National romanticism

   Many Scandinavian writers were greatly influenced by the ideas of the German thinker Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803), who emphasized the role of the nation as well as language and its connection to the divine spirit that could be found in nature. Starting with the Dane Adam Oehlenschlager, national romanticism became a major force in Scandinavia. Oehlenschlager's poem "Guldhornene" (1802; The Golden Horns), for example, features a young man who finds a golden horn with a runic inscription on it while plowing his field. Another characteristic example of national romantic literature is a short story by the Norwegian writer Maurits Hansen entitled "Luren" (1819; The Shepherd's Horn), in which the narrator tells about a visit to a Norwegian farm family in the interior of the country. As in Oehlenschlager's poem, there is an emphasis on the continuity between the present and the nation's past, the connection between the people and the soil, and the role of language.
   National romanticism manifested itself throughout the entire Scandinavian cultural area, from Iceland in the west to Finland in the east. In Iceland, the work of the poet Jonas Hallgrimsson emphasized both the past of the nation and the significance of its language. In Sweden, Esaias Tegner and Per Daniel Amadeus Atterbom exemplify the movement. Atterbom was a core member of the group Auroraforbundet (The Aurora Society), which published the journal Phosphorus, an important voice for romanticism in Sweden. Tegner's best-known work is Frithiofs saga (1825; tr. 1833), which expands a brief Old Norse story into a Swedish national epic consisting of 24 songs. In Finland, the folklore collections of Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884) are emblematic of the later stage of national romanticism, while the work of Johan Ludvig Runeberg, particularly his play Kung Fjalar (1844; tr. King Fjalar, 1904), is a classic example of the movement's antiquarian side.
   The greatest and most enduring significance of national romanticism in Scandinavia, however, is found in its attitude toward the oral literature of the people, as their ballads, folk tales, and legends were collected and analyzed, after which they began to influence the work of educated writers. In Denmark, for example, the stories of Steen Steensen Blicher show influence from folk literature in terms of both their subject matter and the language in which they are presented. In Norway, the self-taught linguist Ivar Aasen single-handedly created a separate written form of Norwegian called Landsmaal (country language), based on the dialects spoken in western Norway, as an alternative to the Danish-influenced language that was standard at the time.

Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Literature and Theater. . 2006.

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