Norwegian Life
by Ethlyn T. Clough
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Norwegian Life


Edited and Arranged by



An excursion into Norwegian life has for the student all the charm of the traveler's real journey through the pleasant valleys of the Norse lands. Much of this charm is explained by the tenacity of the people to the homely virtues of honesty and thrift, to their customs which testify to their home-loving character, and to their quaint costumes. It is a genuine delight to study and visit these lands, because they are the least, perhaps in Europe, affected by the leveling hand of cosmopolitan ideas. Go where you will,—to England, about Germany, down into Italy,—everywhere, the same monotonous sameness is growing more oppressive every year. But in Norway and Sweden there is still an originality, a type, if you please, that has resisted the growth of an artificial life, and gives to students a charm which is even more alluring than modern cities with their treasures and associations.

The student takes up Norwegian life as one of the subjects which has been comparatively little explored, and is, therefore replete with freshness and delight. This little book can not by any means more than lift the curtain to view the fields of historical and literary interest and the wondrous life lived in the deep fiords of Viking land. But its brief pages will have, at least, the merit of giving information on a subject about which only too little has been written. Taken in all, there are scarcely half a dozen recent books circulating in American literary channels on these interesting lands, and for one reason or another, most of these are unsuited for club people. There is an urgent call for a comprehensive book which will waste no time in non-essentials,—a book that can be read in a few sittings and yet will give a glimpse over this quaint and wondrously interesting corner of Europe. This book has been prepared, as have all the predecessors in this series, by the help of many who have written most delightfully of striking things in Norwegian life. One has specialized in one thing, while another has been allured by another subject. Accordingly, "Norwegian Life" is the product of many, each inspired with feeling and admiration for the one or two subjects on which he has written better than on any others. Liberty has been taken to make a few verbal changes in order to give to the story the unity and smoothness desired, and a key-letter at the end of each chapter refers the reader to a page at the close where due credits are given.

























A glance at the map will show that the Scandinavian Peninsula, that immense stretch of land running from the Arctic Ocean to the North Sea, and from the Baltic to the Atlantic, covering an area of nearly three hundred thousand square miles, is, next to Russia, the largest territorial division of Europe. Surrounded by sea on all sides but one, which gives it an unparalleled seaboard of over two thousand miles, it hangs on the continent by its frontier line with Russia in Lapland. Down the middle of this seabound continent, dividing it into two nearly equal parts, runs a chain of mountains not inappropriately called Koelen, or Keel. The name suggests the image which the aspect of the land calls to mind, that of a huge ship floating keel upwards on the face of the ocean. This keel forms the frontier line between the kingdoms of Norway and Sweden: Sweden to the east, sloping gently from the hills to the Baltic, Norway to the west, running more abruptly down from their watershed to the Atlantic.

Norway (in the old Norse language Noregr, or Nord-vegr, i.e., the North Way), according to archaeological explorations, appears to have been inhabited long before historical time. The antiquarians maintain that three populations have inhabited the North: a Mongolian race and a Celtic race, types of which are to be found in the Finns and the Laplanders in the far North, and, finally, a Caucasian race, which immigrated from the South and drove out the Celtic and Laplandic races, and from which the present inhabitants are descended. The Norwegians, or Northmen (Norsemen), belong to a North-Germanic branch of the Indo-European race; their nearest kindred are the Swedes, the Danes, and the Goths. The original home of the race is supposed to have been the mountain region of Balkh, in Western Asia, whence from time to time families and tribes migrated in different directions. It is not known when the ancestors of the Scandinavian peoples left the original home in Asia; but it is probable that their earliest settlements in Norway were made in the second century before the Christian era.

The Scandinavian peoples, although comprising the oldest and most unmixed race in Europe, did not realize until very late the value of writing chronicles or reviews of historic events. Thus the names of heroes and kings of the remotest past are helplessly forgotten, save as they come to us in legend and folk-song, much of which we must conclude is imaginary, beautiful as it is. But Mother Earth has revealed to us, at the spade of the archaeologist, trustworthy and irrefutable accounts of the age and the various degrees of civilization of the race which inhabited the Scandinavian Peninsula in prehistoric times. Splendid specimens now extant in numerous museums prove that Scandinavia, like most other countries, has had a Stone Age, a Bronze Age, and an Iron Age, and that each of these periods reached a much higher development than in other countries.

The Scandinavian countries are for the first time mentioned by the historians of antiquity in an account of a journey which Pyteas from Massilia (the present Marseille) made throughout Northern Europe, about 300 B.C. He visited Britain, and there heard of a great country, Thule, situated six days' journey to the north, and verging on the Arctic Sea. The inhabitants in Thule were an agricultural people who gathered their harvest into big houses for threshing, on account of the very few sunny days and the plentiful rain in their regions. From corn and honey they prepared a beverage (probably mead).

Pliny the Elder, who himself visited the shores of the Baltic in the first century after Christ, is the first to mention plainly the name of Scandinavia. He says that he has received advices of immense islands "recently discovered from Germany." The most famous of these islands was Scandinavia, of as yet unexplored size; the known parts were inhabited by a people called hilleviones, who gave it the name of another world. He mentions Scandia, Nerigon, the largest of them all, and Thule. Scandia and Scandinavia are only different forms of the same name, denoting the southernmost part of the peninsula, and still preserved in the name of the province of Scania in Sweden. Nerigon stands for Norway, the northern part of which is mentioned as an island by the name of Thule. The classical writers were ignorant of the fact that Scandinavia was one great peninsula, because the northern parts were as yet uninhabited and their physical connection with Finland and Russia unknown. That the Romans were later acquainted with the Scandinavian countries is evidenced from the fact that great numbers of Roman coins have been found in excavating, also vessels of bronze and glass, weapons, etc., as well as works of art, all turned out of the workshops in Rome or its provinces. There, no doubt, existed a regular traffic over the Baltic, through Germany, between the Scandinavian countries and the Roman provinces.

The first settlers probably knew little of agriculture, but made their living by fishing and hunting. In time, however, they commenced to clear away the timber that covered the land in the valleys and on the sides of the mountains and to till the ground. At the earliest times of which the historical tales or Sagas tell us anything with regard to the social conditions, the land was divided among the free peasant-proprietors, or bonde class. Bonde, in English translation, is usually called peasant; but this is not an equivalent; for with the word "peasant" we associate the idea of inferior social condition to the landed aristocracy of the country, while these peasants or bondes were themselves the highest class in the country. The land owned by a peasant was called his udal. By udal-right the land was kept in the family, and it could not be alienated or forfeited from the kindred who were udal-born to it. The free peasants might own many thralls or slaves, who were unfree men. These were mostly prisoners captured by the vikings on their expeditions to foreign shores; the owner could trade them away, or sell them, or even kill them without paying any fine or man-bote to the king, as in the case of killing a free man. As a rule, however, the slaves were not badly treated, and they were sometimes made free and given the right to acquire land.

In early days Norway consisted of a great number of small states called Fylkis, each a little kingdom by itself. The free peasants in a Fylki held general assemblies called Things, where laws were made and justice administered. No public acts were undertaken without the deliberation of a Thing. The Thing was sacred, and a breach of peace at the thing-place was considered a great crime. At the Thing there was also a hallowed place for the judges, or "lag-men," who expounded and administered the laws made by the Thing. Almost every crime could be expiated by the payment of fines, even if the accused had killed a person. But if a man killed another secretly, he was declared an assassin and an outlaw, was deprived of all his property, and could be killed by any one who wished to do so. The fine or man-bote was heavier, the higher the rank of the person killed.

The Thing or Fylkis Thing was not made up of representatives elected by the people, but was rather a primary assembly of the free udal-born peasant-proprietors of the district. There were leading men in the fylki, and each fylki had one or more chiefs, but they had to plead at the Thing like other free men. When there were several chiefs, they usually had the title of herse; but when the free men had agreed upon one chief, he was called jarl (earl), or king. The king was the commander in war, and usually performed the judicial functions; but he supported himself upon his own estates, and the free peasants paid no tax. The dignity of the king was usually inherited by his son, but if the heir was not to the liking of the people, they chose another. No man, however clear his right of succession, would think of assuming the title or power of a king except by the vote of the Thing. There he was presented to the people by a free peasant, and his right must be confirmed by the Thing before he could exert any act of kingly power. The king had a number of free men in his service, who had sworn allegiance to him in war and in peace. They were armed men, kept in pay, and were called hird-men or court-men, because they were members of the king's hird or court. If they were brave and faithful, they were often given high positions of trust; some were made lendermen (liegemen), or managers of the king's estates.

