Born Johan Christoffer Hansen
6 March 1872-3 July 1959
Johan Bojer was a popular Norwegian novelist and dramatist who often wrote of the lives of the poor farmers and fishermen of Trøndelag, the region around the Trondheimsfjord which includes Stadsbygd and Rissa. Bojer's novels provide valuable information about the life there in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If you're ancestors are from Trøndelag and want to know about the lives of your grandparents, read The Emigrants, The Last of the Vikings, The Great Hunger, The Everlasting Struggle, and others.
novel, published in English as The Emigrants, also provides a background
on the lives of these people who emigrated to
writings and actions, he leaves the impression of being a nice man who cared
about common people, his roots in Rissa, and his
family. He provided college funds for
his half-brother, the actor Sophus Dahl, even when
the latter decided to pursue a life in the theatre instead of the original plan
to study engineering that Bojer is said to have
favored. He also provided funds for
building the church at Rein in Rissa and for building
the square-sail boat, Den Siste Viking.
Family was important to him. He
was proud of the accomplishments of his children and kept contact, even late in
life, with at least one of his foster brother’s sons who had emigrated to
Johan Bojer was born Johan Christoffer Hansen in Ørkedalsøren, Orkanger, Sør-Trøndelag, about 19 miles (30 km) southwest of Trondheim, to Johanne Iversdatter Elgaaen (16 December 1845 to 3 August 1884) from Femundsjøen, Engerdal, Røros, Sør-Trøndelag (now part of Hedmark), about 115 miles (185 km) southeast of Trondheim. Johanna’s parents were Iver Johnson Elgaaen (1812-1876) and his wife Ane Sophia Olsdatter Unsgaard (1812-1888). She had four brothers and three sisters born between 1841 and 1858. Johanna was the fourth child.
christening record from Orkanger, Orkdal
parish, 7 April 1872, Johan’s father is recorded as Hans Böier from
reports have Johanna moving to
the birth, she went back to work in
According to Thora, Johan and “mor Randi” bonded instantly. She was described by Thora as a woman who people in Rissa depended upon for various arrangements (e.g., weddings and funerals), and probably for occasional remedies for illness as well. Although deeply religious, in the evening she also liked to sit by the stove and tell stories of gnomes and pixies and sea-trolls. For the rest of his childhood, Johan was raised by Randi and her husband, Elias Fætten in Rissa, part of the Stadsbygd parish. Elias was a husmann (cotter or tenant farmer without his own land). Bojer’s novel, Folk ved sjøen (published in English as The Everlasting Struggle) was modeled on Fætten, one of a number of small farms that were part of the Reinskloster estate. The Fættens had three daughters and one son of their own born between 1855 and 1862 (the youngest was ten years older than Johan).
Johan was five, his mother Johanna had another son, christened Oliver Sofus Pettersen Dahl (Sophus Dahl) in January 1878. He was born Horg subparish of Støren parish, Sør-Trøndelag, in December 1877. In 1900, Sophus, as
he was then called, was living in Kristiania (Oslo)
and worked as an actor in many plays and films. His father was named in the Horg christening as Petter Dahl
arrangement of his birth father, from 15 to 18 years of age, Johan worked in
service with Andreas Johnsen Fallin
(born Hans Andreas Jonsen Denstad),
a prosperous farmer in Rissa. The father, who provided financial support
for his upbringing, also arranged for Johan to attend Dybdahl’s
county school in Selbu (1887) and non-commissioned
officer’s school in
Johan Bojer’s boyhood home on the fjord at Fætten, Rissa
Photo: Dennis L. Haarsager
The old Rein church near Reinskloster burned shortly after Bojer was confirmed there in 1887. Later, as a successful writer, Bojer helped restore the church, which is now also known as "Bojer kjerke," to its original condition. He also created an endowment for support of the church with stock in the publisher, Gyldendal. Part of the library in Rissa is devoted to Bojer. The two bells in the church are dedicated to his foster mother, “Mor Randi,” and his wife, “Mor Ellen.”
Bojer church at Rissa
Photo courtesy P5 Fosen Radio
Bojer did not adopt his surname until after the death of
his natural father in 1894. He had
published his first novel under the name Johan K. Hansson. Bojer and Boier are common names in
Bojer married Ellen Lous Lange in 1899. They had three children, Thora Bojer (Vaa), born in 1902, Randi Fætten Bojer (Godal), born in 1903, and Halvard Lange Bojer, born in 1905.
