Exploring How Hermann Hesse’s DEMIAN Connects to BTS (방탄소년단) | Part 2
Welcome to Part 2 of exploring how Hermann Hesse’s Demian connects to BTS! If you missed Part 1, you can click here to read it. If you’ve already read Part 1, let’s get started with this book chat!
Chapter Five: The Bird Fights Its Way Out of the Egg
Before we go on discussing the connections I found within this chapter, I need to pause for a bit and analyze Demian’s note for Sinclair: “The bird fights its way out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wants to be born must destroy a world. The bird flies to god. The god is called Abraxas” (73).
This is a pretty popular quote from Demian, and as a result it’s been decoded thoroughly, but at the same time… does this relate to BTS? And if it does, how?
One of the main realizations Sinclair has in the novel is that if he wants to find and truly understand himself, he needs to accept both the positive and negative aspects of his character. In his childhood, when Sinclair steals money to give to Kromer, Sinclair says he wants to have nothing to do with the evil world that was so different than his “world of light” at home with his parents.
Then Demian sweeps in and reveals his belief that the negative and positive aspects of the world — the good and evil — should be combined through the worship of the god Abraxas, “the god who was devil and god in one” (75).
The quote of the bird fighting its way out of the egg could mean different things to different people, but this is what I think it means for Sinclair:
The egg Demian is referring to in this quote is the protective shell Sinclair’s parents had put him in for the majority of Sinclair’s childhood. When Demian says that “[t]he egg is the world,” a key word is stated there: world. Throughout the novel, Sinclair has placed heavy emphasis on his desire to separate the world of innocence and the world of corruption. By saying “[w]hoever wants to be born must destroy a world,” Demian is telling Sinclair that if he wants to find himself — “to be born” — he must destroy his current mentality of desiring to live a life in the “world of light” because that world is a sheltered falsity.
Once he breaks free from that mentality, Sinclair will not be lost. All he needs to do then is fly to the “god…. called Abraxas,” and learn that in order to live a full and understanding life, he will have to be surrounded by both good and evil.
In short, the “[t]he bird fights its way out of the egg” quote encourages individuals to break free from the false notion that everyone can be completely pure and good, for in order to truly understand the world and oneself, everyone needs to accept that good and evil must exist in their life.
This brings up new ideas as to how it relates to BTS — specifically, their music video for “피 땀 눈물 (Blood Sweat & Tears).” In the music video, wings are clearly very important. We have the wings on the statue that Jin kisses; when the members dance in a darkened room with the metal circle of rods dangling above them around 3:21 in the video, there seems to be black paint in the background — which resembles the wings of the crow/raven/bird that has been popping up in paintings and whatnot throughout this music video and the teaser short films; and V is revealed to have his wings clipped near the end of the video.
A popular theory seems to be that the wings symbolize Abraxos, but at the same time, if we look at the earlier quote, Demian says that the “bird flies to [Abraxas],” and what do birds need to be able to fly?
That’s right: wings.
I’ll leave that thought there for now, but I will definitely expand upon it for my specific analyzation of the “피 땀 눈물 (Blood Sweat & Tears)” music video.
#13 Appreciation of Music
I’m sure this doesn’t connect directly to the themes of “피 땀 눈물 (Blood Sweat & Tears),” but I thought this connection was interesting since, despite them being kpop idols and amazing dancers and participating in variety shows, in the end, the members of BTS are all musical artists. Their love and appreciation of music is the main reason why they’re so popular today, as they’re able to translate themes and messages to a broad, worldwide audience through their music.
In the midst of the stage of his life where he wasted away drinking and hangout out at bars, Sinclair finds peace and solace by listening to a man play the organ in a small church.
