Dedicated to Julia and Michelle and the Macarthy family.
We present Peer Gynt in Five Parts.
Peer Gynt is a traditional Norwegian fairy tale.
The original story was about a young lad who saved three maidens from some trolls in the mountains. The great Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen expanded the story into a dramatic poem with more plot and characters. The Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg, added music. The catchy tunes have been used many times in films and advertisements.
Ibsen's version is a wonderful fairy story with deep meaning and morals. It is also dark and twisted. Our version is more family friendly - but we've tried to keep some of the flavour of Ibsen - for example the famous story of the reindeer ride which features in this episode.
We've recorded our own versions of the music. Illustration by Bertie.
The story is read by the amazing Richard Scott in the main part, as Peer Gynt.
Other parts are taken by the Storynory crew..
Bertie - Peer's Mother.
Jana - Solveig.
Amarni - Ingrid.
Amarni & Sophie - Girls at wedding.
Thank you to Julia and Michelle for supporting Storynory on Patreon. Julia has been listening to Storynory for her entire life !
Peer Gynt - Part One
The Magic Reindeer Ride.
Jana: Picture mountains covered in woods. A stream gushes through a valley. Peer Gynt, a sturdy youth of twenty, walks along the bank. He is followed by his mother, Aase, who is short and slight. She is scolding him.
Peer’s Mother: Peer, you’re lying as usual!
Peer: No I’m not.
Peer’s Mother: Your whole story is a pack of lies!
Peer: Every word is true.
Peer’s Mother: It’s funny how you always vanish when there’s hard work to be done. You say you were off hunting.. Gone for weeks! Now you return, your clothes are all in rags, your hunting bag is empty, and you’ve lost your gun! What kind of hunting do you call that? Where’s this reindeer you say you were after?
Peer: It happened like this. I was hiding behind a clump of trees. The reindeer was scraping some snow with his foot, looking for moss to eat. I crouched and listened, and held my breath. Slowly and carefully I crawled forward on my belly. I reached some rocks, and rested the barrel of my gun on a stone. I could see him clearly - a magnificent creature, sleek and fat. Gently I squeezed the trigger:
The buck went down.
A moment later I had jumped onto his back. I grabbed his ear. But then the reindeer scrambled to his feet with a groan and a grunt. I clung to him with my legs like pincers, and he began to prance with giant leaps along the ridge of Gredin!
Peer’s Mother: Whatever next?
Peer: Have you ever been up on the ridge of Gredin? Half a mile it stretches. A mountain path as narrow as a knife and as sharp as your tongue, dear mother. Death lies in wait on either side. Look down to the left and you see icy glaciers pointing up like spears; look down to the right and you see grey rocks and ravines wrapped in dark and gloom. Far ahead, the peaks of the mountains sparkle.
It was along this very ridge that we rushed, me clinging to the runaway reindeer’s back, he madly swerving to miss an eagle’s nest. Then through a screaming flock of gulls we sped!
At last we ran out of ridge, but the stag kept on charging straight into the clouds. We were like birds in mid air - only without wings.
Peer’s Mother: Oh my son!
Peer: Through the clouds we tumbled and out the other side. Soon I saw something that shimmered and glistened below us. It was our reflection in the lake. Down, down we plunged, and then splash! we dipped beneath the white foam of the water. The deer struggled to swim, and I clung to his neck. Somehow we made it to the shore, and from there, I finally reached home.
Peer’s Mother: And the reindeer?
Peer (snaps his fingers): Gone like that!
Peer’s Mother: Your legs are not broken?
Peer: It seems not.
Peer’s Mother: Praise be to God for his goodness has saved you! Oh… (she realises the truth) oh no! He hasn’t done any such thing. You had me there for a moment. You did, with your tall stories, fabulously told, but you’re a lazy, lying little devil that’s what you are. It’s all a pack of lies about the reindeer and the gully and the lake! You got it all from a fairy tale you heard years ago on your father’s knee!
Peer: It happened in the fairytale, and then it took place all over again to me. History repeats itself!
Peer’s Mother: Lies! All Lies! Covered up in gorgeous words like wrappers around empty christmas presents! You’re a hopeless good for nothing poet. You’re like your departed father. Your head is full of fairy tales, flying reindeer, witches, trolls… and pretty ladies dressed all in green.
Peer: Dear mother, every word you say is true, but don’t be angry, because we are both alive and well. Be happy!
Peer’s Mother: How can I be happy with a pig like you for a son? It’s hard enough for a poor widow to get by? You're a strapping fellow. You should be a strong stick supporting your old mother in her troubles. You should work the farm for profit, and look after the little that your father left behind him. Heaven knows, it's not much! Instead, you’re always chasing girls and fighting tramps! What about that poor blacksmith? Gave him a black eye you did! What a son! Shame, shame on you!
Peer: Leave it off Mum! Wait till I’ve a chance to do something big. I’ll be king! No,I’ll be emperor one day!
Peer’s Mother: Fantasies! You’ve missed your best chance in life. The golden haired Ingrid took a real fancy to you. Her father Haagstad is loaded with lands and houses and money. You could have married Ingrid and lived out your lazy life making up stories. But while you were off chasing fantasies, riding reindeer through the air, Mads Moen went and won the girl. They’re to be wed tomorrow.
Peer: Then it’s not too late. We’ll head there right now, and pop the question before she has his ring on her finger.
Peer’s Mother: No you won’t! You can't go trying to stop a wedding. You’ll bring shame on us if you do! Besides, the cart’s wheel is broken.
Peer: I’ll carry you there myself Up you come into my arms.
