Page 77 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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“Limping she enters his room, rainsoaked from head to foot. Her
right shoe was filled with water like a tub . . . Hemdat put a chair in
front o f her and she took o ff her shoe. How tender this foot is. Yael
glanced at him and said, ‘What are you looking at?’Hemdat awoke
as from a dream and said, ‘If you please, madam, did you yourself
knit the socks on your feet?’ Yael smiled and said, ‘No, I brought
them from my mother’s, but I, too, can make them.’ Hemdat took
o ff her coat. . . Yael put on one o f his slippers. Hemdat smiled and
said, ‘There is a folk saying that, when under the canopy, the
groom is the first to nudge the bride with his foot, he will rule over
her; if she nudges him first, she is the one who will rule.”2
In this short paragraph most of the Hamsunian components
associated with the erotic shoe are utilized in an expressive way.
The fact that the love in “The Hill of Sand” is an unfulfilled one
between a frustrated male lover and a rejecting beloved female,
strengthens the parallel between Hamsun and Agnon. Granted,
the shoe as an erotic symbol is not unique to these authors; the
“case” of Cinderella’s shoe is only one of many such examples.
But Hamsun fashioned this motif with his special skill and
enriched its meanings. Since these Hamsunian traces are echoed
in Agnon’s work, Hamsun’s influence cannot be seriously
A further example of Hamsun’s influence can be perceived in
the scenes in which a dog is used as a symbol of erotic frustration.
It is recognized that the figure of the dog might function not only
as a symbol of loyalty, but also of evil. Apparently, the roots of the
negative connotation identified with the figure of the dog are
anchored in legendary and mythological sources, such as the
Greek myth which tells about the frightful hound that guarded
Hell’s entrance. Perhaps Hamsun chose the Greek name Aesop
for Glahn’s dog in
to indicate a reference to the Greek
mythological dog.
Obviously, a traditional symbol is used by a writer as a starting
point for developing his own specific formulation of the symbol.
Thus, Hamsun uses the figure of the dog, already loaded with
2 All Norwegian and Hebrew quotations have been translated by me.