Peter Christen Asbjørnsen (1812-1885) and Jørgen Engebretsen Moe (1813-1882) were collectors of Norwegian folklore who published Norske folke-eventyr (1841-44; ‘Norwegian Folktales’), a landmark in Norwegian literature that influenced the Norwegian language.


Asbjørnsen, the son of a glazier, and Moe, the son of a rich and highly educated farmer, met as teenagers in 1826, while they were both attending school in the former parish of Norderhov in southern Norway, and became lifelong friends. Independently, both men began collecting folklore and folktales that had survived and developed from Old Norse pagan mythology in the mountain and fjord dialects of Norway, which they decided to pool together and publish jointly.


At the time, the Norwegian literary was influenced heavily by Danish norms, which was unsuitable for national folklore, while the various dialects used by Norway’s oral storytellers were too local. They solved the problem by applying the principles espoused by the Brothers Grimm of using a simple linguistic style in place of dialects, while maintaining the national uniqueness of the folktales.


Some of the tales appeared as early as 1837 and others were published as Norske folke-eventyr. Asbjørnsen’s vivid prose and Moe’s poems recaptured the folk heritage of Norway for the modern age, and by gathering the tales of ghosts and fairies, gods and mountain trolls, they stimulated a revival of interest in Norway’s past and further research into folktales and ballads, as well as reawakening a sense of national identity.


Separately, Asbjørnsen published his collection of fairytales entitled Norske huldreeventyr og folkesagn (1845-48; ‘Norwegian Fairy Tales and Folk Legends’), and Moe published his collection of children’s stories, I brønden og i tjærnet (1851; ‘In the Well and the Pond’).


Asbjørnsen became a zoologist by profession, and in 1856 he studied methods of timber preservation, and later translated Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species (1860). Moe graduated with a degree in theology, and though his Digte (1850; ‘Poems’) placed him among the Norwegian Romantic poets, he was ordained in 1853 after experiencing a religious crisis, and became Bishop of the Diocese of Kristiansand in 1874.

Available Titles by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Engebretsen Moe: