Just minutes from our door here in Grünerløkka is Peer Gynt Park. The park consists of a number of statues and was created in honour of Henrik Ibsen as a monument to his play “Peer Gynt”. Most of the statues were created through an international competition and they were created from artists in Norway, Italy, USA, Russia, Germany, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Ireland.
The park has most of the statues, but others are also spread around to areas within a couple of streets surrounding the park.
We took pictures of all the statues and I’ll provide the information about them here in the order they are numbered on the map at the park.
Peer Gynt man of the world.
“Behind the fairy-tale façade Peer Gynt is a play that examines what it means to be human. Peer has been given many good qualities – a vivid imagination and a sensitive nature. He also has a huge appetite for life, and over the years he becomes a rich, fast-living man of the world.
But at the same time he misuses his imagination, runs away from any responsibility for other pesple and daydreams himself out of all his obligations. Towards the end of the play he gradually realises that being enough unto himself alone like this has a price – the obliteration of his personality.”
The wild buck ride.
”Nothing has been heard of Peer for a long time, and no one knows where he has been. Old Mother Aase has long since lost patience with her work-shy son, but on his return he tells her a fantastic hunting tale, in which he plays the heroic lead. Peer had jumped up onto the back of a reindeer buck to stab it to death, but was pinned fast by the buck’s antlers. With the hunter still astride, the animal plunged over the edge of the Gendineggen Mountain (also called Besseggen), plummeting at breakneck speed towards the Giendin mountain lake far below. The story is so excruciatingly exciting that Mother Aase forgets all her objections – until she wakes up and remembers that Peer’s story is nothing more than a familiar folktale.”
The devil in the nut
The information about this sculpture was missing. What I can tell you is that the story is of Peer tricking the devil and trapping him in a nutshell. He then goes to a blacksmith to ask him to crack it open. The walls and ceiling of the smithy explode and the devil escapes.
“Act One: Peer’s meeting with Solvejg resembles the relationship between Askeladden, the scapegrace hero of Norwegian folklore, and the princess. When Peer is tricked into getting drunk and Solvejg turns her back on him, he takes his revenge by kidnapping the bride, Ingrid, and carrying her off into the mountains. This kind of bridal kidnapping is a familiar device in several folk tales. As a result of his actions, Peer is deemed an outlaw.”
Peer and the three girls.
“Peer the adventurer has kidnapped the bride, Ingrid, from her wedding at Hagstad, but at the start of Act Il he has tired of her and sent her away again. He remains, nevertheless, a prey to his appetites. When, shortly afterwards, he meets three lusty dairymaids who say they have three trolls for lovers, Peer is not to be outdone. He claims he can outcompete Trond from Valffellet, Baard and Kaare, and brags:”I am a three-headed troll, and a three-girl boy!” Peer the sexual athlete is certain he is man enough to satisfy all three of them.”
Trolls with Pig Heads = The Other Creatures in the Hall of the Dove-King
“Peer has great gifts and a creative imagination. Yet, at the same time, he is attracted by primitive sensuality and eroticism. When he disappears from the human world and is spirited away to the hall of the Dove-King, this journey illustrates this allowing himself to be swept away by his urges. In the mountain he meets trolls with the heads of pigs an extended image of animal sensuality. Peer mishandles his imagination and so is in danger of foundering as a person and becoming an animal himself”
Peers battle with the Boyg
“Out in a deep, dark forest Peer battles with a slimy and nebulous creature without shape or form, which calls itself the Bog, and which repeats over and over again that it is “myself” and tells Peer to “go round bout”. Defeating the Bog seems impossible. But just as Peer sinks down and is about to give up the fight, he is saved by bell-ringing and hymn-singing, Solveig is close at hand. But was it Peer himself who defeated the inner voice which makes him avoid all of life’s difficult choices?”
Solvejg at the newly built hut
“Act Three: Solvejg has left her family to live with Peer, and sees the hut in the forest that Peer has built because he has been outlawed after kidnapping the bride away from her wedding. Then Peer is accosted by an old woman (The green clad woman) and her ugly child, who reveal themselves to be the troll princess he had previously deserted and his own son. The old woman says she will never cease to persecute Peer and Solvejg. Peer’s devotion to Solvejg evaporates in a second and he abandons her. Solveig is left alone, and she is destined to spend the rest of her life waiting for Peer to return.”
