Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Mountains. Wilderness regions, untamed by human culture, where the supernatural still holds sway. Mountains have a dual symbolism in The Sunken Bell, as they also represent the heights of human aspiration and ambition. The elves and wood-sprites, who contrive such mischief as luring the vicar, the schoolmaster, and the barber deeper into the woods by calling for help in Heinrich’s voice, are trying to preserve the first function and defeat the second. An uneasy amalgam of the two roles is forged by Heinrich’s association with Rautendelein, but it cannot last.

Abandoned glassworks

Abandoned glassworks. Site of Heinrich’s doomed attempt to found a better bell with the aid of dwarf labor supplied by Rautendelein. It is refitted with a smithy and a water-bearing earthenware pipe before being further extended into the body of the mountain.

Heinrich home

Heinrich home. Coarse but comfortable domestic setting in which Magda awaits her lost husband, surrounded by cooking apparatus and Christian imagery; the latter includes engravings of work by the sixteenth century artist Adam Kraft.


Lake. Resting-place of Heinrich’s first bell—a church bell—that falls into the water when a wood-sprite upsets the cart transporting it. The sunken bell, rung by the jealous Nickelmann, finally awakens Heinrich’s conscience by evoking a vision of his children carrying a bucket of his wife’s tears.