I had the feeling: The man knows about a buried treasure hidden in this music, and he is wooing and pounding and striving with all his might for this treasure like his life depended on it. I do not understand much about music, in a technical sense, but ever since I was a child I have instinctively understood this expression of the soul, and felt musical things inside me as natural and self-evident. (79)
I thought this was a really beautiful way of showing how resonating music can be, even with those who don’t play an instrument, know music theory, or haven’t studied musical history before. Music is something that so many people can enjoy and connect with, and this quote phrases that idea very eloquently. 😋
#14 Everything Is “Mysteriously Connected”
This connection, I have to admit, was kind of shocking — and it is very very possible that I’m just analyzing it way too much, but…
I can’t just ignore this.
So, BTS’s music videos are each very complex and intricate in terms of their meanings and symbolism and stories and themes, but the aspect of the music videos that can be 1) fun, 2) frustrating, 3) confuzzling, or 4) all of the above is the fact that they all seem to be connected in some way.
In Chapter 5 of Demian, I stumbled across this quote:
In every piece of music he played, I heard more than the piece itself — it seemed as though everything he played was related, mysteriously connected. (80)
For me, the thing I instantly thought of when I read this quote was that BTS’s music videos are all “related, mysteriously connected” — the exact way Sinclair had described the organist’s music. I don’t think BTS read this quote and highlighted it in their copy of Demian because they thought all their music was connected to each other too, but it’s still a cool connection between Demian and BTS.
Chapter Six: Jacob Wrestles With the Angel
#15 To Grow Its Wings
This is something I simply cannot ignore:
Our new faith, for which we are choosing the name Abraxas, is a beautiful one, my friend. It is the best we have. But it is still in its infancy! It has not yet grown wings. A lonely religion, alas, is not yet the true one. (90)
The context in which this reference to growing wings appears centers around the development of the religion Pistorius wants to popularize, while BTS’s use of symbolic wings in their music and videos symbolize taking flight into another stage of life, happiness, or dreams.
In the end, the idea is still the same — something in its infancy “has not yet grown wings.” Wings are used in both BTS and Demian as something that helps the thing in its infancy — a person or a thing — fly to and reach a better and/or more successful place. Wings are a catapult, and something that reminds me of a catapult in the “피 땀 눈물 (Blood Sweat & Tears)” music video is actually the slingshot that Jimin has at the intro…
*theories churning up in head right now*
I feel like my head is about to explode right now.
#16 A Different Feeling of Spring
In Part 1 of this book chat, I mentioned how Sinclair equates the feeling of liberty and the end of a dark time in his life to the feeling of springtime. Clearly, that could relate to “봄날 (Spring Day).”
However, in this chapter, Sinclair uses spring to explain very different moods and emotions.
Then I heard a dark, heavy roaring like that of a spring downpour, and I trembled with an indescribable new feeling of fear and experience. (96)
This is so interesting because many people often think of spring as the end of winter — spring is often used to indicate renewal, hope, and love. However, spring is also a heavy raining season, and sometimes the springtime rainstorms can be vicious and slightly frightening.
I should take this rarer symbolic use of springtime into account when I decode BTS’s songs because this use of spring could further expand on the theme that the world must and does contain the two extremes of good and evil, which a the main theme in both Demian and “피 땀 눈물 (Blood Sweat & Tears).”
#17 Painting on Fire
Remember all the things that were set on fire in BTS’s music videos? Okay, you might not remember all those individual objects — but certainly you can remember that paintings were constantly being set on fire.
You remember, right? If you want an example of paintings being set on fire you can watch Jungkook’s short flim for “Begin” — and then there’s also painting of the bird being set on fire (I think it was in “피 땀 눈물 (Blood Sweat & Tears)”?), to name another example.
In Demian, Sinclair wakes up and realizes that his painting of Demian/himself had disappeared.
I looked for the picture, but it was not on the wall anymore — not on the table either. Then I thought I dimly recalled having burned it. Or was it a dream? That I had held it in my hands as it burned, and eaten the ashes? (96)
So first of all, Sinclair mentions how he might have set his painting on fire, which is a clear connection to BTS’s music videos and especially Jungkook’s short film. However, there’s more to just the act of Sinclair setting the painting on fire — what exactly does the painting represent?
