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Summaries of papers from previous international HCA conferences
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Summaries of papers from previous international HCA conferences

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Satania Infernalis or the Arabesque of Seduction

Finn Barlby

(summary for pages 276-88)

There are three great female characters in the tales af Hans Christian Andersen: The Snow Queen, The Ice Maiden and Auntie Toothache. Three "flat" characters. Three black ladies. Three seducers.

These tales are all stories of fall and seduction. The male protagonists are exposed to dizzy siren calls. They are trapped and dazzled by a one-sidedness that at first seems elevating and inspiring. But the one-sidedness soon turns out to cost them dear. The effect is detachment from a number of rather important values. Values that are absolutely necessary, if they want to survive as independent individuals.

The three tales are about the struggle between those great powers named - among other things - reason and innocence. But the stories are also about different techniques of seduction.

We are here approaching the hard core of these tales: the most important and complex and interesting and ... seductive technique is: storytelling.

1. "The Snow Queen"

"The Snow Queen" (1845) is in some respects the least complicated of these tales. It deals with the boy Kay, who meets the world with complete openness, innocence and spontaneity. He is the child. He is not yet able to distinguish between "true" and "false", "fancy" and "reality".

His encounter with the Snow Queen is fatal. He is dazzled by her irresistible seductive powers. He is taken "prisoner" in her palace, that is "imprisoned" or "fascinated" by cold and "white" reason.

That is the fall.

However, with a little help from the other child, Gerda, the ice melts away and suppressed potential is freed. Kay can return home: "There they both sat, grown up, and yet children - children at heart - and it was summer, warm delightful summer".

That issalvation.

"The Snow Queen" is a defence of homo totus.

2. "The Ice Maiden"

"The Ice Maiden" (1862) is a far more complicated story about a far more complex character or rather: The complex man.

Rudy, who lives in, on and by nature, falls in love with Babette, the miller's daughter. This starts an avalanche, which cannot be stopped.

The encounter between Rudy and Babette is, in a way, the encounter between "nature" and "culture" or rather between simplicity and sophistication. It has fatal consequences:

Rudy loses his simplicity because the cultural world is characterized by an incurable duplicity. He cannot understand that a promise is not a promise or that a word is not a word; this confuses him and the very basis of his existence is threatened.

Rudy is the complicated, divided man, who cannot live on these terms, because he has not forgotten the "ideal" simplicity. He never liked "to sell".

The story is a complicated text, because it is difficult for "the meaning" to get through the whole (modern) mess - unharmed.

3. "Auntie Toothache"

"Auntie Toothache'' (1872) is the most complicated and tantalizing of these texts.

It is told in the first-person by a narrator who is extremely interested in literature. He tells the story of how he saved a literary text from destruction and oblivion.

The story saved is a story within the story. It is about a student who wants and does not want to be a poet. His aunt tries by various seductive means to make him a poet, so that he can become famous and generally accepted.

The double nature of the aunt is a symbolic expression of the two sides of the poetic challenge: pleasure and suffering.

But the story within the story does not give the whole picture. There is also the frame-story of the first-person narrator. In the end it turns out that that story is the most important.

In the last part of the frame-story the first-person narrator concludes: "Bryggeren er død, Tante er død, Studenten er død..." .

He writes "Bryggeren", "Studenten" and "Tante".

This means that the first-person narrator is identical with the student in the story within the story. It means that the whole story is a story about seduction - a story about storytelling as the art of seduction.

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