It is but natural that the ancient Norwegians should become warlike and brave men, since their firm religious belief was that those who died of sickness or old age would sink down into the dark abode of Hel (Helheim), and that only the brave men who fell in battle would be invited to the feasts in Odin's Hall. Sometimes the earls or kings would make war on their neighbors, either for conquest or revenge. But the time came when the countries of the north, with their poorly developed resources, became overpopulated, and the warriors had to seek other fields abroad. The viking cruises commenced, and for a long time the Norwegians continued to harry the coasts of Europe.

At first the viking expeditions were nothing but piracy, carried on for a livelihood. The name Viking is supposed to be derived from the word vik, a cove or inlet on the coast, in which they would harbor their ships and lie in wait for merchants sailing by. Soon these expeditions assumed a wider range and a wilder character, and historians of the time paint the horrors spread by the vikings in dark colors. In the English churches they had a day of prayer each week to invoke the aid of heaven against the harrying Northmen. In France the following formula was inserted in the church prayer: "A furore Normannorum libera nos, o Domine!" (Free us, O Lord, from the fury of the Northmen!)

Gradually the viking life assumed a nobler form. There appear to have been three stages or periods in the viking age. In the first one the vikings make casual visits with single ships to the shores of England, Ireland, France or Flanders, and when they have plundered a town or a convent, they return to their ships and sail away. In the second period their cruises assume a more regular character, and indicate some definite plan, as they take possession of certain points, where they winter, and from where they command the surrounding country. During the third period they no longer confine themselves to seeking booty, but act as real conquerors, take possession of the conquered territory, and rule it. As to the influence of the Northmen on the development of the countries visited in this last period, the eminent English writer, Samuel Laing, the translator of the Heimskringla, or the Sagas of the Norse kings, says:

"All that men hope for of good government and future improvement in their physical and moral condition—all that civilized men enjoy at this day of civil, religious, and political liberty—the British constitution, representative legislation, the trial by jury, security of property, freedom of mind and person, the influence of public opinion over the conduct of public affairs, the Reformation, the liberty of the press, the spirit of the age—all that is or has been of value to man in modern times as a member of society, either in Europe or in the New World, may be traced to the spark left burning upon our shores by these northern barbarians."

The authentic history begins with Halfdan the Swarthy, who reigned from the year 821 to 860. The Icelander Snorre Sturlason, who, in the twelfth century, wrote the Heimskringla, or Sagas of the Norse Kings, gives a long line of preceding kings of the Yngling race, the royal family to which Halfdan the Swarthy belonged; but that part of the Saga belongs to mythology rather than to history.

According to tradition, the Yngling family were descendants of Fiolner, the son of the god Frey. One of the surnames of the god was Yngve, from which the family derived the name Ynglings. King Halfdan was a wise man, a lover of truth and justice. He made good laws, which he observed himself and compelled others to observe. He fixed certain penalties for all crimes committed. His code of laws, called the Eidsiva Law, was adopted at a common Thing at Eidsvol, where about a thousand years later the present constitution of Norway was adopted.

One day in the spring of 860, when Halfdan the Swarthy was driving home from a feast across the Randsfjord, he broke through the ice and was drowned. He was so popular that, when his body was found, the leading men in each Fylki demanded to have him buried with them, believing that it would bring prosperity to the district. They at last agreed to divide the body into four parts, which were buried in four different districts. The trunk of the body was buried in a mound at Stien, Ringerike, where a little hill is still called Halfdan's Mound. And this Halfdan became the ancestor of the royal race of Norway.

Halfdan's son, Harald the Fairhaired, at the age of ten years succeeded his father on the throne of Norway, or it afterward proved to be the throne of United Norway. When he became old enough to marry, he sent his men to a girl named Gyda, a daughter of King Erik of Hordaland, who was brought up a foster-child in the house of a rich Bonde in Valders.

Harald had heard of her as a very beautiful though proud girl. When the men delivered their message, she answered that she would not marry a king who had no greater kingdom than a few Fylkis (districts), and she added that she thought it strange that "no king here in Norway will make the whole country subject to him, in the same way that Gorm the Old did in Denmark, or Erik at Upsala." When the messengers returned to the king, they advised him to punish her for her haughty words, but Harald said she had spoken well, and he made the solemn vow not to cut or comb his hair until he had subdued the whole of Norway, which he did, and became sole king of Norway. The decisive battle was a naval one in the Hafrsfjord, near the present city of Stavanger. After this battle, which occurred in 872, when he had been declared King of United Norway, he attended a feast, and the Earl of More cut his hair, which had not been cut or combed for ten years, and gave him the name of Fairhaired. Harald shortly afterward married Gyda.

From this time on, the history of Norway for nearly three hundred years consists mainly in internecine warfare among the various claimants of the throne, and the result of all this warfare was not only to exhaust the material resources of the people, but to drive a large proportion of the population to make viking excursions to win land elsewhere, and also to make peaceable settlements in other countries. Iceland was settled by the leading men of Norway in Harald the Fairhaired's reign because they would not submit to his rule and therefore emigrated to a land where they could rule. In 912 Duke Rollo with a large following conquered Normandy and settled there with many of his countrymen.

As the result of over three centuries of foreign and domestic war, Norway and her people and her industries were prostrate when in 1389 Queen Margaret of Denmark claimed the succession to the throne of Norway for her son Eric of Pomerania. The council of Norway and the people were willing to accept a union with a more populous country under a powerful sovereign in order to obtain peace and reestablish order and prosperity. Norway had not been conquered by Denmark, and the union was supposed to be equal. The Danish sovereigns, however, without directly interfering with the local laws and usages of the people of Norway, filled all the executive and administrative offices in Norway with Danes; the important commands in the army were also given exclusively to them. The result was that the interpretation and execution of the laws of the land were in the hands of foreigners, and Norway became and remained for four hundred years a province of Denmark and unable to throw off the yoke because her army was in the control and command of her oppressor, and her material resources inadequate to wage successful war against him.

Like Norway, the most that we know of prehistoric times in Sweden we gather from the early sagas, which are more or less faulty in their statements, romantic and tragic though they be. Like the Norwegians, the early Swedes are reported to have migrated from Asia under the leadership of a chief who called himself Odin. And for centuries under different kings and queens, the romantic and tragic story of Sweden goes on to form at last her authentic history. In this brief survey we can not go into details, and its history is very much the same as that of Norway, except that Sweden was oftener her own mistress and at longer intervals.

The sources of Swedish history during the first two centuries of the Middle Ages are very meager. This is a deplorable fact, for during that period Sweden passed through a great and thorough development, the various stages of which consequently are not easily traced. Before the year 1060, Sweden is an Old Teutonic state, certainly of later form and larger compass than the earliest of such, but with its democracy and its elective kingdom preserved. The older Sweden was, in regard to its constitution, a rudimentary union of states. The realm had come into existence through the cunning and violence of the king of the Sviar, who made way with the kings of the respective lands, making their communities pay homage to him. No change in the interior affairs of the different lands was thereby effected; they lost their outward political independence, but remained mutually on terms of perfect equality. They were united only through the king, who was the only center for the government of the union. No province had constitutionally more importance than the rest, no supremacy by one over the other existed. On this historic basis the Swedish realm was built, and rested firmly until the commencement of the Middle Ages. In the Old Swedish state-organism the various parts thus possessed a high degree of individualized and pulsating life; the empire as a whole was also powerful, although the royal dignity was its only institution. The king was the outward tie which bound the provinces together; besides him there was no power of state which embraced the whole realm. The affairs of state were decided upon by the king alone, as regard to war, or he had to gather the opinion of the Thing in each province, as any imperial representation did not exist and was entirely unknown, both in the modern sense and in the form of one provincial, or sectional, assembly deciding for all the others. In society there existed no classes. It was a democracy of free men, the slaves and free men enjoying no rights. The first centuries of the Middle Ages were one continued process of regeneration, the Swedish people being carried into the European circle of cultural development and made a communicant of Christianity. With the commencement of the thirteenth century, Sweden comes out of this process as a medieval state, in aspect entirely different to her past. The democratic equality among free men has turned into an aristocracy, with aristocratic institutions, the hereditary kingdom into an elective kingdom, while the provincial particularism and independence have given way to the constitution of a centralized, monopolistic state. No changes could be more fundamental.

The old provincial laws of Sweden are a great and important inheritance which this period has accumulated from heathen times. The laws were written down in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but they bear every evidence of high antiquity. Many strophes are found in them of the same meter as those on the tombstones of the Viking Age and those in which the songs of the Edda are chiefly written. In other instances the texts consist of alliterative prose, which proves its earlier metrical form. The expressions have, in places, remained heathen, although used by Christians, who are ignorant of their true meaning, as, for instance, in the following formula of an oath, in the West Gothic law: Sva se mer gud hull (So help me the gods). In lieu of a missing literature of sagas and poetry, these provincial laws give a good insight into the character, morals, customs, and culture of the heathen and early Christian times of Sweden. From the point of philology they are also of great value, besides forming the solid basis of later Swedish law. How the laws could pass from one generation to another, without any codification, depends upon the fact that they were recited from memory by the justice (lag-man or domare), and that this dignity generally was inherited for centuries, being carried by the descendants of one and the same family.[a]



As early as 1790 negotiations took place between Count Armfeldt on behalf of Gustavus III of Sweden and various patriotic and influential Norwegians with a view to effecting a union between Norway and Sweden on equal terms, but the Norwegian negotiators expressed themselves unwilling to accept for Norway the government prevailing in Sweden. A minority of the patriots thought that the Danish yoke could only be broken by means of a union with Sweden, while a majority aimed at nothing less than absolute independence at any cost.

Such was the condition of Norway when by the treaty of Kiel (Jan. 14, 1814) the allies compelled the king of Denmark to cede Norway to Sweden and made Charles John Bernadotte crown prince of Sweden and Norway. The Norwegians denied the right of Denmark to Norway, refused to recognize the treaty of Kiel as having any binding force on them, as they were not parties to it, and invited Prince Christian Frederick of Denmark to accept the Norwegian throne from its people and to govern pursuant to a constitution adopted at Eidsvold, May 17, 1814. Among the provisions of this instrument are the following: That Norway should be a limited hereditary monarchy, independent and indivisible, whose ruler should be called a king; that all legislative power should reside in and be exercised by the people through their representatives; that all taxes should be levied by the legislative authority; that the legislative and judicial authority should be distinct departments; that the right of free press should be maintained; that no personal or hereditary distinction shall hereafter be granted to any one.

The election of a king and adoption of an independent constitution in disregard of the treaty of Kiel was tatamount to a declaration of war against Sweden, and as such it was taken. After the treaty of Paris and the abdication of Napoleon, the powers agreed to force Norway to accept the treaty of Kiel, and representatives of the allied powers came to Norway and demanded its compliance on penalty of war with the allies. The Norwegians remained obdurate. The Swedes, under Bernadotte, marched across the frontier and took the fortress Fredricksteen. Another division of the Swedish army was beaten by the Norwegians and driven back over the frontier. Several other engagements were fought, and it became evident that Norway could not be subdued without serious war. Sweden was exhausted by the wars of the allies against Napoleon and could ill endure more warfare. On Aug. 14, 1814, an armstice was declared, and it was provided that an extraordinary storthing should be called to settle the terms of permanent peace. By the terms finally agreed upon, Bernadotte was elected king of Norway under the title of Charles XIII, and he accepted the Norwegian constitution adopted at Eidsvold, May 17, 1814, and agreed to govern under and subject to its provisions. At the same time the Supreme Court of Norway was established in Christiania. The Bank of Norway was established at Thronedjem in 1816. At the death of Charles XIII, in 1818, Charles John ascended the throne of both countries as Charles XIV John.

On several occasions there was friction between the king and the Norwegian Storthing. At the treaty of Kiel the king had promised that Norway would assume a part of the Norwegian-Danish public debt; but as the Norwegians had never acknowledged this treaty, they held that it was not their duty to pay any part of the debt, and declared besides that Norway was not able to do so. But as the powers had agreed to help Denmark to enforce her claims, a compromise was effected in 1821, by which the Storthing agreed to pay three million dollars, the king relinquishing his civil list for a certain number of years. The same Storthing adopted the law abolishing the nobility in Norway. This step also was strongly opposed by Charles John, but as it had been adopted by three successive Storthings, the act under the constitution became a law in spite of any veto.

For a number of years there existed a want of confidence between the king and the Norwegian people. The king did not like the democratic spirit of the Norwegians, and the reactionary tendencies of his European allies had quite an influence upon his actions. In 1821 he proposed ten amendments to the constitution, looking to an increase of the royal power, among which was one giving the king an absolute instead of a suspensive veto; another giving him the right to appoint the presidents of the Storthing, and a third authorizing him to dissolve the Storthing at any time. But these amendments met the most ardent opposition in the Storthing, and were unanimously rejected.

When the Norwegians commenced to celebrate the anniversary of the adoption of the constitution (May 17), the king thought he saw in this a sign of a disloyal spirit, because they did not rather celebrate the day of their union with Sweden, and he forbade the public celebration of the day. The result of this was that "Independence Day" was celebrated with so much greater eagerness. The students at the university especially took an active part under the leadership of that champion of liberty, the poet Henrik Wergeland, who died in 1845. The unwise prohibition was the cause of the "market-place battle" in Christiania, May 17, 1829, when the troops were called out, and General Wedel dispersed the crowds that had assembled in the market-place. There was also dissatisfaction in Norway because a Swedish viceroy (Statholder) was placed at the head of the government, and because their ships had to sail under the Swedish flag.

The French July Revolution of 1830, which started the liberal movement throughout Europe, also had its influence in Norway. Liberal newspapers were established at the capital, and the democratic character of the Storthing became more pronounced, especially after 1833, when the farmers commenced to take an active part in the elections. Prominent among them was Ole Gabriel Ueland. The king was so displeased with the majority in the Storthing of 1836 that he suddenly dissolved it; but the Storthing answered this action by impeaching the Minister of State, Loevenskiold, for not having dissuaded the king from taking such a step. Loevenskiold was sentenced to pay a fine; the king then yielded and reconvened the Storthing. He also took a step toward conciliating the Norwegians by appointing their countryman, Count Wedel-Jarlsberg, as viceroy. This action was much appreciated in Norway. During the last years of this reign there existed the best of understanding between the king and the people. Charles John's great benevolence tended to increase the affection of the people, and he was sincerely mourned at his death, March 8, 1844, at the age of eighty years.

Charles John was succeeded by his son, Oscar I, who very soon won the love of the Norwegians. One of his first acts was to give Norway her own commercial flag and other outward signs of her equality with Sweden. His father had always signed himself "King of Sweden and Norway"; but King Oscar adopted the rule to sign all documents pertaining to the government of Norway as "King of Norway and Sweden." During the war between Germany and Denmark, King Oscar gathered a Swedish-Norwegian army in Scania, and succeeded in arranging the armstice of Malmoe in 1848. The war broke out anew, however, the following year, and he then occupied northern Schleswig with Norwegian and Swedish troops, pending the negotiations for peace between Germany and Denmark. During the Crimean War, King Oscar made a treaty with England and France (1855), by which the latter powers promised to help Sweden and Norway in case of any attack from Russia. General contentment prevailed during the happy reign of King Oscar, and the prosperity, commerce, and population of the country increased steadily. These satisfactory conditions did not, however, result in weakening the national feeling, and the Storthing, in 1857, declined to promote a plan, prepared by a joint Swedish and Norwegian commission, looking to a strengthening of the union. After a sickness of two years, during which his son, Crown Prince Charles, had charge of the government as prince-regent, King Oscar I died in July, 1859, at the age of sixty years. He was married to Josephine of Leuchtenberg, daughter of Napoleon's stepson, Eugene Beauharnais.

Charles XV was thirty-three years old when he ascended the throne. The progress in the material welfare of the country continued during his reign, and, like his father, he was very popular with the Norwegians. Numerous roads and railroads were started, all parts of the country were connected by telegraph, and the merchant marine grew to be one of the largest in the world. In 1869 a law was passed providing for annual sessions of the Storthing instead of triennial as heretofore.

Charles XV died Sept. 18, 1872, and, having no sons, was succeeded by his younger brother, Oscar II, the late ruler of Sweden. The Storthing appropriated the necessary funds for the expense of the coronation at Throndhjem (July 18, 1873), while the king sanctioned the bill abolishing the office of Statholder. But soon differences between the Storthing and the ministry brought on sharp conflicts. Long before Norway deposed King Oscar II (June 7, 1905), disruptions and war would doubtless have occurred had it not been for the wisdom and tact of the king. The last straw that broke the camel's back in this instance was the refusal of separate consular representation for Norway. The basis of this last demand was not mainly the commercial value to Norway of having its distinct consuls, though this was an element, but the right of Norway as a nation entirely independent of Sweden to be represented as such in its commercial relations with foreign nations. Sweden and Norway are now not only two distinct nations, but are competitors in trade and commerce. Norway's shipping and carrying trade far exceeds that of Sweden. The Norwegians have always been a seafaring people, and Norwegian sailors and marines are found in large numbers in the commercial marine and navies of all Europe and America. From the standpoint of Norway, common justice demanded that Norwegian merchants and sailors should, like every other nation, have their own consuls to represent and protect them in foreign countries.

Not being able to secure the approval of the king for separate consular representation, the Storthing, on June 7, 1905, passed resolutions declaring the dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden, and that King Oscar had ceased to be the ruler of Norway. In the place of the king, the Storthing appointed the members of the Norway Council of State to act as a temporary government for the nation. The Storthing further declared that Norway had no ill feeling against King Oscar or his dynasty of Sweden, and asked the king to cooperate in selecting one of his own house to be king of Norway.

The Riksdag of Sweden met in extraordinary session, June 21, 1905, at the call of King Oscar, to consider the action of the Norwegian Storthing in declaring the dissolution of the union between the two countries. The opening of the session was marked by the usual ceremonial pomp, but also by a gravity and solemnity befitting the unusual occasion. The emotional feeling was intense and repressed with difficulty by both speakers and audience. The king, in his address to the Riksdag, maintained with dignity that he had acted within his constitutional rights and that Norway had not the power to dissolve the union which legally could be effected only by mutual consent. Nevertheless, it was with great sadness that he now urged negotiations for the severance of the ties between the two nations, believing that "the union was not worth the sacrifice which acts of coercion would entail." The bill prepared by the government was immediately presented to the Riksdag. It was of the same tenor as the king's address, and asked for authorization to negotiate with the Norwegian Storthing for the establishment of a common basis for the settlement of the question involved in the separation of the two kingdoms. The bill encountered strong opposition, both in and out of the Riksdag. In the Senate it was referred to a committee of nine anti-government members, while in the lower house the composition of the corresponding committee was equally divided between the two opposing parties, with the addition of two independent members. The Riksdag authorized the government to negotiate a loan of $25,000,000 for works of defense, and declared the harbors of Stockholm, Karlskrona, Gothenburg, and Farosund to be war ports from which all foreign naval vessels were to be excluded. Norway's army was also mobilized and brought near the Swedish boundary.

Notwithstanding these warlike aspects, a peaceful dissolution of the union between Sweden and Norway was finally effected. The conference at Karlstad between the representatives of the two nations, on Sept. 23, 1905, drew up a protocol which became a treaty when subsequently ratified by the Riksdag and the Storthing, on the ninth of the following October. Thereupon Sweden canceled the charter of 1815 which governed the union of the two countries, and King Oscar declared Norway to be again separate and independent. Thus were severed the political relations between two countries, which, during a period of ninety years, had led to ever-increasing discord.

King Oscar II of Sweden steadfastly refused, however, to allow any prince of his house to be chosen as the new king of Norway, and the choice finally fell upon Prince Charles of Denmark, who was elected by an overwhelming majority at the plebiscite held throughout Norway on Nov. 12, 1905. He accepted the throne offered him and was crowned June 22, 1906.

The idea is prevalent that there is ill will between the Norwegian and Swedish peoples. This is a popular misconception. The Norwegian and Swedish peoples are racially very similar in character and habits, and mutually respect each other. King Oscar was as beloved and honored in Norway as he was in Sweden, and deservedly so. The Norwegians felt proud of his character, life, and statesmanship. They appreciated his wisdom and moderation, and gave him full credit for his earnest conviction that he was right in his differences with the Norwegian government. And yet, the dissolution was a blessing to both countries concerned. So long as Norway and Sweden were united under one king, there would have been friction. In like manner the long union between Norway and Denmark was a continuous source of irritation, but after the dissolution they were the best of friends. It has been suggested that Russia has long had her eye on the ice-free harbors of the Norwegian coast and has coveted them; that she has built her railroads across Finland close up to the Norwegian frontier, and that there is trouble ahead for Norway, because she has isolated herself from Sweden, her natural protector. But we see in the division a Greater Scandinavia. There are now the three great Scandinavian nations, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and it can be imagined that, so close of kin, any one of them would rush to arms in defense of the others. A united Norway and Sweden under one king brought constant bickerings; a separate Norway and Sweden can be of mutual help.[b]



Leading up to the events of the nineteenth century in Sweden were centuries of splendid history, some points of which will be briefly touched upon to connect the present-day Sweden with the mediaeval state.

During the Folkung Dynasty, in the fourteenth century, the royal houses of Sweden and Norway became united through the marriage of Duke Eric, of Sweden, and Ingeborg, only child of King Haakon, of Norway; and Duke Valdemar to the king's niece of the same name. In May, 1319, King Haakon died, and Magnus Ericsson, the young son of Duke Eric and Princess Ingeborg, inherited the crown of Norway, and July 8 of the same year was elected King of Sweden, at Mora in Upland.

For the attainment of this end, Magnus' mother, Duchess Ingeborg, and seven Swedish councillors had worked with great activity. They had taken part in shaping the first Act of Union of the North in June, 1319, and from Oslo, in Norway, hastened to have Magnus elected at the Stone of Mora, where the Swedish kings since time immemorial were nominated. The Act of Union stipulated that the two kingdoms were to remain perfectly independent, the king to sojourn an equally long part of the year in each, with no official of either country to accompany him further than the frontier. In their foreign relations the countries were to be independent, but to support each other in case of war. The king was the only tie to bind them together.

There was another Magnus whose candidacy was spoiled by this union. He was the son of King Birger, already as a child chosen king of Sweden in succession to his father. Magnus Birgersson, a prisoner at Stockholm, was beheaded in 1320, to make safe the reign of his more fortunate cousin. King Magnus was only three years old, and Drotsete Mattias Kettilmundsson presided over the government during his minority, the nobles of the state council having great power and influence. Both in Sweden and Norway the nobility had by this time attained a supremacy which was oppressive both to the king and the people, not so much through their privileges as through the liberties they took. Their continual feuds between themselves disturbed the peace of the country.

In 1332, King Magnus took charge of the government. He was a ruler of benign and good disposition toward the common people, whose interests he always furthered. But he lacked strength of character, and was not able to control the obnoxious nobles. The provinces of Scania and Bleking suffered greatly under Danish rule, which was changed into German oppression when handed over to the counts of Holstein as security for a loan. The people of Scania rose in revolt and asked for protection from King Magnus. At a meeting in Kalmar, in 1832, both provinces were united to Sweden. But the king had to pay heavy amounts in settlement, which were increased when Halland was procured in a similar way.

King Magnus was, at his zenith of power, one of the mightiest monarchs in Europe, having under his rule the entire Scandinavian peninsula and Finland, a realm stretching from the sound at Elsinore to the Polar Sea, from the river Neva to Iceland and Greenland. In 1335, King Magnus decreed that no Christian within his realm should remain a thrall, thus practically abolishing the remnants of slavery.

But financial difficulties arose, an unsuccessful crusade was attempted, the "Black Death" came from England to Norway in 1350 and spread with great rapidity, and several other things convened to fill the people with discontent, so that the union with Norway did not prove a happy one. A separation was brought about in 1844, when Haakon, the younger son of Magnus, was made king of Norway, Magnus remaining in power until Haakon came of age, and his older son, Eric, was chosen king or heir-apparent of Sweden. It seems that this division had been preconceived by King Magnus when he gave this older son the Swedish name of Eric and to the younger the Norwegian name of Haakon, both equally characteristic of the royal lines of the respective countries.

It was during the Folkung period that there flourished one of the most remarkable and renowned of Swedish women, St. Birgitta. At the Swedish court, she was the highest functionary of Queen Blanche, where she gathered deep and strong indignation against the mighty and powerful world. By some she is considered a reformer before Luther, because she insisted on direct communication between the communicant and God without the mediation of priests or saints. Yet there was a difference between Birgitta and Luther, because the latter sought to reform institutions, while the former would reform the upholders of the institutions.

After the reign of Magnus and his sons, there came for a brief season Albrecht of Germany, and after him Queen Margaret, who united for the first time in history the three Scandinavian countries and their dependencies. This period was denominated one of unionism against patriotism, and closed with the rebellion of Denmark and the ascending of the Swedish throne by Christian of Denmark, who claimed the right of his descent from St. Eric. Then followed the public execution under edict of King Christian, when eighty-two persons were beheaded, including many bishops and men of note in Sweden.

