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Literature / The Entail

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"The Entail" or as originally called "Das Majorat" was a short story written by E. T. A. Hoffmann and first published in 1817. It tells a long complex history of a hall with a twisted history and involves everything from astronomy, murder, a ghost and sleepwalkers. This is Hoffmann we are talking about.

Tropes in this story:

  • Astrologer: Baron Roderich was one and spent a lot of time in his astronomy tower.
  • Big Fancy House: Castle R
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The elder Theodore as the Baron's justiciary.
  • Creepy Housekeeper: Franz, as is Daniel.
  • Damsel in Distress: Seraphine so needs to hear Theodore play his music. Although her husband the Baron thinks she will die if he does keep playing. So he insists he alter his songs and repertoire to make his wife not be distressed over it.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Theodore has to leave Seraphine, and when he returns he learns she died in a sleigh accident.
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  • Evil Sorcerer: What the people think the first Baron R was.
  • Floorboard Failure: When a storm strikes the astronomy tower, this is what kills the first Baron R and would have killed Daniel if he had taken one more step.
  • Framing Device: The narrative within a narrative in this story takes over.
  • Ghost Story: Theodore tries reading one when he ends up encountering a real ghost.
  • Gothic Horror: This story sets itself as one of Hoffmann's gothic side. While the narration does go a bit more into his usual side, there are a lot of gothic tropes at work in this story.
  • Haunted Castle: Castle R has a ghost and possible a family curse.
  • Haunted House Historian: Uncle Theodore relates most of the backstory.
  • Hereditary Curse: Theodore wonders if the original Baron R brought all the misery of Castle R down upon them in the first place.
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  • Loads and Loads of Characters: So many people within this narrative.
  • Mind Screw: Oh boy. With all the backstabbing and similar names and the whole ghost element, you may be very confused.
  • One Steve Limit: Completely averted. if you can't tell your first Baron R from his grandson the rightful current Baron R, you might need a map.
    • Not to mention Hubert has a son he also named Hubert
    • The protagonist is named Theodore and so is his Uncle.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Daniel's ghost isn't seen at first but is heard repeating the actions of the night he killed Wolfgang. (and had sleep walked many times before)
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Wolfgang had secretly married and had a kid who was not of noble birth. This causes problems later when his younger brother takes over The Entail when it should have belonged to his nephew.
  • Sleepwalking: Daniel sleepwalked the same path he took the night he killed Wolfgang.


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