Sophie’s World

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Hilde Møller Knag Character Analysis

The other protagonist of Sophie’s World, Hilde Møller Knag is a teenaged girl—the same age as Sophie—who, we learn, is reading Sophie’s story in installments sent by her father, Albert Knag. Hilde is similar to Sophie in many ways (reflecting the fact that Albert knows his daughter well)—she’s a little shy, a little lonely, very curious, and doesn’t always get on very well with her mother. Like Sophie, Hilde has a strong sense of rebelliousness, and when she begins to understand that Albert is manipulating his characters without any regard for their feelings, she decides to retaliate by giving Albert a taste of his own medicine. The novel ends with the image of Hilde and Albert, reunited at last, looking up at the stars. This suggests that the “real” plot of Sophie’s World has been the story of Hilde coming-of-age with the help of her father’s lessons. Now that Hilde’s learned some philosophy, she and Albert might be considered intellectual equals—hence their calm, collaborative study of the stars.

Hilde Møller Knag Quotes in Sophie’s World

The Sophie’s World quotes below are all either spoken by Hilde Møller Knag or refer to Hilde Møller Knag . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Philosophy, Wisdom, and Wonder Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of Sophie’s World published in 2007.
Chapter 23 Quotes

In a momentary vision of absolute clarity Hilde knew that Sophie was more than just paper and ink. She really existed.

Related Characters: Sophie Amundsen, Hilde Møller Knag
Related Symbols: The Binder / Sophie’s World
Page Number: 298
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Hilde—who, we realize, has been reading a book called “Sophie’s World,” starring Sophie Amundsen—decides that Sophie is “real,” despite the fact that she’s also a fictional character created by Hilde's Father. In an interesting reversal of Spinoza, Hilde decides that Sophie’s fictional nature is no barrier to her being real: since all humans are “creations” of a divine entity, then Hilde herself isn’t any more real than Sophie.

Hilde’s relationship with Sophie also suggests that ideas and concepts are more real than the physical world (one of the oldest ideas in Western philosophy). Even though Sophie lacks a body, the idea of Sophie carries with it a certain amount of sense—enough, perhaps for Sophie to qualify as a real person. Furthermore, the notion that a fiction can be real is a premise for reading Sophie’s World in the first place—the fact that Hilde is herself a fictional creation doesn’t stop us from liking her, empathizing with her, or learning from her. Hilde and Sophie are both literary devices, designed to teach readers about philosophical ideas and, perhaps, make us question the reality of our own lives.

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Chapter 34 Quotes

Major Albert Knag’s first impulse was to smile. But he did not appreciate being manipulated in this manner. He had always liked to be in charge of his own life. Now this little vixen in Lillesand was directing his movements in Kastrup Airport! How had she managed that?

Related Characters: Hilde Møller Knag , Albert Knag / The Major
Page Number: 485
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Albert Knag, the author of the book-within-the-book, returns from his long tour of the Middle East. Knag, the father of Hilde, is surprised to find that someone (Hilde, we recognize) is manipulating his environment: someone has placed elaborate banners at his airport terminal and slipped highly specific messages into his seat on the airplane. The effect of Hilde’s manipulation is to make Knag question the reality of his world—he wonders if he, like Sophie, might be a character trapped in someone else’s novel—just as Hilde has intended. It’s important to note that Hilde is trying to give her father a taste of his own medicine: Albert has manipulated the characters in Sophie’s World for his own amusement; now, he finds himself being manipulated and disoriented. Hilde’s actions underscore the point that no human being is completely free in the conventional sense. Perhaps we’re all just characters in someone else’s “book”; i.e., our actions have been predetermined by some divine entity (whether it be a Christian God or a more abstract force of the kind hypothesized by Spinoza).

“You’ve become a grown woman, Hilde!”
“And you’ve become a real writer.”
Hilde wiped away her tears.
“Shall we say we’re quits?” she asked.
“We’re quits.”