It is needless to say that this period was followed immediately by one of revolution and reformation, characterized by much heroism and patriotism, and bringing into prominence those splendid warriors, Gustavus Vasa, Gustavus Adolphus, Charles XII, and others, and the memorable battle of Pultowa and other lesser engagements.

After this came a period of political grandeur under various rulers, notably Queen Christine, followed by what has been called the period of Liberty, or the Aristocratic Republic, under Queen Ulrica Eleonore, when literature and the arts and sciences flourished, and Swedenborg, Linnaeus, Dahlin, Tegner, and many others came into prominence.

One of the most loved rulers of this period was Gustavus III. By his influence a revolution similar to that in France was put down, for which, at a mask ball in the Royal Opera, he was assassinated by conspiritors. It is true, historians tell us, that he was superficial, that he violated the law, had no regard for a constitutional government, and led the people into adventurous and expensive wars. Yet his noble patriotism, frank heroism, brilliant genius, and great generosity compelled the love of his countrymen. In this mixture of patriotism and universal cosmopolitanism, true genius and superficiality, earnestness and recklessness in the character of Gustavus III, the Swedes recognized peculiarities of their own national temperament, for which they love him dearly, and Tegner has voiced this love in a few lines of his eulogy:

There rests o'er Gustav's days a golden shimmer, Fantastic, foreign, frivolous, if you please; But why complain when sunshine caused the glamour? Where stood we now if it were not for these? All culture on an unfree ground is builded, And barbarous once the base of patriotism true; But wit was planted, iron-hard language welded, The song was raised, life more enjoyed and shielded, And what Gustavian was, is, therefore, Swedish too.

On his death-bed, Gustavus III appointed his brother Charles and Charles Gustavus Armfelt members of the government during the minority of his son. Gustavus IV Adolphus was declared of age and took charge of the government when eighteen (in 1796). His guardians retired, and the new monarch ruled alone, without favorites or influential advisers. This proved most unfortunate for Sweden, for he was entirely without the gifts of a regent. He was a lover of order, economy, justice, and pure morals, but through lack of mental and physical strength his good qualities were misdirected. His father's tragic fate had a sinister effect upon his mind, the equilibrium of which was also shaken by the outrages of the revolutionists in France. Of a morbid sensibility, and without inclination to confide in any one, his religious mysticism led him into a state close to insanity. He imagined himself to be the reincarnation of Charles XII, while in Napoleon he recognized the monster of the Apocalypse, which he himself was sent to fight and conquer.

He refused any alliance with Russia and Denmark, and stubbornly resisted the friendship France wished to bestow. By his imbecility he lost Finland to the kingdom, and was compelled to abdicate in 1808. This "lunatic monarch," as he was called, was escorted out of the country with his family, never to return, and died in St. Gallin, in 1837.

Under these conditions we find Sweden at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when Charles XIII was chosen to succeed his nephew, the abdicated Gustavus IV Adolphus. Charles XIII was one of the most unsympathetic of Swedish kings, but his reign marks a new period in Swedish history, commencing the era of constitutional government. The new constitution to which the king subscribed was not a radical document; it only reduced the power of the king. Hans Jaerta, one of the nobles who had renounced their privileges and been active in the conspiracy against Gustavus IV, was the leading spirit of the constitutional committee, and was appointed secretary of state in the new cabinet.

It was necessary to select an heir to the throne, as Charles XIII was childless, and Prince Christian August of Augustenborg was chosen, much in opposition to the nobles, who wanted the son of Gustavus IV.

The Prince of Augustenborg, who was Danish governor-general of Norway, accepted, and was adopted by the king, changing his name to Charles August. Beloved by the lower classes who had effected his selection, he was treated coldly by the Gustavian aristocrats, and reports of attempts to poison the heir-apparent were in circulation even before he arrived in Sweden. Prince Charles August himself said he had often been warned that he would die young of paralysis, but paid no attention to the warnings given him. During a parade of troops at Qvidinge, in Scania, he was suddenly seen to lose consciousness and dropped dead from his horse. A report that seemed to favor the supposition that death resulted from poison, threw the populace into a frenzy, and the stoning to death of Count Fersen resulted. This occurred at the burial of the dead prince, when Count Fersen, as marshal of the realm, opened the procession. Approaching the church of Riddarholm, his carriage was pelted with stones, Fersen himself seeking shelter in various places, but being pursued by the mob and killed. Thus perished a man who, with Curt von Stedingk, had received the order of Cincinnatus from the hands of George Washington, and who once was so near saving Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from their cruel fate. Fersen's brother was saved only by mere chance, and his sister by a flight in disguise.

Sweden was once more without an heir-apparent to the throne, and, though others had been proposed, King Charles sent two emissaries to Napoleon to notify him of the death of Charles August and the selection of his brother. Then one of the most original and daring schemes ever attempted on such a line was carried through by Count Otto Moerner, one of the emissaries. On his own responsibility, he inquired of Marshal Bernadotte, one of Napoleon's ablest generals, if he would consent to become heir-apparent to the Swedish throne. Bernadotte consented, and the consent of Napoleon was obtained through the Swedish ambassador in Paris. Upon his return, Moerner was ordered to leave the capital, by the minister of state, who blamed him for his unauthorized action. But, from Upsala, Moerner led an eager agitation, with the result that the Riksdag of Oerebro selected Bernadotte, who was represented by a secret emissary. Thus, the two generals who, at the abdication of Gustavus IV, were, one in Norway, the other in Denmark, with troops ready to attack Sweden, both within one year were chosen to succeed Charles XIII. And this is how the Bernadottes, the present reigning family of Sweden, came to the throne. Marshal Bernadotte took the name of Prince Charles Johann.

It was in 1818, four years after Norway had been joined to Sweden, that Charles XII died, at the age of seventy, and Charles XIV Johann, the first of the Bernadotte dynasty, succeeded him, at the age of fifty-four years. His reign was one of reconstruction—politically, financially, and socially,—and during the last years of his life he received strong and repeated evidence of the love of his people, especially upon the twenty-fifth anniversary as king of Sweden.

Oscar I, his son, was forty-five years of age at the death of his father. He did not possess his father's brilliant genius or power of personal influence, but was fondly devoted to the fine arts, himself a talented painter and composer. He was a hard worker, and also fond of the pleasures of life. His health was injured through illness, in 1857, and he never recovered. The premature death of his second son, Prince Gustavus, a talented composer and highly popular, had a disastrous effect on him, and he died July 8, 1859, after a long illness, beloved by the two nations who, during his reign, had enjoyed the happiest epoch of their history.

It was during the reign of the late king, Oscar II, that Sweden attained her greatest prosperity and made most progress. Oscar II, brother of his predecessor, ascended the throne at a moment when universal peace was restored after the great conflict between France and Germany, and when an age of commercial prosperity for Sweden seemed to have begun. King Oscar had received the same superior education as his older brothers, was as brilliantly gifted as they, and of a more scholarly mind. As a writer on scientific subjects, a poet, and an orator, Oscar II distinguished himself before his succession to the throne, and still he did not find it easy to gain the love and admiration of the Swedish people, of which he was so eminently worthy. He was the successor of one of the most popular rulers the country ever saw, and, though appreciation came slowly, he lived to see his own popularity almost outrival that of his predecessor. During the last years of his life he was considered the most learned and popular of the monarchs of Europe.

He showed great discernment in his arrangement of dynastic matters. Himself married to the fervently religious Princess Sophie of Nassau, the king brought about the marriage of his oldest son, Crown Prince Adolphus, the present king of Sweden, to Princess Victoria of Bade, a granddaughter of Emperor William of Germany, and a great-granddaughter of Gustavus IV of Sweden. His third son, Prince Charles, Duke of West Gothland, is married to Princess Ingeborg of Denmark, a granddaughter of Charles XV of Sweden. These unions are well calculated to accentuate the increasing political, commercial, and cultural intimacy with Germany, the Scandinavian policy of life predecessor, and the desire of King Oscar to see the descendants of the old royal line of Sweden as heirs to the crown. In giving his consent to the marriage of his second son, Prince Oscar, to Lady Ebba Munck, of the Swedish nobility, King Oscar gave evidence of the fact that he was not a matchmaker regardless of the feelings of the parties involved. Prince Oscar, formerly Duke of Gothland, upon renouncing his share of inheritance to the throne of Sweden, also the throne of Norway, for the two kingdoms were then united, was allowed to marry the choice of his heart. King Oscar also tried to heal the wounds of the past by opening the vaults of the church of Riddarholm to the sarcophagi of Gustavus IV, the exiled king, and his son, and by giving Queen Carola of Saxony, the only living granddaughter of Gustavus, repeated proofs of esteem and considerate distinction.

