Religious motifs : Overview. Search. About religious motifs

See also Hymn book, hymnal


Song, church

Description of this motif:

Psalms are religious songs. A remarkable example of the motif in the fairy tales and stories of Hans Christian Andersen is At the Uttermost Parts of the Sea. The title is a quote from psalm 139 of the bible's book of Psalms, a psalm by David.

Example :

Slowly the sun set, and the clouds turned a fiery red; a stillness, a deep stillness, settled over the forest. The boy fell on his knees, sang his evening hymn, and said to himself, "I'll never find what I'm seeking now. The sun is setting, and the night is coming-the dark night. But perhaps I can catch one more glimpse of the round red sun before it disappears below the horizon. I'll climb up on those rocks; they rise up as high as the tallest trees!" Seizing the roots and creepers, he slowly made his way up the slippery stones, where the water snakes writhed and the toads and frogs seemed to be barking at him. Yet he reached the summit just as the sun was going down. Oh, what a wonderful sight!

The sea, the great, the beautiful sea, rolling its long waves against the shore, lay stretched out before him, and the sun stood like a large shining altar, where ocean and heaven met; the whole world seemed to melt together in glowing colors. The forest sang, the sea sang, and the heart of the boy sang too. Nature was a vast, holy church, where the trees and drifting clouds were the pillars; flowers and grass made the velvet carpet, and heaven itself was the great dome. Up there, the red colors faded as the sun sank into the ocean, but then millions of stars sprang out, like millions of diamond lamps, and the king's son spread out his arms in joy toward the heavens, the sun, and the forest.

At that moment, from the right-hand path, there appeared the poor boy with the short sleeves and the wooden shoes. He had come there as quickly and by following his own path. Joyfully they ran towards each other, and held each other by the hand in the great tabernacle of Nature and Poetry, while above them sounded the invisible, holy bell. The blessed spirits floated around them and lifted up their voices in a joyful hallelujah.

Comment on this quote:

"The church" is in the tale about "The Bell", quoting the tale, "the great tabernacle of Nature and Poetry". There is no church in the ordinary sense of the word in the tale, but the metaphors and the sense (!) of a church is so strong, that this church of nature must be counted among the hcurches in Andersen's fairy tales. Devotion in nature is, what two young men with open hearts and strong wills reach in their search for the source of the sound of the bell. The fairy tale is in different contexts used as an example of archtypical "romantic pantheism" in HCA's oeuvre. As a matter of fact theis tale is unique among Andersen's fairy tales and stories, even though one can find signs of a sort of concordance between nature and the human soul. A similar pessimism can be pointed at in e.g. The Fir Tree og The Shadow. It should be noted, that the church, or 'tabernacle', is of Nature and Poetry – The bell's and the Whole's presence is an experience, a mood, two boys have a summer night at the sea. This does not mean that it isn't real, but it isn't staying, and it's not the only or the highest truth about the wolrd and life in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales and stories.