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Henrik Ibsen and Nordic Myth : Folklore archetypes in his early plays

By Bowers, James, W.

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Book Id: WPLBN0002829006
Format Type: PDF eBook:
File Size: 1.09 MB
Reproduction Date: 10/30/2012

Title: Henrik Ibsen and Nordic Myth : Folklore archetypes in his early plays  
Author: Bowers, James, W.
Language: English
Subject: Fiction, Drama and Literature, Plays
Collections: Plays, Most Popular Books in Bratislava, Anthropology, Authors Community, Psychology, Favorites from the National Library of China, Religion, Literature, Sociology, Naval Science, Most Popular Books in China, Language, Political Science, Social Sciences, Education
Publication Date:
Publisher: LAMBERT Academic Publishing
Member Page: James Bowers


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W. Bower, B. J. (2012). Henrik Ibsen and Nordic Myth : Folklore archetypes in his early plays. Retrieved from

Henrik Ibsen told his readers if they were to understand his work, they should read all his dramas and live them in their person experience. Little has been published about his first plays. This book covers dramas from "Cataline" to "Peer Gynt," and demonstrates how "The Master Builder," "Hedda Gabler" and "The Lady from the Sea" are related to archetypal themes of his youthful work. The thesis is that Ibsen was a creator of myths. Using the psychology of Carl Jung, the book emphasizes Ibsen's awareness of the bipolar, archetypal nature of masculinity and femininity, the difference between falling in love and true love, and the importance of following one's calling. It is written for a general audience, presupposes no knowledge of Ibsen, and could be of literary interest to anyone.

Fifty years ago I began my graduate studies in order to become a professor of English. Among the requirements for the master's degree was the necessity of writing a thesis. I chose as a topic "Henrik Ibsen and Nordic Myth." There were several reasons for choosing that topic. As an undergraduate I had taken a course with Philip Wheelwright based upon his manuscript of "The Burning Fountain" and became interested in mythology. I subsequently spent a year at a Danish folk college, whose headmaster gave daily lectures on the pagan mythology of the Nordic folk. Until the 1950s not much had been done on the relationship between Ibsen and Nordic myth. In the words of Pavel Frænkl: From the myth and legend [of his early works] to the "domestic" subjects [of his later dramas] Ibsen's death imagery is consistently determined by Nordic mythology and rite. Even where the material is "contemporary" and the theme "modern," Ibsen's dramatic thought functions myth logically and myth creatively. I cannot see in the great body of literature on Ibsen, either in Norway or abroad, that there has ever been pointed out before the deep and radical tension between the theme of the drama and the dramatist's pattern of thought, between a veiled "social motif" and a mythological image fantasy (Frænkl 1955, 78). Ibsen's early works, in which he specifically referred to Nordic myth, were not readily available in English, but I had become fluent in Dano-Norwegian and could translate the texts. Finally, there was Ibsen's own statement that his later plays could be understood completely only in the light of his earlier work. In the foreword to his collected works written in 1889 he stated: Only by understanding and appropriating my entire production as a coherent and consecutive whole will you receive the intended and pertinent impression of the single parts. My friendly suggestion to the reader is therefore, short and sweet, that he not temporarily pass over anything, but that he appropriate the works-- read through them and live them in his own life--in the same order in which I have composed them. (Duve 1945, 44). The problem was that I was not yet old enough to have experienced in my own life the characters and issues about which Ibsen was writing. Fifty years later I now have enough experience to understand, at least in part, what Ibsen was saying. I am not primarily a scholar, nor have I kept up with the contemporary scholarship regarding Ibsen's dramas. I can only speak from my own experience, in the manner in which I have tried to convey the relevance of literature to our personal lives during my teaching career, using the insights provided by the psychology of Carl Jung.

Table of Contents
Myth Nationalism, Romanticism and Folklore (Denmark) Nationalism, Romanticism and Folklore (Norway) Catiline (1850) The Warrior's Barrow (1850) and Other Poetry St. John's Eve The Master Builder Lady Inger of Østråt (1855) The Feast at Solhaug (1856) The Vikings at Helgeland (1857) Hedda Gabler (1890) On the Heroic Ballad (1857) and Other Writings Olaf Liljekrans (1857) The Lady from the Sea (1888) Love's Comedy (1862) The Pretenders (1863) Brand (1867) Peer Gynt (1867) Ibsen as the Creator of Myths Endnotes Works Cited


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