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The motif Will-o'-the-wisps in HCA : The Elf Mound (1845)
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The motif Will-o'-the-wisps in HCA : The Elf Mound (1845)

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Keywords:

Nature, superstition, illusion, jack-o'lantern, ignis fatuus

Description of this motif: Will-o'-the-wisps are ghosts of unrighteous people, who with their light attempt to decoy people to get lost and to get them to walk into swamps. – so wrote J.M. Thiele in Danmarks Folkesagn (1843-60), 1968, vol. 2, p. 238. Will-o'-the-wisps are usually only rather insignificant in Hans Christian Andersen's tales. In The Will-o'-the-Wisps Are in Town they play a main part, though.

Example 1:

"There's something afoot," said another lizard. "Until the cock crowed for dawn, they had the mound propped up on four red poles to give it a thoroughgoing airing. And the elf maidens are learning to stamp out some new dances. Something is surely afoot." "Yes, I was just talking about it with an earthworm I know," said a third lizard. "He came straight from the mound, where he has been nosing around night and day. He overheard a good deal. For he can't see, poor thing, but he knows his way around and makes an uncommonly good eavesdropper. They expect company in the elf mound, distinguished visitors, but the earthworm wouldn't say who they are. Or maybe he didn't know. All the will-o'-the-wisps have been told to parade with their torches, as they are called, and all of the flat silver and gold plate with which the hill is well stocked is being polished and put out in the moonlight."

Example 2:

Just then two will-o'-the-wisps came tumbling in, one faster than the other and therefore he got there first.

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