Ch. 1, pg. 7: a votary of the Blue Flower

The blue flower was a symbol for the German Romantic movement. It originated in the works of the German author Novalis, and eventually came to represent bittersweet longing, the Sehnsucht that Lewis spoke of.

“The ‘blue flower’ is unattainable and is to remain unattainable. Romantics expressed a longing for home and a longing for what is far off; Schiller called the romantics ‘exiles pining for a homeland’,” write Finnish authors Petri Liukkonen and Ari Pesonen on their page on Novalis.


The blue flower, or "Blaue Blume," of Sehnsucht

The blue flower, or "Blaue Blume," of Sehnsucht

"Klingsors Zaubergarten (The Magic Garden of Klingsor)" by Gemälde von Angerer dem Älteren. Note the blue flower gleaming in the center.

"Klingsors Zaubergarten (The Magic Garden of Klingsor)" by Gemälde von Angerer dem Älteren. Note the blue flower gleaming in the center.

(I read no German, so if I got any of the above wrong, I would appreciate knowing about it.)
Published in: on January 26, 2009 at 1:37 am  Comments (1)  
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Ch. 1, pg. 7: Sehnsucht

Sehnsucht is a central concept to understanding Surprised by Joy. The word is German, and there is no direct English equivalent, but it can be understood as a combination of longing and wonder. When Lewis “listens for the horns of elfland,” he is experiencing Sehnsucht for another world. In The Last Battle (spoiler warning), after the world has ended and the characters are in a new world, Lord Digory explains: 

“When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that is not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia, which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or a copy of something in Aslan’s real world. You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the door. And of course it is different, as different as a real thing is from a shadow or waking life is from a dream.”

Theologically, when we experience the awakening of Sehnsucht, Lewis believes, we are beginning to understand that there is another world, a better world, of which this world is just a shadow. In the passage above, Lord Digory continues, “It’s all in Plato.” This is a reference to Plato’s allegory of the cave and the Platonic ideal.

J. R. R. Tolkien and Lewis were friends, and there are many rich overlaps between their ideas. On J. R. R. Tolkien discussion board The Barrow-Downs, user littlemanpoet explains Sehnsucht:

“Corbin Scott Carnell, in Bright Shadow of Reality: C.S. Lewis and the Feeling Intellect, wrote:


Sennsucht, which literally means “longing” or “yearning,” is both romantic and mystical in our present use of those words. It is, however, a good deal more specific than such terms. … The crucial concept in defining this attitude is best expressed in English by the word “nostalgia”. Even though Sennsucht may be made up of several components or appear in different forms (melancholy, wonder, yearning, etc.), basic to its various manifestations is an underlying sense of displacement or alienation from what is desired.

“In summary, Sennsucht is desire for something wondrous that is no more with us, but once was, and may be again. In different languages it has different names. In Hebrew it is called Eden. In Arthurian legend (Celtic, I suppose) it is called Avalon. In the language of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, it is perhaps called Perelandra. In Roman Catholic speech it is called Paradise. In other languages it is called Elysium, Nirvana, Valhalla, the Great Hunting Ground, and so forth. Some might call it Atlantis, or Numenor; perhaps Tol Eressea or Valinor (feel free to quibble). The only name that is sufficient for me, is Faerie; as I said, my imagination was baptized by Tolkien.”

Published in: on November 29, 2008 at 10:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ch. 1, pg. 4: raconteur

Raconteur is French for storyteller. (Literally, “recounter.”) The word implies great skill in yarn-spinning–certainly a quality that Albert Lewis passed to his son.

Published in: on November 29, 2008 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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