Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea

by

Ruta Sepetys

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Emilia’s Wreath Symbol Analysis

Emilia’s Wreath Symbol Icon

As a child, Emilia participated in a tradition in which young girls would make a wreath of flowers and let it float down the river, carrying a candle. Whoever caught the wreath downstream would be the girl’s future husband. However, Emilia’s wreath got stuck in the middle of the river, caught on fire, and sank. As a result, Emilia assumed her future was cursed—that she would never find a husband, and that she would die tragically. The wreath becomes symbolic of Emilia’s tragic story as a whole, as the young girl’s life was cut short abruptly by the gruesome reality of war.

Emilia’s Wreath Quotes in Salt to the Sea

The Salt to the Sea quotes below all refer to the symbol of Emilia’s Wreath. 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:
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Salt to the Sea published in 2016.
131. Emilia Quotes

I hadn’t planned for this. I was certain the birthing would kill both of us, just as it had Mama. Yet somehow, after five cruel winters of war, I was still alive. I adjusted the baby in my arms. What was happening? Could I have been wrong about the sign?

I had received the sign six years ago. It was Saint John’s Night, the longest day of the year. Mama loved Saint John’s celebration—a night of bonfires, singing, and dancing. The tradition called for girls to make wreaths of flowers and candles. At dark, they would light the candles and send their wreaths floating down the river. Legend said that the boy who retrieved your wreath downstream was the boy you would marry. The year Mama died, the older girls let me make a wreath of flowers and candles with them. I chose all of Mama’s favorites—hibiscus, roses, poppies, and dried herbs.

After setting the wreaths to the water, the girls danced around the bonfire. I decided to follow my pretty wreath. I padded barefoot in the grass along the river, watching the flowers and candles turning slowly in the water. I walked quite far. My wreath suddenly bounced, catching on something beneath the surface. I stopped in the center of the river. One of the candles tipped onto the flowers. The herbs caught on fire.
I sat in the grass and watched my wreath burn and sink, quietly sealing my fate.

I had expected everything to end, But now, I began to think that maybe the sign had been wrong. I had fought so hard to overcome so much. Something changed when the knight arrived. Maybe he truly saved me, had pulled my burning wreath form the water. After all, in Poland, Saint Florian was fighter of fire.

For the first time in years, people cared for me. Protected me.

Related Characters: Emilia Stozek (speaker), Florian Beck, Halinka
Related Symbols: Emilia’s Wreath
Page Number: 300
Explanation and Analysis:
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Salt to the Sea PDF

Emilia’s Wreath Symbol Timeline in Salt to the Sea

The timeline below shows where the symbol Emilia’s Wreath appears in Salt to the Sea. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
131. Emilia
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
...Saint John’s Night, a festival on the summer solstice. As was tradition, she made a wreath of flowers and candles and launched it on the river. Legend has it that the... (full context)
144. Emilia
Agency, Willpower, and Fate Theme Icon
Emilia cannot get the image of the burning, sinking wreath out of her mind. She tries to call out to other women to get their... (full context)