Verniana — Jules Verne Studies / Etudes Jules Verne — Volume 4 (2011–2012) — 1–8

Verne and the Theatre: Hoffmann and the “Shadowless Mann” in Voyage au centre de la Terre

Peter Cogman


The Voyages extraordinaires are scattered with a variety of errors in names of places and people. In a few cases these errors however can be explained. In Voyage au centre de la Terre the lighting effects in the underground cavern leaves the characters without shadows, like (says the narrator) “the fantastic character in Hoffmann who lost his shadow”. Commentators have noted that such a character occurs in a tale by Adelbert von Chamisso, not Hoffmann, who wrote of a character who lost his reflection. But in the theatrical adaptation Les Contes d’Hoffmann by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré (1851) Chamisso’s shadowless hero figures as a rival to the protagonist; this play (now better known in its operatic adaptation by Offenbach), a notable success at the time when Verne himself also collaborated on theatrical works with Carré, is thus the probable source of Verne’s error.

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