Analysis of Biblical and Historical References in the Short Story the Gnome

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“The Gnome,” is a short story about a king’s love for a tree that indirectly causes him to hurt those dearest to him, his three daughters. All three of his daughters are sucked deep into the ground when they trigger a protective spell that was cast upon the apple tree by the king in order to protect it from intruders. The king, frantically searched for his daughters but to no avail. However, he was unwilling to admit defeat, so he offered a reward, one of the daughters hand in marriage for whoever could return them alive. Like many skilled people throughout the mighty kingdom, three brothers are searching for the lost girls. During their search they are harassed by a gnome and two of the brothers are actually beaten by a gnome who visits the home they are squatting in. After the third of the three brothers beats the gnome and in a plea to escape the beating the gnome offers to tell him where the girls are being hidden. The gnome tells him that the girls are down a well and that they are protected by dragon, and that the other three brothers are not to be trusted. They soon find the girls where he said they would be, picking the lice off of the multi-headed dragon. After decapitating the dragon and rescuing the girls, they actually abandon the youngest of the three brothers in the hole deep underground. However, he refuses to be defeated and escapes the cave. The other brothers are executed on the gallows for their betrayal and the youngest of the three brothers takes the youngest daughters hand in marriage.

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One of the clearest deep meanings in this fairytale that is abound with biblical references is that of the apple tree. This part of the story draws many similarities between the story of Adam and Eve. The tree is quite literally the apple tree from the biblical story, the king who cast the spell protecting the tree represents god, and the three girls represent Adam and Eve. Much like Adam and Eve, they know they physically can, but should not, eat from the apple tree. Neither the three girls, nor our biblical characters, however, could control their desire. Eventually they all caved and succumbed to their taste buds, which results in their downfalls. They used whatever they could to justify that it would be okay to take just one apple. They both paid for their sins. The apples of both stories represents our insatiable desire for all that we should not have. For this, Adam and eve where kicked out of the garden, which seems quite mild compared to being sucked deep into the earth. Though I myself am not religious, I see that being drawn underground is symbolic for a decent into the devil’s lair. Once, you are in his lair, you do not leave, that was the way it was supposed to be for the three daughters, had they not been rescued by the brave huntsmen. If it were not for them they would have spent an eternity, or the rest of their natural life, in servitude of the multi-headed dragons that controlled their lives.

Additionally, one reference is not biblical but to that of the united states farms before the civil war. When the huntsman find the girls, they are in separate rooms with multiple heads from one dragon in each, picking lice off of the dragon. This has close similarities to that of slaves on the cotton plantations of the south before the civil war. The only difference is they are picking lice, instead of seeds out of cotton. They, like many slaves, worked for zero reward other than the simple right to breath. They would work all day for nothing, and like slaves, the work never ended. If you’ve ever gotten lice, you will know that they are never ending. No matter how many you pick off, you wont get finished, just like the seeds in every little piece of cotton. Now imagine a million pieces of cotton and you understand the job that these girls had before them due to their crime of stealing from an apple tree. If you look at this part of the story from this perspective then the dragons represent the plantation owners who ruled with an iron fist. If you disobeyed you risked facing the crack of the whip, and had they refused to work they may have felt the mighty bight of the dragon. But the reference does not end there, for the brothers cut the head off of the dragons, freeing the daughters from the servitude. This is eerily similar to the union forces of the civil war, defeating the confederacy which would lead to slaves being freed from their bonds of servitude.

Other than historical references The Gnome does contain a message that is quite apparent. When the two brothers escape the well, they leave the youngest brother behind, essentially for dead. He eventually escapes and finds himself in a superior position over the other brothers, due to the fact that they eventually face their demise on the gallows. For me, I really connect with this, as it took me going through an incredibly painful breakup for me to realize something that this story teaches in an instant; no one is there for you from birth to death except for yourself. You can not trust people with your life, only yourself. To me, this deep message imbedded in the rather abrupt ending to a beautiful fairytale makes this a wonderful story. I was never betrayed by my kin but I understand the feeling of being deep in a hole, feeling alone, just reaching for help that cannot be found. Thankfully, the brother saved himself from a dark demise as did I. Although he faced an insurmountable goal, and depression had kicked in, he did not give in. Humans are capable of incredible things, even on our own nothing can stop us from doing something we truly yearn for. That is what makes humanity humanity, the desire for life and the desire for greatness.

I personally did not care for this story upon my first read through. Writing this essay however, has given me a deeper understanding and appreciation for this story. It makes me ponder what other deep meanings I have missed from other stories I have dismissed as childish. Sometimes it takes going back to your roots to realize that deeper meanings and insight into our lives are available in the world all around us, you just have to look deeper and wisdom is yours for the taking.

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