No Comment, Quotation — October 13, 2007, 12:00 am

Lagerlöf’s Legend of the Soul and the Flame

selma-lagerlof-oil-portrait-by-carl-larsson-1908

For what is man’s soul but a flame. It flickers in and around the body of a man as does the flame around the rough log.

Now, one winter’s night, when the folk who sat around the fire had been silently gazing into the flames for a while, the fire began to speak to one and all, in their own language.

“Brother soul,” it would say to one, “are you not a log, too? Why are you so sad and heavy?”

“Sister flame,” would answer the human soul, “I have been chopping wood and minding the housework all day. I want nothing better than to sit still and watch you.”

“I know,” said the fire. “But, now it is evening, do as I do, shine and sparkle! Fun and warmth!”

And the souls obeyed the fire and began to play. They told stories, guessed riddles, they tuned the fiddles and hung garlands on the tools and implements. Then they sang songs, played forfeits, and recalled old proverbs, thus thawing the ice out of their limbs, the peevishness out of their minds. They woke up and were merry, for the fire renewed in their hearts the wish to live out their humble and difficult lives.

Selma Lagerlöf, Kristuslegender (1904)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

No Comment March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

Scott Horton Debates John Rizzo on Democracy Now!

On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2014

Cassandra Among the
Creeps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Iraq has every disease there is; its mind is deranged with too many voices, its organs corrupted, its limbs only long enough to tear at its own body.”
Photograph by Benjamin Busch
Post
Flying Blind·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“President Obama’s war against the Islamic State will represent, by a rough count, the eighth time the U.S. air-power lobby has promised to crush a foe without setting boot or foot on the ground.”
Article
The Monkey Did It·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Murakami’s fiction, what presents itself as a key reveals itself simultaneously to be a keyhole.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Article
PBS Self-Destructs·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The present state of PBS, the result of built-in deficiencies and ideological conflicts, was almost an inevitability.”
Illustration by Thomas Allen
Article
Cassandra Among the Creeps·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On silencing women
“The old framework of feminine mendacity and murky-mindedness is still routinely trotted out, and we should learn to recognize it for what it is.”
Photograph © Sallie Dean Shatz

Average black-market price in Baghdad of a DVD showing the beheading of a foreigner or Iraqi “collaborator”:

50?

Among U.S. children, whites as young as seven perceive blacks to experience less pain than fellow whites.

In a suburb of Salt Lake City, two sister-wives dressed like ninjas were subdued by a man with a sword after they broke into the home of a child whom their husband had allegedly abused.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today