Bjomson, a dramatist, poet, novelist, writer of stories, and political leader, was a great national figure, dominating the intellectual life of his country for half a century. His short stories are exquisitely written idylls, whose influence was felt throughout all the Scandinavian countries. Of his younger contemporaries Alexander Kielland is probably the most important. Like Bjomson he felt the influence of Europe, and used his knowledge of foreign literature the better to depict the people of his native land.
Among contemporary Norwegian writers Knut Hamsun and Johan Bojer stand supreme. Both are best known by their novels of modem life, though both wrote some plays and short stories. Hamsun wrote only a few of the latter: Bojer devoted more time to the form and produced a few literary masterpieces.
Sweden, like Denmark, has a literature that dates back to the Middle Ages, and even in the Eighteenth Century could boast of several writers, but the late Nineteenth was one of the richest periods in her literary annals. The first of the stories chosen for inclusion is one of August Strindberg’s. During the closing years of the last century Strindberg was Sweden’s most distinguished man of letters: dramatist, novelist and scientist, he wrote volumes of sketches and short stories, of which Love and Bread shows/the best-known aspect of his sceptical philosophy. Selma Lagerlof is chiefly known for her novels and stories of the country people among whom she lived.
The modem Swedish writers have brought the short story to a high point of technical perfection, but in so doing they have remained essentially products of their own land, if only by reason of their insistence upon local themes and the description of backgrounds that are familiar to them.
Snorri Sturluson (1178—1241)
Snorri Sturluson was bom in Iceland of an old Icelandic family. He received a good education, acquired wealth through marriage, and became a powerful landowner. He made several visits to Norway, where he was well received at court. Later in life he was implicated in political quarrels and wars, and was finally murdered by his son-in-law. He wrote many sagas, the Heimskringla, and the Prose, or Younger, Edda. His work was founded upon oral tradition and the writings of the earlier poets and historians.
Sturluson’s long works are full of episodes and incidents, many of which, like Baldr’s Bale, are unified short stories.
This version is from the translation of The Prose Edda, by Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, published by the American-Scandinavian Foundation, New York, 1916, by whose permission it is here included.
(From the Prose Edda)
Now shall be told of those tidings which seemed of more consequence to the Yesir. The beginning of the story is this, that Baldr the Good dreamed great and perilous dreams touching his life. When he told these dreams to the Yesir, then they took counsel together; and this was their decision: to ask safety for Baldr from all kinds of dangers.