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Graphic of Captain von Trapp played by Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music
Graphic of Captain von Trapp played by Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music
Photo by 20th Century Studios / Design by Nick Collini
Culture

Remembering Christopher Plummer as Captain Von Trapp

“The sun has gone to bed and so must I

So long, farewell

Auf wiedersehen, goodbye”

On February 5th, 2021, these words – sung by the beloved von Trapp family in 1965’s The Sound of Music – took on a sorrowful meaning as the world said farewell to Christopher Plummer, who we will forever remember as the patriarch, Captain von Trapp. 

Christopher Plummer, who passed away peacefully in his home at the age of 91, was one of those actors whose death compels you to remember exactly what you were doing the moment you received the news. A few hours before, I was passionately listening to The Sound of Music soundtrack on my phone. I saw that “Edelweiss,” my favourite song from the film, was the only track unavailable in my region; it was odd considering the fact that I had had it on repeat almost every day. Shortly after, I got the notification: “‘Sound of Music’ Star Christopher Plummer Dies.” Heartbroken, I remember rushing into my room and sobbing as I sang along to the soundtrack once more. The tears intensified as soon as “Edelweiss” unexpectedly began to play again. To me, “Edelweiss” is what The Sound of Music is all about. 

Spoilers ahead. 

The Sound of Music, winner of five Oscar awards in 1966, is based on a true story about the singing von Trapp family in Salzburg, Austria during World War II. Maria – a novice who joins the Salzburg convent to become a nun – forgets about her religious duties on account of her love for the Alps, and is sent to the home of a widowed naval officer, Captain von Trapp, to be the governess of his seven children. 

Upon seeing the military courtesy that Captain von Trapp employs on his children, and their mischievous scheme to drive away the governess in pursuit of their father’s attention, Maria introduces music into their lives and opens their hearts –– including the captain’s. This is seen when Captain von Trapp reclaims his devotion to his children and rediscovers his relationship with music by singing “Edelweiss”  (a song named after Austria’s national flower) on his guitar for the first time. Captain von Trapp’s voice is how I imagine cherubs to sound like. 

He and Maria slowly find themselves falling in love, and after personal conflicts with the captain’s fiancé, Maria flees back to the convent. Mother Abbess tells her that she cannot hide, but urges her to “climb every mountain,” and sends her back to the Captain, upon which they get married. 

An unpleasant situation befronts them upon their arrival from their honeymoon: Captain von Trapp is asked to join the German Navy and fight against his own country. As a testament to his loyalty to Austria, he tears up the Nazi flag displayed outside his estate; his unwillingness to abide by Nazi ideologies prompts the von Trapp family to flee to Switzerland. The night of their big escape, Captain von Trapp decides to perform at the yearly Salzburg Festival with his family, after which they take flight.  

In this touching scene, the von Trapps bid their goodbyes to Austria, their beloved homeland, by performing “So Long, Farewell” one last time, along with an emotional rendition of “Edelweiss,” led by Captain von Trapp. After watching him well up, the crowd sings along in defiance of the Nazi soldiers surrounding the premises. “Edelweiss” is about Austrian patriotism and bravery in the face of fascism. The lyrics read:

“Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow 

Bloom and grow forever

Edelweiss, Edelweiss

Bless my homeland forever.”

The final scene of the film shows the von Trapp family traipsing through the Alps of Switzerland to freedom as they cheerfully sing “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” This scene refers back to the metaphorical mountains that Mother Abbess sings about in the convent — completing the story’s circle.  

Captain von Trapp’s decision to put his life — and the life of his family –– on the line by defying Nazi commands and escaping Austria is symbolic of the ultimate sacrifice associated with patriotism. His newly-found relationship with his family through music underlines how the strength of togetherness and love can prevail over the horrors of war, allowing them to “climb every mountain and ford every stream.”

Christopher Plummer’s legacy as our captain will always live on in The Sound of Music. Edelweiss will keep his memory forever. 

Rest in paradise Christopher Plummer (1929-2021)

Christina Armanious is an active member of the fashion community and a passionate student of Ryerson University's Creative Industries program, where she majors in fashion and storytelling. Christina is excited to begin her second year at Her Campus, this time as the Senior Editor. Outside of Her Campus, Armanious is a contributing writer for several magazines, including The Kit, and explores her interest by developing fashion stories based on interviews around Toronto through her blog "Everywear You Look". Christina has interned for The Toronto Star, HUGO BOSS, worked with Victoria Beckham as well as many designers, and has styled collections for numerous fashion weeks and shows.
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