A small bird lands on his shoulder, and he thinks that it is an agent of the devil. He hits it, telling it to go back to hell. His outburst frightens the miracle away, and Abbot Hans dies, heartbroken at the loss of the miracle. The lay brother plants a pair of root bulbs that the abbot took from the holy forest, and when they bloom the following Christmas Eve, he takes some of the flowers to Archbishop Absalon, who gives the lay brother a letter of pardon for Robber Father.
The lay brother delivers the letter to the Robber family, and when they move back into the community, he takes their place in their cave, living alone and praying for redemption for his hard-heartedness. The "Robber" part of the family's name is a label that indicates the father is a thief.
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Robber Father survives mainly by stealing from travelers who pass through the forest. When Abbot Hans comes to see the holy garden, Robber Father is worried that the abbot is trying to get his wife and children to leave him and move back to the village. However, Abbot Hans says that he is trying to get a pardon for Robber Father, who says that, if this should happen, he will never steal again. When the forest fails to bloom the year following the lay brother's outburst, Robber Father is angry, but soon calms down when the lay brother brings a letter of pardon from the archbishop.
Robber Mother is married to Robber Father, and begs in the villages when there are no travelers for her husband to rob. When she goes on such trips, she always gets what she wants, because the villagers are afraid to refuse her. When Robber Mother walks into the monks' cloister, she assumes she will be left alone to view the garden in peace, but the lay brother tries to force her out. Robber Mother and her children overpower him and two monks, but Abbot Hans welcomes her and asks her what she thinks of his garden.
At first she refuses to take the abbot to see it, because she is afraid for her outlaw husband's safety. However, she wants to prove to the abbot that the holy garden is better, and agrees to take him and one of his followers.
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The next Christmas Eve, Robber Mother sends one of her children to lead the abbot and the lay brother to her family's cave. The Robber family lives in absolute poverty, and their cave offers little comfort. Still, Robber Mother is a very strong woman, and bosses the abbot and the lay brother around as any comfortable peasant woman would.
Abbot Hans tells Robber Mother that she may not have to live in such poverty, and describes the festivities that are going on in the village. Robber Mother is interested, but when the abbot tells her he is working on getting Robber Father a pardon, she does not believe it. However, when the lay brother brings the letter of pardon, Robber Mother says that her husband will never steal again, and the Robber family moves out of the forest and back into the community. These elements include the belief that one should not judge people by their outside appearances.
In the story, the lay brother does this repeatedly.
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Even after Robber Mother has gained the approval of Abbot Hans to stay and view the monk's garden, the lay brother antagonizes her, because he does not think that she—or anything associated with her—can be good. For example, after Robber Mother tells him about a garden that rivals Abbot Hans's garden, the lay brother is sarcastic to her.
The lay brother thinks: "This cannot be a true miracle … since it is revealed to malefactors. On the other hand, Abbot Hans does not judge people by their appearances and gives them the benefit of the doubt. When he first comes across Robber Mother in his garden, he is able to look past her reputation and the fact that she has just fought with some of his monks. In fact, the abbot uses this legend to lobby for the pardon of Robber Father.
He tells Archbishop Absalon: "If these bandits are not so bad but that God's glories can be made manifest to them, surely we cannot be too wicked to experience the same blessing. When she tells the abbot and the lay brother about a garden that rivals Abbot Hans's garden, she explains to the lay brother that she is being truthful, and that she does not "wish to make myself the judge of either him or you.
The Christian idea of redemption is also expressed in the story. Abbot Hans believes that Robber Father can be redeemed. He speaks with Archbishop Absalon, "asking him for a letter of ransom for the man, that he might lead an honest life among respectable folk. He tells Abbot Hans that he does not want "to let the robber loose among honest folk in the villages. It would be best for all that he remain in the forest. The abbot is overjoyed that the archbishop is giving him a chance to help Robber Father and thinks that his superior is being sincere.
