“The Golden Pot”, analysis of the tale by Hoffmann

One of the most famous works of E.T.A. Hoffmann – the fairy tale story “The Golden Pot” was created under the thunder of shells in the besieged Napoleon Dresden in 1814. Fierce battles and cannonballs flying into the city, tearing people’s eyes in front of the author’s eyes, naturally pushed the writer out of the world of everyday life into an incredibly vivid fantasy of the wonderful country of Atlantis – an ideal world in which “the sacred harmony of all things reigns”.

Hoffman himself gave his work a characteristic subtitle defining its genre – “a tale from new times.” In various research works, the “Golden Pot” was called a story, a fairy tale, a literary tale, a short story. All these genre designations are true, as they reflect certain features of the work: a chronicle plot (a story line), emphasis on a magical story (fairy tale), and a relatively small volume (short story). In the “tale from new times” and the tale, we see a direct reference to the principle of romantic double peace, which is formed in Hoffmann by means of recreation, interpenetration and juxtaposition of two worlds – the real and the fantastic. “New Times” / story – the beginning of the XIX century, Dresden; a fairy tale – an indefinite course of time (perhaps eternity), the magical land of Atlantis.

Dresden of the 19th century in the Golden Pot is a real city with specific geographical locations (Black Gate, Linkovy Baths, Castle Street, Lake Gate, etc.), with the characteristic features of the burgher life (festivities on the Ascension Day, boating, drinking punch in Condor Paulman’s house, the visit of the Osters ’ladies to Veronika’s friend, the girl’s trip to the fortress Frau Rauerin) and the mention of historical signs of the time (job titles – corrector, registrar, court counselor, archivist; strong drinks – beer, punch, eludochny liqueur Conradi, etc.).

The magical land of Atlantis is a fictional world of the writer, in which there is a harmony between all that is unattainable in real life. The fairytale space is formed in the Golden Pot in the oral stories of archivist Lindgorst (Salamander) and his daughter Serpentina and in written stories carefully studied by the main character of the story, student Anselm. A beautiful valley filled with picturesque flowers exuding sweet aromas, bright birds, whose language is understandable to humans, amazing freshness of streams, emerald trees – classic markers for romanticism – are partially transferred from Atlantis to the home garden of archivist Lindgorst – one of the spirits of a magical country expelled by her prince Phosphorus for the love of the Fire Lily and the destruction of the beautiful princely garden.

The Lord of Atlantis predicts the Salamander his future (life on Earth until the time when everyone living on the planet will forget about the miraculous, reunite with his beloved, the appearance of three daughters – green-golden snakes and return home after three young men who believe in the possibility of the existence of a miracle), thereby affirming the idea of ​​the omnipotence of the fantastic world and the eternal permeability of time. The salamander, like Phosphorus, has the gift to predict the future, which he uses in relation to the student Anselm. The daughter of the Dragon Feather (the enemy of Phosphorus and Salamander) and beetroot performing in the Golden Pot disguised as an apple trader (for student Anselm), Frau Rauerin (for residents of Dresden) and old Lisa (for Veronica) have the same abilities.

Artistic characters emerging from the fabulous Atlantis, penetrating the real world, do not lose their magical abilities to transform themselves and the surrounding space: archivist Lindgorst appears before Anselm, either the venerable German burgher or the magnificent prince of spirits; Veronica sees Frau Rauerin now in the form of a vile old woman, now familiar with the childhood of a nanny – old Lisa; the apple trader scares student Anselm with the brutal face he sees in the bronze door figure.

The “Dresden” characters belonging to the real world – Conrector Paulman, registrar Gerrand, Veronica are practically deprived of the ability to observe magic. Conrector Paulman does not recognize anything miraculous in principle, considering it an expression of mental illness; Gerarbrand registrar gives a miraculous chance only within the framework of a romantic vision of the world (fictional, but not real); Veronica, as a girl in love, is most open to the influence of otherworldly forces, but as soon as a happy marriage with an adviser and new earrings begins to loom on the horizon, he immediately renounces everything magical.

Student Anselm is a young man with a “naive poetic soul” – a character who has emerged from the real world, but inwardly belongs to the world of fairy tales. From the very beginning of the story, he does not fit into the surrounding reality – he overturns the basket of the apple trader, almost turns the boat over and constantly thinks about how awkward and unlucky he is. As soon as a young man gets a job from archivist Lindgorst and falls in love with Serpentina, everything is getting better with him – in both artistic spaces. As soon as he betrays Serpentina’s love (not of his own free will), the situation doesn’t return to normal, but rather worsens in a fairy-tale space – student Anselm finds himself in a glass jar on the library desk of archivist Lindgorst. Next to him, the young man sees five more sufferers, but by virtue of their usualness they don’t understand their own limitations and, moreover, they think that they live happily and richly, walking to special shops in Dresden coffee shops.

The reunion with Serpentina after the final battle between good and evil (archivist Lindgorst against the apple trader) opens up the magical land of Atlantis before Anselm. Together with his beautiful lover, he receives a wonderful golden pot – the classic romantic symbol of a sublime dream transformed by Hoffmann, which appeared before him in the form of a “blue flower” (Novalis). The romantic irony inherent in the author manifested itself here: the writer does not deny the magical properties of the dowry of Serpentina, but sees in him almost all the same image of philistine happiness that Veronica Paulman aspired to, whose engagement took place over a cup of steaming soup.

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