King Oscar with his two crowns received as an inheritance two important problems to be solved—the reorganization of the Swedish army and the settlement of the difficulties between Norway and Sweden. How he handled the latter has been told about in the preceding chapter. The reorganization of the Swedish army was not effected until after twenty years of parliamentary struggle, but is now, thanks to the energies and perseverance of King Oscar, on a solid basis.

During the nearly one hundred years of peace which Sweden has enjoyed under the rule of the Bernadotte dynasty, she has developed her constitutional liberty and her material prosperity in a high degree. The dreams of glory by conquest belonged to the days gone by, but in the fields of peaceable industries she has attained a greatness which the world begins to realize. At the expositions of Paris in 1867, 1878, and 1889, of Vienna in 1873, of Philadelphia in 1876, and of Chicago in 1893, Swedish industry and art have taken part with honor in the international competition. The railways of Sweden have incessantly spun a more and more extended network of steel over the country, opening connections for enterprises in new districts, and furthering commerce and industrial art in a wide measure.

In all this advancement, King Oscar took a lively initiative, and that his policy will be continued by his successor, who has been so short a time on the throne, is not to be doubted, since the reins of government were in his hands practically long before the death of his father, who for several years suffered ill health. To say the least, Sweden, in the nineteenth century, played an important part in the strengthening of the great Scandinavian amalgamation, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, which greets the twentieth century,[c]



The religion of the ancient Norwegians was of the same origin as that of all other Germanic nations, and, as it is the basis of their national life, a brief outline of it will be necessary in these pages.

In the beginning of time there were two worlds: in the South was Muspelheim, luminous and flaming, with Surt as a ruler; in the North was Niflheim, cold and dark, with the spring Hvergelmer, where the dragon Nidhugger dwells. Between these worlds was the yawning abyss Ginungagap. From the spring Hvergelmer ran icy streams into the Ginungagap. The hoarfrost from these streams was met by sparks from Muspelheim, and by the power of the heat the vapors were given life in the form of the Yotun or giant Ymer and the cow Audhumbla, on whose milk he lives. From Ymer descends the evil race of Yotuns or frost-giants. As the cow licked the briny hoarfrost, the large, handsome and powerful Bure came into being. His son was Bur, who married a daughter of a Yotun and became the father of Odin, Vile, and Ve. Odin became the father of the kind and fair Aesir, the gods who rule heaven and earth.

Bur's sons killed Ymer, and in his blood the whole race of Yotuns drowned except one couple, from whom new races of Yotuns or giants descended. Bur's sons dragged the body of Ymer into the middle of Ginungagap. Out of the trunk of the body they made the earth, and of his blood the sea. His bones became mountains, and of his hair they made trees. From the skull they made the heavens, which they elevated high above the earth and decorated with sparks from Muspelheim. But his brain was scattered in the air and became clouds. Around the earth they let the deep waters flow, and on the distant shores the escaped Yotuns took up their abode in Yotunheim and in Utgard. For protection against them the kind gods made from Ymer's eyebrows the fortification Midgard as a defense for the inner earth. But from heaven to earth they suspended the quivering bridge called Bifrost, or the rainbow.

The Yotun woman Night, black and dark as her race, met Delling (the Dawn) of the Aesir race, and with him became the mother of Day, who was bright and fair as his father. Odin placed mother and son in the heavens, and bade them each in turn ride over the earth. Night rides ahead with her horse Hrimfaxe, from whose foaming bit the earth is every morning covered with dew. Day follows with his horse Skinfaxe, whose radiant mane spreads light and air over the earth.

A great number of maggots were bred in Ymer's body, and they became gnomes or dwarfs, little beings whom the gods gave human sense and appearance. They lived within the mountains, and were skilful metal-workers, but they could not endure the light of day. Four dwarfs, the East, West, North, and South, were placed by the gods to carry the arch of heaven.

As yet there were no human beings on earth. Then, one day, the three gods, Odin, Keener and Lodur, were walking on the shore of the sea, where they found two trees, and from them they made the first man and the first woman, Ask and Embla (ash and elm). Odin gave them life, Hoener reason, Lodur blood and fair complexion. The gods gave them Midgard for a home, and from them the whole human race is descended.

The evergreen ash tree Ygdrasil is the finest of all trees. It shoots up from three roots. One of them is in the well Hvergelmer in Niflheim, and on this the dragon Nidhugger is gnawing. The other root is in Yotunheim, in the wise Yotun Mimer's fountain. One of Odin's eyes, which he pledged for a drink at this fountain, is kept here. Whoever drinks of this fountain becomes wise. The third root is in heaven, at the Urdar well, where the gods hold their Thing or court. To this place they ride daily over the bridge Bifrost. Here also the three Norns abide, the maidens Urd, Verdande, and Skuld (past, present, and future). They pour water from the well over the roots of the tree. The Norns distribute life and govern fate, and nothing can change their decision.

The dwelling in heaven of the Aesir or gods is called Asgard. In its middle was the field of Ida, the gathering-place of the gods, with Odin's throne, Lidskialv, from which he views the whole world. Odin is the highest and the oldest of the gods, and all the others honor him as their father. Odin's hall is Valhalla. The ceiling of this hall is made of spears, it is covered with shields, and its benches are ornamented with coats of mail. To this place Odin invites all who have fallen in battle, and he is therefore called Valfather, i.e., the father of the fallen. The invited fallen heroes are called Einherier; their sport and pastime is to go out every day and fight and kill each other; but toward evening they awake to life again and ride home as friends to Valhalla, where they feast on pork of the barrow Saerimmer, and where Odin's maidens, the Valkyrias, fill their horns with mead. These Valkyrias were sent by Odin to all battles on earth, where they selected those who were to be slain and afterward become the honored guests at Valhalla. At Odin's side sit the two wolves, Gere and Freke, and on his shoulders the ravens, Hugin and Munin. These ravens fly forth every morning and return with tidings from all parts of the world. Odin's horse is the swift, gray, eight-footed Sleipner. When he rides to battle he wears a golden helmet, a beautiful coat of mail, and carries the spear Gungner, which never fails. Odin is also the god of wisdom and poesy; in the morning of time he deposited one of his eyes in pledge for a drink of Mimer's fountain of wisdom, and he drank Suttung's mead in order to gain the gift of poesy. He has also taught men the art of writing Runes and all secret arts.

Thor, the son of Odin, is the strongest of all the gods. His dwelling is called Thrudvang. He rides across the heavens in a cart drawn by two rams. He is always at war with the Yotuns or evil giants, and in battle with them he uses his great hammer, Mjolner, which he hurls at the heads of his enemies. The earth trembles under the wheels of his cart, and men call the noise thunder. Thor's wife is Sif, whose hair is of gold.

Balder is a son of Odin and Frigg. He is so fair that his countenance emits beams of brightness. He is wise and gentle, and is therefore loved by all. His dwelling is Breidablik, where nothing impure exists. Nanna is his wife.

Njord comes from the race of the wise Vanir. He rules the wind, can calm the seas and stop fire, and he distributes wealth among men. His aid is invoked for success in navigation and fishing. His wife is Skade, daughter of a Yotun, and his dwelling is Noatun by the sea.

Frey, the son of Njord, rules rain and sunshine and the productiveness of the soil, and his aid is needed to get good crops, peace and wealth. His dwelling is Alfheim. He sails in the magnificent ship Skibladner, which was built for him by the dwarfs. His wife is the Yotun daughter Gerd, but in order to get her he had to give away his good sword, so that he will be unarmed in the coming final battle of the gods.

Tyr, Odin's son, is the god of courage and victory, whom brave men call upon in battle. He has only one hand, for the Fenris-Wolf bit off his right hand.

