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Jørgen Engebretsen Moe, Joergen Engebretsen Moe
Jørgen Engebretsen Moe, Joergen Engebretsen Moe

Painting by Christian Skredsvig


Jørgen Engebretsen Moe (1813-1882) was a Norwegian bishop and author. He is best known for the Norske Folkeeventyr, a collection of Norwegian folk tales which he edited in collaboration with Peter Christen Asbjørnsen. To Norwegians, the names Asbjørnsen and Moe have become synonymous with traditional folk tales, the way the name "Brothers Grimm" is associated with German tales.

BIOGRAPHY

Born at the farm of Mo, at Hole, he met Asbjørnsen while the two were preparing for exams and soon found they had a shared interest in folklore. The rectory where they met is now the local museum for the Ringerike region and contains a collection of Asbjørnsen and Moe memorabilia.

From 1841 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 Norwegian Military Academy.

Moe had, however, long intended to take holy orders, and in 1853 he did so, becoming for ten years a resident chaplain in Krødsherad, northwest of Christiania (present day Oslo). At his first parish he found inspiration for many of his most famous poems, like "The Old Master" (den gamle Mester) and "A Sunday at the Mountain Pastures" (Sæterjentens Søndag). In 1863 he moved to Drammen and became parish priest of Bragernes, then in 1870 he moved again to Vestre Aker, close to Christiania. In 1875 he became bishop in the diocese of Agder, based in Kristiansand. He was a much beloved bishop, and his teaching had a great impact on his contemporaries.

In January 1882 he resigned his diocese on account of failing health, and he 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. Moe felt strongly that writing should be "objective," in the sense that it removed the ego from the narrative. Still, he strove to build and maintain a literary aesthetic in his work. 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 in the Tarn (I Brønden og i Tjernet), 1851; and A Little Christmas Present (En liden Julegave), 1860.

Asbjornsen and Moe had the advantage of an admirable style of narrative prose. It was usual that the vigour came from Asbjørnsen and the charm from Moe, but it seems that from the long habit of writing in unison they had come to adopt almost precisely identical modes of literary expression. His son, Moltke, continued his father´s work in folklore and fairy tales and became the first professor in the subject at Christiania University.

huldreeventyr asbjørnsen and moe

IMPACT ON NORWEGIAN CULTURE

Moe´s impact on Norwegian culture was, together with Asbjørnsen´s, enormous. Not only did they collect and secure parts of the wealth of Norwegian fairy tales and edit them for common readers, but in doing this, they also contributed to the development of the Norwegian language. Even if other countries have a rich folk literature, Norwegians will normally claim that theirs, through the work of Asbjørnsen and Moe, is one of the most original and rich.

Their work constitutes a very important part of Norwegian identity, and the Askeladden character (the Ash boy), whose creativity and innovativeness always wins him the Princess and half the Kingdom, is seen as something typically Norwegian. Some of his works of poetry are still cherished, not least because of the tunes set to them. His achievements in the Church are now mostly forgotten, except locally.



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