Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, The Beginning

A brief potted early biography of Asbjørnsen:

Peter Christen Asbjørnsen was born on the 15th January 1812 just two years before Norway became politically independent from Denmark. The timing of his birthday and his later interest in the folklore would help shape his impact on the development of the Norwegian language and national identity. He was born in Oslo, which was then known as Christiania. He was the son of a glass cutter, or in some translations a lens cutter. It is well documented that he was not an interested, lazy or perhaps a poor student in his youth. This is, of course, a similar tale to that of Darwin who also appeared to shun schooling and university. Due to this inattentiveness or perhaps for other reasons he was sent to tutor in “well-to-do homes” (Popp, 1977 : 15) in the country side outside of Oslo during the years 1833-1837. It was also during this time that he met Jørgen Moe (1813-1882), who he would publish with and enjoy a seemingly life-long friendship. It was during this time that he began to collect folktales from rural people. One can presume it was also when he begun his interest in natural history.

I will keep my future summarisations of this kind of biographical information brief. Over the following weeks I will be posting my very amateur translations of “La Vie et Les Oeuvres de Peter Christen Asbjørnsen” by Alfred Lars in French published in 1873 to cover the basic facts of his life. I have found little reference to this biography being published in French or why it was published in French of all European languages. The copy that I am translating from sent by Asbjørnsen himself to the Natural History Museum in Dublin, Ireland. It is signed and dated on the inside cover, 12-12-78. This was sent in advance of this museum buying his collection of marine animals from regions near Oslo in 1879. The reasons why he sold his collection to a still relatively young museum in Ireland is the question I hope to answer through research over the coming months (but most likely years).

I will endeavor to include a transcription of the French text also, so that any mistakes (that will no doubt be glaring) can be amended.

Popp, Daniel, 1977, Asbjørnsen’s Linguistic Reform I. Orthography, Oslo : Universitetsforlaget

Lars, Alfred, 1873, La Vie et Les Oeuvres de Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, Christiania : C.C. Werner & Co.