Familien på Gilje (The Family at Gilje)

Photo: Dag A. Ivarsøy


Imagine a red-painted farmhouse, situated in the mountains in Valdres in central southern Norway.

It's the 1840s, and the Jæger family lives here.

The father, captain Peter Jæger, and the mother Gitte, who is called Ma, have four children - Inger-Johanna, Thinka, Thea and Jørgen.

This is where Jonas Lie’s book - "Familien på Gilje" (The Family at Gilje) - was set.

The farm is called Gilje, and is quite far away from other people and buildings.

On the rare occasions they have visitors, the children get excited by such a treat. 

We follow the family and the children through the different seasons and over several years, from a carefree childhood on the road to adulthood.

The Jæger family are an official family, with relatively high status in the local community. But, they still struggle to make ends meet. Ma tries her best to keep up the façade.

It becomes very important to secure the children's future, and Captain Jæger's big project is to get his daughters married.

Captain Jæger and Ma are very different. The father is domineering, temperamental and says what he means, straight, with no frills.

Ma has a more rigid appearance - she is introverted and doesn’t speak out loud about her concerns. At the same time however, she often has a worried expression on her face. She is the family's security and organizer, with the real responsibility in the home.

She is a woman of her time, and we hear her say...

Actor - “Ma”:
"It is only the very, very smallest number of us women who are able to do what they would like to."

She begs her daughter Thinka to accept the marriage to the elderly widower her father has designated, even though she knows how unhappy it will make her. She only wants to do the best for her child in a society where women have few opportunities and rights...

Actor - “Ma”:
"God knows child, that if I saw any other way out, I would show it to you, even if I should have to hold my fingers in the fire in order to do it."

Thinka is quiet and yielding to her parents. She adapts and gives up the one she loves in favour of an older widower. She becomes the one who maintains the traditional, and is faithful to the will of the parents and the conventions of society. Afterall, a civil servant's daughter should not marry below her position.

Jørgen, who is struggling with his schoolwork, chooses a different path than what is expected of him. Instead of following in his father's footsteps and choosing a civil service career, he travels to America where he does well as a craftsman.

Thea, the youngest of the siblings, remains unmarried and works in her sister Thinka's house.

Inger-Johanna is a strong-willed and courageous woman who stands up for her opinions. She is described as "a wild mountain rose" and represents a person who has the strength to choose her own life path.

She defies her parents, society's norms, and gossip. She breaks off her engagement to the man she does not love, remains unmarried and dedicates her life as a teacher to the children in the village. She is the "rebel" who succeeds.

Inger-Johanne represents independence, courage and change, and the opportunity to choose the life you want to live.

And in her own words, we can hear her say... "…no one shall trample on me!"