Having my mother in law from the US visiting us gave a lot of opportunities to explore Norway. From my last two posts, you’ve seen us taking her to Bergen. Today I will tell you about our trip to Skien, a tiny coastal town in the south of Norway and the neighbouring town to my hometown Porsgrunn. I assume that most of you haven’t heard about Skien, but Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), the great playwright, was born there. This year is an Ibsen year as he died 100 years ago, so I dedicate this post to the anniversary.
In an earlier post: City Whites, I have Introduced you to Ibsen’s friend and colleagues, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (winner of the Nobel Price in literature in 1903) in front of Norway’s National Theatre. Together they founded “The Norwegian Company” in 1859, an organ for Norwegian art and culture. Since this is a blog about our significant four seasons, I refresh you memories with a picture of the statue of Ibsen in Oslo in February and in Skien in May:
Two masterpieces: The Wild Duck and Little Eyolf:
The Wild Duck tells the story of two families, the Werles and Ekdals. The Ekdals are poor, Old Ekdal having been ruined in business by Haakon Werle. Ibsen experienced the same in his childhood witch influenced his writings a lot. Over the course of the play the many secrets that lie behind the Ekdals’ apparently happy home are revealed to Gregers Werles, who insists on pursuing the absolute truth, or the “Summons of the Ideal”. Among these truths: Gregers’ father impregnated his servant Gina, and then married her off to Hjalmar to legitimize the child.
Little Eyolf is a mysteriously beautiful play where Alfred and Rita Allmers first lose their crippled child, Eyolf who is lured to his death after the visit of an uncanny figure from folk-legend, the Rat Wife; the parents then descend into a hell of mutual recrimination and estrangement, realizing they neither loved their child nor each other.
Here you see Ibsen (in the background), Gian with the duck and Little Eyolf (in front).
When visiting Skien and the Ibsen museum, we had fun in the ‘doll house’ playing with the costumes.
Introduction to woman’s liberation:
A Doll house is called Ibsen’s international break through when he sent Nora Helmer out into the world with a demand that a woman too must have the freedom to develop as an adult, independent, and responsible person. The playwright was now over 50, and had finally been recognized outside of the Nordic countries. “Pillars of Society.” The play has a plot which he repeated in many subsequent works, in the phase when he cultivated “critical realism.” We experience the individual in opposition to the majority, society’s oppressive authority. Nora puts it this way: “I will have to find out who is right, society or myself.”
To challenge my readers:
I don’t consider myself as a genuine feminist, but I am certainly not at all a male pig. In this I would like to challenge my readers (just for the fun of it :-) in the crucial question: Should Nora have stayed or was it right of her to leave? Please feel free to comment this post the way you want (I appreciate everyone!), but the more you stick to the point, the more you get from my point of view :-)
If you like to read more about Ibsen before you decide, click here.