Peter Schlemihl: The Man Who Sold His Shadow
"Chamisso neatly ties into my interests in figure and shadow, with the Shadow animation project. Adalbert von Chamisso (1781 - 1840) was the author of Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte, 1814, or The Man Who Sold His Shadow, a popular children's tale even today. A year later he travelled as naturalist on the Rurik Expedition to discover a north-east passage in the Bering Straits.
Illustration: Map of Chamisso Island, Kotzebue Bay, Alaska, taken from the Journal of the Voyages. The island was discovered by Adalbert von Chamisso, 1816 during the voyage of the Rurik to discover a north-east passage
I resolved to let my crew rest themselves for to-day, to be able to undertake an examination of the strait or bay, on the morrow, with fresh strength; and while preparations were making to this effect, we took an excursion to the island, which I called after our naturalist, Chamisso.
from Kotzebue, Voyage of Discovery into the South Sea and Beering's [sic] Straits for the purpose of exploring a North-East passage, undertaken in the years 1815-18, London, 1821
The bay Kotzebue discovered, where Chamisso Island lies, was then strewn with icebergs, and they later voyaged on to Hawaii, the land of volcanoes.
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KML file of Chamisso Island (requires Google Earth)
Chamisso also fits into my current interest in nineteenth century France and Germany. His tale of the shadow can be read as a reflection of his own feelings of dislocation and homelessness as a Frenchman by birth living on German soil. He was a poet of the Romantic movement who spent his life as a naturalist in the pursuit of truth in science.
- You can read the story of Peter Schlemihl in English or in German online for free. If you have trouble reading books on the web (I do!), try StoryFace, which renders them legible on a web page.
- Some of Cruikshank's illustrations to the English edition can be found at Cartoonstock
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