Brage, the long-bearded, is the god of eloquence and poetry. His wife is Idun, who has in her keeping the apples of which the gods eat to preserve their eternal youth. Heimdal, the white god with teeth of gold, was in the beginning of time born by nine Yotun maidens, all sisters. He is the watchman of the gods. He is more wakeful than birds. He can see a hundred miles off, and he can hear the grass grow. His dwelling is Himinbjorg, which is situated where the Bifrost bridge reaches heaven. When he blows his Gjallar-horn, it is heard throughout the world. Among the other gods were Haad, son of Odin, blind but strong; the silent and strong Vidar; Vale, the archer; Ull, the fast ski-runner, and Forsete, the son of Balder, who settles disputes between gods and men. Among the goddesses (or asynier), Frigg, Odin's wife, is the foremost. She knows the fate of everybody and shields many from danger. Her dwelling is Fensal. Next comes Freya, the goddess of love. She is the daughter of Njord and sister of Frey. She is also called Vanadis, or the goddess of the Vanir. She was married to Odd, and by him had a daughter Noss. But Odd left her, and Freya weeps in her longing for him, and her tears are red gold. When she travels, her wagon is drawn by two cats. The name of her dwelling is Folkvang. There were also a number of other goddesses, who were in the service of either Frigg or Freya.

Aeger, the ruler of the turbulent and stormy sea, is a Yotun, but he is a friend of the gods. When they visit him his hall is lighted with shining gold. His wife is Ran, and their daughters are the waves.

In the beginning there was peace among gods and men. But the arrival of the Yotun women in Asgard undermined the happiness of the gods, and in heaven and on earth a struggle commenced which must last until both are destroyed. The Yotuns continually attack the inhabitants of Asgard, and it is only the mighty Thor who can hold them at bay. It is the evil Loke, who is the worst enemy of gods and men. He belongs to the Yotun race, but was early adopted among the gods. He was fair in looks, but wily and evil in spirit. He had three evil children—the Fenris-Wolf, the Midgard-Serpent, and Hel. The gods knew that this offspring of Loke would cause trouble; therefore they tied the Fenris-Wolf, threw the serpent into the sea, and hurled Hel down into Niflheim, where she became the ruler of the dead. All who die from sickness or age are sent to her awful dwelling, Helheim. This is the origin of the saying, "Whom the gods love die young."

The greatest sorrow which Loke caused the whole world was that by deceit he caused the death of the lovely god, Balder. Then the gods took an awful revenge. They tied him to three stones, and over his head they fastened a venomous serpent, whose poison was always to drip upon his face. Loke's faithful wife, Sigyn, placed herself at his side and held a cup under the poisonous drip; but whenever the cup is full and she goes to empty it, the poison drips into Loke's face, and then he writhes in agony so that the whole world trembles. This is the cause of earthquakes.

There will come a time when these gods and the world shall perish in Ragnarokk, which means the perdition of the gods. They will have many warnings. Corruption and wickedness will be common in the world. For three years there will be winter without sun. The sun and the moon will be swallowed up by the wolves of the Yotuns, and the bright stars will disappear. The earth will tremble and the mountains will collapse, and all chains and ties are sundered. The Fenris-Wolf and Loke get loose, and the Midgard-Serpent leaves the ocean. The ship Naglfar carries the army of the Yotuns across the sea under the leadership of the Yotun Rym, and Loke advances at the head of the hosts from the abode of Hel. The heavens split, and the sons of Muspel come riding ahead, led by their chief Surt. As the hosts are rushing across the Bifrost, the bridge breaks with them. All are hastening to the great battlefield, the plains of Vigrid, which is a hundred miles wide. Now Heimdal arises and blows his Gjallar-horn, all the gods are assembled, the ash Ygdrasil trembles, and everything in heaven and on earth is filled with terror. Gods and Einherier (the fallen heroes) arm themselves for battle. In the front rides Odin with his golden helmet and beaming coat of mail and carrying his spear, Gungner. He meets the Fenris-Wolf, who swallows him, but Vidar avenges his father and kills the wolf. Thor crushes the head of the Midgard-Serpent, but is stifled to death by its venom. Frey is felled by Surt, and Loke and Heimdal kill each other. Finally Surt hurls his fire over the world, gods and men die, and the shriveling earth sinks into the abyss.

But the world shall rise again and the dead come to life. From above comes the all-powerful one, he who rules everything, and whose name no one dares utter. All those who were virtuous and pure of heart will gather in Gimle in everlasting happiness, while the evil ones will go to Naastrand at the well Hvergelmer to be tortured by Nidhugger. A new earth, green and beautiful, shall rise from the ocean. The gods awake to new life and join Vidar and Vale, and the sons of Thor, Mode and Magne, who have survived the great destruction and who have been given their father's hammer, because there is to be no more war. All the gods assemble on the field of Ida, where Asgard was located. And from Liv and Livthraser, who hid themselves in Ygdrasil during the burning of the world, a new human race shall descend.[d]



The people who emigrated from Norway and settled in Iceland, after Harald the Fairhaired had subdued the many independent chiefs and established the monarchy (872), for the most part belonged to the flower of the nation, and Iceland naturally became the home of the old Norse literature. Among the oldest poetical works of this literature is the so-called "Elder Edda," also called "Saemund's Edda," because for a long time it was believed to be the work of the Icelander Saemund. "The Younger Edda," also called "Snorre's Edda," because it is supposed to have been written by Snorre Sturlason (born 1178, died 1241), contains a synopsis of the old Norse religion and a treatise on the art of poetry. Fully as important as the numerous poetical works of that period was the old Norse Saga-literature (the word saga means a historical tale). The most prominent work in this field is Snorre Sturlason's Heimskringla, which gives the sagas of the kings of Norway from the beginning down to 1777. A continuation of the Heimskringla, to which several authors have contributed, among them Snorre Sturlason's relative, Sturla Thordson, contains the history of the later kings down to Magnus Law-Mender.

The literary development above referred to ceased almost entirely toward the end of the fourteenth century, and later, during the union with Denmark, the Danish language gradually took the place of the old Norse as a book-language, and the literature became essentially Danish. Copenhagen, with its court and university, was the literary and educational center, where the young men of Norway went to study, and authors born in Norway became to all intents and purposes, Danish writers. But Norway furnished some valuable contributors to this common literature. One of the very first names on the records of the Danish literature, Peder Claussoen (1545-1614), is that of a Norwegian, and the list further includes such illustrious names as Holberg, Tullin, Wessel, Steffens, etc.

One of the most original writers whom Norway produced and kept at home during the period of the union with Denmark was the preacher and poet, Peder Dass (1647-1708). The best known among his secular songs is Nordlands Trompet, a beautiful and patriotic description of the northern part of Norway.

Ludvig Holberg was born in Bergen, Norway, Dec. 3, 1684. His father, Colonel Holberg, had risen from the ranks and distinguished himself, in 1660, at Halden. Shortly after his death the property of the family was destroyed by fire, and at the age of ten years Ludvig lost his mother. It was now decided to have him educated for the military service; but he showed a great dislike for military life, and, at his earnest request, he was sent to the Bergen Latin School. In 1702 he entered the University of Copenhagen. Being destitute of means, he took a position as private tutor. As soon as he had saved a small sum he went abroad. He was first in Holland, and afterward studied for a couple of years at Oxford, where he supported himself by giving instruction in languages and music. Upon his return to Copenhagen he again took a position as private tutor and had an opportunity to travel as teacher for a young nobleman. In 1714 he received a stipend from the king, which enabled him to go abroad for several years, which he spent principally in France and Italy. In 1718 he became regular professor at the Copenhagen University. Among Holberg's many works the following are the most prominent: Peder Paars, a great comical heroic poem, containing sharp attacks on many of the follies of his time; about thirty comedies in Moliere's style, and a large number of historical works. Holberg, who was ennobled in 1747, died in January, 1754, and was buried in Soroe Church. His influence on the literature and on the whole intellectual life of Denmark was very great. He is often called the creator of Danish literature.

