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Peter Christen Asbjørnsen
Peter Christen Asbjørnsen

Peter Christen Asbjørnsen (1812-1885) was a Norwegian writer and scholar. Peter C. Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Engebretsen Moe (1813-1882) were collectors of Norwegian folklore. They were so closely united in their lifes´ work that their folk tale collections are commonly mentioned only as "Asbjørnsen and Moe".


Asbjørnsen was born in Christiania on the 15 January 1812 descending from a family from Otta in Gudbrandsdalen, which is believed to have become extinct with his death. He became a student at the university in 1833, but as early as 1832, in his twentieth year, he had begun to collect and write down fairy tales and legends. He later walked on foot the length and breadth of Norway, adding to his stories.


Moe, who was born in Hole on the 22 April 1813, met Asbjørnsen first when he was fourteen years old, while they were both attending high school at Norderhov rectory. The building is today the site of the local museum for the Ringerike region, and contains memorabilia from both Asbjørnsen and Moe.
  They developed a life-long friendship. In 1834 Asbjørnsen discovered that Moe had started independently on a search for the relics of national folklore; the friends eagerly compared their results, and determined for the future to work in concert.

By this time, Asbjørnsen had become by profession a zoologist, and with the aid of the university in Oslo made a series of investigative voyages along the coasts of Norway, particularly in Hardangerfjorden. Moe, meanwhile, having left Christiania University in 1839, had devoted himself to the study of theology, and was making a living as a tutor in Christiania. In his holidays he wandered through the mountains, in the most remote districts, collecting stories.

Norwegian Folk Tales, Norske Folkeeventyr, asbjørnsen and moe

In 1842-1843 the first installment of their work appeared, under the title of Norwegian Folk Tales (Norske Folkeeventyr), which was received at once all over Europe as a most valuable contribution to comparative mythology as well as literature. A second volume was published in 1844, and a new collection in 1871. Many of the Folkeeventyr were translated into English by Sir George Dasent in 1859.

In 1845 Asbjørnsen also published, without help from Moe, a collection of Norwegian fairy tales (huldreeventyr og folkesagn). In 1856 Asbjørnsen called attention to the deforestation of Norway, and he induced the government to act on this issue. He was appointed forest-master, and was sent through Norway to examine in various countries of the north of Europe the methods observed for the preservation of timber. From these duties, in 1876, he retired with a pension; he died in Christiania on the 6 January 1885.