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The motif Intermediate state in HCA : Thumbelina (1835)
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The motif Intermediate state in HCA : Thumbelina (1835)

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Religious motifs : Overview. Search. About religious motifs

See also To die and go to heaven, Transformation

Keywords:

Life, death, resurrection, transformation, rebirth, soul, journey

Description of this motif:

The intermediate state is a crucial concept in the religious universe of Hans Christian Andersen's tales. Death is (in many tales, but not all) not just dying, but a transformation into another sphere of existence for the soul, a step on the way towards the site of the highest spirit, the kingdom of God. A famous and enlightning example is the tale of the little mermaid's uncompromising striving for the sun (light, spirit and immortality) and love, that brings her up from the depths of the sea to the world of the humans, and from there, surprisingly, to the intermediate state among the daughters of the air, in which the reader leaves the mermaid. From there she may in time rise into the kingdom of God, the element of the sun and of absolute light. Inger in hell in "The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf" is also in an intermediate state. She also transforms and rises to the face of the earth and in the end of the tale into the light, "straight into the sun".

Andersen had the concept of the stepwise transformations of the soul in common with his close friend B.S. Ingemann. Both considered the soul immortal. They both rejected the thought of the soul's eternal condemnation in hell and thus disagreed with the Danish church at the time. In the opinion of Andersen and Ingemann the concept of eternal punishment in hell conflicted with the concept of God's infinite love and power.

Johan de Mylius has written about this issue in Forvandlingens pris ('The price of transformation', 2004), pp. 334-342.

Example :

The mole closed up the hole that let in the daylight, and then he took the ladies home. That night Thumbelina could not sleep a wink, so she got up and wove a fine large coverlet out of hay. She took it to the dead bird and spread it over him, so that he would lie warm in the cold earth. She tucked him in with some soft thistledown that she had found in the field mouse's room.

"Good-by, you pretty little bird," she said. "Good-by, and thank you for your sweet songs last summer, when the trees were all green and the sun shone so warmly upon us." She laid her head on his breast, and it startled her to feel a soft thump, as if something were beating inside. This was the bird's heart. He was not dead- he was only numb with cold, and now that he had been warmed he came to life again.

Comment on this quote: The swallow's funeral isn't quite right, because the swallow isn't actually dead, and the bird's resurrection is not really a religious motif. None of them are classic, anyway. But nevertheless typical Andersen: The swallow's resurrection clearly reminds of the resurrection of Jesus. The hibernation, being between life and death, and the soul's journey towards the light is similar to Andersen's view upon the soul's and the individual's wandering across temporary hurdles, that is also found in "The Ugly Duckling", Picture Book Without Pictures' Twenty-eighth Evening and "The Little Mermaid".
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