The street boys find the darning needle. 19th century illustration by Vilhelm Pedersen.

"The Darning Needle" (Danish: "Stoppenaalen") is a short fantasy story for children by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It was first published in 1845.

The needle who is the story's title character and protagonist is a snob. She accuses most of those around her of being self-centered while being unaware of how conceited she is herself. She is convinced that her social status is much higher than it is in reality. As part of this delusion, she fancies that she is much more delicate than she really is.


The upper part of a cook's shoe becomes detached from its sole. The darning needle which the cook uses to repair the shoe is under the false impression that she is a sewing needle. She protests that she is too delicate for such rough work and says that she will break. Surprisingly, the head does break off the darning needle. However, the cook makes a new head for the needle from sealing wax and uses it as a pin to fasten her kerchief. The darning needle is happy with what she sees as a promotion to becoming a breastpin, especially since she thinks that another pin next to her may be made of gold.

Illustration from the 1888 anthology Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales.

The darning needle does not enjoy being a breastpin for long before she falls into the sink and goes down the drain. She finds herself in a gutter in the company of sticks, straws and bits of old newspaper. She looks down on all of them and accuses them all of thinking about nothing but themselves. One day, the darning needle notices something which she thinks is a diamond. It is really a piece of broken bottle. The darning needle introduces herself as a breastpin. The piece of broken bottle neither confirms nor denies that he is a diamond. Both the darning needle and the piece of broken bottle are under the false impression that they are talking to somebody very important. They both try to keep up the appearance of being important themselves and talk about how conceited everyone else is. The conversation ends when more water goes into the gutter and carries away the piece of bottle.

After some time, the darning needle turns black. This pleases her because she thinks it makes her look more elegant. One day, some street boys who are looking for coins in the gutter find the darning needle. One boy puts her inside an eggshell to make a toy boat. The darning needle is pleased with this, thinking that her black form looks attractive against the white inside of the eggshell. A wagon runs over the toy boat. The darning needle, still under the false impression that she is more delicate than she really is, cries out that she will be broken. However, although the eggshell is smashed, the darning needle is not damaged any further. At this point, the story abruptly ends.

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