When I first read about Sinclair’s painting, I always assumed it was Demian’s face that Sinclair drew. However, now that I’m going back and rereading parts for this book chat, it’s becoming clear to me that the painting might not just be of Demian.
It was a face like the earlier face; it was like my friend Demian’s, and in some features like my own face too. (95)
Demian is a very unique character in the book. He is, in many ways, Sinclair’s mentor — Demian was the one who first led Sinclair onto the path to finding himself, which we know is a very important plot thread of Demian. However, it is possible that Demian isn’t an actual character in the book. He might just be an extension of Sinclair’s imagination. After all, Demian says that only Sinclair can find himself, and if Demian was an extension of Sinclair, then it would make sense how closely Demian was able to follow Sinclair in his path to himself.
This idea hit me when I read about how Sinclair saw his painting of Demian:
Finally, obeying a powerful inner command, I closed my eyes and I saw the image within me, stronger and more powerful than ever. I wanted to kneel down before it, but it was so much a part of me that I could no longer distinguish it from myself. It was as though it had become entirely I. (96)
Perhaps Sinclair’s discovery that his supposed painting of Demian was actually himself is a clue that Demian is just a character from Sinclair’s imagination. If we jump ahead to the end of the book, the concluding sentence is this:
But sometimes, when I find the key and climb fully down into myself, where the images of destiny slumber in their dark mirror, I need only bend down over the black mirror and I see my own image, which now looks exactly like Him, Him, my friend and my guide. (135)
Though “Him” is capitalized in this sentence, I do not think Sinclair is referring to God — instead, Sinclair is referring to Demian, his “friend and [his] guide.” However, Sinclair now acknowledges that his “own image” is the one that looks like Demian, which suggests that Demian is in fact Sinclair. Sinclair realizes this by the end of the book, and by referring to himself (as well as Demian, who is an extension of himself) as capital “Him,” Sinclair is stating that he now views himself as something divine and worship-worthy, more so, perhaps, than a religious figure will ever be for him.
Remember, Hesse had a lot of commentary on how people view religions in this novel, which was influenced by the fact that Hesse “was the son and grandson of a family of strict Pietist missionaries, a heritage that affected him deeply throughout his life” (Background Information Page in Demian). Hesse-as-Pistorius scoffs as how “religion is practiced as though it weren’t a religion at all. It pretends to be a construction of reason” (90).
Keeping this in mind, Sinclair’s decision to call himself “Him” indicates how he has finally found his own worth, and that no external force can make himself see himself as someone lesser in comparison to another ever again.
Okay, now back to the discussion about the meaning of the painting — my thought is that the painting Jungkook has might be of himself — or his Demian, I suppose. However, if it is accurate that the painting is actually of Suga…
Oh my goodness.
I JUST REALIZED SOMETHING.
You know how there are pairings in BTS’s music videos??!?!?! GUESS WHO JUNGKOOK IS PAIRED WITH.
YES, YES YOU’RE RIGHT.
JUNGKOOK IS PAIRED WITH SUGA.
So if Jungkook’s painting is of Suga, could it be possible that Suga is Jungkook’s Demian, AKA extension of himself? And since Jungkook’s painting of Suga suddenly catches on fire, could it be that Jungkook doesn’t want to listen to Suga, his Demian/mentor, when Suga tries to lead Jungkook on the path to finding himself and accepting that there is good and evil in the world? We see that Jungkook is shaking his head and in clear distress as he watches his painting catch on fire…
😱 Gaaaah this changes everything because now I’m going to view the music videos in a whole different light!!!
So yup — that’s what I have to say about paintings catching on fire in Demian and BTS’s music videos — for now.
Chapter Seven: Eve
#18 What Happens on the Train
Okay, here’s a calmer connection. When trains are first mentioned, Sinclair is in a lost-like state of mind. His only goal was to find this woman he named Beatrice that he momentarily glimpsed before, whom he later realizes his Demian’s mother, Eve. Sinclair mentions how he “was never able to fall asleep — at most [he] nodded off for fifteen minutes during train rides through unfamiliar landscapes” (107).
