A dung beetle.

"The Beetle Who Went on His Travels" (Danish: "Skarnbassen") is a humorous short story for children with some fantasy elements by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It was first published in 1861.

The insect who is the story's title character and protagonist is extremely conceited. Believing that he is not properly appreciated at home, he decides to go out into the world to seek his fortune. The beetle's travels and the hardships which he suffers do not change him for the better. If anything, at the end of the story, he is more conceited than before.


The beetle expects the farrier to give him golden shoes. 1871 illustration by Lorenz Frølich.

For having saved his life by carrying him safely across the battlefield, the Emperor rewards his favorite horse by giving him golden shoes. A beetle who lives in the imperial stables thinks that he should be given golden shoes too. He approaches the farrier, expecting to have golden shoes placed on his feet. The farrier tries to explain that there is a special reason why the horse has been given golden shoes. The beetle, however, takes it as a great insult that the horse is better treated than he is. He announces that he is leaving the stables to seek his fortune elsewhere.

The beetle goes to a garden where some ladybugs live. The ladybugs think that the garden is beautiful. The beetle, however, does not like it because there is no dung heap. He goes to a haystack beneath which a caterpillar lives. The caterpillar is excited about becoming a butterfly. The beetle scoffs at the caterpillar's future plans and accuses him of being conceited. The fact that he has wings already makes the beetle feel superior to the caterpillar. He demonstrates his superiority by flying away.

Soon after the beetle lands on a large lawn, it begins to rain. The beetle takes shelter in a fold in a piece of linen, which has been placed on the lawn to dry, and goes to sleep. When he wakes up the following morning, the beetle finds two frogs on the piece of lines. The frogs talk about how lucky they are to live somewhere with a damp climate. The beetle says that conditions are better inside the imperial stables, where it is both damp and warm. He asks the frogs how to get to the nearest dung heap but they ignore him. The beetle is provided with directions to the closest dung heap by some earwigs who live in a piece of broken pottery.

The dung heap is home to many other beetles. The beetle marries one of them. Three days after his wedding, however, he decides that he does not want to provide for a wife and children. He abandons his wife and leaves the dung heap forever.

The beetle is rescued from the wooden shoe. 1871 illustration by Lorenz Frølich.

Having escaped from the clutches of two scholars who want to study him, the beetle finds himself inside a greenhouse. He is delighted to see so many different plants because he thinks that he will be able to feast on them when they rot. He is not in the greenhouse for long, however, before he is discovered by the gardener's young son and another boy. The boys make a boat from a wooden shoe and a stick. The beetle is tied to the stick and the boat is placed on a lake. When he floats far away from the shore, the beetle is certain that it is the end of him. He thinks of how nobody will ever hear of his adventures. He also thinks that, since he is the only being in the world worthy of respect, nobody else deserves to hear his adventures.

The wooden shoe passes by a boat carrying some young women. One of them rescues the beetle and places him on the shore. He flies off into the nearest building. He finds himself back in the imperial stables, sitting on the mane of the Emperor's favorite horse. He fancies that he has taken the Emperor's place by riding the horse.

The beetle remembers that the farrier tried to say that there was a reason why the horse was given golden shoes. The beetle concludes that he was that reason. The horse was special because the beetle was destined to ride it one day.

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