The Hans Christian Andersen Center

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Vision, sight, man, God, insight, hubris/hybris, nemesis, pride, arrogance, humbleness, fearing God

Description of this motif:

The prohibition of seeing god has to do with fearing and standing in awe of God. God forbids Moses to see Him in Exodus 33, 18-20, where Moses asks: "Show me your glory." and God answers:

"I will make all my goodness pass before your face, and I will proclaim the Lord by name before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy." And he said, "You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live."

The divine is not for the deadly. The point is the same as in Hans Christian Andersen's tale "The Buck Wheat", in which the arrogant buck wheat is warned by more pious plants, that it should bend its head and see away from the lightning, "for in the lightning one can look into God's Heaven itself, and that sight will strike even human beings blind! So if we, who are so much less worthy than they, dared to do it, what would happen to us!"". In Andersen's fable about the buck wheat the prohibition is modified; the punishment isn't death, and what can be seen isn't God. The buck wheat is burned as a punishment for its arrogance.


The tales are sorted by year. The leading numbers refer to the number of occurrences of the motif in the respective texts.

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