Ludwig Tieck’s Rune Mountain

From Ludwig Tieck’s Rune Mountain (Der Runenberg). I never know what to do with works where no extractable part feels sufficiently reflective of the interest offered by the whole. So here I’m doing a bunch because this one deserves it.

First is a link to the the whole followed by as good a passage as I can find. The linked translation is Thomas Carlyle’s. There is a more recent one (that I use for the quote below) in Penguin’s Tales of the German Imagination. Next is the concluding paragraph of an article that attempts a Jungian reading of the story. Last is the article itself.

The following day the father went for a walk with his son and repeated to him some of the things Elisabeth had told him; he warned him to embrace piety and that he had better turn his spirit to godly reflections.

To which Christian replied: ‘Gladly, father. I often feel such a sense of well-being, and everything seems to succeed; it’s the strangest thing, for a long while, for years on end, I’m inclined to lose sight completely of my true self, and to slip with ease, so it seems, into someone else’s life; but then all of a sudden it is as if my own ascendant star, the real me, rises in my heart like a new moon and defeats the strange force. I could be completely contented, but once on one wondrous night an arcane sign passed through my hands and was imprinted deep in my heart; often that magical figure is asleep, unnoticeable – I mean it’s absent from my spirit – but then, all of a sudden, it wells up again like a poison and invades my every move. And once it has got hold of me all my thoughts and feelings are ruled by it, everything else is transformed, or rather engulfed, by its force. Just as a lunatic shrinks back in terror at the sight of water and the poison intensifies in his veins, so I am affected by all sharp-angled shapes, by every line, by every glimmer; everything in me wants to be free of that immanent presence and to hasten its delivery like a baby, and my spirit and body are riddled with fear. Just as the heart received it from a feeling in response to external stimuli, that sentient muscle writhes and wrestles to retransform it into an externally directed feeling just to be rid of it and at peace.’

And from Harry Vredeveld’s Ludwig Tieck’s Der Runenberg: An Archetypal Interpretation. The full article is conveniently available here

Der Runenberg, we may conclude, is not an Erlösungsmarchen [redemption fairy tale] like that told by Klingsohr in Novalis’ Heinrich von Ofterdingen. The tales of redemption typically have this triadic pattern: a) unity; b) loss of unity, conflict; c) renewed unity on a higher level, synthesis. Tieck, as is clear from our analysis, inverts this pattern. His story proceeds from a) disunity (split between the magic realm and the profane) to b) synthesis (the harmonious life on the plain following the ‘Runenberg’-vision), to c) disunity (tragic split between the two realms). Where Novalis writes fairy tales which are intended to portray the future synthesis, Tieck writes ‘infernal fairy tales’ about the present. The totality of being to which Christian briefly attains is of the nature of a fairy tale; in the world of the present such a synthesis and such a Paradise cannot last for long. In the end, therefore, Tieck’s world is not a world of unity but of division, not of totality but of opposing camps.

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