Storytelling in Norway

juni 12, 2006

Like most western countries Norwegian oral storytelling started disappearing during the late 18th century and was more or less gone 150 years later, reaching into the 20th. Luckily we had collectors, the most famous ones Asbjørnsen and Moe, who made a great collection of tales which has been read for most Norwegian children since then. (And today all over the world people know some of the stories, like The Three Billy Goats Gruff) We also had other collectors, like Rikard Berge, who wrote down and published the stories he collected more accurate, but then not as good as literature for reading. There were people who remembered a grandmother who told stories, and the personal story tradition will never die. But as an oral tradition folklorists in Norway, like Hodne thought the tradition of telling old tales and mythology was dead and gone for good.

But then the storytelling revival started in the 1980ties. It spread to Norway from both the USA and England. From the USA to a summer camp for all the Nordic countries, called Nordisk fortellerseminar, which is still held annually in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. In 2007 the seminar will be on Island, to the joy of everyone, guests and hosts alike. This tradition might have started out mostly inspired from the USA.

In Oslo there was one woman, Marit Jerstad who made contact with the European movement, mainly the Company of storytellers, TUUP and Jan Blake in England, and Abbi Patrix in France. From the USA Laura Simms who is also a teller of traditional stories. As the head of a drama school in Oslo, she started to give lectures in storytelling, and in 1995 the first group of students had half a year with training in storytelling as an art form. From then many students have graduated from this school in Oslo, and the same course as evening school all around Norway.

After some years Norway had a large group of artists, teachers and others trained as storytellers. Some of the first people who finished this course have been professional tellers for 10 years by now. And the folklorists no longer call the oral tradition dead and gone. What we have lost thought, together with many countries, is the natural life of the stories for 100-200 years. They have not, as in Africa, Asia and Latin America gone trough the naturall changes into our time, and it takes time and effort to be true to the tradition, and find the developement of the old stories into our times. But that work has started by individual tellers, and it is very well done. It also helps to see wonderful storytellers from a tradition where the stories have lived their lives until today.

Some few Norwegian storyteller links, (most in Norwegian):
*Ratatosk – e-mail list for Scandinavian storytellers

*Norsk fortellerforum – The Norwegian storyteller association



*Heidi Dahlsveen

*The Sweedish teller Ulf Ärnström about Norwegian and Nordic storytelling (in English)



2 Responses to “Storytelling in Norway”

  1. jeff Says:

    hi, i’m visiting norway this week (5-12th august ) & i’m very interested in finding some storytelling. I have had a great deal of trouble finding information. I am visiting from england and I would be very grateful if anyone could help me. thank’s, jeff.

  2. Heidi Says:

    Dear Jeff, there is not much storytelling going on for the moment. Still holiday! Where in Norway are you? And do you understand norwegian? Maybe you should try Folkmuseum in Oslo.

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