Related Characters: Hilde Møller Knag (speaker), Albert Knag / The Major (speaker)
Page Number: 495
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Hilde reunites with her father, Albert—the man who's been writing her letters about philosophy, assembled into the book Sophie's World. Hilde and Albert compliment each other for their ingenuity. Hilde compliments Albert for writing Sophie's World; Albert praises Hilde for mastering philosophy and for engineering a series of pranks that disoriented him, proving that she'd truly understood his lessons in epistemology and ontology.

Albert and Hilde's exchange reinforces the point that Sophie's World is a coming-of-age story: over the course of the novel, Sophie learns to channel her frustration and anxiety into abstract thinking. In the process she becomes a more mature, confident thinker—or as her father puts it, philosophy helps her become a grown woman.

Chapter 35 Quotes

They jumped out of the car and ran down the garden.
They tried to loosen the rope that was made fast in a metal ring. But they could not even lift one end.
“It’s as good as nailed down,” said Alberto.
“We’ve got plenty of time.”
“A true philosopher must never give up. If we could just... get it loose …”

Related Characters: Sophie Amundsen (speaker), Alberto Knox (speaker), Hilde Møller Knag , Albert Knag / The Major
Page Number: 506
Explanation and Analysis:

At the end of Sophie's World, Sophie and Alberto—fictional characters who've somehow attained a degree of independence from their creator—find themselves in a strange world. Everything around them, including people, is frozen. In spite of the hopelessness of their situation, Sophie and Alberto try to move a metal ring, which is attached to a boat near to where Hilde and Albert are sitting. Sophie is persistent in her attempts to the move the ring—in spite of the unlikelihood of moving the ring, she keeps trying, confident that philosophers never give up.

In all, the novel ends on a note of cautious optimism. Sophie seems to have no chance of moving the ring, but her intellectual training gives her hope and confidence. Gaarder suggests that philosophy, in addition to being an important area of study, can also be something like a religion for its students: it can provide people with hope and confidence in their own abilities. As the novel began, Sophie was a timid, shy young girl—now, with philosophy as her weapon, she's brave and determined.

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Hilde Møller Knag Character Timeline in Sophie’s World

