When reading the final four plays by Henrik Ibsen, one is puzzled by the unfullfilled potential in most of his characters. Death after death numbs a reader to the possible meaning of these plays. In The Master Builder, Halvard Solness dies attempting to reach God at the insistence of Hilda Wangel, who wants a "kingdom" from the architect. In Little Evolf, the child of Alfred and Rita Allmers is drowned in the fiord while under the spell of the Rat-Wife. John Gabriel Borkman ends with death of the title character after he decides to attack the world he, in his illusion, feels has thwarted his genius. The final act of When We Dead Awaken shows Arnold Rubek and his model-muse Irene reaching the mountain of "enlightenment" only to meet their deaths together. What does all this mean? Sometimes comparison between two myths that illustrate the full possibilities of humanity clarify the meaning of the obscure one. The story of Jumping Mouse in Hyemeyohsts Storm's Seven Arrows is to this writer's mind the clearest and most elegant myth concerning becoming fully human ever written. It is derived from the Cheyenne religion and is incredibly simple, for it is a children's story. By comparing the simple route to rebirth in Jumping Mouse with the convoluted tales told in Ibsen's last four plays. one might get a clearer feel for Ibsen's achievement, or one might judge his work deficient of real worth. 

The Mouse in Seven Arrows is a busy mouse. He is busy collecting food, examining things, and keeping his nose to the ground. One day, he hears a roaring in his ears. After trying to ignore it, he finally seeks out the sound and encounters a Raccoon that leads him to the source of the noise: the Medicine River, which is Life. Raccoon introduces him to Frog, who lives both in and above the River. Frog tricks Mouse into seeing something he has never seen before. By getting Mouse to jump into the air, Mouse sees the Sacred Mountains, and also falls into the River of Life. Overcome by fear at being wet, Mouse must be calmed by Frog, who gives him a new name: Jumping Mouse. Jumping Mouse returns to his own kind, but he is rejected because he is wet. It has not rained. so something must have tried to eat him and then spit him out because he was unfit for food. His possible unfitness as a meal means Jumping Mouse could be diseased, and therefore a danger to all mice. 

Dejected and forlorn, Jumping Mouse has no choice but to seek out the Sacred Mountains. He is alone. But the only way to reach his destination is to cross the prairie, which is the domain of Eagles. Overcoming his fear, Jumping Mouse crosses the prairie and reaches a patch of sage, where he encounters Old Mouse, who also, in the past, heard the roaring of the River. But Old Mouse has stopped at the sage patch and been satisfied with his lot. He does not care to pursue his dreams. This is not Jumping Mouse's path. He must reach the Sacred Mountains. 

He scampers across the plains again until he meets a sick and dying Buffalo. Buffalo will die unless he is cured by the Eye of a Mouse. But there are no such things as Mice, he says. Jumping Mouse, overwhelmed with compassion for this Great Being, gives him his eye, and cures The Buffalo, who turns out to be the Guide to the Sacred Mountains. 

Running under the Buffalo's belly, Jumping Mouse finally reaches the Sacred Mountains. But Buffalo is a creature of the plains and cannot go into the Mountains, so they part. Jumping Mouse starts to fall into old ways. He starts examining things. 

Then he finds a Gray Wolf. But the Wolf does not know he is a Wolf. Everytime Jumping Mouse tells him what he is, he forgets. But Jumping Mouse knows the cure for Wolf's malady: the Eye of a Mouse. He Gives-Away his other eye, leaving himself blind, and the Wolf with a whole memory. 

Fortunately for Jumping Mouse, Wolf is the Guide into the Sacred Mountains. Wolf leads blinded Jumping Mouse to the Medicine Lake in the Mountains. But he must leave him there so he can lead others to the lake. 

All alone and blind, Jumping Mouse knows he must meet his end in this place. He feels the approach of an Eagle and goes the way of all things. 

But Jumping Mouse wakes up. He can see though everything is blurry. He hears a voice that tells him to jump! When he does, he is caught on the currents of an updraft of air, and his eyesight becomes clearer and clearer as he rises. Down below, Frog calls after him and gives him his new name: Eagle. 

This beautiful myth tells the path to becoming fully human, which is the ultimate goal of the Cheyenne religion. It is a story about the completion of an unfinished task. Each symbol within the story which is represented by a Mouse, a Frog, an Old Mouse a Buffalo, a Gray Wolf and an Eagle, is within the self of all humans. If we seek the Sacred Mountains and do not let fear and complacency distract us, we will reach our goal. But to accomplish this, we must Give-Away our old ways of seeing ourselves and the world, and therefore be blind, which symbolizes a divorce from the false self we create for ourselves. When we Give-Away all this falseness, we become Eagles. 

