(Minghui.org) Hans Christian Andersen, one of the most well-known writers of fairy tales, left the world a great deal of humor, wisdom, and tales of morality. Almost 200 years have passed, and some of the stories he penned are still profoundly meaningful to children and adults alike. 

Dancing Plague and Red Shoes

One of the works, “The Red Shoes,” tells the story of a little girl named Karen. Her enchanted red shoes caused her to dance without stop. In the end, the only solution was to cut off her feet. 

This story of Andersen's was based in part on a true event. On July 14, 1518, a “dancing plague” occurred in the European town of Strasbourg (in today’s France). A young woman named Frau Troffea began dancing in the street. Within a week, a group of entranced dancers of all ages joined her.

With no clue as to what to do, the city government first banned gambling and prostitution, but that did not stop the dance mania. The city council also donated a 100-pound candle to the local church, which did not help stop the dancing either. Some physicians believed the dancers suffered from “hot blood.” The city council hired musicians to play music for the dancers, hoping to wear them out. 

But that made the situation worse. In the end, about 400 people lost their lives, mostly from fatigue, heart problems, or stroke. Physicians still cannot understand exactly what happened. 

The story of Karen from Andersen’s tale depicted a similar situation. Born in a poor family, Karen was adopted by an old lady. Now dressed in neat and clean clothes, she was also able to learn to read and to sew. Obsessed by vanity, however, she tricked the old lady into purchasing an expensive pair of red shoes for her. 

Little by little, things went awry after that. The red shoes occupied Karen’s entire mind. She disobeyed the old lady and wore the shoes to church. Even inside the church, what she thought of was only the red shoes. As she left the church, the shoes caused Karen to dance. As the coachman lifted Karen into the carriage, “her feet continued to dance, so that she kicked the good old lady violently. At last they took off her shoes, and her legs were at rest.”

Ignoring this warning and obsessed with the red shoes, Karen chose to go to a ball in the red shoes instead of looking after the ill old lady. This decision led her to dance uncontrollably for days. In the end she had to beg an executioner to cut off her feet, leaving the shoes to dance off by themselves with the dismembered feet.

But the story did not end there. Now with carved wooden feet and crutches, Karen wanted to go to church, but the red shoes kept dancing in front of her, blocking her way. In the end, she sincerely repented, in tears. An angel appeared and Karen was able to join the others in the church. 

“The organ played and the children’s voices in the choir sounded soft and lovely. The bright warm sunshine streamed through the window into the pew where Karen sat, and her heart became so filled with it, so filled with peace and joy, that it broke,” wrote Andersen. “Her soul flew on the sunbeams to Heaven, and no one was there who asked after the Red Shoes.”

Karen learned the lesson the hard way. When one indulges in vanity, the obsession can lead us to forget who we are, what we should be thankful for, and what duties we should fulfill. One may say that the story of Karen sounds distant or implausible. But suppose the red shoes have now disguised themselves as electronic devices; haven’t we seen boys and girls obsessed with them uncontrollably, while their parents can do nothing about it?

The Black Death

The dancing plague lasted only a few months. But the black death continued for more than seven years and took at least 25 million lives during its peak, from 1347 to 1351.

Some people made large donations to the church or flagellated themselves as atonement, but such superficial repentance, without searching their soul for the root cause of the plague, didn't help and the plague continued. 

Martin Luther, a German theology professor and priest, decided to stay when the plague infected Wittenberg – the town where he lived – in August 1527. In an open letter titled “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague,” he penned a masterpiece of pastoral guidance to a community in crisis. Citing the Bible, he wrote, “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, but the hireling sees the wolf coming and flees.”

Although risking his own life to take care of others afflicted by the plague and surviving miraculously, Luther believed that doing good deeds or monetary donations did not necessarily lead to salvation. It is religious faith that is the true redeemer of sin. That is why he discouraged paying indulgences and instead focused on inner, true belief. He did not change even after he was excommunicated by the pope and condemned as an outlaw and a heretic by the Holy Roman Emperor. 

Altered Sense of Smell Due to COVID-19

Many people, including Luther, believed that plague was a scourge of God. When people deviate from the divinely-bestowed principles, consequences may follow. In fact, like the dancing plague or the Black Death, plagues often came suddenly and left mysteriously. Examples include plagues during the ancient Roman Empire and the Spanish flu of 1918. 

This may give us some clues about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. So far, the disease has caused over 143 million infections and more than 3 million deaths. Among the many symptoms of COVID-19, there is a loss of memory or smell. And sometimes patients even reported smell distortion, a phenomenon called parosmia. 

A total loss of smell and taste are hallmark symptoms of COVID-19. One study says that it happens to at least 25% of people who catch the disease, according to an article on WebMD. For example, some common items such as food, soap, or dessert, suddenly became intolerable. 

“Around 65% of people with coronavirus lose their sense of smell and taste and it’s estimated that about 10% of those go on to develop a ‘qualitative olfactory dysfunction’, meaning parosmia or a rarer condition, phantosmia, when you smell something that isn't there,” reported a January 2021 BBC article titled “Parosmia: ‘Since I had COVID, food makes me want to vomit’.”

Prof Barry Smith, UK lead for the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research, also made similar observations. “For some people, nappies [diapers] and bathroom smells have become pleasant – and even enjoyable,” he explained. “It is as if human waste now smells like food and food now smells like human waste.”

The damage goes beyond the olfactory system. “Doctors in a large Chicago medical center found that more than 40% of patients with COVID showed neurologic manifestations at the outset, and more than 30% of those had impaired cognition. Sometimes the neurological manifestations can be devastating and can even lead to death,” wrote Harvard researcher Andrew Budson in a March 2021 article.

The COVID pandemic has now claimed as many American lives as World War I, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War combined, he wrote in the same article.

An Example of Recovery

In Andersen’s story of the red shoes, obsession with vanity led Karen to deviate from the divine's teachings and her filial duty to her adopted mother, and she almost lost her life. Only after she sincerely repented her sin and turned to God was she saved. The black death story told us that those who truly believe in the divine will be blessed when plagues hit. Both stories may shed light on what we should do during the current pandemic.

The pandemic, which first broke out in Wuhan, China, was able to spread worldwide because of the systematic cover-up by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Many people thus call the virus the CCP virus. 

Had the CCP alerted the world about the outbreak in a timely and responsible manner, the pandemic probably wouldn't have been so widespread or severe, and international organizations such as the WHO (World Health Organization) would have taken appropriate measures to address the issue instead of parroting the CCP’s official narrative – which not only delayed the response time but also misled the international community. 

However, the CCP has shown time and again that it only cares about maintaining power through lies, deceit, and violence. Since it took power in 1949, it has caused more than 80 million unnatural deaths. It is wishful thinking that the CCP may one day become good and put the people's interest above itself. According to ancient Chinese culture, when the rulers do bad things, catastrophes follow and the rulers and those that follow them will face consequences.

Data shows that the CCP virus goes where the CCP’s influence is. To some extent, this is not too surprising. Just like little Karen was obsessed with vanity and forgot everything else, how many people and governments in the world are able to remain clear-minded and stand up against the CCP – the most totalitarian regime with the worst human rights record?

Similar to the examples mentioned above, when one truly chooses to uphold his or her principles, reject the CCP, and support the upright, blessings will follow. 

There have been many articles on Minghui.org about miraculous recoveries from COVID-19 after people learned the facts about Falun Gong and became supportive – even in the oppressive environment of China where the practice is brutally persecuted by the government. Also known as Falun Dafa, Falun Gong is a meditation system based on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. With about 100 million practitioners, it is the single largest group persecuted by the CCP in China. 

One example of Falun Gong’s healing power concerns Carolyn, the 37-year-old wife of a Falun Dafa practitioner. After five years of marriage, she became pregnant with their first child. However, Carolyn caught the CCP virus while pregnant. Her symptoms first started on January 7, 2021. Over the first two to three days, she experienced some minor discomfort in her throat, along with sudden waves of heat and cold.

“On Sunday, January 10, I started feeling extremely cold. Despite following my husband’s advice to bask in the sun, the chill persisted, even though I was swaddled from head to toe in thick blankets. My husband told me that he could barely feel any wind. However, I was so cold that even a slight wind caused my head to hurt... I refused to consider the possibility of COVID-19, until I started seeing more definitive signs of the disease,” she recalled. 

Soon after, Carolyn’s nose became so stuffed up that she could only breathe from her mouth. The next day, she woke up to find that the feeling of pain had intensified. She called her family doctor, and was told she likely had COVID-19. She was urged to undergo nucleic acid diagnostic testing.

That Monday night, her fever went up. “The following day, I went for a diagnostic test and received a positive result confirming I had COVID-19. I was 26 weeks pregnant then,” Carolyn wrote. “My fever became unbearable. My illnesses worsened until I was unable to get up from my bed. My husband started serving my meals at my bedside and feeding me, spoonful by spoonful.”

Both Carolyn’s husband and mother-in-law have been practicing Falun Dafa for years. At the peak of her suffering, she also recalled a phone conversation she'd had with a friend. Carolyn had told the friend about her latest maternity checkup, which revealed that her fetus was in an abnormal position, increasing the risk of severe bleeding and premature delivery. The friend’s first child had been safely delivered with no complications. With the second child, the friend had experienced three episodes of slight bleeding but still delivered her child without any problems. The friend then advised Carolyn to recite the phrase “Falun Dafa is good, Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance is good” to overcome any dangerous situations.

Encouraged by this recollection, Carolyn started reciting the phrase. “I also told my husband and mother-in-law. With this lifeline, my fear immediately abated. I started to recite ‘Falun Dafa is good’ all night long. Before going to sleep, I would reassure my unborn son, ‘We will overcome this obstacle together.’” 

While reciting the phrases, Carolyn also talked with her husband and learned the importance of being good – not just paying lip service to the concept, but truly embracing it from one’s heart. She promised she would do that. Gradually, her fever subsided and her condition started to improve. 

Carolyn has now fully recovered. Her sense of taste and smell have also returned. Not only that, her gynecologist gave her the good news t:/hat the baby is no longer in an abnormal fetal position. 

Carolyn said she wants to share her story with other COVID-19 patients, hoping that they too can benefit.

Chinese version available

Category: Perspective