There was once a man who went to the warm countries where it was so hot that everyone had dark skin and stayed indoors during the days. They would only come out in the evening when the air started to cool down. The foreign man would always go out onto his balcony in the evening and observe the town.
Across the street, there seemed to be a house that no one lived in, but that could not be the case because there were fresh flowers on the balcony and music continuously flowed out of the half-open door.
One evening, the man wondered how to get it for there were no doors on the street level that seemed to lead up to the apartment. He told his shadow that it should go into the half open door and see what was inside. The shadow nodded at him and went. The man did not see his shadow the next morning.
The man was a bit disturbed not to have a shadow, but as it was a warm country and things grew fast, he soon grew a new shadow, in fact, his new shadow got so large that he had enough for two shadows. The foreign man was a learned man. He went back home to his own home and wrote about goodness and truth.
Years passed by and a strange man came to see him. This man was terribly thin. He wore nice clothes and seemed well educated, the scholar did not recognize him. The man thought it was a pity that he was not recognized. He admitted that he had been the man’s shadow. He had become a man. He had traveled. He had more money than he wished for. He asked the Scholar what he owed him, but the Scholar told him that he did not owe him anything. He was a free man. The Scholar wanted to know what the Shadow had seen in the mysterious apartment.
The Shadow began his story, but not without first stepping on the Scholar’s new shadow. The Shadow told a tale of poetry. Inside the apartment all was grand. There was music playing. It appeared as if it were a large court. Poetry flowed from everywhere. If the Scholar had gone in, he would have ceased to be a man, but since the Shadow was not a man, he became a man. The Shadow studied there for three months. When he left, he received money and clothes from other people who admired him.
He now came to live in the same city as the scholar. He gave the Scholar his address and told the Scholar to look him up. He offered for the Scholar to go with him on a trip to see the world, as his shadow, but the Scholar did not want to travel at the time.
Years passed by and the Scholar became older and sicker. No one cared to know about his writings of truth and goodness. The Shadow visited again. He was more corporeal than before, but he could not grow a beard and that was something that vexed him. He was planning on going away to a foreign land to take the waters. He offered again for the Scholar to go as his shadow. The way would be paid and the Scholar would want for nothing. The Scholar finally agreed.
The Scholar had become less of a man with his age and illness. People often told him he looked like a shadow. It was not difficult for people to believe that the Scholar was, in fact, the Shadow’s shadow.
In the waters, there was a Princess also taking the cure. She was there for being too sharp-sighted. She first supposed that the Shadow was there because he could not cast his own Shadow, which was a truth. She did not believe about the beard, at first. She spoke with the Shadow, but the Shadow was charming. He told her that she had been mistaken and that her cure was working because she had not seen the truth. He was there to grow a beard. He had a shadow; he showed the Scholar to the Princess. He explained that he was so rich that he dressed his shadow in clothes and even gave him a shadow of his own.
The Princess thought this was all very grand. She assumed that the Shadow must be a prince because no one else could be that rich. The Shadow wooed the Princess. It was finally decided that the two would marry, but it was also decided that no one would tell of the impending marriage before the Princess returned to her homeland. The Shadow agreed not to tell anybody, even his shadow, which was strange for anyone but him to say.
The Shadow and the Scholar traveled to the homeland of the Princess. He finally decided to tell the Scholar what was going on. The Shadow told the Scholar that he would have all provided for. He would make a hundred thousand dollars a year. The only thing he had to do was lie down and pretend to be his shadow one day a year when he stood on the balcony with the Princess. The Scholar did not like this plan. The Princess knew nothing of who the Shadow really was. She did not know that he was not really a man. He threatened to tell all, but the Shadow had him thrown into prison.
The Princess sensed something was wrong in the Shadow and the Shadow told her that his shadow had gone mad. He believed he was a man and that the Shadow was his shadow. The Princess believed him and they were married anyway. She thought it wrong that anyone of a lower class should accuse someone of a higher class. The wedding was celebrated with much fanfare, but the Scholar did not hear it because he had already been executed.
Was Hans hanging out with Edgar Allan Poe when he wrote this story? This story is creepy. This is not a fairytale. It’s more like a tale of horror. Traditional fairy tales do have a bit of a creepy factor, and sometimes they’re downright weird and something like you’d read out of a Stephen King novel, but they’re not usually as developed as this story. This story is really something. It’s a story that makes you question your existence as a human.
I am honestly impressed with this story. I like how creepy it is, but I also like how it makes a person question. This is not a children’s story. I don’t know if Hans was in a black mood when he wrote this story or not, but it’s really something.
What is humanity? Who is to say what’s being human? Am I a human? Are you a human? Really? What makes you a human? What gives you humanity?
Does putting on a nice set of clothes make you human? Does learning about the world make you human? Does having money make you human?
Can you become human if you didn’t start out as a human?
Can someone take your humanity away from you?
These are all really deep questions asked in this story. The Scholar let something that wasn’t human talk him into becoming something that wasn’t human. The Shadow, which wasn’t human in the first place, was allowed to become human. How much power do we have over the inhuman things in our life? Can we control whether or not they become human?
You could also look at this story in a metaphorical sense. Maybe the Shadow was a metaphor for something else. Maybe the Shadow was your drug problem. Maybe the Shadow was your alcoholism. Maybe the Shadow was your constant quest to create this writing about truth and goodness.
You can let a thing consume you in such a way that it seems you’re not really human anymore. That’s was addiction is. You’re consumed to such a degree that you don’t act how a person should act. You don’t reason how a person should reason. This scholar ended up not being a human because he let this intangible thing, that became so big because he let it, take over his life. The Shadow made him the shadow and ended up killing him.
This is the story of something taking over a person’s life. Hans uses nice words and a creepy image of a shadow becoming the man and the man becoming the shadow, but it’s still scary and it’s still real. You can put yourself in a situation where the thing takes over. The thing can be one of many ills in your life: addiction, depression, heartbreak, greed, envy, sin, fear, or even aspiration.
Don’t become the Shadow.
Are you impressed with this story?
What other things can take over our lives?