End of Life
unpublished but very literate letters and daughter Thora’s
short biography (see References below) provide a glimpse of Bojer’s
character and feelings that he had led a rich life. The letters are reproduced below with the
kind permission of their owner, Jane Wikan Slater,
daughter of the addressee, Johan Eilert Wikan of
I grunnen heter du vel etter min kone og
meg så det var naturlig at du endelig sente
meg noen ord. Det har jo gått dere gutter fra
Fætten så godt siden dere kom til Alaska,
men det skyldes vel at dere alle henge
i og ikke rangler på kaféer, og ellers i
alle deler oppfører dere vel. Jeg husker
at jeg tidligere har hørt om at du ikke
var heldig med valg av kone, og det
samme var vel tilfellet med Elias.
skapet, og somme er heldige og andre
ikke. Mine tre unger har alle været
svært heldige og har selv allerede fått
voksne unger. Tida går merkelig fort,
jeg fyldte 85 i mast, og nå om et
par måneter er jeg et år mer. Da nermer
resan seg de hundre, og jeg synes det
nesten er uhøflig mot de yngre å leve
Seneste høst var det 25 års jubile-
um for kirka på Rein (siden den
ble ferdig og innvidd altså) Og jeg var
for skral til å dra der opp, men bis-
pen preket i fuld stas for fuld kirke,
og siden hold kommunen middag
for noen utvalgte. Jeg sjøl fikk jo
takk og helsing pr telegram. Jeg
skulle ønske at jeg fikk oppleve å komme
nedtil Rissa enda en gang, og den
pletten jeg særlig er gla i er kirka og
kirkegården på Rein, og det er vel fordi jeg
fra barndommen har så mange minner
derfra Det er vel annerledes for dere yngre,
som fikk kirka på Føll.
Ola Bruvollen som har ringt
i den kirka, i 25 år, døde for en måneds
tid siden, han var min siste venn fra
barndommen - alle de andre ligger
på kirkegården. Bisettelsen av ham
ble usedvanlig, kirka ble opplyst
og pyntet med blomster, og to prester
var tilstede og forretted. Det var ikke før
fuldt så mye stas, dengangen en
husmann skulle føres til det sidste
hvilested. Mye har i sandhet forandret
seg til beste for menigmann.
Jeg ser av brevet ditt at du tenker
på en ny tur til Norge, og ingen ting
skulle glede meg mer enn om
jeg kunne få se en av dere igjen.
Andreas, min gudsønn, skriver
iblant til meg, og det er stor stas
når jeg får et brev fra ham.
Min sønn Halvard er blitt
statssekretær, det er en slags vise-
minister, og det er en stor og fin stilling.
Og det gleder jo en far å se , at
det går hans unger godt.
Nå må du hilse dine brødre
fra meg, og ellers ønsker jeg deg
og dine et godt nytt år.
After all, you were probably named after my
wife and me, so it was natural that you finally sent me some words. It has certainly gone well for you boys from Fætten since you got to
Last fall was the 25th anniversary for the church at Rein (since it was finished and dedicated, that is). And I was too poorly to go up there, but the bishop preached in full finery for a full church, and then the municipality gave a dinner for some selected people. I myself got got thanks and greetings by telegram. I should wish that I was able to come down to Rissa one more time, and the spot I especially love is the church and the cemetery at Rein, and that is probably because I from childhood have so many memories from there. It is probably different for you younger ones, who have had the church at Føll.
Ola Bruvollen, who has rung in that church for 25 years, died about a month ago. He was my last friend from childhood - all the others lie in the cemetery. His funeral service was extraordinary, the church was brightly lit and decorated with flowers, and two ministers were present and officiated. Earlier, there were never so many decorations when a tenant farmer should be led to his final resting place. In truth, much has changed for the better for the common man.
I see from your letter that you are
thinking about a new trip to
Andreas, my godson, writes me occasionally, and it is a great pleasure when I receive a letter from him.
My son Halvard has become undersecretary, it a sort of deputy minister and it is a big and important position. And yes, it pleases a father to see that his children do well.
Now you must greet your brothers from me, and otherwise I wish you and yours a Happy New Year.
 The other church at Rissa.
 The bells in the church at Rein in Rissa. Bojer named one after his wife Ellen and the other after his foster mother Randi (Mortensdatter Nebb) Fætten.
 The addressee’s brother.
Hjertens takk for det hyggelige brevet.
Og lykke til med det nye ekteskapet. Det
gleder meg i høy grad at du endelig har
”Den siste viking” har jeg bare et eneste
eksemplar av på engelsk. Jeg tror boka
i mange år har været utsolgt både
i England og Amerika.
Nå driver ungdomslagene i Rissa
og Stadsbygd prosess om hvem av de
to lagene som skal få oppbevare båten
Dommen faller i mai, og det blir
spennende. Rissa skal, ifald de
vinner, koste et forsvarlig naust
Dette med filmingen er svindel
En direktør Kielland i Tr.heim fikk
av meg lov til å ta opp film hvor-
dan råseilsbåtene går over stag, men
da han først slapp til utvidet han
det til å vise avseiling og folket
som står i fjæra og ønsker lykke til
på reisa. Det vil si at min literære
eiendomsrett er stjålet. Det skal
han nok få svie for.
