Religious motifs : Overview. Search. About religious motifs

See also Funeral, Graveyard


Death, graveyard, cross

Description of this motif: Graves are a place for melancholy, sorrow and memories, and so it is in Andersen's tales, for example in the "The Old Tombstone". The emphasis is on memories of the dead, even when oblivion prevails, as in the mercyless story "The Wind Tells about Valdemar Daae and His Daughters":

The stork had given her shelter to the day of her death. I sang at her funeral," said the Wind, "as I had sung at her father's; I know where his grave is, and her grave, but no one else knows.

Now there are new times, changed times. The old highway is lost in the fields, old cemeteries have been made into new roads, and soon the steam engine, with its row of cars, will come to rush over the forgotten graves of unknown ancestors. Whew, whew, whew! On, on!

Example :

Then she flew down into the courtyard, and this was also lovely. There were palms and green foliage painted on the walls, and in the middle of the courtyard stood a big, blooming rose tree that spread its fresh green branches, with their many flowers, over a grave. She flew to it, for she saw several other sparrows there. "Twit!" she said, and scraped three times with her left leg.

And then many people came into the courtyard from one of the rooms where the beautiful marble figures stood, and they went to the grave that held the remains of the great master who had created those figures. All stood with their eyes on Thorvaldsen's grave, and some gathered scattered rose petals to save. There were people from faraway places; they had come from mighty England from Germany, and France; and the fairest lady took one of the roses and placed it near her heart.

The sparrows then thought that the roses reigned there, that the whole house had been built for them. This seemed to them to be really a little too much, but since the people all showed such regard for the roses, they would do the same. "Twit!" they said, and swept the ground with their tails, with one eye on the roses. They did not look at them long before they were convinced that they were their old neighbors, and so they really were. The artist who had sketched the rosebush near the charred ruins of the house had later obtained permission to transplant it, and had then given it to the architect of the Museum, for lovelier roses could not be found; and the architect had planted it on Thorvalsden's grave, where, as a living symbol of the beautiful, it blossomed and gave its red, fragrant petals to be carried as remembrances to foreign lands.

So they pecked at the leaf until it fell off, but it only made the rose tree look fresher and greener. And the roses bloomed fragrantly in the sunshine on the grave of Thorvaldsen, with whose immortal name their beauty thus became linked.