Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Happy Boy by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

Title: A Happy Boy
Author: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson
Original Publication Date: 1857
Pages: 112

“That poverty hemmed him in on every side, he felt, but for that reason his whole mind was bent on breaking through it.”(43)

A Happy Boy, the second Peasant tale of Bjørnson that I have read, the third (1860) in writing of his four Peasant Tales , the first being Synnøve Solbakken, (1857) followed by Arne (1858). Sadly, it would seem that the first two do not exist except in the original Norwegian texts and completion of his Peasant Tales dictates reading it in the original, nothing less.

A Happy Boy, tells us of Oyvind, the son of a houseman, who happens to meet the love of his life in Marit, the granddaughter of a gard (farm) owner. By their stations in life, the inevitable schism arises. This quandary is solely predicated in Oyvind’s lowly station in life. “I will tell you why I have been so happy before: It was because I did not really love anyone; from the day we love someone we cease to be happy.”(34) Our happy boy is not so happy after all. Oyvind struggles to break free from the familial shackles that fate has imposed, and we are taken through his rise from being the son of a houseman to the pride of the town.

This story is a lot sweeter and simpler than The Fisher Girl| (3 Stars). Again, Bjørnson plays the same card in the Fisher Girl with love as the mechanism by which the story is set in motion. The same peasant struggles and desire within the story exist.

What is more prevalent however is how Bjørnson incorporated the Norwegian faith in the story, more than he did in the The Fisher Girl. This led me to read up on a little bit of Norwegian religious history and find that Norway has always been labeled as a Christian country and that at numerous times in history, Norway sent more missionaries per capita than any other country. What is more interesting is that this Christianity is not under the Holy See but is an entirely new animal. The Church of Norway it is called, with the King of Norway as it head, and professes a Lutheran belief. Interesting isn't it, a union of the church and the state that, it would seem, hasn't screwed the people over. This is probably why the depiction in one scene of the story was like this.


Other work by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson:
The Fisher Girl (3 Stars)

This book forms part of my remarkably extensive reading list on Nobel Prize for Literature Laureates

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