Peer by Aases deathbed
“Peer was rescued from the King of Dove and the Bog with Solvejg’s help, but he abandons her immediately his devotion is put to the test. As he flees he visits his mother’s farm, where he finds her dying. Peer sits at her bedside and tells her a beautiful story about the journey to paradise. But the story is perhaps as much meant to comfort Peer himself, to provide an escape from the reality of a situation he is unable to fully comprehend.”
Peer and the Monkeys
“In Act 2 of the play Peer is taken into the mountain and tormented by a group of troll children. In Act 4 he finds himself in the Sahara desert, where there are also creatures that act like trolls. The similarities between the scenes in Dove and the Sahara are a striking feature of the play. Both troll chidren and animals (in this instance monkeys) may represent certain aspects of or potential in Peer’s own personality.”
Peer on the Emperor’s horse, wearing the Emperor’s clothes
“After the wedding at Hagstad, Peer has withdrawn from all those who plague him and look down on him. Now he is lying dreaming, with his face cured to the sky. In some strange cloud formations he thinks he sees a picture of himself as an emperor. He is dressed in a silk-lined cloak, rides a gold-shod charger, and is accompanied by thousands of slaves. Peer throws money to the throng, while the crowds of people shout his praise.”
“By the time he reaches middle age, Peer Gynt has lived a life of prosperity and self-indulgence, without wanting to commit himself to anything other than whatever serves him best. Unbridled eroticism and material wealth have been his main interests. In Act 4 of the play he is left more or less destitute both financially and as a person. But when he meet the Bedouin woman Anitra, she dances in such a way that Peer’s erotic desires once again make him forget everything else.”
Peer and Anitra in the Desert
“Act Four: On his way across the Sahara Desert, Peer faces many tests and fails each time. He is easily seduced by the sensuous Arabian princess Anitra, who tricks him out of the last of his wealth (his horse and jewellery). Peer is left with nothing. But he soon puts the blame on Anitra, saying: ..women, ah, they are a worthless crew!”
Forward or back, and it’s just as far; – out or in, and it’s just as straight.
“The slogan is typical of the irresponsible Peer. It is first uttered during a battle with the slick and impossible Boygen. Peer is not saved by his own efforts in this battle, but by the rolling of church bells in the background. After the Bedouin Princess Anitra has robbed Peer of all his possessions, he repeats the some words and disclaims any responsibility for what has happened to him. In the last scene of the play when the button-moulder demands that Peer should set his house in order, that is, is prepare himself to die, Peer is again tempted to evade the challenge. He recites the same words – “forward and back …”. But suddenly it is as if he is transforming. At last, he is faced with a final choice, and he exclaims: “No!” -Like a wild, an unending lament, this the thought to come back, to go in, to go home”. At the same moment, he sees Solveig standing in the cabin door, ready to receive him.”
Where the starting point is crazy minimal, the outcome is often highly original
“In Act Four Peer finds himself in a serious predicament, all alone in the desert, wandering from the coast of Morocco to Cairo. He has just been acting the role of prophet to the Bedouin woman Anitra, who repays him by stealing all his belongings. But Peer is not at a loss for long, and soon finds a new role to play. He will be an archaeologist and ancient historian, in order to study man’s thousands of years of history. He has no prior knowledge of the fieid, it is true, but..”
Peer meets Begriffenfeldt at the Mental Asylum
“The meeting with Begriffenfeldt shows that Peer, egoist and sybarite that he is, is fast losing his humanity. Towards the end of Act IV his journey has taken him to the Giza plateau, outside Cairo, where he finds himself suddenly face to face with the Sphinx. He thinks the fabled creature seems familiar, and asks the same question he had posed to his dangerous opponent in Act Ill: “Hey, Boys, who are you?”. A strange, German-speaking professor suddenly appears from behind the Sphinx and repeats Peer’s question. When Peer replies that the Sphinx, just like the Boyg, is “himself”, Begriffenfeldt is delighted beyond measure, and takes Peer to the mental asylum of which he himself is the director. Because Peer has always operated on the basis of “be thyself enough” and has shut himself up in “self’s cask”, he is there crowned the lunatics’ emperor.”
