Jules Verne's Oeuvre: A Literary Encyclopaedia of Science and Technology

Part of the The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics book series (LEAF, volume 13)

The book was published in 1865, shortly after Jules Verne’s Voyage to the Centre of the Earth, which was published the year before. In the time-span of a few seconds, and on a much smaller scale, Alice is exposed to similar experiences as Axel in Verne’s novel. In Axel’s case, the journey is consuming much more time. Indeed, one could say that Carroll’s version is a miniaturisation of what in Verne’s novel is projected on a grand tableau. But apparently, both authors were fascinated by the same idea: a journey through a tunnel towards the centre of the earth, passing numerous latitudes and longitudes.

An important difference is, however, that Verne describes a scientific journey, scientifically documented, indeed: a scholarly expedition to an Icelandic Volcano (Sneffels). The team consists of three members: Otto Lidenbrock, professor of mineralogy at the University of Hamburg, his adolescent cousin Axel and a local Icelandic guide named Hans. But, also in this case, the “quaternity principle”, already mentioned in Chapter 9, is at work. Wherever there are three of something (persons, elements, etc.), a fourth is hidden somewhere. And indeed, in Verne’s novel, there is a fourth element, a “hidden” scholar, who made the expedition possible and plays a decisive role as the team’s informant and predecessor, namely Arne Saknussemm, a “famous alchemist” of the sixteenth century.


Life Form Sixteenth Century Elementary Imagination Heavenly Body Fourth Element 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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