The timeline below shows where the character Hilde Møller Knag appears in Sophie’s World. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Garden of Eden
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...(captain of an oil tanker). Sophie sees that the card is addressed to someone named Hilde Møller Knag. The postcard explains (to Hilde), “I want to give you a present that... (full context)
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...received three mysterious postcards, presenting three mysteries. She wonders who sent her the postcards, who Hilde Møller Knag is, and why she’s received Hilde’s birthday card. These three problems, she decides,... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Top Hat
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...It was probably written by someone other than the person who sent a postcard to Hilde Møller Knag, since there’s no stamp or postmark on this most recent letter. Sophie then... (full context)
Chapter 6: Fate
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...her letter. Under her bed, she’s surprised to find a red scarf with the name “Hilde” written on the seam. Sophie wonders who Hilde is, and how she’s come to receive... (full context)
Chapter 10: The Major’s Cabin
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...a wallet lying on a table. It contains a school ID for a girl named Hilde Møller Knag. She also notices an envelope, addressed to her. Suddenly, Sophie hears Hermes barking—quickly,... (full context)
Chapter 12: Hellenism
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...lying on the sidewalk outside her house. The postcard, stamped from Lebanon, is addressed to Hilde Møller Knag, via Sophie Amundsen. It’s dated June 15—Sophie’s own birthday. The postcard greets Hilde... (full context)
Chapter 13: The Postcards
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Joanna reads one postcard. The postcard, addressed to Hilde, explains that “Dad” is under military command in Lebanon, and won’t be able to travel... (full context)
Chapter 14: Two Cultures
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In the letter, Alberto tells Sophie that he left Hilde’s father’s postcards in the cabin, assuming that Sophie would return there soon. Alberto tells Sophie... (full context)
Chapter 15: The Middle Ages
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...her window to retrieve the card. It’s been dated June 15, and is addressed to Hilde. Hilde’s father tells Hilde that they have a lot to talk about. He also mentions... (full context)
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...name. He tells Sophie that they must meet in person so that they can “attract Hilde’s attention.” Sophie agrees to meet Alberto at a nearby church the next morning. Sophie goes... (full context)
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As Alberto falls silent, Sophie asks him about Hilde. Alberto replies, “We don’t know whether there is a ‘Hilde’ at all.” Sophie finds this... (full context)
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...asks Alberto if there were any female philosophers in the Middle Ages. Alberto mentions one, Hildegard of Bingen. Sophie finds this name interesting, since it resembles Hilde’s name.Hildegard, Alberto explains, believed... (full context)
Chapter 16: The Renaissance
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...before. Although she has no way of proving it, Sophie senses that this girl is Hilde. Sophie tries to introduce herself to this strange other girl, but before she can get... (full context)
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...pillow, she finds the gold crucifix.Sophie is bewildered by her dream. She also notes that Hilde’s father (in the dream) looked a lot like Alberto Knox. She goes downstairs and greets... (full context)
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...Hermes barks at the mailbox. Hesitantly, Sophie opens the box and finds a letter for Hilde Møller Knag. It’s dated June 15. Sophie reads Hilde’s letter. Hilde’s father tells Hilde that... (full context)
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...Alberto Knox, wearing a yellow jacket with padded shoulders. Sophie demands that Alberto explain how Hilde’scrucifix came to be under her pillow. Alberto replies, “It’s just a cheap trick.” Without waiting... (full context)
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...the attic for some time, ever since leaving the major’s cabin. Sophie asks Alberto how Hilde’s father knows Alberto’s changing locations, but Alberto doesn’t say. (full context)
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...o’clock—her mother must be missing her. Alberto nods and says goodbye to Sophie, calling her “Hilde.” Sophie challenges Alberto on this, and Alberto claims that he just misspoke. Sophie asks Alberto... (full context)
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...exact price of a bus ticket. Sophie wonders if this is a coincidence, or if Hilde’s father has placed the money there for her. Sophie feels a chill running down her... (full context)
Chapter 17: The Baroque
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...Sophie leafs through her exercise book, she finds a postcard in it: a postcard from Hilde’s father in Lebanon. Hilde’s father tells Hilde that one of his friends has died recently.... (full context)
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...guides her back to Alberto’s attic. Outside building No. 14, Sophie finds a letter for Hilde. Hilde’s father explains that Hilde has lost ten crowns recently, and hopes that someone else... (full context)
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Inside, Sophie greets Alberto and asks him about the letter. Alberto calls Hilde’s father a shallow, shabby man, someone who thinks that his “surveillance” can rival that of... (full context)
Chapter 18: Descartes
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...was built in Atlanta and transferred to Norway—Laila is a computer. Sophie asks Laila about Hilde, and Laila reports that Hilde’s father is a UN worker stationed in Lebanon. (full context)
