Friday, November 28, 2008


I'd like to talk about Little Lotte, where the name came from, why Raoul called her as such, and what areas of Christine’s childhood molded her into the person we see with the Phantom that perhaps influenced the choices she made in her life.

The name “Little Lotte” is actually from a poem entitled, “A Child’s First Sorrow” by Andreas Munch, a Norwegian Poet in the early 19th century. Leroux in his original works writes the first verse as follows, “Little Lotte thought of everything and nothing.” He changes the remaining of the verse as follows: “Her hair was golden as the sun's rays and her soul as clear and blue as her eyes. She wheedled her mother, was kind to her doll, took great care of her frock and her little red shoes and her fiddle, but most of all loved, when she went to sleep, to hear the Angel of Music." Leroux writes that her father told this story in front of Raoul, who picked up the name Lotte. Interesting as well, Leroux states her father always wove the tale of the Angel of Music in any story he told. Perhaps that is why the verse is changed.

However, the original poem by Munch translates:

“Little Lotte thought of everything and nothing. Like a butterfly she flew about in the gold of the sun. In her golden curls she the wore the crown of spring, and her gaze was the like the heavens, so bright blue and clear.”

The poem itself is about a little girl who rescues a bird in the wintertime and nurses it back to health. When spring arrives, the bird wants to leave and fly away, but Lotte keeps the bird caged instead, not realizing it wishes its freedom in order to live. One morning as she comes to feed it, she finds the bird dead at the bottom of the cage, and this becomes her first introduction to sorrow and grief in life.

"The sweet childhood blush faded from her cheeks, and slowly from her heart a dark pain rose. She could not know, what this pain was; but sorrow had written its first rune in her heart. And marked its image deep on her soft features. No longer did it disappear with her last tear.”

In the original story, Christine Daee’s mother passed away when she was six years old. The following years with her father were filled with poverty and wandering. As I read the story itself, to me it seems her father truly never recovers from the death of his wife, and as a result Christine’s life is unstable for quite some time. She sleeps in barns, travels from fair to fair, sings for street audiences, while her father plays the violin and makes a meager living at it. It is only when a Professor and his wife befriend them that Christine begins to have any type of stability. She now has a roof over her head, and they provide for her education.

Her father, however, is still depressed and eventually passes away. From what I can gather backtracking the story, her father’s passing comes much later in her early teens, rather than as a young child portrayed in the movie. Christine, as we all know, grieves over the death of her father for quite some time, and I find the last few verses of the poem revealing – especially the words that death, “marked its image deep on her soft features.” Truly, the death of her father had a profound effect upon her need for someone to fulfill a father figure in her life.

As I think about her reasons for the choices she makes in this story, I believe they were motivated by her childhood in many ways. Christine was seeking security and found that in Raoul. She wanted someone to care and watch over her. Her childhood, riddled in its early years with isolation, had a profound effect on her development. No doubt life with her father wandering from village to village, produced a life of instability and great dependence upon her father, which made it so difficult for her to let go of him in many ways.

The choice the Phantom gave her, a life of isolation in his world, may have played a role in why she ultimately choose a life with Raoul. A life with the Phantom would have been one reminiscent of her childhood. Instead, in essence, Christine yearned for a life of security and provision in the arms of Raoul, who she could trust to care for her. (Of course, this comment may produce screams from certain friends of mine she was a money-grubbing Diva after all! See! See! Private joke there.) Perhaps, as well, she wanted a sense of family the de Chagny's could provide after being orphaned at a young age, which she would otherwise not have with Erik. In the end, how we grow up as children does influence the decisions we make in life and the and motivations behind them.

So what else can you glean from the poem above about the poor bird that was locked up in a cage and died because it wasn’t granted its freedom? I suppose that if you dig hard enough, you might find symbolism in that morsel as well.

Your obedient servant,
The Phantom's Student

Order Lessons From the Phantom of the Opera Here


Anonymous said...

Hi There!

I love the original poem, and to me it foreshadows the Phantom's obsession /love for Christine. In this instance, he is the one who captures the songbird and tries to keep her locked in a cage... but eventually he realizes that if he does not let his little songbird fly away, she will die. And so with that final kiss, he sets her free.

One of the elements I dislike in the movie is that Gustave Daae is represented as a famous violinist. In my view that takes away from the tragedy and poignancy of Christine's early upbringing.

I enjoy reading your blogs!


Vicki Hopkins said...


What a wonderful comment and insight into the songbird in a cage. That poem has been especially poignant for me this week in many ways, for I've had to open the door and let someone go in my life so they could learn to live. In addition, I feel caged in another situation, and this verse rings true: "Then it spread it wings and wanted to fly away;
But little Lotte smiled - alas, she understood it not. She closed the cage securely, she gave it water and seed; But the bird only wanted freedom, if it was not to die." Sometimes others need to let go so that we can learn to soar on our own.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and kind words.

The Phantom's Student

Anonymous said...

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Unknown said...

Ooop so this may be chiming in a little late, except I couldn't help it!
I absolutely agree with and love this meaning behind the name 'Little Lotte' (110%), except it was only when I was really digging around and talking about it with my younger sister that we saw somewhere (can't quite remember where) that Christine's mother's name was Charlotte - this was found on several other pages, and each suggested that she looked like her mother (a believable story?). Not necessarily believing all of this information to be true (I guess people are entitled to creativity), but not really seeing any definitive flaw in it, we concluded Little Lotte could be her father referencing his wife in their child (perhaps Lotte is short for Charlotte and if she's a mini-me, then that would make sense to call her 'Little Lotte'). Obviously this is not the correct meaning, however my sister and I did find immense comfort in the sentiment the nickname soon held. Just a thought :)