You know, it wasn't until recently that I knew edelweiss was spelled with an 'E'. This isn't random, though, at least no more so than usual, I have a writerly purpose behind this.
Besides the attractiveness of Captain Von Trapp.
Ok, but really. Everybody knows the 'Edelweiss' song. And we all know that the edelweiss flower and the song were symbols of Austrian nationalism during the German occupation in WWII. And that, I think, is why the song is so lasting and has such an impact, to people who've never even been to Austria. Basically, it means more than itself. Edelweiss is not just a flower or a song, it is a flower and a song with a history, that symbolizes things we can all admire: patriotism, courage, loyalty, strength. It's like the mocking jay bird in Hunger Games.
I feel like these kinds of symbols really give readers and audience something to grasp and hold on to. It's hard to talk about or illustrate abstracts like courage and loyalty and strength, but when you put those things into something concrete like a flower or a song, it's easier to take in and understand. We know what you mean when you sing 'Edelweiss'.
And I adore it when that happens, when someone says something but is really talking about something else, or something deeper. The Office does this brilliantly. When Jim says "Dwight, send in the subs," we know what he's really talking about it. But how much less effective and poignant would it have been if he'd said the words out loud? Or when Michael says, "Can I kiss you?" how many words are contained in Holly's one word, "Yeah." This kind of association is why just the word chimerical can almost make me cry (25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee anyone?) I'm getting off track here, but do you see what I mean? We can use symbols to mean things more than they mean, but that's where the greatest moments and greatest dialog comes from too. Can you think of other moments, book, movie, or tv, that are like this?
And now you're all going to have the song stuck in your head for the rest of the day :)