Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

The Comet

The CometThe Comet

There was once a boy who was quite young when a comet sped across the sky. Everyone was called out to look at it. His mother observed a piece of shaving curling towards the child in the fire, and thought it was a portent of his death. They went out and looked at the comet though.

The boy did not die, but grew up. He became a school master. He was highly learned. He was an old man when the comet came around again. Yes, it was the same comet. The man knew it was going to come around again, just as all things did.

He pondered on it some more. The same stories are told over and over again. William Tell shot an apple off his son’s head with an arrow, but before him, other men had done the same thing. The comet would come around again, just like all good stories. The man did not see it though, for he went to join higher things before the comet passed over him.

Observations

We are of course referring to Halley’s comet in this story. People have been noticing it going around for a while. The comet came in 1835, which was the year this school master was a young child. The comet came again in 1910. Hans was getting ahead of himself here because this story was published in 1869. Well, Hans could have actually been talking about the previous window for Halley’s comet–1758 and 1835. Halley suggested the same comet would come around again, but died before 1758, when it did come again. Hans would have known about Halley’s comet and the fact that it came around the Earth multiple times. Whether or not he was talking about 1835 or 1910 for the year the man died in the story is irrelevant.

Themes

Hans is absolutely correct with this story. The same things do come around again and again. We tell the same stories over and over again. When I was a teenager, I took a seminary class. I went weekly to study various scriptures over the course of four years. What we learned in the class is that things come in cycles. The scriptures are full of stories who were righteous for a while, but then became wicked, then they became righteous again because they had some awakening, then they gradually fell to being wicked again, and on, and on, and on, and so forth.

We say history repeats itself because it does. We’ve had new governments, we’ve had tyrants, we’ve had genocide, we’ve had war, and we’ve had moments of great triumph over, and over, and over again. Fads come back around. Similar struggles rise to the surface of our society every few years.

Currently we’re in a cycle of civil liberties movements, at least in the United States. First we wanted to end slavery, then we wanted women to have rights, then we wanted African-Americans and other minorities to have more rights, then we wanted women to have more rights, and now we want more rights and less discrimination for transgender people and same-sex couples. Hopefully we’ll pull out a movement not to discriminate against someone’s bodily appearance here soon and shut-down a lot of this bullying that’s going on, but who knows. It seems almost every twenty to thirty years in our country we have a major push to get rights and end discrimination for somebody. Arguably, this should have all been taken care of with the formation of the country, but I don’t run things– it’s not my call.

I give our civil liberties movements cycle as an example of how things repeat themselves over and over again in our world. We are different people and we are unique, but we tend to overlap with experiences and difficulties in our lives.

Overall

Yes, schoolmaster you were right, hopefully you got to see that comet from somewhere.

Weigh In

Is there a particular period in history our current period is most similar to?

Looking at our pasts, what will happen to us in the near future?

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