The year was 1815 and Napoleon Bonaparte was safely, if not happily, ensconced on a scrap of an island in the South Atlantic. In Europe everybody who was anybody, everybody who had any claim to power, flocked to the Congress of Vienna to dance, flirt, and scheme. Those who had real power were busy carving Europe into bits and pieces for redistribution after the fall of the French Empire.
Norway was one of those bits and pieces. The country had been part of Denmark for more than 400 years but the Danes had managed to end up on the wrong side of the recent conflict.
This was not entirely by choice. Denmark had attempted neutrality, but the British, worried that Napoleon would conquer the country and take the navy, bombarded Copenhagen and confiscated every Danish ship they could find. After that, the Danes fought the British, at least until the money ran out. After the war, Denmark became Swedish territory since the Swedes had been part of the victorious alliance.
Not a few Norwegians objected to this turn of events. They revolted, elected a new King – the Crown Prince of Denmark – and wrote themselves a constitution of their own.
Sweden upheld its claim to Norway by invading. After a certain amount of fighting and much negotiation, the Norwegians ended up with the right to control their own internal affairs, though they were ruled by the King of Sweden.
And what does all this have to do with storytelling? Two baby boys were born during this exciting era of Norwegian History. Peter Christen Asbjørnsen entered the world in 1812. He was born in Christiana (the capitol of Norway, now known as Oslo). Jørgen Moe was born in the town of Ringerike, in eastern Norway) a year later. They met as teenagers, became friends and embarked on a project that became one of the foundations of modern folklore, folktale study and storytelling.