"The Flying Trunk" (Danish: "Den flyvende Kuffert") is a fantasy story for children by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It was first published on October 19, 1839, along with "The Garden of Paradise" and "The Storks", in the anthology Fairy Tales Told for Children, New Collection, Second Booklet, 1839.
The main character in the story is a young man who has squandered his once considerable fortune but who acquires a flying trunk. The trunk allows him to visit Turkey where he meets the king's daughter. The princess falls in love with the young man and the young man also wins the trust of her parents. It is agreed that the princess and the young man are to be married but the wedding never takes place. Due to the young man's carelessness, the flying trunk is destroyed and he is left separated from his bride forever.
The story's Oriental setting and its theme of a character acquiring a magical object which makes flight possible are suggestive of The Thousand and One Nights, a work with which Andersen had been familiar since childhood. Furthermore, like several stories in The Thousand and One Nights, "The Flying Trunk" contains a tale-within-a-tale. The manner in which the young protagonist wins the trust of the king and queen as a result of his talent as a storyteller is somewhat reminiscent of how Scheherezade gains the confidence of the king in The Thousand and One Nights.
A wealthy merchant dies and leaves all of his money to his son. The merchant's son spends all of his vast inheritance very quickly and is soon left with nothing. He does not even have any clothes except for a robe and a pair of slippers. A friend takes pity on the young man, he advises him to leave town and gives him a trunk in which to pack his belongings, although the young man has no belongings to pack.
The young man finds that pushing the lock on the trunk makes it fly. He flies in the trunk to Turkey. His clothes do not look strange there because all of the men in Turkey where robes and slippers too. The young man notices a palace. He is told that it is the home of the king's daughter and, because of a prophecy that she will have an unhappy marriage, nobody is allowed to visit the princess except for the king and queen themselves.
Using the trunk again, the young man flies up to the roof of the palace and enters the building. The princess is surprised to find an intruder in her home but he tells her that she has no reason to be afraid because he is the Prophet who has come down from the sky. The young man goes on to tell the princess how beautiful she is. The princess soon falls in love with him and gives him a valuable sword as a gift. She tells him to return on Saturday to meet her mother and father. She advises the young man to tell her parents a story but warns him that they both like different kinds of stories. The queen likes stories which are educational and moral. The king likes funny stories.
The young man returns on Saturday, having thought of a suitable tale to tell the king and queen. He tells them the story of some matches who think that they are the most noble objects in the kitchen because they were once part of a majestic pine tree. Some of the other items in the kitchen begin to argue that they are more noble before they eventually decide that they should all work together to overthrow the people and take over the house. However, they do nothing when the maid eneters the kitchen. The maid strikes the matches. The matches are convinced that all the other objects in the kitchen will finally see how brilliant they really are. The matches then burn out and their lives are over.
Both the king and queen enjoy the story and agree that the Prophet should marry the princess.
The day on which the princess is to marry the Prophet is a day of great celebrations. To add to the festivities, the young man buys a large quantity of fireworks. He flies over the town in his trunk whilst setting off the fireworks. He lands in a forest and is eager to fly back to the town to hear what people are saying about the Prophet's impressive display. However, one of the fireworks set fire to the trunk and it burns away completely.
The wedding never takes place. The princess sits on the roof of her palace, waiting for her bridegroom to come down from the sky again but, without the flying trunk, the young man cannot reach her.
The young man becomes a traveling storyteller but none of the stories he tells are as happy as the one which he once told to the king and queen.
- Text of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Flying Trunk" in Danish and English on Wikisource.
- Public domain audiobook of "The Flying Trunk" on YouTube.