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ASBJÖRNSEN, PETER CHRISTEN (1812-1885), and MOE,
JÖRGEN ENGEBRETSEN (1813-1882), collectors of Norwegian
folklore, so closely united in their life’s work that it is unusual
to name them apart. Asbjörnsen was born in Christiania on
the 15th of January 1812; he belonged to an ancient family of
the Gudbrandsdal, which is believed to have died with him.
He became a student at the university in 1833, but as early as
1832, in his twentieth year, he had begun to collect and write
down all the fairy stories and legends which he could meet with.
Later he began to wander on foot through the length and breadth
of Norway, adding to his stores. Moe, who was born at Mo i
Hole parsonage, in Sigdal Ringerike, on the 22nd of April 1813,
met Asbjörnsen first when he was fourteen years of age. A close
friendship began between them, and lasted to the end of their
lives. In 1834 Asbjörnsen discovered that Moe had started
independently on a search for the relics of national folklore; the
friends eagerly compared results, and determined for the future to
work in concert. By this time, Asbjörnsen had become by profession
a zoologist, and with the aid of the university made a
series of investigating voyages along the coasts of Norway,
particularly in the Hardanger fjord. Moe, meanwhile, having
left Christiania University in 1839, had devoted himself to the
study of theology, and was making a living as a tutor in
Christiania. In his holidays he wandered through the mountains, in
the most remote districts, collecting stories. In 1842-1843
appeared the first instalment of the great work of the two friends,
under the title of Norwegian Popular Stories (Norske Folkeeventyr),
which was received at once all over Europe as a most valuable
contribution to comparative mythology as well as literature.
A second volume was published in 1844, and a new collection in
1871. Many of the Folkeeventyr were translated into English
by Sir George Dasent in 1859. In 1845 Asbjörnsen published,
without help from Moe, a collection of Norwegian
fairy tales (huldreeventyr og folkesagn). In 1856 the attention
of Asbjörnsen was called to the deforestation of Norway,
and he induced the government to take up this important
question. He was appointed forest-master, and was sent
by Norway to examine in various countries of the north of
Europe the methods observed for the preservation of timber.
From these duties, in 1876, he withdrew with a pension; he
died in Christiania on the 6th of January 1885. From 1841 to
1852 Moe travelled almost every summer through the southern
parts of Norway, collecting traditions in the mountains. In
1845 he was appointed professor of theology in the Military
School of Norway. He had, however, long intended to take holy
orders, and in 1853 he did so, becoming for ten years a resident
chaplain in Sigdal, and then (1863) parish priest of Bragernes.
He was moved in 1870 to the parish of Vestre Aker, near Christiania,
and in 1875 he was appointed bishop of Christiansand.
In January 1882 he resigned his diocese on account of failing
health, and died on the following 27th of March. Moe has a special
claim on critical attention in regard to his lyrical poems, of which
a small collection appeared in 1850. He wrote little original
verse, but in his slender volume are to be found many pieces of
exquisite delicacy and freshness. Moe also published a delightful
collection of prose stories for children, In the Well and the Churn
(I Bronde og i Kjærnet), 1851; and A Little Christmas Present
(En liden Juleegave), 1860. Asbjörnsen and Moe had the advantage
of an admirable style in narrative prose. It was usually
said that the vigour came from Asbjörnsen and the charm from
Moe, but the fact seems to be that from the long habit of writing
in unison they had come to adopt almost precisely identical modes
of literary expression.
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