Norwegian romantic nationalism

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Norwegian romantic nationalism (Norwegian : Nasjonalromantikken) was a movement in Norway between 1840 and 1867 in art, literature, and popular culture that emphasized the aesthetics of Norwegian nature and the uniqueness of the Norwegian national identity. A subject of much study and debate in Norway, it was characterized by nostalgia. [1]

Norwegian language North Germanic language spoken in Norway

Norwegian is a North Germanic language spoken mainly in Norway, where it is the official language. Along with Swedish and Danish, Norwegian forms a dialect continuum of more or less mutually intelligible local and regional varieties, and some Norwegian and Swedish dialects, in particular, are very close. These Scandinavian languages, together with Faroese and Icelandic as well as some extinct languages, constitute the North Germanic languages. Faroese and Icelandic are hardly mutually intelligible with Norwegian in their spoken form because continental Scandinavian has diverged from them. While the two Germanic languages with the greatest numbers of speakers, English and German, have close similarities with Norwegian, neither is mutually intelligible with it. Norwegian is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era.

Norway constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic country in Northern Europe whose territory comprises the western and northernmost portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula; the remote island of Jan Mayen and the archipelago of Svalbard are also part of the Kingdom of Norway. The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land.

The culture of Norway is closely linked to the country's history and geography. The unique Norwegian farm culture, sustained to this day, has resulted not only from scarce resources and a harsh climate but also from ancient property laws. In the 19th century, it brought about a strong romantic nationalistic movement, which is still visible in the Norwegian language and media. In the 19th century, Norwegian culture blossomed as efforts continued to achieve an independent identity in the areas of literature, art and music. This continues today in the performing arts and as a result of government support for exhibitions, cultural projects and artwork.


Brudeferden I Hardanger (Bridal party in Hardanger), a monumental piece within Norwegian romantic nationalism. Painted by Hans Gude and Adolph Tidemand. Adolph Tidemand & Hans Gude - Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord - Google Art Project.jpg
Brudeferden I Hardanger (Bridal party in Hardanger), a monumental piece within Norwegian romantic nationalism. Painted by Hans Gude and Adolph Tidemand.


The context and impact of Norwegian romantic nationalism derived from recent history and the political situation. Following the Black Plague, Norway became dependent on Denmark and Copenhagen was made capital of both countries in a personal union. Subsequently, there was a brain drain of talented people from Norway to Denmark, who studied in Copenhagen and became intellectuals and cultural icons in Denmark, most famously Ludvig Holberg. After more than 400 years as a dependent lesser part in the Denmark-Norway union treated as a cultural backwater by the absentee government in Copenhagen, the only uniquely Norwegian culture was found among the farmers and peasants in rural districts in Norway; Norway had in 1814 gained a partial independence in a personal union with the Kingdom of Sweden. [2]

Denmark constitutional monarchy in Europe

Denmark, officially the Kingdom of Denmark, is a Nordic country and the southernmost of the Scandinavian nations. Denmark lies southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and is bordered to the south by Germany. The Kingdom of Denmark also comprises two autonomous constituent countries in the North Atlantic Ocean: the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Denmark proper consists of a peninsula, Jutland, and an archipelago of 443 named islands, with the largest being Zealand, Funen and the North Jutlandic Island. The islands are characterised by flat, arable land and sandy coasts, low elevation and a temperate climate. Denmark has a total area of 42,924 km2 (16,573 sq mi), land area of 42,394 km2 (16,368 sq mi), and the total area including Greenland and the Faroe Islands is 2,210,579 km2 (853,509 sq mi), and a population of 5.8 million.

Copenhagen Capital of Denmark

Copenhagen is the capital and most populous city of Denmark. As of July 2018, the city has a population of 777,218. It forms the core of the wider urban area of Copenhagen and the Copenhagen metropolitan area. Copenhagen is situated on the eastern coast of the island of Zealand; another small portion of the city is located on Amager, and is separated from Malmö, Sweden, by the strait of Øresund. The Øresund Bridge connects the two cities by rail and road.

Human capital flight emigration of highly skilled or well-educated individuals

Human capital flight refers to the emigration of individuals who have received advanced training at home. The net benefits of human capital flight for the receiving country are sometimes referred to as a "brain gain" whereas the net costs for the sending country are sometimes referred to as a "brain drain". In occupations that experience a surplus of graduates, immigration of foreign-trained professionals can aggravate the underemployment of domestic graduates.

