Peter Christen Asbjørnsen

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Portrait of P. C. Asbjørnsen by Knud Bergslien, 1870
Sculpture of Peter Christen Asbjørnsen: Brynjulf Bergslien, 1885

Peter Christen Asbjørnsen (15 January 1812 — 6 January 1885) was a Norwegian writer and scholar. He and Jørgen Engebretsen Moe were collectors of Norwegian folklore. They were so closely united in their lives' work that their folk tale collections are commonly mentioned only as "Asbjørnsen and Moe".[1]

Background[edit]

Peter Christen Asbjørnsen was born in Christiania (now Oslo) and was descended from a family originating in Otta in Gudbrandsdal, which is believed to have come to an end with his death. He became a student at the University of Oslo in 1833, but as early as 1832, in his twentieth year, he had begun to collect and write down fairy tales and legends. He later walked on foot the length and breadth of Norway, adding to his stories.[2]

Jørgen Moe, who was born in Ringerike, met Asbjørnsen first when he was fourteen years old, while they were both attending high school at Norderhov rectory. The building is today the site of the local museum for the Ringerike region, and contains memorabilia from both Asbjørnsen and Moe. They developed a lifelong friendship. In 1834 Asbjørnsen discovered that Moe had started independently on a search for the relics of national folklore; the friends eagerly compared their results, and determined for the future to work in concert.[2]

Norske Folkeeventyr: Asbjørnsen and Moe, 1874

Career[edit]

Asbjørnsen became by profession a zoologist, and with the aid of the University of Oslo made a series of investigative voyages along the coasts of Norway, particularly in the Hardangerfjord. He worked with two of the most famous marine biologists of their time: Michael Sars and his son Georg Ossian Sars. Moe, meanwhile, having left the University of Oslo in 1839, had devoted himself to the study of theology, and was making a living as a tutor in Christiania. In his holidays he wandered through the mountains, in the most remote districts, collecting stories.[2]

In 1842-1843 the first installment of their work appeared, under the title of Norske Folkeeventyr (Norwegian Folk Tales), which was received at once all over Europe as a most valuable contribution to comparative mythology as well as literature. A second volume was published in 1844 and a new collection in 1871. Many of the Folkeeventyr were translated into English by Sir George Dasent in 1859.[2]

In 1845 Asbjørnsen also published, without help from Moe, a collection of Norwegian fairy tales (Huldre-Eventyr og Folkesagn). In 1856 Asbjørnsen called attention to the deforestation of Norway, and he induced the government to act on this issue. He was appointed forest-master, and was sent through Norway to examine in various countries of the north of Europe the methods observed for the preservation of timber. In 1876, he retired from these duties with a pension. In 1879 he sold his large collection of zoological specimens to the Natural History Museum (Ireland) for £300. This collection includes specimens of Brisinga endecacnemos (nl), possibly collected during his biological survey of the Hardangerfjord in the 1850s. He died in Christiania in 1885.[2]

Writing style[edit]

It was usually said of their work that the vigour came from Asbjörnsen and the charm from Moe, but the fact seems to be that from the long habit of writing in unison they had come to adopt almost precisely identical modes of literary expression.[2]

Legacy[edit]

In the 20th century, Norwegian filmmaker Ivo Caprino made a series of puppet films based on the Asbjørnsen fairy tales, where Asbjørnsen featured in the introduction to each film. Caprino also built a theme park in Hunderfossen Familiepark near Lillehammer where these fairy tales play a central role.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Attribution

Other sources[edit]

External links[edit]