Okay, so I don’t spend my whole vacations going to libraries and bookstores, but it is quite nice when I go to places famous for their literature. While in Stockholm, Sweden this week, we were on the lookout for one of Sweden’s most famous literary creations: Lisbeth Salander, a main character from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. There is a hard-to-find Millennium tour map, which details certain scenes from the books, as it was written by a Swedish author living in SoderMalm at the time, and he included many local sights in his works The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played With Fire, and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Next. I was able to get a copy of this map and visited a few of the places. Sadly, Stieg Larsson died before he even saw his first three novels published, and was never able to complete the series (he had originally envisioned ten).
Over the weekend we took the train to Denmark, which is another country famous for its literary history. Karen Blixen, who wrote Out of Africa, was Danish, and Soren Kierkegaard wrote The Book on Adler and The Seducer’s Diary. But probably Denmark’s most famous writer was Hans Christian Andersen. As a 14 year old soprano, he was accepted into the Royal Danish Theater, but after his voice changed, he started writing poetry, plays, and fairy tales. He is best known for his fairy tales such as The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Ugly Duckling, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, and others. In Copenhagen, one can see plaques on a few buildings that Andersen lived in, and the famous Little Mermaid statue (donated by Carlsborg beer company) out in the harbor.
Denmark’s most famous literary character, of course, is Hamlet. The play is set in the castle Kronberg at Elsinore (Helsingborg as it is sometimes written). Although Shakespeare never visited Denmark, the English and the Danish had much contact in Shakespeare’s time, and perhaps he felt a bit safer writing about “something rotten” in a nearby country and not his own. There is also a French translation of an old Norse story about the king of Jutland, who had a son named Amleth and who was murdered by his brother, so it is likely that Shakespeare heard that story and used it as the basis of his own play Hamlet. This year being the 400th anniversary, the castle at Kronberg is doing parts of Hamlet live in various parts of the castle throughout the day. Definitely worth catching if you are in Denmark.