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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Peter Christen Asbjørnsen (1812–1885)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
ASBJØRNSEN was born January 15th, 1812, at Christiania, Norway. He entered the University in 1833, but was presently obliged to take the position of tutor with a family in Romerike. Four years later he came back to the University, where he studied medicine, but also and particularly zoölogy and botany, subjects which he subsequently taught in various schools. During his life among the country people he had begun to collect folk-tales and legends, and afterward, on long foot-tours undertaken in the pursuit of his favorite studies, he added to this store. In co-operation with his lifelong friend, Jörgen Moe, subsequently Bishop of Christiansand, he published in 1838 a first collection of folk-stories. In later years his study of folk-lore went on side by side with his study of zoölogy. At various times, from 1846 to 1853, he received stipends from the Christiania University to enable him to pursue zoölogical investigations at points along the Norwegian coast. In addition to these journeys he had traversed Norway in every direction, partly to observe the condition of the forests of the country, and partly to collect the popular legends, which seem always to have been in his mind.  1
  From 1856 to 1858 he studied forestry at Tharand, and in 1860 was made head forester of the district of Trondhjem, in the north of Norway. He retained this position until 1864, when he was sent by the government to Holland, Germany, and Denmark, to investigate the turf industry. On his return he was made the head of a commission whose purpose was to better the turf production of the country, from which position he was finally released with a pension in 1876. He died in 1885.  2
  Asbjørnsen’s principal literary work was in the direction of the folk-tales of Norway, although the list of his writings on natural history, popular and scientific, is a long one. As a scientist he made several important discoveries in deep-sea soundings, which gave him, at home and abroad, a wide reputation, but the significance of his work as a collector of folk-lore has in a great measure overshadowed this phase of his activity. His greatest works are—‘Norske Folke-eventyr’ (Norwegian Folk Tales), in collaboration with Moe, which appeared in 1842–44, and subsequently in many editions; ‘Norske Huldre-eventyr og Folkesagn’ (Norwegian Fairy Tales and Folk Legends) in 1845. In the stories published by Asbjørnsen alone, he has not confined himself simply to the reproduction of the tales in their popular form, but has retold them with an admirable setting of the characteristics of the life of the people in their particular environment. He was a rare lover of nature, and there are many exquisite bits of natural description.  3
  Asbjørnsen’s literary power was of no mean merit, and his work not only found immediate acceptance in his own country, but has been widely translated into the other languages of Europe. Norwegian literature in particular owes him a debt of gratitude, for he was the first to point out the direction of the subsequent national development.  4
 
 
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