Peer and the strange Passenger
“The aging Peer Gyntis on his way home to Norway when the ship in which he is sailing sinks. He just manages to save himself by climbing onto the upturned keel of a rowing boat along with a strange, but unnamed passenger, who has previously shown himself on board in the form of a black dog. When Peer realises that this passenger is after his soul he is seized by a terrible fear. The scene with the passenger is the most mysterious of the entire play. Many people have tried to guess what kind of creature this might be – though none of the proposed answers has gained general acceptance.”
The Onion – layer by layer
“All his life, Peer has avoided every challenge by following the Bog’s motto “Go around”. As a result, he never takes any responsibility and his personality slowly goes to ruin. Towards the end of the play he finds a wild onion. He interprets each layer of the onion as a layer of his past Peer reviews his life in reverse and realizes that he has no core, just like the onion he is peeling. He finally understands that by always choosing to “go around” he has made “nothing” of himself.”
The Button Moulder
“In Act V of the play. Peer meets a mysterious figure who goes under the name of the Button Moulder. Because Peer has eradicated himself as a person, the Button Moulder wants to melt him down in a large ladle. In this way, the dross (Peer’s personality) can re-emerge in a new form and perhaps become useful. Peer says that he would willingly give up being himself – but he does not want to be melted down. He is filled with a nameless anxiety and tries to avoid the ladle by claiming to have been a great sinner. For is that not also a form of existence?”
The thin Priest with a fowling net
“The thin man is a fairy-tale character, but not one taken from traditional Norwegian folk tales. Ibsen has invented him himself. He is, ironically dressed as a priest, but shares traits with the devil of folk tradition. The thin Priest’s strange net is also an Ibsen invention. Now he is hunting for Peer’s personality, which the thin man claims belongs so him since Peer has never fulfilled the most fundamental of human obligations: to be himself.”
The photograph metaphor
“Towards the end of his life Peer is called to account for all his betrayals and deceit. The Button Moulder threatens to melt him down, and he becomes terrified of being wiped from the face of the earth. Then he meets a thin, demonic figure, with whom he hopes to find temporary shelter so that his personality can be saved. But in a metaphor about photography the thin man says that Peer has always equivocated. The picture is neither positive nor negative. Peer has been neither wholly bad nor wholly good. Instead, he has been ‘nothing. It does not matter how much he protests, not even the Devil will have him! The complete erasure of his personality seems to be the inevitable conclusion to Peer’s story.”
The meeting between Solvejg, Peer and the Button Moulder
“Act Five: The Button Moulder is a fantasy figure, invented by Ibsen himself. The Button Moulder says that since Peer has never developed his own personality, he must be melted down like any other dross – unless he can prove that he has done something of note, whether it be good or evil. Peer searches for witnesses who can testify on his behalf. He thinks that Solvejg will condemn his abandonment of her. Instead, she forgives him everything and blesses his return.”
“It is, most likely that Ibsen made a conscious choice about the background and formulation of the dramatic poem about Peer Gynt. The poet had just finished a play about the adamant idealist Brand, and according to Ibsen, the irresponsible dreamer and hedonist Peer came about naturally in 1867. Peer is the complete opposite of Brand. He is indecisive, weak-willed and faulty, but still a gifted human being with a fertile imagination and a great capacity to love; as long as he is not exploited. Peer and the tale of his life is not only a portrayal of what is distinctively Norwegian. Peer has fascinated an entire world and has been interpreted in a number of different ways by artists, people working in theatre and critics. Here at Loren we see a representative selection of how artists from several countries have understood the complex character. And what is then more natural than that Ibsen himself is placed amongst the sculptures? Perhaps these interpretations surprise him – or does he rather nod in recognition of what there is to see?”
Paul especially liked how the sculptures were all part of a park where families played.