Personlig har jeg været ganske
frisk i vinter, men når man
nærmer seg de 90 må man finne
seg i en og annen skavank.
Vi har hatt flere dødsfall
i familien. Randis mann, pastor Godal,
faldt, rammet av slag, da han var
ute på ski. Han var bare 54 år, så
hans bortgang var altfor tidlig. Randi
sitter igjen med fire barn.
Og i overmorgen begraver vi
Marie Lange, søster av min kone.
Hun ble 84, men har i det siste
året været mer eller mindre util-
Sånn plukkes vi bort, den ene etter
den andre, og snart blir det vel
også min tur.
Jeg kan se tilbake på et rikt liv,
som jeg er meget takknemlig for.
Tenk, om jeg hadde været yngre,
så ville jeg tatt en tur og besøkt
dere i Petersburg.
Men hvem er han dere kaller Ed,
og som bor i Seattle? Er det Elias?
Hvem det nå er, så går jeg ut
fra, at han står dere nær. Og
det er jo sørgelig at han er rammet
Så må du og din frue ta en
hjertelig hilsen, og likeså må
du hilse dine brødre.
Hvalstad 12 March 1959
Sincere thanks for the pleasant letter. And much joy in your new marriage. It pleases me greatly that you finally have found happiness.
I have just one sample copy of "Den siste viking" in English. I believe the book has been out of print for
many years both in
The young people's societies in Rissa and Stadsbygd are now busy with litigation about which of those two groups shall get to store the boat. The judgment comes in May, and will be tense. Rissa will, in case they win, bear the cost of a proper boathouse for the boat.
This with the movie making is a swindle. A director Kielland in Trondheim, got my permission to make a movie about how the square-sail boats put about, but when he got the chance he enlarged it to show the boat depart and people standing on the shore and wishing bon voyage. That means that my literary ownership was stolen. He will definitely suffer the consequences for this.
I have personally been fairly healthy this winter, but when one approaches 90, one must accept some weaknesses.
We have had several deaths in the family. Randi's husband, pastor Godal fell while out skiing, struck by a heart attack. He was only 54 years old, so his death was much too early. Randi is left with four children.
And the day after tomorrow we bury Marie Lange, sister of my wife. She was 84, but has during the last year been more or less of an unsound mind.
Like that we slip off, one after another, and soon it will probably be my turn.
I can look back upon a rich life, of which I am very thankful.
Think, if I had been younger, then I
would have taken a trip and visited you in
But who is the one you call Ed, that
A cordial greeting to you and your wife, and so you must also greet your brothers.
 Den siste viking, a replica of the Åfjord style of open sailboat, sometimes called stavæeringsbåt, featured in the book of the same name.
 Randi in this case is his younger daughter.
 Ed was the nickname used by Elias Wikan, brother of the addressee.
1959 letter, Bojer looks forward to having the
litigation in Rissa settled in May. That must not have happened, because Thora writes that he traveled to his home district that
summer to mediate the dispute (and apparently was successful). However, he caught pneumonia, and on the way
home had to be taken off the train at Oppdal to check
into the hospital. He died on
Bojer's novels brought him fame in
Many of Bojer's novels were translated into English (and other
languages) and are available in
Bojer’s great-grandson, Axel Bojer (grandson of Bojer’s son Halvard), maintains web pages about him in the Norwegian language, including a complete list of his works (see references below). My list of works by Johan Bojer (notes in green are reflections about those I have read):
• Unge tanker, 1893, novel published under the name, Johan
• En Moder,1895, play
• Helga, 1895, novel
• Gravholmen, 1895, play
• Et folketog, 1896, novel
• Olav den hellige, 1897, play
• Paa kirkevei, 1897, folk tale
• Rørfløitene, 1898, folk tale
• Den evige krig: en samfundsroman (The Eternal Strife), Kristiania: O. Norlis, 1899, novel
• Moder Lea (Mother Lea), 1900, novel
• Gamle historier, 1901, folk tale
• En pilgrimsgang (Pilgrimage), 1902 (New York: The Century Co., 1924), novel
• Theodora, 1902, play
• Troens magt (The Power of a Lie), 1903 (trans. Jessie Muir, New York: The Century Co., 1909, 1920; also published in London as The Power of Faith), novel
In brief: Powerful story about a well-regarded man who unintentionally gets caught up in a lie, but then goes to great lengths to perpetuate it -- successfully, in some ways.
