Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Cormorant from Andevær

Jonas Lie (1833-1908) wrote literary tales all his writing career. These were collected in three volumes: Trold I & II (1891/ 2), and the posthumously published Eventyr (1909). He was in his element, writing his tales; as an analyst states, Lie was “fully aware that he was the sovereign master in Norwegian literature.”1

Developed from folklore he grew up hearing and retelling, and skilfully reworked by the master, the tales are quite dark: the human characters are driven by hidden urges that play into the hands of malevolent preternatural forces; and so, while there might be happiness, there is rarely a happy ending. In the case of “The Cormorant from Andevær,” the men who fall for the girl end unhappily; even the happiness of the boy who wins her ultimately turns to mourning.

Lie’s intentionally impressionistic style, where he leaves gaps in the descriptions and explanations as occasions for readers to exercise their imaginations, contributes to the darkness of the atmosphere. Again, in the present tale, the description of Andevær is sufficient to place it in North-Norwegian reality, but not enough to relieve it of its dream-like mystery.2

The relationship of the girl to the cormorants is also hinted at, but never expounded upon. In fact, Lie excised whole paragraphs of exposition on this topic from his manuscript, to preserve the impressionistic quality of his narrative. And yet, we understand the relationship between the birds and the girl; and we understand what ultimately happens, when the twelve cormorants have flown.

Here, then is a tale by a master of the genre: “A shipwrecked pirate ship, unhappy souls in the form of cormorants, and deliverance for a woman by means of a love that defies death.”1


  1. Hauge, Ingard. Jonas Lies diktning: Tematikk og fortellekunst. Oslo: Gyldendal, 1970. 

  2. Although Andevær is quite realistic for this part of the world, I have not been able to locate a place of that name.  

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