In the next paragraph, Sinclair states how “[o]nce, at a train station in Innsbruck I think it was, I saw a shape through the window of a departing train that reminded me of her, and I was miserable for days. Suddenly the shape appeared to me again at night, in a dream, and I woke up feeling ashamed and empty, convinced of the senselessness of my hunt. I took the next train straight home” (107).
Remember how Jungkook stares out the window of the train in BTS’s music video for “봄날 (Spring Day)”? When Sinclair is on the train, he’s searching for someone. Perhaps Jungkook is searching for someone, or had failed in his search for someone, and that’s the emotion/mood/story the music video is trying to convey. Either way, this small connection will probably help with my decoding of “봄날 (Spring Day)” later on.
#19 Loss of One’s Childhood
BTS’s concept and story of youth being the most beautiful moment in life is really inspiring, but there’s the question of whether life after youth can still have beautiful moments. In Demian, Sinclair had once thought “that losing the glittering colors of the world inevitably went along with the loss of childhood, and that to a certain extent you had to pay for the freedom and manhood of the soul by renouncing that beloved shimmer” (112).
However, Sinclair realizes that he can still be happy after stepping out of his childhood “world of light” into the vast where, where good and evil mingle today on a daily, unavoidable basis.
Now, enchanted, I saw that it had all merely been overshadowed and covered up, and that it was possible, even as a free man who had renounced childhood happiness, to see the world aglow and feel the heartfelt quiver of childlike vision. (112)
I find this quote very inspiring because instead of the end of childhood being the corresponding end of happiness, as Sinclair had believed in earlier in the novel, Sinclair learns that happiness is possible at every stage in one’s life. BTS constantly emphasizes how they believe in being happy throughout the difficult times of youth. Rap Monster (yes, I am going to use one of his deep quotes) said at one of his concerts that “you can think that happiness is not something you have to achieve. You can still feel happy during the process of achieving something” (Source).
I’m going to momentarily pull the topic from Demian to me, because I really love Rap Monster’s above quote. In a way, his quote could relate to me and the time I spend working on this blog. Yes, I’m currently writing with the knowledge that only a few people will read this now, but while I’m still working towards having a larger audience, I’m always happy while working on my blog. In fact, I’m extremely happy and excited to be writing this right now. Though we might have bigger goals that can only be achieved much later in our lives, it’s nice to just live in the moment and be happy with what we currently have.
That entire concept of youth and happiness is why I love BTS’s music so much. 😊
Chapter Eight: The Beginning of the End
Ready for the last connection of this book chat?
#20 What a Butterfly Does
The summer weeks passes quickly and easily; the fall semester was already near. I was about to leave, I couldn’t think about it — and I didn’t think about it, instead I clung to these beautiful days like a butterfly to the honey clover. This had been my time of happiness, the first time in my life I had found fulfillment and been welcomed into a group of like-minded individuals. What would come next? I would carry on struggling, longing, dreaming, being alone. (129)
One word should have glared out at everyone in the midst of that quote: butterfly. BTS has a song named “Butterfly.” Butterflies constantly appear in their music videos (which may or not not relate to the idea of wings), and there’s a theory that the butterfly effect might have a role in the stories of BTS’s music videos.
I wish I could devise a clear connection/theory for butterflies within BTS’s music videos right now, but my brain is currently fried from writing this book chat, and I think it’s probably best for me to leave it to future-moi to analyze what this connection means.
If you’ve read ’til the end, yay! Tell me in the comments below what you thought about these connections, and what your possible theories are. Oh, and if you missed Part 1, then check it out here.
Thanks for reading, and I will cya next time! Byeeee! 🤗
Want to Read More?
If you like this post, then read…
this post on an amazing book by Maurene Goo about K-dramas + Korean culture,
or this post on thoughts about dreams and growing up!
There’s also another post on what languages I speak + want to learn (including Korean!),
and here’s my start of drawing more Asian characters for diversity.
If you want more BTS, then here’s a list of posts for that: