Hilde sits in bed—the story of Sophie and Alberto is over. But what has actually happened to them? Hilde wonders if it’s her job to continue writing the story. Or perhaps Sophie and Alberto have simply escaped the story forever. Confused, Hilde decides to go back and read the story again a few times.
This section raises questions that are too complicated for Sophie’s Worldto answer. One could say that Sophie and Alberto persist even after their book is over—so it’s Hilde’s duty to keep writing (or at least reading) about them. It’s also possible that these characters are just that—characters—meaning that they’re “done” when their book is done.
We 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 friend Anne in Copenhagen. She also rereads Sophie’s World.
As Albert retires from his duties as an author, Hilde prepares to become an author-figure, manipulating her father in the same way that her father manipulated Alberto and Sophie. This is a sign of Hilde’s own coming-of-age (independent of Sophie’s). It’s not explained how, exactly, Alberto and Sophie are driving around—what book are they a part of, exactly?
In an unidentified story,Alberto and Sophie arrive in Oslo. Alberto assures Sophie that they’re outside the major’s control now. Sophie asks a passerby what the name of the street is, but the stranger doesn’t reply. Gradually, Sophie realizes the truth: here in Oslo, she and Alberto are “frozen” in time and isolated from the rest of the characters. Alberto leads Sophie down the streets. He reminds her that this is the day Albert Knag returns from Lebanon—they don’t have much time left.
The new “Sophie book” that we’re reading doesn’t try to tinker with the setting or plot of the original Sophie’s World, even as it reinterprets Sophie and Alberto, the two characters Albert invented. Perhaps Gaarder is trying to convey that Sophie and Alberto are “coming alive”; that their existence extends past the confines of Albert’s book.
The chapter “cuts” abruptly. Albert Knag, we’re told, is waiting at the airport. 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 receives a message from Hilde, welcoming him back from Lebanon. Hilde mentions a “stolen and wrecked Mercedes,” and promises that she’ll be in in the garden when he returns. Albert is amused that Hilde is “directing” his life in the airport.
As the book approaches an ending, it’s confusing to keep track of what is and isn’t fictional—i.e., whether this section is the product of Hilde’s writing or Gaarder’s. Now that Albert himself is a character, and no longer a seemingly omnipotent creator, it becomes clear that he’s no more “real” than Sophie, Alberto, or even us as readers.
Albert goes 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 to place letters in the airport? Time passes, and Albert—now feeling paranoid—prepares to board his flight. He notices another letter for him, taped to the check-in desk.
It now becomes apparent what the “favor” Hilde asked of her friends was. This prank (as far as it exists within Hilde’s world) is meant to make even Albert Knag question his own reality, and wonder whether he, like Sophie, is being manipulated by an all-powerful figure.
The chapter cuts back to Sophie and Alberto. They drive through the city in search of Albert. As they drive, Alberto tells Sophie a story. There was once a man who didn’t believe in angels. One day, an angel appears before this man. The man admits that angels exist, but he still maintains that angels don’t exist in “reality,” as he, the man, does—he explains that he saw the angel move through a solid rock, suggesting that angels are somehow ethereal or otherworldly. The angel, surprised, replies, “we are more solid than the mist.”Albertoconcludes that he and Sophie are indestructible.
The point of Alberto’s story is that it’s often foolish to distinguish between different levels of reality (reality, one could say, is an all-or-nothing proposition—things are either real or they’renot). In this way, Gaarder is subtly mocking his own readers for trying to distinguish between the new Sophie/Alberto narrative and Gaarder’s own—a project that amounts to determining which fiction is more real than the other.
Alberto and Sophie drive out of the city, toward the town of Fiane. They stop at an eatery called Cinderella to get some foodand drink. Inside Cinderella, an elderly woman offers to lead them to “a small establishment close by.” She leads them outside. As they walk, the woman explains that she’s a character from a fairy tale; Sophie and Alberto reply that they’re from a philosophy book. The woman leads Sophie and Alberto to a large bonfire, around which dance Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan, and other “fictional” characters. There, the woman gives Alberto some coffee. Alberto finishes his coffee, and then he and Sophie continue driving in their car.
In this amusing interlude, we’re reminded that even if Alberto and Sophie could be considered real people, this isn’t the definition of “real” that most people are used to—by the same logic, Sherlock Holmes and Peter Pan are real, too.
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 and annoyed by this letter—Hilde is giving him a taste of his own medicine.
Hilde is toying with Albert so that he feels regret for the way he manipulated Alberto and Sophie in Sophie’s World. (Of course, it’s also possible that this section of the text appears in Hilde’s own writing, suggesting that Hilde is staging a reunion scene between herself and her father that may never come.)
Albert lands at the airport in Lillesand. As he waits for his bags, he sees demonstrators waving signs that say, “Welcome home, Dad.” Albert gets his bags and them takes a cab to his home. When he arrives at home, his wife kisses him and tells him that Hilde is waiting in the garden.
Once again, Gaarder blurs the line between fiction and reality—we’re not sure if we’re reading this in another book, or whether it’s happening in the “world” of the novel itself (Hilde and Albert’s world, that is).
We cut back to Sophie and Alberto. They drive to the town of Lillesand and try to figure out how to find Bjerkley. After some searching, they locate 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, and looks a lot like Joanna. Suddenly, Sophie hears a voice, crying “Hilde!” Sophie sees the major, wearing his beret.
This is one of the first times in the novel when Sophie sees Hilde face-to-face (she previously saw Hilde only in the brass mirror). This is especially interesting, considering that this is also the first time in the novel when we get an extended physical description of Hilde. The implication is that Hilde’s reality is somehow unfinished until she is reunited with her “partner,” Sophie (this idea is somewhat similar to Hegel’s notion of the world spirit).
We cut to Hilde, who’s waiting for her father. She’s a little nervous that her “plan” has made him angry—but on the other hand, she thinks, he should have expected her to do something of this kind. Then she hears a voice shout, “Hilde!”—it’s her father! Hilde embraces her fatherand tells him, “You’ve become a real writer!” Albert replies, “You’ve become a grown woman!” Hilde proposes that she and her father “call it quits,” and he agrees.
At the same time that Sophie reunites with Hilde, Hilde reunites with her father, or at least seems to (there’s still the possibility that Hilde is imagining all of this).Hilde, we’re told, has finally grown up, not only by learning about philosophy but also by daring to play philosophical tricks on her own father—a sign of her maturity and initiative.
Hilde and Albert talk about Albert’s day. Hilde laughs as Albert describes receiving strange notes and letters all day—something that made him very paranoid, indeed. That evening, Albert says that he’s going to tell Hilde about “the universe”—this will be the final part of her philosophy lesson.
Hilde has relied on Ole and Anne to send bizarre messages to Albert, in much the same way that Albert sent bizarre messages to Sophie. In this sense, we might say that Albert has paid the penalty for exploiting his own fictional character—thus, it’s time to call it quits.
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 have real children and real grandchildren. Alberto notices that Sophie is crying. He reminds Sophie that Sophie has a family, just like Hilde—she also has a huge number of friends from other books, who live in the woods behind Cinderella. Now that the major has finished his book, Sophie and Alberto are truly free—they can do whatever they want. Alberto leads Sophie away from Hilde and her father, toward their car.
The final question of this book is: is the world of ideas really a substitute for the world of physical things? In other words, can fictional characters ever really take the place of real people? This section also raises questions about what does and doesn’t qualify as freedom. Alberto and Sophie seem convinced that they’ve attained true freedom, despite the fact that they seem to be inhabiting a different book still (our version of Sophie’s World, at least.