What is the symbolism in the blue stones in Winter's Tales?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The blue stones come to represent an aspect of being that lies outside of human control.  A part of the "Peter and Rosa" story, the allegorical meaning of the blue stones embodies a force outside of human control.  The skipper's wife is shown to be consumed with wanting to appropriate the world in accordance to her own subjectivity.  Her sense of self cannot be reconciled with the idea that the skipper's boat might pull his attention more than her own presence: "But his wife was jealous of the ship. 'You think more of the figurehead than of me,' she said to him."  The skipper's wife operates under this premise.  At the same time, the blue stones are revealed to contain elements that lie outside of human control and appropriation.  Dinesen's depiction reflects this in a distinct manner:“You had better give me the stones for a pair of earrings,” said she. “No,” he said again, “I cannot  do that, and you would not ask me to if you understood.”  The depiction of the "precious" nature of the stones lies outside the realm of human appropriation.  It makes sense that both the husband and wife end up suffering from a lack of vision in accordance to the wife's desire to assume control of the stones. She loses sight and his boat runs aground.

The stones end up acquiring the greatest amount of symbolism in the allegory.  The skipper sees the stones as a way to communicate the beauty of his wife's eyes:  "As they parted the King gave him two big blue, precious stones, and these he had set into the face of his figurehead, like a pair of eyes to it. When he came home he told his wife of his adventure, and said: 'Now she has your blue eyes too.”  This is one layer of symbolism to the blue stones.  Another symbolic aspect of the blue stones would be to represent the element of the world that exists beyond human control.  The skipper echoes this to an extent in how he uses the stones as "eyes" for his boat.  Finally, the stones end up symbolizing the wife's jealousy.  Her desire to appropriate the world in accordance to her own subjectivity causes her to "blind" the vessel and bring about her own condition of blindness. In this symbolism, the world outside of the "precious" stones that lies outside the individual's control ends up causing harm to individuals driven by their own ambition and desire to appropriate the world in accordance to their own subjectivity.

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