The Red Lion
is the first novel by Mária Szepes and was published in 1946 in Hungary
(original title: A Vörös Oroszlán
). During the communist regime ''Rákosi'' The Red Lion
was considered to be nonconformist
and therefore was prohibited
. All copies of the book were ordered to be destroyed
. However, the librarian and novelist Béla Hamvas managed to save four copies. Then, several supporters of the author typed up the novel, made templates for printing, and released the self-made copies through the underground. Almost 40 years later
, the novel arrived at the desk of the Heyne publishing company via the agency Utoprop. The book was translated into German by Gottfried Feidel and was published as a paperback in 1984. More details regarding the history of origin are reported by Hans Joachim Alpers in his preface of the 2002 re-issue.
The story centres around the unhappy Hans Burgner
, a miller's son born in the 16th century. After the death of his weak father and of a likewise miserable but beloved teacher, he becomes afraid of the unavoidable death of all living things. Driven by a monomania fed by persistent rumors of an Elixir of Immortality, he becomes an apprentice of a mysterious physician and alchemist
. However, instead of listening to the Alchemist's compassionate counsel and warnings, Burgner is driven by feverish greed to murder him; in this way, he acquires Elixir while he is still spiritually unprepared, and is cursed thereby. This is the starting-point of a journey through the centuries: while Burgner can physically die, the Elixir enables him to retain the full memory of his previous lives as he repeatedly reincarnates into a variety of different circumstances. It also bestows upon him a profound spiritual sensitivity. Several times he attempts the Great Transmutation in order to deliver himself from his self-imposed curse. Hans Burgner is refined through his various incarnations. Against the backdrop of the last five centuries of European history
, he undergoes dramatic personal development: beginning as a spiritually unawakened (and even infamous) character, he matures spiritually through the various challenges he is led to confront. He is first an initiate and Aspirant, eventually attaining the perfection of human personality which characterizes the Magus, or spiritual Adept.The Red Lion
contains examples of the following tropes:
- Alchemy Is Magic
- Ambition Is Evil: Hans.
- And I Must Scream: Hans suffers this as a result of the Red Lion.
- Anti-Hero: Hans Burgner.
- Artifact of Attraction: The elixir.
- Artifact Title: Arguably, if the Red Lion is an artifact.
- Attending Your Own Funeral: Saint-Germain does this, and as the coffin is brought out, he lies down in it and "dies".
- Back from the Dead: Saint-Germain.
- Black Magic: Francesco Borri uses this to conjure a demon to help him, as does the insane Sophie Petion unintentionally.
- Blessed with Suck: The protagonist can remember his past lifetimes as a result of drinking the Red Lion - and cannot shake off the painful memories.
- Book Ends: The interaction between Ernst and Cornelius at the end of the story strongly parallels that between Hans and Rochard. Cornelius is a later incarnation of Hans, but he takes the role and the fate of Rochard in the later interaction.
- Born-Again Immortality: Everyone has this. When a soul dies it takes on a new body.
- Buried Alive: Hans is lowered into a deep hole to die.
- Chastity Couple: Lepitre and Rosalie. It does not end well, as it is based on self-denial. He is tempted by the vamp Corinna, and Rosalie offers herself to him as a "lesser sin". He rejects her, and she murders him and commits suicide.
- Court Mage: Francesco essentially becomes this to a series of rulers.
- Curse: The titular elixir does this to whomever steals it without being spiritually prepared.
- Depraved Bisexual: Corinna.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: The protagonist has to go through a long journey spanning several lifetimes before achieving his.
- Fate Worse than Death: Hans Burgner suffers this. He gets plunged into a living demon-filled hell and wishes vainly for death.
- Foregone Conclusion: The Count of Saint-Germain attempts to warn Marie Antoinette of what is to come in the lead-up to The French Revolution.
- The French Revolution: This was foreshadowed in the negotiations of Saint-Germain with the French queen.
- Gold Digger: Louis de la Tourzel senior, who only marries Sophie Petion for her money, having been prepared to abandon her until her sudden inheritance.
- Good Is Not Soft: Rochard.
- Good Parents: Marietta and her husband.
- Happily Married: The parents of the protagonist's third incarnation, Francisco, are this, in stark contrast to his first two sets of parents.
- Healing Potion: The Red Lion when used correctly.
- Henpecked Husband: Hans' father.
- Hiding Behind Religion: Heinz Knotek's father, and to a lesser extent Hans Burgner's mother.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Hans' attempt to take advantage of several nobles backfires when he falls into their trap.
- Immortality Seeker: Hans. He doesn't know what he is in for.
- Intelligence Equals Isolation: Sebastian, Rochard, and Cornelius. Justified in that enlightenment is shown to be a very inward-focussed journey.
- Justice Will Prevail: "I did not realize then that earthly law merely executes spiritual justice, even when it seems to punish the innocent. No innocent man is ever punished; he is always caught by his own actions."
- Laser-Guided Karma: Cornelius receives this for the crime he committed as Hans Burgner, and is ready and waiting for it. Corinna also arguably receives this at the hands of Martin Alais.
- Living Shadow: The moon priestess confronts hers. She welcomes it back home.
- Mama Bear: Marietta.
- No Antagonist: From a broader perspective, every supporting character has an important role in the protagonist's development.
- Older than They Look: How Ernst figures out Cornelius has the elixir.
- One Steve Limit: Averted with Francesco's mother Marietta, whose name is also given to his friend Francesco's psychic daughter.
- Past Life Memories: The protagonist acquires this as a result of taking the Red Lion. It also means that he carries all the painful memories from one life to the next, as the beneficial veil of forgetfulness is no longer there.
- Philosopher's Stone: The Red Lion, or the elixir of eternal life, is this.
- A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: Ernst is this to Cornelius.
- Redemption Quest: One that spans several lifetimes.
- Reincarnation: A central theme.
- Rule of Seven: The determined moon priestess in the tale told by Cornelius' father makes an appeal to the moon for seven years before finally getting a response.
- Sealed Evil in a Can / Sealed Good in a Can: The titular elixir, depending on how, and by whom, it is used.
- Self-Inflicted Hell
- Sinister Minister: The one who orchestrates Hans' fate after his conjuring. Also Heinz Knotek's father.
- Sweet and Sour Grapes: Hans' greedy desire for eternal life fades as he becomes more enlightened through his subsequent lifetimes, and then he essentially achieves what he originally wanted anyway.
- To Hell and Back: The protagonist's time spent in his self-imposed hell, and his quest to climb out of it, is what makes his enlightenment possible.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: The child Heinz Knotek is a deconstruction, considering who he really is.
- The Vamp: Corinna.
- White and Gray Morality: From a broad perspective, characters who may seem black are actually lost, deluded, and/or undeveloped souls.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Luckily, Hans does eventually get released into death.
- Whole Episode Flashback: The Framing Device of Adam Cadmon's manuscript turns the main story into a flashback.
- Wise Beyond His Years: Heinz Knotek and Francesco Borri, thanks to the Red Lion.