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The motif Intermediate state in HCA : The Little Mermaid (1837)
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The motif Intermediate state in HCA : The Little Mermaid (1837)

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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 sun rose up from the waters. Its beams fell, warm and kindly, upon the chill sea foam, and the little mermaid did not feel the hand of death. In the bright sunlight overhead,she saw hundreds of fair ethereal beings. They were so transparent that through them she could see the ship's white sails and the red clouds in the sky. Their voices were sheer music, but so spirit-like that no human ear could detect the sound, just as no eye on earth could see their forms. Without wings, they floated as light as the air itself. The little mermaid discovered that she was shaped like them, and that she was gradually rising up out of the foam.

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