Henrik Ibsen left Oslo in 1864, frustrated, broke, and with an idea of collecting folklore. He went north, and tracked down story after story of the legendary Peer Gynt, who lived in a mountaintop farmhouse near Vinstra. Peer’s bravery, craftiness, and adventurousness had made him into a folk hero, expert at tricking trolls, riding reindeer over chasms, and foraging for himself in the long, dark, Norwegian winters.
Today, the Gynt farmhouse still stands, and the land near Vinstra is marked with the original Peer’s famed adventures–where he encountered the treacherous Bøyg, where he spied on a troll wedding party, and the mountain where the Troll King and his underground family almost ate Peer’s eyes in anger.
“Peer Gynt” is the most widely produced play in Norway. Every summer, a production of Peer Gynt occurs on the bank of a mountaintop lake in Gålå, and a dance piece inspired by Gynt unfolds at midnight under a waterfall.
There’s even a sculpture park in Oslo that depicts major scenes from the play.
In the Ibsen museum in Oslo, you can see an original edition of Peer Gynt and Ibsen’s study, complete with gremlins and a portrait of his enemy, Strindberg. And you can piece together how Ibsen drew from the Gynt legends to create an epic tale of adventure entirely his own.
Ibsen’s remains lie in Oslo near his final home and the National Theater. His grave marker bears an inscription from his work, “The Miner”:
In the depths here all is peace,
Peace and night that never cease; —
Soon earth’s very heart shall clamour
To the smiting of my hammer.