Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 295
The Devil's Elixirs is an 1815 novel by the German author E.T.A. Hoffman. The story centers on a monk, Medardus, who consumes the eponymous devil's elixir causing him to undertake a fiendish quest.
The story opens with Medardus reflecting on what limited knowledge he has of his family. This exposition is important in establishing the circumstances of Medardus's upbringing which will be central to the later story in which he encounters members of his family who are unknown to him:
My mother never told me of the circumstances in which my father lived, but when I call to mind the stories she told about him in my childhood years, I cannot help thinking that he must have been a man of great experience and profound knowledge.
Medardus begins his devilish transformation by remarking,
[...] it seemed as if my inward mind were gradually lighted up by the glowing fire of supernatural inspiration.
Later, in the story, Medardus has an exchange with his spiritual adviser, Leonardus. During this, Leonardus' words mark the start of, what we believe might be, Medardus's counter-transformation:
Like a gleam from Heaven, these words of Leonardus fell upon the darkness of my soul. Instead of the hatred which I had been cherishing, the attachment which I had before felt towards him regained its full sway.
The story, in an appendix, switches from the first-person narrative told from Medardus's perspective and is now recounted by Father Spiridion Librarian. In its closing lines, Father Spiridion eulogizes Medardus, underscoring the strange experiences he endured during the story and giving the reader pause as to whether his spiritual liberation was really complete:
[...] may God raise him again from the dead and receive him into the company of the blest—for he died a truly pious man.