"Sjælen på livseventyrets vej".
This paper has been published in Andersen og Verden, Odense 1993.
Life Odyssey of the SoulSimon Grabowski
(summary for pages 394-405)
The author initially reviews his way into Fantastic Literature. Eigil Nyborg's The Inner Line in the Tales of H. C. Andersen (Den indre linie i H. C. Andersens eventyr, 1962) introduced him to a Jungian approach to Andersen as well as to some of C. G. Jung's basic work itself. During his first years of subsequent academic literary studies, three further challenges - Gulliver's Travels by Swift, Mysteries by Hamsun, and his encounter with the writings of German romanticism - combined to form a supreme challenge, the re-union with Andersen on a new level of insight. Thus, out of a specific Jungian approach, the comprehensive Fantastic Literature approach developed in time.
But this approach, then, immediately offers itself as a tool for seeing Andersen the story-teller in a perspective vastly broader than the worn-out international cliché notion of him as a children's author. In addition, even in one of his very first adoptions, within the folk tale genre, of the specific genre of the magic tale, "The Tinder Box" ("Fyrtøiet", 1835), a specific detail points even beyond the overall genre of Fantastic Literature and into the realm of the epic life saga. Through his sudden ownership of the tinder box, left underground long ago by the witch's grandmother, the soldier also, paradoxically, assumes patriarchal responsibility for re-installing to power an elemental, primordial force of a sunken matriarchy, for the conceivable purpose of reconciling, in time and within the evolution of human society, these two warring opposites. Carrying out such a large-scale task would require a lifetime, and we are free to imagine the brief story subsequently carried on into a sweepingly panoramic saga of the life of the hero who did it. Such a tale would comprise all of the protagonist's adult development, instead of just the introductory round of personality integration rendered symbolically - in accordance with the Jungian view - by the traditional magic tale.
Narratives combining, panoramically, both these stages - the "magic" outset and the "epic" continuation - and thus rendering, so to speak, the entire self-realization saga of the "seven-league soul", seem rare in literature; and in Andersen's own work, too, we only meet the 'magic' and the 'panoramic' in separate tales. As with a number of works by other famous authors - Swift, Carroll, Stevenson, Dumas - Andersen's magic tales have fallen from adult reading into children's literature, where young readers have reaped intuitive insight from the magic elements inaccessible to modern adult reading audiences not yet in possession of tools for conscious, psychoanalytical discovery. In recent decades, the Swedish concept of "allålderslitteratur" has resurrected the magic genre of Fantastic Literature as a genre offering itself, fundamentally and specifically, to readers of all ages.
But Andersen's panoramic stories, too, belong naturally within the liberal bounds of such an "all-ages" literature. Having lost touch, to such a devastating degree, in our own times with the archetype of "life totality", we need to be reminded that life is, above all, man's entire odyssey through his own emerging life experience, and not just some blindfolded and disconnected piecemeal affair. In the story of "The Bell" (1845), the two protagonists are fundamentally inspired with the vision of carrying through their individual life odyssey to its farthest goal - the reunion, even, with the divine entity from which they have emerged into earthly life. To the little boy in "The Comet" (1869), the far-reaching symbols of evolving life entity inherent in the soap bubbles and in the comet itself call the archetype of life totality into a presence within his young mind from an exceptionally early stage - and, looking back as an old man, over his completed life, he experiences - on the very eve of the return of the comet! - the actual fulfilment, the desire of which had unconsciously spurred him on.
In some of his panoramic stories, such as for example "The Angel" (1844), and "The Child in the Grave" (1859), Andersen even extends his life panorama across the boundaries of earthly life. In "Peiter, Peter, and Peer" (1868), the phenomenon of the shooting star is "explained" to the reader as the signal of a soul's entrance from the beyond into earthly life, or as its departure back from it. In the latter story, we witness, one by one, three little brothers' individual realization of his own purpose in life; three unspectacular, but no less personally distinct, life destinies. Even these, then, are to be viewed as the fulfilment of the task for which the soul descended into its human existence.
Life seen as a journey of the soul, travelling along the road of its life adventure - this vision of life is an archetypal one, and in the mind of the present writer, it broke into final verbalization almost two years prior to the writing of this essay. Throughout his reading life, the vision has gradually condensed out of a certain spiritual essence found by the author to constitute a most special common ground in the respective writings of Hans Christian Andersen and Alexandre Dumas; to them both, our life story on earth is not in any way separate from the unlimited Beyond of the Soul. While in Andersen this becomes most clear in quite a number of his panoramic stories, one has to resort, for an equally tangible confirmation of it in Dumas, to the memoirs of the latter. Using the very same vision of life in its eternal context as a key to Knut Hamsun's Mysteries (1892), one also finds oneself startlingly equipped to crystallize the entire jungle of enigma of this strange novel into an amazing focal point of sudden, all-pervading meaning.
In the author's view, the tragedy of Hamsun's life transpired out of a personal lack of contact with this vision in his own life, while its existential presence in the self-understanding of both Dumas and Andersen was strong. As for broadcasting this vision to their respective readers, Andersen's way is almost propagandist, while Dumas' is discrete. One has to cover the major span of the musketeer saga, from the death of Mme. Bonacieux, towards the end of The Three Musketeers (1844), until the death of d'Artagnan, on the final page of Vicomte de Bragelonne (1848-50), to have fully fathomed the unspoken presence of an invisible, eternal realm of the soul behind the immediate scene of its earthly life drama. The musketeer saga appears to be one of the few narratives within Western literature which starts out in the realm of the magic tale and develops into a full-fledged epic life saga. The introductory novel cannot end the story, because its hero soldier - unlike the soldier in "The Tinder Box" - cannot really accept the necessary destruction of the witch, thus enabling her, in time, to destroy his one and only true princess. The restoration of this severe damage to the feminine principle within d'Artagnan himself becomes the underground fuel for the rest of the trilogy. Building their magnificent life panoramas in so masterly a fashion into an omnipresent and eternal spiritual context, the author considers that Andersen and Dumas were in fact reaching into a prophetic realm of writing - enabling, in an age of recklessly devastating materialism, a basically religious view of life to hibernate within the safe domain of art: preserving it thus towards future epochs of science in which an all-encompassing cosmic insight into the unity of the material and the spiritual will finally catapult our evolution on earth into a universally redeeming new stage of civilization.