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Books from Norway and the magical world

A journey into Norway’s enchanted fairy world, from Asbjorsen’s fairy tales to Ibsen’s theater, to the world of Sofia

With literary journeys, we discovered wonderful lands, their origins, their inhabitants, history but above all their culture, a reason more than valid to land with our imagination in Norway, one of the most suggestive places in the world, land of the legendary Vikinghi has always been the cradle of writers and home of a great literary tradition.

It is a magical world that of Norway, a portion of land that develops from north to south along the western edge of the Scandinavian Peninsula, and precisely from the North Cape, the northern end of the European continent, to the coasts of the Skagerrak. Among its territories in the extreme North of Europe the archipelago of Svalbard and the island of Jan Mayen, in the southern regions the Bouvet islands and Peter I, as well as the Land of Queen Maud, a vast sector of Antarctica.

Arcipelago of Svalbard, a vast sector of Antartica

Land of conquest, the history of the Scandinavian country, tells us that already from the earliest age the people were dedicated above all to navigation and trade, some rock engravings dating back to the Bronze Age depict signs of the passage of the typical Viking ships, sailors raiders, with whom Norway made the official entry into Europe. Certain moments of great agitation are certainly not lacking. Throughout the 9th century Norway was the scene of conflicts and cession of territories, with a more than justified migration of the populations; only with the abolition by Great Britain (1849) of the Navigation Act did Norway’s maritime activity suddenly increase and the increased prosperity of agriculture contributed to increasing well-being.


The historical origins of what is the political structure of the Scandinavian country are extremely complex. It is important, however, to mention that the first king of Norway of our times was Charles of Denmark, son-in-law of Edward VII of England, who on November 18, 1905 ascended the throne with the name of Haakon VII. Under his reign the two world wars were fought. During the first, it remained neutral, a choice paid dearly for the loss of maritime control but later offset by the annexation of 25 of the Svalbard. In the second war, however, Norway was invaded by the Germans, supported by the head of the Norwegian Nazis, Quisling. Although the king and ministers fought hard, they had to flee to England, leaving Quisling as the head of a pro-Hitler puppet government. After the defeat of Germany in 1945, Haakon VII returned home and Quisling was shot on October 24, 1945. Subsequently, taking an active position, Norway chose to join NATO, it was April 14, 1949.

A fascinating but limited territory in the area that hosts a high percentage of the population, a limit that has generated over the centuries a strong migration of the indigenous people who, in succession, have found the right position towards the areas further south of the coast, leaving them indomitable , in the most inaccessible areas, the Lapps, or Saami, always able to survive with fishing and reindeer farming.

And yet, despite all the natural limitations, Norway, at the moment, is in first place in the world for the quality of life index, is rich in natural resources such as coal, oil and gas, very useful waterways for the production of hydroelectric power, fishy seas, forests and, to a lesser extent, mineral deposits, especially iron. Elements that undoubtedly allow an excellent economic and social situation, the result of a system called in the recent past “Scandinavian socialism”, able to combine economic well-being with social security.

Land and cultural tradition

The beauty of the places, the uncontaminated landscape of the mountains, blend with the myths and legends just as strong are the links between the culture of the Norwegians and their way of experiencing nature, a true national symbol, and a strong component of the identity of the place. At Christmas, it is customary to exchange the mask of a goat’s head with straw-braided horns for prosperity. On 21 January the “day of the sun” is celebrated, that is the end of the long polar night, not only, the summer solstice is cheered by night fires and by the springar and the gangue, dances accompanied by the tele (a kind of violin) with strings partly of metal and partly of gut and with langleik, similar to zither.

It is inevitable that popular traditions have influenced literary production. The origins of Norwegian literature, in fact, are linked to the Norse literature born in Iceland and widespread by Norwegian exiles, who edited and kept alive the literary legacy of the fathers, which is found almost intact in the Edda and in the scaldica poetry. However, it is possible to give Norwegian literature a temporal identity. In some way it can be inserted in three distinct periods in which the ideological transformation is still evident while maintaining ties with the traditional one alive. From 1545 to 1765, there are many authors who are committed to making Norway’s history and traditions known beyond Scandinavia, Peder Claussøn Friis, translator of Snorri’s Heimskringla, Hallvard Gunnarssøn and Peter Dass (1647-1707), Ludvig Holberg born in Bergen but living in Copenhagen witnessing his attachment to his native land in a Description of Norway.

Boom of Norwegian literature

The maximum splendor of Norwegian literature is, however, from the 1800s onwards; the interest in the study of popular, linguistic and historical traditions led Peter Christian Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe to publish the collection of Norwegian Tales in 1842, reissued in recent days by Iperborea and translated by B. Berni. In the same period the romantic current with Henrik Ibsen, significant for his theatrical production which includes Casa di bambola (1879), Spettri (1881), L’anitra selvatica (1884), makes its way to the characters are weak beings, often tormented from centuries-old prejudices, from which they manage to free themselves to affirm their individual freedom and live a life divorced from hypocrisy and compromises.

Other authors of contemporary Norwegian literature now translated into different languages are Erik Fosnes Hansen and Lars Saabye Christensen, while specializing in the yellow genre are Kim Småge, Unni Lindell and Karen Fossum (The gaze of an unknown 1996, Amatissima Poona 2000), considered the best Norwegian writer in the field of psychological thriller.

Movie inspired by mythology:

One of the most successful current films instead of being inspired by Norse mythology is definitely “Thor” by Marvel Cinematic Universe, which finds many common connections, in fact, according to Norse mythology the sensible world is “Midgardr” (“Middle-earth” ). Surrounded by water, at its summit is Ásgardr, the abode of the gods, reachable only by Bifrost, the rainbow bridge. The Giants live outside the world, in the East, in a place called Jotunheimr (“Land of the Giants”). The goddess Hel rules the underground kingdom “Helheim” (“Dimora di Hel”), a place predestined to the dead. In the South there is the fiery and mysterious realm of Muspell, the Múspellsheimr home of the fire giants. Further regions of the Norse imagery are Álfheimr home of the “light elves” (ljósálfar), Svartálfaheimr home of the dark elves (but this division between elves is made solely by Snorri), Nidavellir the mines of the Dwarves, Vanaheimr home of the Vanirs.

Do you see or do you know other connections with Norse mythology? Leave a comment!


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