Norwegians, having reasserted their political aspirations in 1814, the question of a distinct Norwegian identity became important. As urban culture gained prominence also in the rural districts, the rich cultural heritage of the Norwegian countryside came under threat. As a result, a number of individuals set out to collect the artifacts of the distinctly Norwegian culture, hoping thereby to preserve and promote a sense of Norwegian identity. [3]

Leading proponents

The best-known such collectors in the 1840s and 1850s were: [4]

Peter Christen Asbjørnsen 19th-century Norwegian writer

Peter Christen Asbjørnsen was a Norwegian writer and scholar. He and Jørgen Engebretsen Moe were collectors of Norwegian folklore. They were so closely united in their lives' work that their folk tale collections are commonly mentioned only as "Asbjørnsen and Moe".

Jørgen Moe Norwegian folklorist, poet and bishop

Jørgen Engebretsen Moe was a Norwegian folklorist, bishop, poet, and author. He is best known for the Norske Folkeeventyr, a collection of Norwegian folk tales which he edited in collaboration with Peter Christen Asbjørnsen. He also served as the Bishop of the Diocese of Kristianssand from 1874 until his death in 1882.

Fairy tale fictional story featuring folkloric fantasy characters

A fairy tale, wonder tale, magic tale, or Märchen is a folklore genre that takes the form of a short story. Such stories typically feature entities such as dwarfs, dragons, elves, fairies, giants, gnomes, goblins, griffins, mermaids, talking animals, trolls, unicorns, or witches, and usually magic or enchantments. In most cultures, there is no clear line separating myth from folk or fairy tale; all these together form the literature of preliterate societies. Fairy tales may be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends and explicit moral tales, including beast fables. The term is mainly used for stories with origins in European tradition and, at least in recent centuries, mostly relates to children's literature.

National romantic painting by Hans Gude, 1847 Fra Hardanger Gude.jpg
National romantic painting by Hans Gude, 1847

These achievements had an enduring impact on Norwegian culture and identity, an impact that can be witnessed in the influence on visual arts, classical music and literature, represented by e.g.: [5]

Visual arts art forms that create works that are primarily visual in nature

The visual arts are art forms such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, photography, video, filmmaking, and architecture. Many artistic disciplines involve aspects of the visual arts as well as arts of other types. Also included within the visual arts are the applied arts such as industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, interior design and decorative art.

Literature written work of art

Literature, most generically, is any body of written works. More restrictively, literature refers to writing considered to be an art form or any single writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value, often due to deploying language in ways that differ from ordinary usage.

Later developments

In the waning days of the national romantic movement, efforts were renewed to collect rural buildings, handcrafts and arts. Arthur Hazelius, the founder of Nordiska Museet in Stockholm gathered (and arguably rescued) large collections and sent to Sweden.

The last king of union between Sweden and Norway, Oscar II, was a supporter of this new wave of collecting, starting one of the oldest outdoor museums, the origins of Norsk Folkemuseum. He supported the manager of the Royal domains at Bygdøy, Christian Holst in his efforts to gather old buildings from the rural districts. Among the buildings that are still at the museum, the Gol stave church, moved here in the beginning of the 1880s, is the most prominent. Soon after other pioneers started equal efforts to rescue important pieces of traditional Norwegian architecture and handicraft. Anders Sandvig started the museum Maihaugen at Lillehammer. Hulda Garborg started the collecting of traditional folk costumes (bunad) and dances.

This effort is still underway, but became more systematic as other cultural movements took the center stage in Norway in the late 19th and early 20th century. Romantic nationalism has had an enormous impact on the Norwegian national identity. The Askeladden character from the fairy tales is considered being an integral part of the Norwegian way. On the Norwegian Constitution Day even in cities like Oslo and Bergen, a great proportion of people dress up in bunad for the parade, unthinkable 100 years ago. [7]

See also

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<i>Norwegian Folktales</i>

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The Charcoal Burner is a Norwegian fairy tale, collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe.

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St. John's Eve, is a play written by Henrik Ibsen and first performed in 1853. The play is considered apocryphal, because it never entered Ibsen's collected works. It was poorly received at its premiere at Den Nationale Scene in Bergen in 1853.

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Christen Pram writer

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Norsk Folkeminnelag

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<i>Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord</i> Norwegian painting by Hans Gude and Adolph Tidemand

Bridal Procession on the Hardanger is one of the best known Norwegian paintings. The 1848 painting was created by Hans Gude and Adolph Tidemand. Gude painted the landscapes and Tidemand the bridal party. The painting is 93 x 130 cm, and is in the National Gallery in Oslo.


Further reading

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Norwegian nationalism at Wikimedia Commons