Religious motifs : Overview. Search. About religious motifs

Description of this motif:

Humility is in Andersen's writings almost always connected with persons' being world-oriented, thus often also against its creator, God, or being self-centered. Self-satisfied and self-sufficient characters are often exposed in Andersen' oeuvre. Their charateristics are pettiness, intolerance, a narrow mind, insensibility, being ungratified, because the world seems cruel and unjust and doesn't give them enough, and arrogant pride. The proud and self-sufficient persons thinks that all that is good comes from him-/herself. The humble sees the world around her and her own conditions as sent from God. The humble is satisfied with the facts of life and even thanks (God) for everything.

The rose in "The Snail and the Rosebush" is, in contradiction to the snail, a pious grateful and extrovert type, giving its best to the world. "The Snail and the Rosebush" is a textbook example of the motif and is in addition extraordinary, because God isn't mentioned explicitly as the source of the gifts of life.

Example 1:

"How beautiful that is," he said, but he had his work to attend to, and he would forget the bird's song. But the next night, when he heard the song he would again say, "How beautiful."
Comment on this quote: Andersen wrote "Herre Gud" ('My Lord', 'God almighty', 'Lord, the Master') in the Danish original. This expression is usually just a phrase, when it is employed as it is the case here, but it nevertheless has another sort of gravity to it in the quote, that qualifies it to be regarded as a sign of gratitude towards God and wonder at His creation.

Example 2:

At last they found a poor little kitchen girl, who said:

"The nightingale? I know him well. Yes, indeed he can sing. Every evening I get leave to carry scraps from table to my sick mother. She lives down by the shore. When I start back I am tired, and rest in the woods. Then I hear the nightingale sing. It brings tears to my eyes. It's as if my mother were kissing me."

Comment on this quote: Maybe it is worth noticing, that the girls gratitude towards God (in the Danish original she says 'O Gud': Oh God) for the beautiful song of the nightingale is related, though remote, to the thought or memory of the mother – maybe the mother-figure should be regarded as origin and in this respect similar to God, the Father. This indicated relation between the religious and a mother is clearer in "The Garden of Paradise", in which "the queen of the fairies" in the Garden of Paradise explains the prince, how she and the other fairies will tempt him to repeat the violation of Adam and Eve and the Fall. The divine temptation, to which they expose the prince, is beautiful and irresistible. The combination of erotic temptation of the beautiful women and the queen of the fairies, who the prince ends up kissing in happiness, and the mother's voice in a religious setting is characteristic of Andersen, though unusual, and it calls for reflections of the nature and mutual relations of these phenomena:

"Now we will start our dances," the fairy said. "When I have danced the last dance with you at sundown, you will see me hold out my hands to you, and hear me call. 'come with me.' But do not come. Every evening for a hundred years, I shall have to repeat this. Every time that you resist, your strength will grow, and at last you will not even think of yielding to temptation. This evening is the first time, so take warning!"

And the fairy led him into a large hall of white, transparent lilies. The yellow stamens of each flower formed a small golden harp, which vibrated to the music of strings and flutes. The loveliest maidens, floating and slender, came dancing by, clad in such airy gauze that one could see how perfectly shaped they were. They sang of the happiness of life-they who would never die-and they sang that the Garden of Paradise would forever bloom.

The sun went down. The sky turned to shining gold, and in its light the lilies took on the color of the loveliest roses. The Prince drank the sparkling wine that the maidens offered him, and felt happier than he had ever been. He watched the background of the hall thrown open, and the Tree of Knowledge standing in a splendor which blinded his eyes. The song from the tree was as soft and lovely as his dear mother's voice, and it was as if she were saying, "My child, my dearest child."

Example 3:

"I have seen tears in the Emperor's eyes," he said. "Nothing could surpass that. An Emperor's tears are strangely powerful. I have my reward." And he sang again, gloriously.