In the last four plays of Ibsen's great cycle of twelve, are the plays showing us the way to becoming fully human? Maybe. If they are, they are progressively showing us what does not work in this quest, beginning in The Master Builder. Halvard Solness is a man who cannot be secure in his talent and must use other people as a parasite uses a host body. He has ignored, by courting death in its negative guise, the nine Muses within the personality of his wife. This, I feel, is the meaning of the nine dolls she carried below her bosom like unborn children. She has also not given freely, for all kindness she offers is not truly felt, but given out of her sense of duty. She is false. Solness and she are also separate. Both characters are one entity and, like a repressed experience in a neurotic mind, the inner and outer selves are disjointed. When Solness tries to reach enlightenment, by climbing the tower to create a new life for himself, his unconnectedness to his inner self leads to his defeat. 

In , Little Eyolf Alfred Allmers has been to the mountains and come back, like Moses, with a Plan. But these are not the Sacred Mountains, for Allmers is still examining things. Instead of transforming himself, he will transfigure his son, Eyolf, into what he himself should be. But Eyolf is crippled. He is not the one who can lead Allmers into a union with the World Spirit. Only Allmers can do that for himself. So, in fitting fashion, the World Spirit takes Eyolf away. When this happens, and both Alfred and Rita Allmers realize that they must meet the future for themselves, the unconscious and conscious mind reach out to each other, take each other's hand, and the possibility of being human begins. 

In John Gabriel Borkman, the title character paces upstairs like an injured wolf. He has laid great plans that will make him a king. But, like most people who seek external power, and not self-completion, he must manipulate other people in order to accomplish his goals. When he is caught embezzling money from the bank of which he is president,and punished, he lays the blame on others, not on himself. His wife, Gunhild, like Alfred Allmers, has plans to affect the future; not by reaching out to her other half in forgivness, but by fashioning a false future for her son, Erhart. Gunhild's twin sister, Ella, confronts Borkman with his treacherousness in giving up her love for material gain. In a catalytic way, she causes him to go out into the world and confront his past. But the old tendency to try to fulfill oneself by shifting responsibilty to another is in Borkman as well as his wife. Though he goes out into the world and escapes his self-made prison, it is not true freedom. This is because, though he is willing to start his career over at the bottom rung of the ladder, his goals are unchanged. Borkman needed to give one of his eyes to a Buffalo. 

Maybe, just maybe, When We Dead Awaken will prove to be the fulfillment of Ibsen's theatrical design to lead society to fruition. Arnold Rubek is a world-famous sculptor who is married to a woman named Maja: the Hindu word for illusion. Years ago he met and used as a model a woman named Irene, a word that means "peace." His marriage to Maja has lasted five years and he is unsatisfied. She is beautiful, but superficial. His relationship with Irene was one in which he, like a vampire, sucked the soul out of his model. His only model. She was left one of the living dead. 

At a spa in the mountains, Rubek encounters Irene again. She is a ghost always accompanied by a nun, who is the burden of her special kind of death: guilt. In a confrontation with Rubek, Irene tells him of his crime of never seeing her as a human being. She was just the midwife for his art. She tells him how her life has been that of a zombie since she disappeared from his life, just before Rubek's masterpiece, Resurrection Day, was completed. She has become a murderer many times over since then. She is insane. 

Several other things happen in the play which seem parenthetical to the main action. They are not. Maja is rejected by Rubek. But she is not very concerned. Maja is illusion. She is the animal, lower life and, by aligning herself with another animal, the bear-hunter Ulfhejm, she goes her way and allows Rubek to reconnect himself with his unconscious self, Irene. This is what Irene, peace, is. She is in a state of limbo because, instead of unifying himself with his unconscious self and becoming completely human, Rubek has only used his unconscious for inspiration. When he gives up his last eye to the Gray Wolf, he is able to ascend the Sacred Mountain and meet the Eagle which will enable him to be reborn. 

So Ibsen's last play becomes the capstone on his grand cycle of twelve plays which, in the fashion of myth, show what it is like to be human at this time in history. But what is important is that the process by which one becomes fully human is always the same. Just as Jumping Mouse had to give both his eyes to his unconscious self, and become blind and lose "maja," so all people must find the old, wise one within themselves who will lead them to the Medicine Lake. All persons must look for true meaning of life within themselves, not in their offspring or some other victim, deny the false construction that is what we think of as the "self," and face the mad-model Irene.

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