Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Immensee (Imm-uhn-ZEE). Site of the estate from which Reinhard Werner’s former schoolfriend Erich sends Elisabeth the canary that replaces the linnet he gave her before going away to university. Erich was given the estate by his father. When Reinhard first visits the Immensee as Erich’s guest, some years after Elisabeth’s marriage to Erich, the estate is blue and calm, surrounded by green sunlit woods. The red roof of Erich’s house rises out of foliage speckled with white blossom. It is accompanied by vineyards, hop gardens, and a vegetable garden—a perfect image of domestic self-sufficiency, as further exemplified by a stork (a symbol of good luck in German folklore) that flies up from the chimney before settling in the garden. The bees swarming there are a metaphorical reflection of Erich’s own industry; he has added a distillery to the farm buildings erected by his father to supplement the dwelling built in his grandfather’s time, emphasizing the progress as well as the continuity of family life.

Switzerland has a region called Immensee, but Theodor Storm uses the name in this novel because of its symbolic significance. The word means “lake of bees” in German.


Lake. Body of water on the estate. A path along the lakeshore, where the troubled Reinhard walks, leads through a birchwood to a small promontory where there is a bench that Elisabeth’s mother has named the “sunset seat.” While returning along the path one day in the rain, Reinhard thinks he sees Elisabeth among the trees, but she vanishes before he can catch up with her. The...

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