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:

All pics taken with my Nokia mobile phone – please click to enlarge!

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.


  1. I havent read some of Ibsen’s stuff yet but I will soon. Nice pic again Renny!

  2. I am so amazed at the quality of the photos taken with your camera phone, Renny! They are just gorgeous! I also love the shot of you and your wife. The doll house sounds like so much fun. :)

    I also haven’t read ibsen (shame on me), but will add this to my list of stuff that I MUST read. Thanks! :)

  3. Hey,Renny! Those are beautiful pics!
    Really lovely! :)

    I havent read the book yet;
    Women should fight for their own rights,I guess :)

  4. But did you know that a very well known German theatre company refused to act out such feminist liberation, and as it was a very influential company, Ibsen wrote an alternative ending exclusively for them where Nora stays, ‘for the sake of the children’. Ibsen was furious about this German twist, but wanted/needed the royalties. It renders the whole story totally pointless, though.

    My favourite story is ‘Ghosts’, I highly recommend it to anyone who liked A Doll’s House.

  5. ooh, just noticed your question there at the end of the post. It’s obvious that Nora did right in leaving: nowadays it’s been proven that the education and maturity of the mother is very important to the development and future educational level of their kids. But what’s more, I think Nora’s insight into her lack of maturity would have been devastating to her and the family in the long run. Saving one individual might sometimes be the best option for the whole group, rather than have her sacrifice her life and newly found insight for the sake of raising her kids. (What a kitchen psychologist the world has gained in me!) I’m sure the Helmer kids became respectable members of civil society:)

  6. Mother of Invention

    I, too, have not read this but I do think women should satisfy their natural cuiosity and venture out into the world to learn what they need to about themselves and everything else, so that others might benefit from this knowledge and wisdom, their children AND any others they might know.

  7. Expat Traveler

    I love the photos, very interesting. I’d gather I’d be extremely amused in person.

    I haven’t read the book either…but I can guess she should have stayed. :)

  8. i love the photos, can u post more… HAve fun Renny!

  9. Hi folks, I’m overwhelmed about you’re participation in this subject. I am very humble to the question if Nora should have stayed, but admire Ibsen for writing a story – at that time – to provoke the establishment as men ruled the world at that time. Some say Nora should stay mostly because of the children. Other say if she did it would have been a miserable marriage, and that is not good for anyone. I would say, if she hadn’t gone, there would be no debate for woman’s rights, and that would be worst of all. To you’re comments:

    @Chas: Happy reading and thanks!

    @Lisa: Thanks for you’re compliments and I will gladly pass it to my wife too as it was her idea to dress up in the costumes. Happy reading to you too!

    @ghee: I’m glad you liked the pictures too! Yes; woman should fight for their own rights and that was Ibsen’s point too and I do support him

    @Miriam: Thank you so much for the interesting information. I did know about the German theatre incident and are so happy the original was getting through to the rest of the world. Thanks also for sharing you’re kitchen psychologist point of view and you’re analysis was great. After all Mr. Helmer had an obligation too and was the one who could never see Nora other than a doll.

    @MotherOfInvention: You are so right and especially men should not prevent them to do so, which I mean was the case with Mr. Helmer.

    @Expat Traveler: Thanks and yes, it was a very amusing museum. Well, you might have changed you’re mind if you had red the book. Mr. Helmer was holding her in a ‘cadge’ you know. He was in love with ideal of Nora, without actually knowing the real Nora I would say.

    @Neil.dc: Thanks and yes of course I will. Stay tuned!

  10. I read The Wild Duck just last year and loved it, not realizing that Ibsen was from Skien. Not a happy ending, but a very thought-provoking play. My family come from Olsbrygge, just up the road from Skien.

  11. Hi Renny..I tried my guest book if its really workin..i did be able to sign in..sorry for the inconvenience..
    and thanx again for the time..

    have a good day!

  12. @Barbara: I like the Wild Duck too – sometimes the trues can be hard to live with you know.
    I’m glad I could tell you that Ibsen is from Skien, Norway then:-)

    @ghee: I tried once more to sign you’re gestbook this evening and I do think it worked :-)

  13. nice pictures! and nice place. i’m sorry, i cannot comment about Nora, i haven;t read Ibsen yet

  14. Considering the times of when the story was written, I think it is essential that Nora leaves.

    However, translating the situation into a modern Western world becomes a lot more difficult as the entire relationship and concept of feminism has changed considerably. If this was a modern story you can identify the vicious cirle as “Nora is being treated as a child, therefore she acts like a child”, and pinpoint that there is a pattern that needs breaking – whether it is first by Nora or first by her husband. In a modern life story there are other ways than leaving that could be explored first. Alternative routes, I think, was not really presented to our Nora.

    I am clearly struggling to keep this comment short. I would be happy to elaborate but I have a feeling it would bore most people to death…

  15. @TinTin: Thanks for you’re compliment and comment anyway!

    @Rigmor: Thanks for you’re comments and interesting analysis! Of course it was revolutionary at that time. I do think Ibsen would like to shape up the man dominated society – and he did. I just love the way he challenge the establishment. Maybe today the pendulum has gone far the other way. Some couples today may go too quickly to divorce because it is accepted and relatively easy – as you say; there are alternative routes.

  16. isn’t it amazing how we discover so much more of our own backyards when people are visiting? i tend to learn so much about philly when people come visit me than i do on my own! nice photos by the way.

  17. Very difficult choice: kids or freedom.

    I love this play, and I’ve seen many dramatizations,

    Nora was smart enough to realize that her husband’s love, and society’s views on the sanctity of motherhood, did not include acceptance of the woman — as a free, individual person.

    Nora & Ibsen were way ahead of their time.

    In fact, you could substitute Nora for other oppressed peoples…for time immemorial…and you’d still have a relevant body of work.

    Nora was right to leave…but such a high price.

  18. @April: You’re so right and we all had a kick out of it:-)

    @Buddy: Well said Bud – the lack of accptance for Nora as an individual is important here and therefor Ibsen wanted to put up and example of the consecvence for Helmer (men). A high price, but important for wimens liberation i think.

  19. Ibsen seems like an interesting fellow. His conversations don’t really seem dated yet either. Should Nora have left? Rigmor has some good points. In a way I hope she leaves but comes back with maturity enough to re-negotiate and educate her family into a culture beyond the era of society.

  20. Thanks Renny. Shame about German production changing the ending.

    The new version of the poem is now up as a 3rd draft at my LiveJournal: http://pearlformance.livejournal.com/#entry_16061

  21. @Pearl: Yes: In modern time one could hope for Nora to come back, but in Ibsen’s time it would have been a froud to his point of view.
    Thanks for keeping me posted of your poem:-)

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