Syttende Mai script
Saturday, May 13, 2006

GK: Today is Syttende Mai, the 17th of May, the day of Norwegian Independence, and you know celebrating Norwegian independence is like celebrating German reliability or French complexity, it's something you take for granted, all Norwegians you ever knew were extremely independent. They were sailing the Atlantic and seeing the New World when the rest of Europe was stumbling around in the Dark Ages. They discovered America, you know. They just came over to see it and to write long epic poems about it. They didn't stay because they wanted to tell people the amazing things they had seen and the people who were here already knew about that, and the people here didn't speak Norwegian, so what was the point. So they sailed back.

And if you ever get the chance, you should go see Norway, a glorious beautiful country populated by independent people, who are hospitable to Americans having seen so many of us go back, full of nostalgia, looking for the place that Morfar and Mormor came from.


The city of Oslo on a summer day. An enormous sprawling city full of parks, designed by people who want to eat in nice restaurants and listen to jazz and have a good library, but also want to live on the edge of the woods. So they put the woods in the city. You sit in an outdoor café, the sun shining, and eat your open-face sandwiches and tall blonde women walk past who if they turned to you and said, "Follow me," you would follow, they hold your life in their hands, but evidently they don't know this, and they don't ask you to follow them, and they walk down the street past the tobacco shop and the Biograf and the Apotek and you never forget them.


Edward Grieg's house is in Bergen, a city on the sea surrounded by mountains. Your ancestors who left for America in the 19th century probably left from Bergen and stood at the ship's rail and saw the beautiful country disappear into the sea. Edward Grieg loved to leave Norway. He liked leaving so much that he kept going back so he could leave again. All of his music came from there and yet they didn't appreciate him as they should, which they didn't because they felt that if they appreciated him, then they'd have to do the same for everybody, and out of his irritation and his need to be appreciated, Grieg produced great things, like his songs and his piano concerto and his opera Olav Trygvason.


It's a beautiful country and if you go some summer, make sure to see Oslo and ride the train over to Bergen, the train of a thousand tunnels, and see Grieg's summer house, and then take the steamer up the coast and look at the fjords and watch the sun go down. It's not the worst vacation you'll ever have. And maybe somebody will sing you this song, Aftensolen, Evening Sun, the sunset smiling on the earth and all of nature at peace.


© Garrison Keillor 2003

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

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