Man, punishment, eternity, life, death
The wandering Jew is, according to a medieval legend a jew,who hit the suffering Jesus and therefore was condemned to eternal, restless wandering. The common details of the legend are known from a German polpular book from 1602 (Danish 1607): the name is Ahasverus, he was a shoemaker and had the nicknames The eternal/Wandering Jew and the Jerusalem's Shoemaker.
The wandering Jew is present in Andersens's oeuvre as early as 1829, in the debut book Fodreise, and the figure is a lead character in the ambitious drama Ahasverus (1847).
Remember Death's great Moving Day!
"It is a serious thought, but I hope it is not disagreeable to you to hear about it. Death is the most faithful administrator after all, in spite of his many petty duties. Have you ever thought about them?
"Death is a bus conductor; he is a passport writer; he signs his name to our references; and he is the director of life's great savings bank. Do you understand that? All our earthly deeds, great and small, are deposited in that savings bank. Then, when Death comes with his Moving Day bus, and we have to get in to be driven to eternity, he gives us our references on the frontier as a passport. For our expense money on the journey he draws from the savings bank one of our deeds, whichever of them most distinctly characterizes our conduct; this may be very pleasant to us, or it may be very horrible!
"Nobody has ever escaped that omnibus journey. They tell stories, indeed, of one man who was not allowed to enter – they call him the Wandering Jew; he still has to run along behind it. If he had managed to get in, he would have escaped the treatment he received from the poets.
"Let's take an imaginary look into that big Moving Day omnibus. What a mixed group! Side by side sit kings and beggars, the genius and the idiot. On they must go, without goods or wealth, with only their references and their expense money from life's savings bank. But of each man's deeds, which one has been found and given to him? Perhaps only a very small one, no bigger than a pea, yet a great blooming vine may grow from it.
"The poor beggar, who sat on a low stool in the corner, and received blows and hard words, perhaps is given the battered stool to take, as a token and as expense money. That stool will become the cart to bear him into eternity, and there it will grow into a throne, gleaming with gold and blooming like an arbor.
"He who was always drinking from the bubbling cup of pleasure, and thus forgetting the wrong things he had done here, receives a wooden keg as his lot. On the journey he has to drink from it; and that pure and cleansing drink will clear his thoughts and awaken his better and nobler nature, so that he sees and feels what before he could not or would not see. Thus he bears within himself his own punishment, the gnawing worm that never dies. If on his wineglass was inscribed Forgetfulness, the inscription on the keg is Memory.