Sound of Music Poster

THE SOUND OF PAGAN MUSIC

by Paul Feldman

NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t seen The Sound of Music.

One of the first things I got hip to as a new a parent was the concept of “Again!”. When a kid really digs something, just like anyone else, they want more of it. No doubt you all get this: We all have our favorite corners of pop culture we return to again and again. Familiarity through Repetition is a corner stone of Geekdom.

When my son was three years old, he was full on into The Sound of Music. It’s one of my wife’s favorites, and like any loving parent, she is eager to share her favorites with our little guy (as am I). Watching your kid’s face as they experience something that rocked your world at the same age is the closest we can ever get to reliving the Joy of the First Time.

So, we watched The Sound of Music. A LOT. Before bed. On long car trips. On long plane trips. On rainy afternoons. Highlights of favorite scenes before dinner. And, somewhere in this sea of repetition, I really saw the movie for the first time. Realization struck me like a blow from Miolnir, the Hammer of Thor:

The Sound of Music is a manifesto of the triumph of Paganism over the repressive forces of Puritanical Christianity and Nazism.

Is this true? How serious am I? Does it even matter, so long as I can back this outlandish claim with empirical evidence?

Let’s begin.

If you’re unfamiliar with The Sound of Music, allow me to sum up: A young, free-spirited nun named Maria, through the power of music, brings a zest for life and love back to a well-to-do-but-up-until-now-grieveing-for-their-dead-mother/wife family, just in time to escape the oncoming Nazi occupation of Austria.

sound of music opening

The film opens up with Julie Andrews’ character Maria, her blonde hair bobbed like a Nordic Mountain Nymph (I know Nymphs are Greek, don’t ruin it), flitting over the unspoiled natural beauty of the Alps, singing a song that declares:

The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Music
With songs they have sung for a thousand years

Boom. Right there. “Songs they have sung for a Thousand Years”? Out of context those could be metal lyrics. Clearly, Maria is an acolyte of the Pagan Gods, and we have met her in a state of ecstatic communion on the Holy Mountain. Her ecstasy is soon broken by the tolling of the iron bell in the convent below.

Maria descends to the convent, with its rules and oppressive atmosphere. The sisters, though well-meaning, define her as a “problem”, and quickly shunt her off to become the governess for the seven Von Trapp children.

While the story ultimately reveals the Von Trapp family to be good hearted and Nazi-Defying, Maria has a rough go bringing them out of their respective funks. The Von Trapps represent the stultified state of the Austrian Volk (Yeah, that’s right. A Jew is discussing the stultified state of the Austrian Volk), and Maria stands for the deliverance available through embracing the Old Ways.

The children suffer under the oppressive regime of their father, who in turn suffers not only from the grief of being a widower, but also from a restrictive, overly-formalized society that is quickly crumbling in the shadow of the looming swastika. Maria, faithful cleric of the Old Gods, brings redemption with her Sacrament of Song.

sound of music

 

Maria initiates the Von Trapp children on the Holy Mountain with an incantation stressing the importance of the Power of the Goddess: “Doe! A Deer! A Female Deer!”, and the children come back to the Von Trapp estate Capital-C-Changed. Captain Von Trapp, after enjoying the Gregorian Chants emanating from the local monastery, is enraged when he returns home to find his children are hanging in the trees: The Children Are In The Trees. Really think about that one, man.

Later at a dinner party attended by Maria, the children, Captain Von Trapp, a family friend and the Captain’s fiance, the children perform a sweeter rendition of the opening Hymn, now with the eldest daughter leading the vocals The Captain is won over: He’s enchanted by the song and the spell of the stagnating secular world is broken. The Captain then sings a song praising the Edelweiss, the white flower associated with the purity of the Alps themselves.

edleweiss sound of music

Immediately after this breakthrough moment, the children and Maria put on a puppet show, The Lonely Goatherd.

That’s right. Goats, motherfuckers. It doesn’t get more pagan than that. Especially when the upshot of the puppet show’s story is the titular goatherd getting hooked up with a lovely young maiden, all while one of the goats pairs off with another goat and they have a baby goat at the end.

This is more than a puppet show. This is both a psychodrama and a fertility rite.

lonely goatherd sound of music

Soon after this point in the film, Captain Von Trapp becomes more and more enamored of Maria. Some screen time is given to the impending Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into the Third Reich. For the purposes of this study, we’ll skip over the story until the Pagan elements return. (And yes I know Maria and the Captain get married in a Cathedral: but what better symbol of synthesis of old and new then a union involving a Priestess of the Old Gods, consecrated the Temple of the New?)

sound of music nazi escape

Skipping to the very end: Austria is now under Nazi rule, and Maria, the Captain and the kids are going to GTFO to Switzerland. The Von Trapps (Now the Von Trapp Family Singers, thanks to the family friend at the dinner party who was some kind of a booking agent/promoter) perform one last time in a very ancient-looking stone amphitheater, unleashing the power of Pagan Song against the Nazis. Unfortunately, this is not an Opening-of-the-Ark moment and no faces are melted. However, the spell cast by the song is enough to allow the Von Trapps to make their getaway, and after a pursuit through a crypt (passing through the Land of the Dead), the Von Trapps are able to escape. The Final Image of the film is the same we began with: The Holy Mountain. Only now instead of a Lone Priestess we see all the Von Trapps, (And by extension, the Austrian Volk), led to deliverance, where, it is implied, they will live out their days in bliss.

Look me in the eye and tell me I’m wrong.

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