Bendik and Aarolilja

Bendik Riis
409
2 min
Year: 1955

Transcription

Narrator:  

Can you see the picture of the two people who are about to get married? 

Voice: 

The one with the bearded man who’s wearing bright blue breeches?  

Narrator:  

Yes, that’s the one. 

Voice: 

They look happy. 

Narrator:  

Yes, they do. But can I tell you a sad story? 

Voice: 

Hmm, I dunno. Not sure I want to hear it.

Does it have a happy ending? 

Narrator:  

Um. That’s something I can’t tell you, when I haven’t even started. But can I tell you the story anyway? 

Voice:

I suppose so.  

Narrator:  

There’s an old fairytale about a young man called Bendik and a young woman that he’s in love with, Princess Årolilja. The king forbids the young couple from being together, and he condemns Bendik to death and has his head cut off. Årolilja dies of a broken heart. But the flowers on their graves wind themselves around each other, so perhaps we can say that Bendik and Årolilja find each other in the end, in death.  

Voice: 

That’s an incredibly sad story! Why did you want me to hear it? 

Narrator:  

Well, because the Norwegian painter Bendik Riis kind of identified with this fairytale. He had a difficult life. He was poor and lonely and a lot of people thought he was mad. And then he got sent to live in a hospital. He was locked inside, almost like being in prison.  

Voice: 

That doesn’t sound good.  

Narrator:  

No. There’s no doubt he felt like an outsider in many ways, and he didn’t really have control over his own life. For example, he never had a girlfriend. But Bendik Ris was certainly good at painting his thoughts and emotions. In this picture, which is called “Bendik and Årolilja”, he puts himself in the painting as the bridegroom about to marry the woman he loves. He is putting his own twist on the old legend, so that it has a happy ending.  

Voice: 

But how did things turn out for Bendik Riis in real life? Did he ever get to be happy? 

Narrator:  

We’ll never know the answer for certain, but probably not. In real life, it was never much fun to be Bendik Riis.   

Voice: 

But now there are pictures by him hanging in the National Museum, so at least he must have become famous? 

Narrator:  

Yes and no. His paintings did become popular in the last years of his life, but it was really only after he died that his work was really appreciated properly. And today he is seen as an important Norwegian artist. It’s good that we still have his paintings to enjoy. They live their own lives, like flowers intertwining in a churchyard.