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In the afternoon, the old lady heard from everyone that the shoes had
been red, and she said that it was very wrong of Karen, that it was not
at all becoming, and that in future Karen should only go in black shoes
to church, even when she should be older.
The next Sunday there was the sacrament, and Karen looked at the black
shoes, looked at the red ones--looked at them again, and put on the red
The sun shone gloriously; Karen and the old lady walked along the path
through the corn; it was rather dusty there.
At the church door stood an old soldier with a crutch, and with a
wonderfully long beard, which was more red than white, and he bowed to
the ground, and asked the old lady whether he might dust her shoes. And
Karen stretched out her little foot.
"See, what beautiful dancing shoes!" said the soldier. "Sit firm when
you dance"; and he put his hand out towards the soles.
And the old lady gave the old soldier alms, and went into the church
And all the people in the church looked at Karen's red shoes, and all
the pictures, and as Karen knelt before the altar, and raised the cup to
her lips, she only thought of the red shoes, and they seemed to swim
in it; and she forgot to sing her psalm, and she forgot to pray, "Our
Father in Heaven!"
Now all the people went out of church, and the old lady got into her
carriage. Karen raised her foot to get in after her, when the old
"Look, what beautiful dancing shoes!"
And Karen could not help dancing a step or two, and when she began her
feet continued to dance; it was just as though the shoes had power over
She danced round the church corner, she could not leave off; the
coachman was obliged to run after and catch hold of her, and he lifted
her in the carriage, but her feet continued to dance so that she trod on
the old lady dreadfully. At length she took the shoes off, and then her
legs had peace.
The shoes were placed in a closet at home, but Karen could not avoid
looking at them.
Now the old lady was sick, and it was said she could not recover. She
must be nursed and waited upon, and there was no one whose duty it was
so much as Karen's. But there was a great ball in the city, to which
Karen was invited. She looked at the old lady, who could not recover,
she looked at the red shoes, and she thought there could be no sin in
it; she put on the red shoes, she might do that also, she thought. But
then she went to the ball and began to dance.
When she wanted to dance to the right, the shoes would dance to the
left, and when she wanted to dance up the room, the shoes danced back
again, down the steps, into the street, and out of the city gate. She
danced, and was forced to dance straight out into the gloomy wood.
Then it was suddenly light up among the trees, and she fancied it must
be the moon, for there was a face; but it was the old soldier with
the red beard; he sat there, nodded his head, and said, "Look, what
beautiful dancing shoes!"
Then she was terrified, and wanted to fling off the red shoes, but they
clung fast; and she pulled down her stockings, but the shoes seemed to
have grown to her feet. And she danced, and must dance, over fields and
meadows, in rain and sunshine, by night and day; but at night it was the