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The motif Sunday in HCA : She Was Good for Nothing (1852)
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The motif Sunday in HCA : She Was Good for Nothing (1852)

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Description of this motif:

The sunday is sacred, cf. the fourth of the Ten Commandments

In Andersen's tales sundays rarely are sacred, except in a purely formal way. For Andersen himself the religious was very much a personal and inward affair, and he would rather perform his devotion uotside, in the nature, than in a church. One can get an impression of Andersen's thoughts about the church, God and nature in "A Story", part of the travelogue I Sverrig ('In Sweden'), 1851:

(...) there stood the corn, so beautifully green, while all the small birds chirped and twittered as happily as if they were having a great holiday.

And, indeed, people could rightly think of this as a holiday, for it was Sunday. The bells were chiming while people in their best clothes were walking to church and looking so cheerful. It was such a bright, warm day that one might well say: "How good God is to grant us so many blessings!"

But inside the church the preacher in the pulpit spoke in a loud and angry tone; he said that all humans were wicked and that God would certainly punish them by sending them to the eternal torments of hell when they died. He said that they would never find peace or rest in hell, for their consciences would never die nor would the fires ever be extinguished.

This was terrible to hear, but still he went on as if the subject he was explaining were really true. He described hell to them as a stagnant cave, where all the impure and sinful of the world would be; there would be no air, only the hot sulphur flames, and no bottom there, and the wicked would sink deeper and deeper into eternal silence forever!

It was horrible to hear this, but the preacher spoke from his heart, and all the people in the church were terrified.

But the birds outside the church sang joyously, and the sun was shining warmly; it was as if each little bird were saying, "Nothing is so great as the loving-kindness of the Almighty!"

Yes, outside the church, it was not at all like the preacher's sermon.

Example :

I honor the poor,' she continued, ' and I know that there is many a poor man who will sit in a higher seat in the kingdom of heaven than many a rich man; but that is no reason for crossing the barrier in this world. Left to yourselves, you two would drive your carriage full tilt against obstacles, until it toppled over with you both. Now I know that Erik, the glovemaker, a good, honest craftsman, wants to marry you; he is a well-to-do widower with no children. Think it over!'

"Every word my mistress spoke went through my heart like a knife, but I knew she was right, and that weighed heavily upon me. I kissed her hand, and my bitter tears fell upon it. But still bitterer tears fell when I lay upon my bed in my own room. Oh, the long, dreary night that followed-our Lord alone knows how I suffered!

"Not until I went to church on Sunday did peace of mind come after my pain. It seemed the working of Providence that as I left the church I met Erik himself. There were no doubts in my mind now; we were suited to each other, both in rank and in means; he was even a well-to-do man. So I went straight up to him, took his hand, and asked, 'Do you still think of me?'

" 'Yes, always and forever,' he said.

" 'Do you want to marry a girl who likes and respects you, but does not love you?'

" 'I believe love will come,' he said, and then we joined hands.

"I went home to my mistress. The gold ring that her son had given me I had been wearing every day next to my heart, and every night on my finger in bed, but now I drew it out. I kissed it until my lips bled, then gave it to my mistress and told her that next week the banns would be read for me and the glovemaker.

"My mistress took me in her arms and kissed me; she didn't say I was good for nothing, but at that time I was perhaps better than I am now, for I had not yet known the misfortunes of the world. The wedding was at Candlemas, and for our first year we were quite happy. My husband had a workman and an apprentice with him, and you, Maren, were our servant."

"Oh, and such a good mistress you were!" said Maren. "I shall never forget how kind you and your husband were to me!"

"Ah, but you were with us during our good times! We had no children then. I never saw the student again. Oh, yes, I saw him once, but he didn't see me. He came to his mother's funeral, and I saw him standing by her grave, looking so sad and pale – but that was all for his mother's sake.

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