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The motif Pious humility and gratitude in HCA : A Leaf from Heaven (1853)
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The Hans Christian Andersen Center

The motif Pious humility and gratitude in HCA : A Leaf from Heaven (1853)

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Description of this motif:

Humility is in Andersen's writings almost always connected with persons' being world-oriented, thus often also against its creator, God, or being self-centered. Self-satisfied and self-sufficient characters are often exposed in Andersen' oeuvre. Their charateristics are pettiness, intolerance, a narrow mind, insensibility, being ungratified, because the world seems cruel and unjust and doesn't give them enough, and arrogant pride. The proud and self-sufficient persons thinks that all that is good comes from him-/herself. The humble sees the world around her and her own conditions as sent from God. The humble is satisfied with the facts of life and even thanks (God) for everything.

The rose in "The Snail and the Rosebush" is, in contradiction to the snail, a pious grateful and extrovert type, giving its best to the world. "The Snail and the Rosebush" is a textbook example of the motif and is in addition extraordinary, because God isn't mentioned explicitly as the source of the gifts of life.

Example :

Then a poor, innocent girl came through the forest. Her heart was pure, and her understanding was glorious with faith. Her only inheritance was an old Bible, but from its pages the voice of God spoke to her: "If people wish to do you evil, remember the story of Joseph. They had evil in their hearts, but God turned it to good. If you suffer wrong, if you are despised and misunderstood, then you must remember the words of Him who was purity and goodness itself, and who prayed for those who struck Him and nailed Him to the cross. 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do!' "

She stopped before the wondrous plant, whose great leaves gave forth sweet and refreshing fragrance and whose flowers glowed in the sun like a wonderful firework of color. And from each flower there came a sound as though it held concealed within itself a deep well of melody that thousands of years would not empty. With devout gratitude the girl gazed on this exquisite work of the Creator and bent down one of the branches, that she might examine the flower and breathe in its sweetness; and a lovely light burned in her soul. It seemed to uplift her heart, and she wanted to pluck a flower, but she had not the heart to break one off, for she knew it would soon fade if she did. So she took only a single green leaf, carried it home, and there she pressed it in between the pages of her Bible; and it lay there quite fresh, always green, and never fading.

It was kept in the pages of that Bible, and with that Bible it was placed under the girl's head when, some weeks thereafter, she lay in her coffin. On her gentle face was the solemn peace of death, as if the earthly remains carried the imprint of the truth that she now was in the presence of her Creator.

Comment on this quote: Flowers as memories in books is a motif, that also is found in The Elder-Tree Mother (an elder flower), Grandmother (a rose) and The Silent Book.
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