The Holunder Motif in Kleist's Das Kathchen von Heilbronn and Its Nineteenth-Century Context
Present-day audiences of Kleist's Das Käthchen von Heilbronn are reluctant to view the heroine's notorious and seemingly unmotivated inclination to talk in her sleep as much more than an unfortunate "romantic" trapping. However, an examination of pharmacological and folkloric sources concerning the Holunderbaum lends plausibility to Käthchen's behavior and shows the Holunder motif to be central to the theme and the dramatic development of the play. Because nineteenth-century readers understood the powerful symbolic content of the motif, writers who followed Kleist did not hesitate to employ this poetic device as well.
Huff, Steven R. Summer 1991. "The Holunder Motif in Kleist's Das Kathchen von Heilbronn and Its Nineteenth-Century Context." The German Quarterly 64(3): 304-312.