Religious motifs : Overview. Search. About religious motifs

The motif Prayer is a part of: Ritual


Faith, speech, words, ritual

Description of this motif:

Prayers in a religious sense of the word, are adressed to one or more gods, divine or sacred persons in anticipation of help, blessings or a good relationship.

There are prescribed prayers, e.g. the Lord's Prayer and Ave Maria, and there are prayers, which are spontaneous and individual. Both kinds are present in Andersen's tales.

Example :

"I sailed over Lneburg Heath," the Moon said. "A lonely hut stood there by the roadside. Around it grew a few withered bushes where a nightingale, which had lost its way, was singing. It would surely die during that cold night; it was its swan's song that I heard.

"Morning dawned, and along came a group of emigrant peasant families who wanted to go to Bremen or Hamburg to take a ship for America, where they hoped to see their dreams of good fortune come true. The youngest children were carried on the backs of the women, while the bigger ones skipped along beside them. A wretched horse was dragging a cart that bore the few household effects they possessed.

"The cold wind blew, causing a little girl to nestle more closely to her mother, who looked up at my round, decreasing orb, and thought of the cruel hardships she had suffered in her home, of the heavy taxes they had not been able to pay. Her thoughts were those of the whole group. Hence the rosy glimmer of the rising dawn seemed to them like a ray of promise, the forerunner of the sun of happiness that would rise again. They heard the song of the dying nightingale, and to them it seemed no false prophet, but the herald of good fortune.

"The wind whistled, but they could not understand its song: 'Sail over the ocean! You have paid for the long passage with all your possessions. Poor and helpless shall you set foot on the promised land. You may sell yourselves, your wives, and your children. Yet you shall not suffer long, for behind the broad, fragrant leaf sits the angel of death. Her welcome kiss breathes the deadly fever into your blood! Sail on, sail on over the swelling waves!'

"And the group listened happily to the song of the nightingale, for it surely seemed to promise good fortune.

"The day broke through the light clouds. The peasants were crossing the heath on their way to church. In their black gowns, and with the strip of white linen bound closely around their heads, the women looked as if they had stepped out of the old paintings in the church. Around them lay a vast, dead scene – the withered, brown heath, dark, scorched plains between white sand dunes. The women were carrying their prayer books as they made their way to the church. Oh pray! Pray for those who go forth to their graves, beyond the swelling waves!"

Comment on this quote: The tones of the dying nightingale is an omen of death for the family, that is wandering towards happiness. De misinterprete the nigthingale's song as a happy song about the happiness, that awaits. It is a sinister discrepancy between what is intended and what's understood and between hope and destiny. They emigrate in the hope of survival and reaching the land of happiness (America), but they shall die. But, the omen of death may also be interpreted the same way as the artist's death in his happiest moment in the novel Lucky Peer and the little mermaid's transformation in death. The thought of death as the happiest fate is also the dark end of The Galoshes of Fortune. The poetic beauty of the dying bird also receives power from another central motif in the oeuvre: the suffering artist, whose art is created on the basis of pain, but sounds sweet in the ears of the audience. The motif is also a part of Sixteenth Evening of Picture Book Without Pictures.