The Shepherd’s Horn and Norwegian Romantic Nationalism
The concept of romantic nationalism is defined as a “form of nationalism in which the state derives its political legitimacy as an organic consequence of the unity of those it governs.” In the context of Maurits Hansen’s short story “The Shepherd’s Horn”, romantic nationalism was a movement in Norway between 1840 and 1867 in art, literature, and popular culture that “emphasized the aesthetics of Norwegian nature and the uniqueness of the Norwegian national identity.” Throughout this text, representations of both the concerns and the ideals of Norwegian Romantic Nationalism make themselves known through descriptions of the Norwegian scenery and the country’s loyal inhabitants. The overarching purpose of this analysis is to point these concerns and ideals and reveal why these might have been in place at this critical point in history.
From the outset of this story, the story teller, who goes by the name Carl Mohlmann, lays out an idealistic description of the Norwegian country-side that draws the reader in: I could have the desire, dear friend, to date this letter from the true Norway, for no other district has struck me as being so genuinely Scandinavian, - so proud and yet so mild. Why should we continually admire those Swiss vistas anyway? Why do we never adorn our walls with views of our fatherland? This district seems to me to be able to measure up to the most beautiful landscape. One isn’t struck by wildly roaring waterfalls – or by sheer vertical cliffs – or by dizzyingly deep abysses; - but the whole, my friend – the tone, - as you painters call it, - is so high, so indescribably lovely. Emphasis on such phrases as “the true Norway”, “the whole”, and “the tone” paint vivid pictures in the readers’ mind and provide a glimpse of the true patriotism that is running through the blood of its citizens. The excerpt points out how they should no longer admire the mountains of their Swiss neighbors or the landscape of their German friends due to the fact that Norway has all of the same offerings and more. The sense of beauty in the region is accentuated when a stream, a bird, and a group of cows are described in greater detail than one would expect. The snippet, “The brooks’ babbling, the birds’ song, and the grazing cows’ bells all sang harmoniously in my receptive ear,” suggest togetherness and unity of all things within the country, both living and natural. Although completely separate, the brook, the bird, and the cows are brought together through some time of song that can only be found in nature. Beyond description of scenery alone, the story teller goes on to praise the quality of the region’s human inhabitants several times over. Passages such as “…while I meanwhile pause…in this charming valley amongst its gracious inhabitants…” and “I no sooner stood in the valley, before a middle-aged man from the valley in fine national costume came up to me, and extended his hand” reveal that those who occupy the land are especially pleasing and hospitable all people, even strangers and unknown travelers. The story teller is immediately accepted by what is assumed to be an unknown family, but this does not create a problem, as the following passage will reveal. “‘Welcome countryman! Please accept what I can offer you!’ he said in his direct, genuine dialect…” This greeting offered by Thord, the father of the household, immediately upon the stranger’s arrival is followed up by an act of pure generosity when the story teller is “…shown to the seat of honor…” for a time of feasting and relaxation after his arduous travels. After sitting down at his designated seat, Carl, the story teller, began to realize the how amazing a household this was in all its simplicity as “…his [Thord’s] beautiful wife put out a lovely evening meal of flour porridge, thin bread, and eggs, I got time to observe the pure simplicity and modest affluence, that came together in...
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