• Brutus, 1904, play
• Hvite fugler, 1904, folk tale
• Vårt rike (Treacherous Ground), 1908, novel
• Troens makt, 1910, dramatization of the novel
• Kjærlighetens øyne, 1910, play
• Liv (Life), 1911 (trans. Jessie Muir, New York: The Century Co., 1911, 1920), novel
• Maria Walewska, 1913, play
• Fangen som sang (Prisoner Who Sang), 1913 (Toronto: Goodchild, 1924), novel
• Den franske fane, 1916, article
• Sigurd Brå, 1916, play
• Den store hunger (The Great Hunger), 1916 (trans. W. J. Alexander Worster and C. Archer, New York: Moffet, Yard & Co., 1919), novel. Click the title to read this Project Gutenberg novel online in English.
In brief: Man achieves great success from humble beginnings, loses it all, then slowly discovers his "great hunger."
• Samlede romancer I fire bind, 1917, collection of plays
• Verdens ansigt (The Face of the World), 1917 (New York: Moffet, Yard & Co., 1919), novel
In brief: Radical doctor, obsessed with the human condition worldwide, finally moves to his mother’s town by the sea and takes over the running of its hospital, and tries to “rescue” one troubled man.
• Dyrendal (God and the Woman), 1919, novel
In brief: A story of a clever man who is able to purchase a fine estate. He and his wife take in her nephew as a son they couldn’t have. Finally, they give up their farm and return to modest circumstances. Dyrendal was modeled after Flyta in Rissa, a farm owned by the State and given to the local commanding officer.
• Stille vær, 1920, stories
• Den siste viking (The Last of the Vikings), 1921 (New York: The Century Co., 1923), novel
In brief: Fishermen from Trøndelag spend winter in the
• Vor egen stamme (The Emigrants), 1925 (trans. A. G. Jayne,
In brief: Trønder farmers emigrate to
• Nye temple (
In brief: Siblings from newly-impoverished family are raised by prosperous foster mother. The book follows their lives after her death; the sister taking over the estate, while the brother pursues a liberal view of religion.
• Samlede romaner I ate bind, 1927, collection of novels
• Folk ved sjøen (The Everlasting Struggle), 1929 (trans. Arna Heni and Louise Rourke,
In brief: Cotter family ekes out a grim living at the edge of Trondheimsfjord. The cotter's place, Flata, in this book was modeled after Fætten, where he grew up in Rissa.
• Mens årene går, 1931, novel
• Ei mor, 1932, nynorsk edition of the play, En moder
• Huset og havet (The House and the Sea), 1933 (trans. Trygve Martinus Ager, New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., Inc., 1934), novel
In brief: Radical lawyer strains his ideals after becoming rich in the shipping business profiting from WW I.
• Dagen og natten (By Day and By Night), 1935 (trans. Solvi and Richard Bateson, New York: Appleton-Century, 1937), novel
• Kongens Karer, 1938, novel
• Gård og grend, 1939, stories
• Hustruen, 1941, play
• Læregutt. Erindringer, 1942, autobiography, part 1
• Samlede romancer I fem bind, 1942, collection of novels
• Svenn, 1946, autobiography, part 2
• Skyld, 1948, novel
• Lov og liv, 1952, novel
• Fjell og fjære, 1958, stories
• Glimt og gleder, 1960, articles, speeches, recollections (published posthumously)
Den Siste Viking play staged June 9-July 15, 2001 at Kystens Arv Museum, Stadsbygd
Photo courtesy Arne Langmo
Harald Beyer, A
History of Norwegian Literature (trans. and ed. Einar
Haugen), New York: New York
Axel Bojer, Johan Bojers biografi og forfatterskap, www.bojer.no/Axel/bojer.shtml and bojer.no/Axel/forfatterskap.shtml
Johan Bojer, letter (unpublished) to Johan Eilert Wikan, January 3, 1958
Johan Bojer, letter (unpublished) to Johan Eilert Wikan, March 12, 1959
Johan Bojer, Læregutt. Erindringer. Oslo: Gyldendal norsk forlag, 1942
Sophus Dahl, Teaterminner. Fra Nasjonalturneens dager.
University Press for The American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1956, pp. 291-293.
Carl Gad, Johan Bojer: The Man and His Works, (trans. Elizabeth Jelliffe MacIntire),
Theodore Jorgensen, History of Norwegian Literature,
P. G. La Chesnais, Johan Bojer: Hans liv og verker, Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, 1982.
Trygve Ræder, Johan Bojer og heimbygda Rissa, Oslo: Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, 1972.
Scandinavia Vital Records Index (compact discs), Family History Resource File, Intellectual Reserve Inc., 2001.
Thora Vaa, Min far Johan Bojer (booklet), Asker museum, 1999.
like to acknowledge with deep gratitude the invaluable and patient work of
Karen Husdal Brevik in
Updated 24 April 2005, 9 September 2006, 29 October 2006, and 8 June 2007