“His journey led him through forests and valleys, across hills and many distant mountains. Far, far away something shone like a little star. Finally he came nearer and nearer, but then, even further away, east of the sun and west of the moon, Soria Moria Palace shimmered like gold.”
Theodor Kittelsen was just eleven years old when his father died, leaving his family to a life of poverty in the small coastal town Kragerø. Kittelsen suffered from money problems for almost all of his life. This was one reason why he moved so many times during his life. One of the homes that would come to be of crucial importance to this highly versatile artist was Lauvlia, the house he had built in Sigdal in Buskerud, to the west of Oslo. It was here, with views of the mountains, and with the forest right on his doorstep, that he perhaps saw something glittering in the distance, or maybe even heard a sound like a heavy footstep.
His daughter Ingrid said that her father had little respect for anyone, other than Erik Werenskiold, when it came to drawing trolls. And once recalled her father’s comment on his fellow artist Andreas Bloch:
“That Papa had seen trolls, water sprites and wood nymphs was something we were all pretty sure about, and we didn’t think it at all strange that Papa said about Bloch: “He’s drawing trolls? Him? He’s never seen a troll in his life!”
So who better than Kittelsen to retell the folktales that Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe had collected some decades before. He created his own version of the story about the fairytale palace of Soria Moria and made a series of twelve paintings in 1900, the year after he moved into Lauvlia with his wife Inga and their flock of children. Just ten years later, lack of money once again forced them to find a new home. Although Kittelsen received an artist’s stipend from the Norwegian state for the last three years before his death, he was bitter about the struggles he had experienced throughout his life. His final home was on the island of Jeløya, south of Oslo, where he died in 1914.
“Then finally, between drifting clouds, he saw Soria Moria Palace lying before him, as big as a mountain of glittering gold. It was so very, very quiet. And the Ash Lad simply stood there in a state of wonder.”
If you would like to see the classic original drawings for these folktales, they are on display in the exhibition “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”.