However, the archbishop is only making to the promise so that he can satisfy Abbot Hans. The lay brother witnesses the conversation and realizes "that Bishop Absalon believed as little in this story of Robber Mother's as he himself. The lay brother, on the other hand, trades places with Robber Father. He moves into the former outlaw's cave, where he spends his time "in constant meditation and prayer that his hard-heartedness might be forgiven him. Christians believe that too much attachment to material possessions or ideas separates one from the divine, whereas the poor are closer to God.
This story offers a literal depiction of that idea. The outlaws in the forest, who live inside "a poor mountain grotto with bare stone walls," are the ones to whom the divine miracle is first revealed. On the other hand, the people in the villages, who are attached to their material existence, do not see the miracle.
They make extensive preparations for their Christmas celebrations, which are all based on material items, such as "hunks of meat and bread. On the trip through the villages, "the lay brother whined and fretted when he saw how they were preparing to celebrate Christmas in every humble cottage. This attachment to earthly attitudes affects the lay brother in the forest, where he is unable to let go of his materialism and see the truth of the heavenly miracle. Abbot Hans, on the other hand, is one of few people outside the forest who is not ruled by an attraction to material possessions or attitudes.
When the abbot passes through the villages, he notices the extensive Christmas preparations, but he is not impressed: "He was thinking of the festivities that awaited him, which were greater than any the others would be privileged to enjoy. The story's medieval setting is very important. During the Middle Ages , the Christian faith was extremely strong, and many believed in the possibility of miracles. When the lay brother sees the miracle, he is blinded by his suspicion, and his mind makes him see witchcraft, which he thinks is sent by Satan.
When a forest dove lands on his shoulder, "it appeared to him as if sorcery were come right upon him to tempt and corrupt him. It is far enough away from the villages for the Robber family to live safely without fear of persecution. The cave's distance from civilization also helps to separate the divine miracle in the poor forest from the materialistic villages. When the abbot is traveling through the forest, the narrator notes that he journeys for a long time: "He left the plain behind him and came up into desolate and wild forest regions.
A symbol is a physical object, action, or gesture that also represents an abstract concept, without losing its original identity. For example, in the story, the miracle takes place in a forest, which is physically just a group of trees.
Symbols appear in literature in one of two ways. They can be local symbols, meaning they are only relevant within a specific literary work.
They can also be universal symbols, in which case their symbolism is based on traditional associations that are widely recognized, regardless of context. The story is saturated with universal symbols, such as the mystical forest. Other symbols include the two gardens, which traditionally represent paradise, as in the Garden of Eden. There are several animals in the story, which also symbolize other ideas. The dove that lands on the lay brother's shoulder is a traditional sign of peace, which the lay brother rejects by hitting it.
The bear that comes into the forest is a sign of strength, which has no place in a holy garden. As a result, Robber Father strikes it on the nose and sends it away. Likewise, the owl, a night bird that is often associated with death or ill omens, also flees the holy miracle. Even the name, the Christmas Rose, is a symbol for something else. Technically, the real Christmas Rose flower, Helleborus niger, is an herb of the buttercup family, not a rose.
However, out of all flowers, the rose is the most symbolic. Its many associations include purity and perfection, so it is appropriate that a holy flower would bear its name. Irony is the unique sense of awareness that is produced when someone says something and means another, or when somebody does something, and the result is opposite of what was expected.
In "The Legend of the Christmas Rose," the irony is the latter, situational irony. In the beginning, the abbot is the only one who believes that the Robber family can be redeemed. He believes it so strongly that he asks his archbishop to pardon Robber Father. However, the archbishop—and the lay brother—are unable to see the potential good in the Robber family. Since an abbot is far below an archbishop in the church hierarchy, the archbishop is depicted as the more believable character.
This becomes especially clear when the narrator shows how the archbishop agrees to Abbot Hans's pardon request merely to appease the abbot, not because he believes in the miracle. In fact, even the narration is biased. The narrator says that "Robber Mother and her brood were worse than a pack of wolves, and many a man felt like running a spear through them.