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...mutters, “The rat has sneaked onto the hard disc.”“Albert Knag” types a birthday greeting to Hilde, promising to give Hilde a hug soon. Sophie notices the similarities between the name “Alberto... (full context)
Chapter 19: Spinoza
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...it. She’s surprised to see a message written inside the banana: “Here I am again, Hilde.” Sophie is confused, and wonders if Hilde’s father could have sent the banana all the... (full context)
Chapter 20: Locke
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...go by. Sophie goes to Alberto’s apartment across town. Outside, she finds another note wishing Hilde a happy birthday. In the note, Hilde’s father promises her that the “moment of truth”... (full context)
Chapter 22: Berkeley
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...and see an airplane pulling a banner across the sky. The banner says, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HILDE!” Alberto mutters, “Gate-crasher.” (full context)
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...odd. She thinks of all the strange things that have been happening to her lately: Hilde’s father seems to be everywhere. ThenAlbertosuddenly addresses Sophie as “Hilde,” and explains that he’s always... (full context)
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Albertothen tells Sophie “Happy birthday, Hilde!” and suddenly it starts to storm outside. Sophie leaves Alberto and returns to her home,... (full context)
Chapter 23: Bjerkeley
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As the chapter begins, Hilde Møller Knag wakes up in her bed. It’s June 15, 1990, her 15thbirthday, and her... (full context)
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Hilde stares out of her window at the garden outside her house. There was a big... (full context)
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Hilde stares into her brass mirror. She has long blonde hair and green eyes. The mirror... (full context)
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Suddenly, Hilde notices a box on her table—perhaps a birthday present from Albert. Inside, she finds an... (full context)
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As Hilde reads on, she’s surprised to find that she herself is a character in the book.... (full context)
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Hilde’s mother walks into the room, carrying food, and wishes Hilde a happy birthday. Hilde thanks... (full context)
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Alone in her room once again, Hilde reads about Sophie’s encounters with the two portraits in the major’s cabin—Berkeley and Bjerkely. Hilde... (full context)
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Hilde continues with her reading. As she reads, she comes across postcards from her father. Although... (full context)
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When Hilde gets to the description of Hildegard of Bingen, she’s very interested (and appalled that she... (full context)
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Then Hildereads about Sophie’s dream—where Sophie sees Albert Knag returning to Hilde’s home, weeks in the future.... (full context)
Chapter 24: The Enlightenment
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After a short conversation with her mother,Hilde reads about Sophie’s discussions with Alberto in the church. She recognizes that her father is... (full context)
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Hilde eats dinner with her mother, and confesses that she just wants to go back and... (full context)
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Hilde continues reading. In the text, it’s Sophie’s birthday, June 15th. Mom enters the room and... (full context)
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...he and she may have only been invented for the amusement of “the major’s” daughter, Hilde. But since he and Sophie aren’t real, just literary creations, then nothing they do really... (full context)
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Hilde finishes reading the chapter of Sophie’s World. She finds it odd that Sophie and Alberto... (full context)
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Hilde continues reading. Sophie receives two cards from Lebanon, one addressed to her, one to Hilde.... (full context)
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Sophie directs Alberto’s attention to the pictures of Berkeley and Bjerkely. She suggests that Hilde “lives” somewhere in the picture of Bjerkely. Suddenly, she sees an envelope. She opens it... (full context)
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Hilde, who’s been reading all this, hears her mother call to her. She decides to look... (full context)
Chapter 25: Kant
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Albert Knag, Hilde’s father, calls Hilde in her house to wish her a happy birthday. He asks Hilde... (full context)
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Hilde falls asleep reading from her book. In the book, Sophie talks with Alberto in the... (full context)
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...Pooh tells Sophie that he’s lost his way. He’s supposed to deliver a letter to Hilde. Sophie takes the letter from Pooh and offers to deliver it to Hilde. She walks... (full context)
Chapter 26: Romanticism
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Hilde sits in her room, readingSophie’s World. Her mother asks her to lend a hand with... (full context)
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...emerges from it. The spirit has a black beard, and wears a beret. He tells Hilde (not Sophie) that Bjerkley seems like a fantasyland to him, since he’s so used to... (full context)
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...run away. Alberto tells Sophie that their only option is to try to talk to Hilde directly—and since Hilde reads every word of the book they’re in, this should be easy.... (full context)
Chapter 27: Hegel
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Hilde sits in her room, having just read Chapter 26 of her book. She’s dizzied by... (full context)
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...room. She wonders what the “significance” of this mirror could be. Alberto suggests that only Hilde can answer this question. (full context)
Chapter 28: Kierkegaard
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Hilde looks at her clock—it’s 4 o’clock. She’s been greatly moved by her reading, and Sophie... (full context)
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Hilde goes downstairs, where she finds her mother. Hilde’smother asks her for help repairing the family... (full context)
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Hilde continues reading. In her book, Sophie and Alberto hear a knock at the door. Sophie... (full context)
Chapter 29: Marx
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Hilde finishes reading the chapter on Kierkegaard. Inspired by Sophie and Alberto, she decides to give... (full context)
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Later on in the day, Hilde continues reading. In the book, Sophiereturns to her house, where she finds Mom waiting for... (full context)
Chapter 30: Darwin
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Hilde wakes up early on Sunday to the sound of her binder falling on the floor.... (full context)
Chapter 31: Freud
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Hilde looks up from her book—her mother has just called for her to come to breakfast.Instead... (full context)
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In the evening, Hilde begins reading again. In the book, Sophie and Alberto are standing outside the major’s cabin,... (full context)
Chapter 32: Our Own Time
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It’s almost midnight, and Hilde sits in her room, reading. She tries to write using the “free association” techniques that... (full context)
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Hilde falls asleep and wakes up the next morning. She remembers a dream she had, in... (full context)
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Hilde’s mother enters the room and wishes her good morning. She tells Hilde she’ll be home... (full context)
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...store, Sophie sees something on TV—footage of a UN soldier waving a sign, “Back soon, Hilde!” Alberto mutters, “Charlatan.”Alberto and Sophie keep walking, and eventually come to a bookstore. In the... (full context)
Chapter 33: The Garden Party
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Hilde sits in bed, having just finished another chapter of Sophie’s World. She remembers how her... (full context)
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Hilde proceeds with her reading, since there are only a few pages left. In the book,... (full context)
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...Knag. Everyone at the party is a literary creation, designed for a book—a book that Hilde is about to finish. The guests at the party don’t take this news well. Some... (full context)
Chapter 34: Counterpoint
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Hilde sits in bed—the story of Sophie and Alberto is over. But what has actually happened... (full context)
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...cut back toAlberto and Sophie, whotry to avoid the major by sneaking into the cabin.Meanwhile Hilde spends the next few days working on “her plan.” She sends letters to her family... (full context)
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...When he gets back home, he’s going to shop for his wife and child. He sentHilde a present two weeks ago, and hasn’t spoken to her since. At the airport, he... (full context)
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...to buy some food at the airport. At the store, he notices a letter from Hilde, telling him to pick up some salami and caviar. Albert is confused—how has Hilde managed... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Alberttakes off from Copenhagen. As he leaves the airplane, he receives a note from Hilde (who calls herself “Queen of the Mirror”), wishing him a safe flight. Albert is amused... (full context)
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...his home. When he arrives at home, his wife kisses him and tells him that Hilde is waiting in the garden. (full context)
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...Bjerkley next to a bay. Sophie and Alberto rush out of the car and find Hilde sitting in her garden. Sophie finds Hilde very pretty—she has blonde hair and green eyes,... (full context)
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We cut to Hilde, who’s waiting for her father. She’s a little nervous that her “plan” has made him... (full context)
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Hilde and Albert talk about Albert’s day. Hilde laughs as Albert describes receiving strange notes and... (full context)
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We cut to Sophie and Alberto. Sophie sees Hilde embracing her father, and feels deeply jealous—Hilde is a real person, who’ll grow up to... (full context)
Chapter 35: The Big Bang
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Hilde sits next to her father. It’s very late, and the stars are bright in the... (full context)
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Albert reminds Hilde that light takes a finite amount of time to travel across space. This means that... (full context)
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...Alberto points out that the roles have reversed; now, he and Sophie are listening to Hilde and Albert, instead of the other way around. Sophie finds a wrench in the car.... (full context)
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Albert and Hilde talk about the ending of Sophie’s World, in which Alberto and Sophie run away from... (full context)
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We cut back to Hilde and Albert. Albert points up at the stars and tells Hilde that once, long ago,... (full context)
Philosophy, Wisdom, and Wonder Theme Icon
The Nature of Reality Theme Icon
Education, Mentorship, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Free Will Theme Icon
We cut back to Hilde and Albert. Albertremembers the night before her left for Lebanon—this was the night he first... (full context)