Peer’s Mother: Let me down!
Peer: Stop struggling Mum. If you fall in the river you’ll get wet.
Peer’s Mother: We’ll drown!
Peer: I’m born to meet a better end than that.
Peer’s Mother: Probably you’ll be hanged.
Peer: You can pretend to be me, and I’ll be the reindeer. Just hold on tight and we’ll be there in no time.
Peer: At last! That was quite a trek, but down in the next valley lies Haagstad’s farm where Ingrid will marry Mads Moen. Well, not if I can help it. I could not carry my mother all this way. I had to leave her on the roof of a mill! She didn’t like it, but I had no choice. She was weighing me down, making me late. But I arrived in the nick of time to stop the wedding. Folks with gifts are swarming around like midges.
But oh! Is there really any point to my plan? Perhaps I had better go no further. As soon as I arrive, there will be people laughing at me behind my back, smirking to my face even, with looks that cut right through me. They’ll whisper gossip like, “That’s old Gynt’s son, he could have married Ingrid if he wasn’t a lazy good for nothing who tells tales of magic and trolls.”
Maybe I’ll go late. It’s more polite. I’ll wait for the guests to grow merry.
Let’s lie down a while and gaze up at the sky. Mmmm. That’s a curious cloud. It looks like a rider on a horse. And the one behind is just like a witch on a broomstick. And that funny cloud. Hey, it looks like my mother’s face when she’s scolding me!
And as for this magnificent fluffy shape - why that’s me - an emperor in a crown riding a white charger at the head of a thousand soldiers! That’s my destiny written up there in the sky. I shall be ruler of the entire world one day! But when, and how? Well we shall just have to see.
Party Music begins
The wedding has started. Flocks of girls are lightly skipping and dancing, seven of them for every lad. I can’t miss this party, even though I look like a tramp in my torn rags.
Party goer: Hey look it’s old Gynt’s son. He could have married Ingrid if he weren’t such an awful fibber.
Peer: Hello ladies, will you dance with me?
Girls: ( giggling ) Oh no, we’ve been told to stay away from the likes of you.
1st Girl: (Sophie) Hey Peer, is it true you can ride a horse through the air?
Peer: Of course I can, nothing is simpler to me.
2nd Girl: And do you have an invisible cloak?
Peer: An invisible hat as it happens.
2nd Girl: Can you conjure up the devil?
Peer: I keep him locked up inside a nutshell.
1st Girl: Show us some of your magic Peer?
Peer: Dance with me and perhaps I shall.
2nd Girl: Maybe later, magic boy!
Peer: Pah! They won’t dance with a bad lad like me while their parents are watching. Well now, who’s this newcomer? She’s the loveliest one here by far. See how she modestly glances down at her shoes, while clutching her prayer book in her hand. Such innocence in those eyes! I must talk to her.
Young lady, will you dance with me? Your father gave his permission.
Solveig: Mother told me not to go too far.
Peer: Mother? Ha! Were you born yesterday? Are you all grown up yet, little kiddie?
Solveig: Don’t mock me.
Peer: Well then, dance with me.
Solveig: You could try asking me nicely?
Peer: Will you dance with me, pretty please?
Solveig: You haven’t even introduced yourself.
Peer: You do not know me? I am Peer Gynt.
Solveig: I have heard of you. My name is Solveig, in case you are interested.
Peer: And you are the most beautiful sight I have ever laid eyes on. So, will you dance with me?
Solveig: I can’t. I’m afraid.
Peer: Who of?
Solveig: My father mostly. He warned me about you. Told me to keep well away.
Peer: What is he? A preacher?
Solveig: Sort of. And here he comes now, along with my brother.
Solveig’s Father: Here you, clear off!
Peer: All right, all right. (Quietly:) I’ll catch up with you later.
So that was a pity. There’s no girl here I like more than Solveig. In fact, as long as I live, I do not think I will see any woman more beautiful. One day I shall make her my empress. Now, let’s go and find Ingrid, and talk her out of this silly idea of marrying Mads Moen. I’ll ask her to throw him over, cancel the wedding, and run off with me to the mountains. That’s an offer she won’t refuse.
Talking of which, here’s Mads the Lad.
Mads: Hey you - devil conjuror - who invited you to this wedding?
This is a party for decent folk, not the likes of you.
Peer: The fair Ingrid invited me, no less. For I’m the only one she truly loves.
Mads: Is that so? Put up your fists; we’ll fight this one out.
Peer: I would not want to knock you down into the mud in your wedding clothes. That would be bad manners.
Mads: Coward are you?
Peer: Ask your friend the blacksmith if you think I’m a coward. I showed him good and proper when I gave him two black eyes!
Ingrid: (Amarni) Mads, stop all this. Come away from Peer. He’s just a silly boy lost in his fantasies.
Peer: Fantasies? You wait and see. I’ll ride at the head of an army one day. I’ll be emperor of the world, I will. Then you’ll all see the truth!
Girls: Liar! Fibber! Dreamer!
Peer’s Mother: Hey Peer! Get away from this wedding before you bring shame and disgrace on us both!
Peer: That’s all I need. Now my mother’s turned up to torment me. Well that’s it. I’m off. Nobody likes me here. It’s just as I thought. The women mock me, the men try to fight me. I’ve had it up to here with the lot of them. I want to live on my own - away from people! People are the only problem in my world. I’m running away to the mountains to live with the trolls. Goodbye everyone! I’m off!
Peer’s Mother: Peer! It’ll serve you right if you break your neck climbing up those rocks! …
(quietly) Dear God, look over my son and keep him safe.