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The motif Lotus flower in HCA : The Marsh King's Daughter (1858)
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The motif Lotus flower in HCA : The Marsh King's Daughter (1858)

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Religious motifs : Overview. Search. About religious motifs

Keywords:

Nature, light, water, spirit

Description of this motif: Quote from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, March 20, 2006:

Nelumbo nucifera

Hindus associate the lotus blossom with creation mythology, and with the gods Vishnu, Brahma, and Lakshmi. From ancient times the lotus has been a divine symbol in Hindu tradition. It is often used as an example of divine beauty, for example Sri Krishna is often described as the 'Lotus-Eyed One'. Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The growth of its pure beauty from the mud of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise. Recall that both Brahma and Lakshmi, the Divinities of potence and Wealth, have the lotus symbol associated with them as their seats. (...)

The lotus flower is quoted exstensively within Puranic and Vedic literature, for example.

One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water. Bhagavad Gita 5.10

Borrowing from Hinduism, in Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of body, speech, and mind, floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire. The Buddha is often depicted sitting on a giant lotus leaf or blossom.

The concept of spriritual beauty rising from dirt fits well with Andersen's – and romanticism's – ideals and philosophy. Cf. the destiny of the ugly duckling or the little mermaid, not to mention Andersen's autobiographies.

Example 1:

"But where does the flower grow that can heal him?" they asked. For the answer they looked to their scholarly manuscripts, to the twinkling stars, to the wind, and to the weather. They searched through all the bypaths of knowledge, but all their wisdom and knowledge resolved down to the doctrine: "Love brings life-it can bring back a father's life," and although they said rather more than they understood, they accepted it, and wrote it down as a prescription. "Love brings life." Well and good, but how was this precept to be applied? That was their stumbling block.

However, they had at last agreed that help must come from the Princess, who loved her father with all her heart. And they had devised a way in which she could help him. It was more than a year ago that they had sent the Princess into the desert, just when the new moon was setting, to visit the marble sphinx. At the base of the sphinx she had to scrape away the sand from a doorway, and follow a long passage which led to the middle of a great pyramid where one of the mightiest kings of old lay wrapped as a mummy in the midst of his glory and treasure. There she leaned over the corpse to have it revealed to her where she might find life and health for her father. When she had done all this, she had a dream in which she learned that in the Danes' land there was a deep marsh-the very spot was described to her. Here, beneath the water, she would feel a lotus flower touch her breast, and when that flower was brought home to her father it would cure him. So, in the guise of a swan she had flown from the land of Egypt to the Wild Marsh.

Example 2:

The sun shone brightly in all its splendor. As in the old days when at the first touch of sunlight the frog's skin fell away to reveal a beautiful maiden, so now, in that baptism by the sun a form of heavenly beauty, clearer and purer than the air itself, rose as a bright beam to join the Father. The body crumbled to dust, and only a wilted lotus flower lay where she had knelt.

Comment on this quote:

This quote is, as the entire tale about Te Marsh King's Daughter, an outstanding example of Andersen telling about a connection between God, the spirit, the heavenly, nature, the Holy Spirit, baptism, birth and death, all united in a process of transformation.

Interpreting the baptism by the sun as the work of the Holy Spirit is possible, but it may indeed not have been the poet's intention, and the text does not refer explicitly to the motif.

Example 3:

"Is this myself I see, reflected in the deep waters?" cried the mother.

"Is this myself I see, mirrored on the bright surface?" the daughter exclaimed. As they approached one another and met in a heart-to-heart embrace, the mother's heart beat faster, and it was the mother who understood.

"My child! my heart's own flower, my lotus from beneath the waters." She threw her arms about the child and wept. For little Helga, these tears were a fresh baptism of life and love.

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