the little
drummer, and therefore she dreamt of him.
And the days went by, in life and in dreams
Not a hair of his head had been hurt, not a
* Drum-ma-rum ! drum-ma-rum ! there he is !
' the Drum might have said, and his mother
might have sung, if she had seen or dreamt
With hurrah and song, adorned with green
wreaths of victory, they came home, as the
war was at an end, and peace had been
signed. The dog of the regiment sprang on in
front with large bounds, and made the way
three times as long for himself as it really
And days and weeks went by, and Peter came
into his parents' room : he was as brown as
a wild man, and his eyes were bright, and
his face beamed like sunshine. And his
mother held him in her arms ; she kissed his
lips, his eyes, his red hair. She had her
boy back again ; he had
not a silver cross on his breast, as his
father had dreamt, but he had sound limbs, a
thing the mother had not dreamt. And what a
rejoicing was there ! They laughed and they
wept ; and Peter embraced the old Fire-drum.
' There stands the old skeleton still ! ' he
And the father beat a roll upon it.
' One would think that a great fire had
broken out here,' said the Fire-drum. c
Bright day ! fire in the heart ! golden
treasure ! skrat ! skr-r-at ! skr-r-r-r-at '
And what then ? What then ? Ask the town
' Peter 's far outgrowing the drum/ he said.
' Peter will be greater than I.'
And yet he was the son of a royal
plate-washer ; but all that he had learned
in half a lifetime, Peter learned in half a
There was something so merry about him,
something so truly kind-hearted. His eyes
gleamed, and his hair gleamed too there was
no denying that !
' He ought to have his hair dyed,' said the
neighbour's wife. ' That answered capitally
with the policeman's daughter, and she got a
' But her hair turned as green as duckweed,
and was always having to be coloured up.'
' She can afford that,' said the neighbours,
' and so can Peter. He goes to the most
genteel houses, even to the burgomaster's,
where he gives Miss Charlotte pianoforte
He could play ! He could play, fresh out of
his heart, the most charming pieces, that
had never been put upon musicpaper. He
played in the bright nights, and in the dark
nights too. The neighbours declared it was
unbearable, and the Fire-drum was of the
He played until his thoughts scared up, and
burst forth in great plans for the future :
' To be famous ! '
And Burgomaster's Charlotte sat at the
piano. Her delicate fingers danced over the
keys, and made them ring into Peter's heart.
It seemed too much for him to bear ; and
this happened not once, but many times ; and
at last one day he seized the delicate
fingers and the white hand,
and kissed it, and looked into her great
brown eyes. Heaven knows what he said ; but
we may be allowed to guess at it. Charlotte
blushed to guess at it. She reddened from
brow to neck, and answered not a single word
; and then strangers came into the room, and
one of them was the state councillor's son :
he had a lofty white forehead, and carried
it so high that it seemed to go back into
his neck. And Peter sat with them a long
time, and she looked at him with gentle
At home that evening he spoke of travel in
the wide world, and of the golden treasure
that lay hidden for him in his violin.
' To be famous ! '
' Tum-me-lum, tum-me-lum, tum-me-lum ! '
said the Fire-drum. ' Peter has gone clean
out of his wits. I think there must, be a
fire in the house.'
Next day the mother went to market.
' Shall I tell you news, Peter ? ' she asked
when she came home. * A capital piece of
news. Burgomaster's Charlotte has engaged
herself to the state councillor's son ; the
betrothal took place yesterday evening.'
' No ! ' cried Peter, and he sprang up from
his chair. But his mother persisted in
saying 'Yes'. She had heard it from the
barber's wife, whose husband had it from the
burgomaster's own mouth.
And Peter became as pale as death, and sat
' Good Heaven ! what 's the matter with you
? ' asked his mother.
' Nothing, nothing ; only leave ire to
myself,' he answered, but the tears were
running down his cheeks.
' My sweet child, my golden treasure ! '
cried the mother, and she wept ; but the
Fire-drum sang not out loud, but inwardly,
' Charlotte 's gone ! Charlotte 's gone !
and now the song is done.'
But the song was not done ; there were many
more verses in it, long verses, the most
beautiful verses, the golden treasures of a
' She behaves like a mad woman,' said the
neighbour's wife. ' All the world is to see
the letters she gets from her golden
treasure, and to read the words that are
written in the papers about his violin
-playing. And he sends her money too, and
that 's very useful to her since she has
' He plays before emperors and kings said
the town musician. ' I never had that
fortune ; but he 's my pupil, and he does
not forget his old master
And his mother said,
' His father dreamt that Peter came home
from the war with a silver cross. He did not
gain one in the war ; but it is still more
difficult to gain one in this way. Now he
has the cross of honour. If his father had
only lived to see it ! '
He 's grown famous ! ' said the Fire-drum ;
and all his native town said the same thing,
for the drummer's son, Peter with the red
hair Peter whom they had known as a little
boy, running about in wooden shoes, and then
as a drummer, playing for the dancers was
become famous !
' He played at our house before he played in
the presence of kings/ said the
burgomaster's wife. At that time he was
quite smitten with Charlotte. He was always
of an aspiring turn. At that time he was
saucy and an enthusiast. My husband laughed
when he heard of the foolish affair, and now
our Charlotte's a state councillor's wife.'
A golden treasure had been hidden in the
heart and soul of the poor child, who had
beaten the roll as a drummer a roll of
victory for those who had been ready to
retreat. There was a golden treasure in his
bosom, the power of sound : it burst forth
on his violin as if the instrument had
been a complete organ, and as if all the
elves of a midsummer night were dancing
across the strings. In its sounds were heard
the piping of the thrush and the full clear
note of the human voice ; therefore the
sound brought rapture to every heart, and
carried his name triumphant
through the land. That was a great firebrand
the firebrand of inspiration.
' And then he looks so splendid ! ' said the
young ladies and the old ladies too ; and
the oldest of all procured an album for
famous locks of hair, wholly and solely that
she might beg a lock of his rich splendid
hair, that treasure, that golden treasure.
And the son came into the poor room of the
drummer, elegant as a prince, happier than a
king. His eyes were as clear and his face as
radiant as sunshine ; and he held his mother
in his arms, and she kissed his mouth, and
wept as blissfully as any one can weep for
joy ; and he nodded
at every old piece of furniture in the room,
at the cupboard with the tea-cups, and at
the flower-vase. He nodded at the
sleeping-bench, where he had slept as a
little boy ; but the old Fire-drum he
brought out,and dragged it into the middle
of the room, and said to it and to his
' My father would have beaten a famous roll
this evening. Now I must do it ! '
And he beat a thundering roll-call on the
instrument, and the Drum felt so highly
honoured that the parchment burst with
' He has a splendid touch ! ' said the Drum.
' I've a remembrance of him now that will
last. I expect that the same thing will
happen to his mother, from pure joy over her
And this is the story of the Golden