Christian Baumann Tullin (1728-1765), a genuine poetical genius, who has been called the father of Danish lyrical verse, was born in Christiania, and his poetry, which was mainly written in his native city, breathes a national spirit. From his day, for about thirty years, Denmark obtained the majority of her poets from Norway. The manager of the Danish National Theater, in 1771, was a Norwegian, Niels Krog-Bredal (1733-1778), who was the first to write lyrical dramas in Danish. A Norwegian, Johan Nordal Brun (1745-1816), a gifted poet, wrote tragedy in the conventional French taste of the day. It was a Norwegian, Johan Herman Wessel (1742-1785), who by his great parody, Kjaerlighed uden Stroemper, "Love without Stockings," laughed the French taste out of fashion. Among the writers of this period are also Claus Frimann (1746-1829), Peter Harboe Frimann (1752-1839), Claus Fasting (1746-1791), John Wibe (1748-1782), Edward Storm (1749-1794), C.H. Pram (1756-1821), Jonas Rein (1760-1821), and Jens Zetlitz (1761-1821), all of them Norwegians by birth. Two notable events led to the foundation of an independent Norwegian literature: the one was the establishment of a Norwegian university at Christiania, in 1811, and the other was the separation of Norway from Denmark, in 1814. At first the independent Norwegian literature appeared as immature as the conditions surrounding it. The majority of the writers had received their education in old Copenhagen, and were inclined to follow in the beaten track of the old literature, although trying to introduce a more national spirit. All were greatly influenced by the political feeling of the hour. There was a period when all poetry had for its subject the beauties and strength of Norway and its people, and The Rocks of Norway, The Lion of Norway, etc., sounded everywhere. Three poets called Trefoil, were the prominent writers of this period. Of these, Conrad Nicolai Schwach (1793-1860) was the least remarkable. Henrik A. Bjerregaard (1792-1842) was the author of The Crowned National Song, and of a lyric drama, Fjeldeventyret, "The Adventures in the Mountains." The third member of the Trefoil, Mauritz Christian Hansen (1794-1842), wrote a large number of novels and national stories, which were quite popular in their time. His poems were among the earliest publications of independent Norway.

The time about the year 1820 is reckoned as the beginning of the new Norwegian literature, and Henrik Wergeland is called its creator. Henrik Arnold Wergeland was born in 1808. His father, Nicolai Wergeland, a clergyman, was a member of the Constitutional Convention at Eidsvold. Henrik studied theology, but did not care to become a clergyman. In 1827, and the following years, he wrote a number of satirical farces under the signature Siful Sifadda. In 1830 appeared his lyric, dramatic poem, Skabelsen, Mennesket og Messias, (The Creation, Man and Messiah), a voluminous piece 'of work, in which he attempted to explain the historical life of the human race. As a political writer he was editorial assistant on the Folkebladet (1831-1833), and edited the opposition paper Statsborgeren (1835-1837). He worked with great zeal for the education of the laboring class, and from 1839 until his death edited a paper in the interest of the laborer. The prominent features of his earliest efforts in literature are an unbounded enthusiasm and a complete disregard of the laws of poetry. At an early age he had become a power in literature, and a political power as well. From 1831 to 1835 he was subjected to severe satirical attacks by the author Welhaven and others, and later his style became improved in every respect. His popularity, however, decreased as his poetry improved, and in 1840 he had become a great poet but had no political influence. Among his works may be named Hasselnoedder, Joeden, "The Jew," Jodinden, "The Jewess," Jan van Huysum's Blomsterstykke, "Jan van Huysum's Flowerpiece," Den Engleske Lods, "The English Pilot," and a great number of lyric poems. The poems of his last five years are as popular to-day as ever. Wergeland died in 1845.

The enthusiastic nationalism of Henrik Wergeland and his young following brought conflict with the conservative element, which was not ready to accept everything as good simply because it was Norwegian. This conservative element maintained that art and culture must be developed on the basis of the old association with Denmark, which had connected Norway with the great movement of civilization throughout Europe. As the political leader of this "Intelligence" party, as it was called, appeared J.S. Welhaven.

John Sebastian Cammermeyer Welhaven was born in Bergen in 1807, entered the university in 1825, became a Lector in 1840, and afterward Professor of Philosophy. "His refined esthetic nature," says Fr. Winkel Horn, "had been early developed, and when the war once broke out between him and Wergeland, he had reached a high point of intellectual culture, and thus was in every way a match for his opponent." The fight was inaugurated by a preliminary literary skirmish, which was, at the outset, limited to the university students; but it gradually assumed an increasingly bitter character, both parties growing more and more exasperated. Welhaven published a pamphlet, Om Henrik Wergelands Digtekunst og Poesie, in which he mercilessly exposed the weak sides of his adversary's poetry. Thereby the minds became still more excited. The "Intelligence" party withdrew from the students' union, founded a paper of their own, and thus the movement began-to assume wider dimensions. In 1834, appeared Welhaven's celebrated poem, Norges Daemring, a series of sonnets, distinguished for their beauty of style. In them the poet scourges, without mercy, the one-sided, narrow-minded patriotism of his time, and exposes, in striking and unmistakable words, the hollowness and shortcomings of the Wergeland party. Welhaven points out, with emphasis, that he is not only going to espouse the cause of good taste, which his adversary has outraged, but that he is also about to discuss problems of general interest. He urges that a Norwegian culture and literature can not be created out of nothing and to promote their development it is absolutely necessary to continue the associations which have hitherto been common to both Norway and Denmark, and thus to keep in rapport with the general literature of Europe. When a solid foundation has in this manner been laid, the necessary materials for a literature would surely not be wanting, for they are found in abundance, both in the antiquities and in the popular life of Norway. Welhaven continued his effective work as a poet and critic. Through a series of romantic and lyrical poems, rich in contents and highly finished in style, he developed a poetical life, which had an important influence in the young Norwegian literary circles. He died in 1873.

Andreas Munch (1811-1884), an able and industrious poetical writer, took no part in the controversy between Wergeland and Welhaven, but followed his Danish models independently of either. His Poems, Old and New, published in 1848, were quite popular. His best work is probably Kongedatterens Brudefart, "The Bridal Tour of the King's Daughter," 1861.

In the period of about a dozen years following the death of Wergeland, the life, manners, and characteristics of the Norwegian people were given the especial attention of literary writers. Prominent in this period was Peter Christian Ashbjornsen (1812-1885), who, partly alone and partly in conjunction with Bishop Jorgen Moe (1813-1882), published some valuable collections of Norwegian folk tales and fairy tales. Moe also published three little volumes of graceful and attractive poems. Among other writers of this period may be named Hans H. Schultz, N. Ostgaard, Harald Meltzer, M.B. Landstad, and the linguist Sophus Bugge.

The efforts to bring out the national life and characteristics of the people in literature also led to an attempt to nationalize the language in which the literature was written. The movement was the so-called Maalstraev, and had in view the introduction of a pure Norwegian book language, based upon the peasant dialects. The prominent supporter of this movement was Ivar Aasen (1813-1898), the author of an excellent dictionary of the Norwegian language. A prominent poetical representative of this school was Aasmund Olafson Vinje (1818-1870), while Kristofer Janson (born 1841) has also written a number of stories and poems in the Landsmaal (country tongue).

A new and grand period in Norwegian literature commenced about 1857, and the two most conspicuous names in this period—and in the whole Norwegian literature—are those of Henrik Ibsen and Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson.

Henrik Ibsen was born in Skien, in 1828. He has written many beautiful poems; but his special field is in the drama, where he is a master. His first works were nearly all historical romantic dramas. His first work, Catilina, printed in 1850, was scarcely noticed until years afterward, when he had become famous. In 1856 appeared the romantic drama, Gildet paa Solhaug, "The Feast at Solhaug," followed by Fru Inger til Oestraat, 1857, and Haermaedene paa Helgeland, "The Warriors on Helgeland," 1858. In 1863, he wrote the historical tragedy Kongsemnerne, "The Pretenders," in which the author showed his great literary power. Before this play was published, he had been drawn into a new channel. In 1862, he began a series of satirical and philosophical dramas with Kjaerlighedens Komedie, "Love's Comedy," which was succeeded by two masterpieces of a similar kind, Brand, in 1866, and Peer Gynt, in 1867. These two works were written in verse; but in De Unges Forbund, "The Young Men's League," 1869, a political satire, he abandoned verse, and all his subsequent dramas have been written in prose. In 1873 came Keiser og Galilaeer, "Emperor and Galilean." Since then he has published a number of social dramas which have attracted world-wide attention. Among them are: Samfundets Stoetter, "The Pillars of Society," Et Dukkehjem, "A Doll's House," Gengangere, "Ghosts," En Folkefiende, "An Enemy of the People," Rosmerholm, Fruenn fra Havet, "The Lady from the Sea," Little Eyolf, Bymester Solnes, "Masterbuilder Solnes," John Gabriel Borkman, and the latest and most-talked-about, Hedda Gabler.

Bjoernstjerne Bjoernson (born in Osterdalen, in 1832) is the more popular of the two giants of Norwegian literature of to-day. His works are more national in tone. It has been said that to mention his name is to raise the Norwegian flag. His first successes were made in the field of the novel, and the first two, Synnoeve Solbakken, 1857, and Arne, 1858, made his name famous. These, and his other peasant stories, will always retain their popularity. He soon, however, entered the dramatic field, and has since published a great number of dramas and novels.

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse