• Madison White

A Story a Day #42: Hjalmar Soderberg




March 28th, 2020

"The Burning City"

Hjalmar Soderberg


A young boy, about five years old, plays and dances about the living room. He tells his father that he dreamt last night about this room, especially this particular painting called "The Burning City." It is a new addition to the room and the father gets it down so they can look at it again. The boy asks who started the fire and he says he doesn't know exactly because it happened so long ago. He asks many questions about how long ago and the father tries to explain that it happened before any of them existed. The boy doesn't understand and eventually decides that his father is only joking with him. He goes on playing.


This is a very innocent story about trying to explain the difficult subject of time. The boy cannot comprehend that at some point he didn't exist. Especially as a young person, it is difficult to understand that the world can exist without you. For children, this can be very jarring to hear, and in this case, can be written off altogether.


I liked the simplicity of this story. Though I am not a parent, I'm sure many parents can relate to the moment when they try to explain life and death to a child. Kids ask lots of questions that have difficult answers or don't really have answers at all. This is a touching story about how one father attempts to explain this to his son, but how his son doesn't respond to it.

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