The Goblin and the Grocer

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Vilhelm Pedersen illustration

"The Goblin and the Grocer" (Danish: Nissen hos Spekhøkeren) is a fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen about a goblin who must choose between poetry or a Christmas treat from a grocer. The tale was first published November 30, 1852, and republished several times during the author's lifetime. Andrew Lang included it in The Pink Fairy Book (1897); the title is sometimes mistakenly translated into English as "The Goblin and the Huckster".


Once, a student lived in an attic while a grocer lived on the first floor with a house goblin; because the grocer gave the goblin a lump of jam and butter at Christmas, the goblin belonged to the grocer. One day, the student came to buy cheese and candles; then he discovered that his cheese was wrapped in a page from a poetry book, so he bought the book instead of the cheese, and joked that the grocer knew nothing about poetry; the goblin, offended by the joke, used magic to make everything in the room speak and they all agreed that poetry was useless. The goblin went to tell the student, but he saw a beautiful, marvelous tree of light in the student's room, the most splendid thing he had ever seen, he kept going back to watch the tree of light through the peephole, but could not stay there, for the grocer gave him jam and butter. One day when there was a fire, the goblin ran to save the poetry book, and realized that he thought the book the greatest treasure in the house. Still, he decided to divide his time between the grocer and the student, because the student has no jam.

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