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The motif Prohibition of seeing or coming near God in HCA : The Wicked Prince (1840)
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The motif Prohibition of seeing or coming near God in HCA : The Wicked Prince (1840)

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Keywords:

Vision, sight, man, God, insight, hubris/hybris, nemesis, pride, arrogance, humbleness, fearing God

Description of this motif:

The prohibition of seeing god has to do with fearing and standing in awe of God. God forbids Moses to see Him in Exodus 33, 18-20, where Moses asks: "Show me your glory." and God answers:

"I will make all my goodness pass before your face, and I will proclaim the Lord by name before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy." And he said, "You cannot see my face, for no one can see me and live."

The divine is not for the deadly. The point is the same as in Hans Christian Andersen's tale "The Buck Wheat", in which the arrogant buck wheat is warned by more pious plants, that it should bend its head and see away from the lightning, "for in the lightning one can look into God's Heaven itself, and that sight will strike even human beings blind! So if we, who are so much less worthy than they, dared to do it, what would happen to us!"". In Andersen's fable about the buck wheat the prohibition is modified; the punishment isn't death, and what can be seen isn't God. The buck wheat is burned as a punishment for its arrogance.

Example :

Now the Prince had his own statue set up in the market places and the palaces; yes, he would even have set it in the churches, on the altars, but to this the priests said, "Prince, you are great, but God is greater! We dare not obey your orders!"

"Well," said the evil Prince, "then I shall conquer God too!" In the pride and folly of his heart he had built a splendidly constructed ship in which he could sail through the air. It was as colorful as a peacock's tail, and seemed decorated with a thousand eyes, but each eye was the barrel of a cannon. The Prince could sit in the center of the ship and, upon his touching a certain button, a thousand bullets would stream forth, and the guns would at once be reloaded. Hundreds of strong eagles were harnessed to the ship, and so it flew away, up and up toward the sun.

Far beneath lay the earth. At first its mountains and forests appeared like a plowed field, with a tuft of green peeping out here and there from the sod; then it seemed like an unrolled map, and finally it was wholly hidden in mists and clouds, as the eagles flew higher and higher.

Then God sent forth a single one of His countless angels, and immediately the Prince let fly a thousand bullets at him, but they fell back like hail from the angel's shining wings. Then one drop of blood-just one-fell from one of the angel's white wing feathers onto the ship of the Prince. There it burned itself into it, and its weight of a thousand hundredweights of lead hurled the ship back down with terrible speed to the earth. The mighty wings of the eagles were broken, the winds roared about the head of the Prince, and the clouds on every side, sprung from the smoke of burned cities, formed themselves into menacing shapes. Some were like mile-long crabs stretching out their huge claws toward him; others were like tumbling boulders or fire-breathing dragons. The Prince lay half dead in his ship, until it was finally caught in the tangled branches of a dense forest.

"I will conquer God!" he said. "I have sworn it; my will shall be done!" Then for seven years he built other magnificent ships in which to sail through the air, and had lightning beams forged from the hardest of steels, to batter down the battlements of heaven itself. From all the conquered countries he assembled vast armies which, when formed in battle array, covered mile after mile of ground.

They embarked in the magnificent ships, but as the Prince approached his own, God sent forth a swarm of gnats-just one little swarm-which buzzed about the Prince, and stung his face and hands. In rage he drew his sword, but he could cut only the empty air; he could not strike the gnats. Then he ordered that he be brought costly cloths, which were to be wrapped around him so that no gnat could reach him with its sting. His orders were carried out; but one little gnat had concealed itself in the innermost covering, and now it crept into the Prince's ear and stung him. It smarted like fire, and the poison rushed into his brain; he tore the clothes loose and flung them far away from him, rent his garments into rags, and danced naked before the rugged and savage soldiers. Now they could only mock at the mad Prince who had started out to conquer God and had been himself conquered by a single little gnat!

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