Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen (1828 - 1906)

Peer Gynt
by Henrik Ibsen (1828
- 1906)

Type of Work:

Poetic drama

Setting

Norway, Morocco and Egypt; nineteenth
century

Principal Characters

Peer Gynt, a non-heroic Norwegian farm
boy

Aase, his mother

Solveighis faithful love

The Troll King

The Button Molder, a "judge" of humanity

Story Overveiw

"Peer, you're lying!" cried Aase to her
son - and he was lying. He had been weaving a fantastic tale of a ride
he'd taken on a runaway reindeer when Aase realized that the story was
one she had beard as a young woman. She berated Peer and wept. Aase had
hoped that her son would win the heart of pretty Ingrid Hegstad, a local
farm girt. However, Peer hadn't shown much interest in Ingrid - until he
discovered that her wedding was to take place that very evening; it was
only then that he resolved to attend the marriage and talk the girl's father
into letting him take the place of the intended bridegroom. When his mother
protested, he seized her, placed her on the millhouse roof, and went merrily
off, leaving her screaming. Rescued by neighbors, Aase, fearing trouble,
followed after him.

At the wedding, Peer was shunned by all
except a young girt named Solveig, with whom he danced during the festivities.

Her innocence attracted him. But sadly, as the celebration wore on, Peer,
now quite drunk, kidnapped the bride, shamed her ' and then abandoned her.

This brought down thewrath of the entire community on his head, but in
characteristic fashion, Peer simply ran away into the forest.

Meanwhile, Aase managed to convince Solveig
and her family that her son was in grave danger, and Christian duty dictated
that they look for him. During the search, Aase spoke about her son:

The lout! Why the devil has to tease him
?/ ... Oh, we've had to sick close in misery!/ Because, you know, my man
- he drank! ... And we -well, we took fairy tales/ Of princes and trolls
and strange animals/ Stolen brides too. But who'd have thought/ Those internal
stories would be in him yet?

Hearing Aase's longings for Peer, Solveig
began to both pity and love the scamp.

Peer continued to blunder and bluster about,
spending one riotous night with three farm girls, and the next with the

Troll King's daughter. While visiting there, Peer was delighted to find
that if he married the troll-girl he could obtain quite a dowry. But his
prospective father-in-law warned that there was quite a difference between
a troll and a man:

Among men under the shinning sky/ They
say.. "Man to yourself be true!" while here, under our mountain roof/ We
say: "Troll, to yourself be - enough!"

Only when Peer found that if he stayed
with the trolls he could "never die decently as a human" nor "go home the
way the book says," did he give up the idea of becoming one of them. Indignantly,
the King then turned the troll-children on him, and they would have killed
him except, as he pleaded, "Help, Mother, I'll die!" immediately church
bells rang, the children fled shrieking, and the troll hall collapsed and
vanished.

After a frustrating encounter with The

Great Boyg, an enigmatic troll monster, Peer fled into the high mountains
and built a hut. It was winter when Solveig appeared, she having left her
family to be with him. Peer was overjoyed. It seemed that now, with a princess
at his side, his adventures might end as a genuine fairy tale. But after
he hoisted his ax and started off to chop roots for a fire, Peer was accosted
by an old woman and her "ugly brat" of a child. He soon discovered the
woman to be the troll princess he had previously deserted - and the child
was his own sonl At last Peer's conscience roused itself enough to realize
that his many sins were what stood between him and his love of faithful

Solveig. "Be patient, my sweet . . . you must wait," Peer said to her as
he entered the forest. "Yes, I'll wait!" Solveig called back to him.

Peer felt compelled to leave the country
in order to avoid being punished for his crimes. Before departing, however,
he stopped to say good-bye to his mother. He found that the troubles he
had caused his mother had broken the poor woman she was dying. The son
tenderly tucked Aase into her bed, just as she had always done to him.

After journeying far from home, Peer made
his fortune in the American slave-trade and by selling idols in China.

In Morocco, now middle-aged, he lost most of his money to other unscrupulous
businessmen, and