Quote from "The Marsh King's Daughter" (1858)

Registered motifs in this quote

When Helga saw them, she rose from the table and went out on the veranda to stroke their backs. The old storks bowed their heads, while the youngest of their children looked on and appreciated the honor bestowed on them.

Helga looked up at the bright star, which grew yet more brilliant and clear. Between her and the star hovered a form even purer than the air, and therefore visible through it. As it floated down quite near her, she saw that it was the martyred priest. He too came to her wedding feast-came from the Kingdom of Heaven.

"The splendor and happiness up there," he said, "surpass all that is known on earth."

More humbly and fervently than she had ever yet prayed, Helga asked that for one brief moment she might be allowed to go there and cast a single glance into the bright Kingdom of Heaven. Then he raised her up in splendor and glory, through a stream of melody and thoughts. The sound and the brightness were not only around her but within her soul as well. They lay beyond all words.

"We must go back, or you will be missed," the martyred priest said to her.

"Only one more glance," she begged. "Only one brief moment more."

"We must go back to the earth, for all your guests are leaving."

"Only one more look! The last!"

Then Helga stood again on the veranda, but all the torches had been extinguished, and the banquet hall was dark. The storks were gone. No guests were to be seen, and no bridegroom. All had vanished in those three brief moments.

A great fear fell upon her. She wandered through the huge, empty hall into the next room, where foreign soldiers lay asleep. She opened the side door that led into her own bedroom. When she thought she had entered it, she found herself in the garden, but it wasn't the garden she knew. Red gleamed the sky, for it was the break of day. Only three moments in heaven, and a long time had passed on the earth.

Registered motifs in this quote:

  1. Eternity
  2. Ghost
  3. God's Kingdom, heaven
  4. Priest
  5. Wedding

Keywords: woman, birds, storks, wedding, time, eternity, moment

Comment: The story about the moment in heavne, that equals a very long time on earth, is a variation of a Jewish myth from Talmud, known in various variations, among others one about a monk, who listens to the bird's song and, when he returns to his convict, finds out that several hundreds of years have passed. This story is treated by, among others, Andersen's friend H.W. Longfellow (1807-82) in The Golden Legend (1851). Andersen used it himself in the tale Urbanus, cf. Flemming Hovmann's commentary in vol. 7 of H.C. Andersens eventyr, Dansk Sprog- og Litteraturselskab / Borgen 1990, p. 190.