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uni'wissen 01-2015

at how different the constructions produced in Paris, Berlin, Strasbourg, or Copenhagen are, despite the fact that they are all based on the same source. An illustration like that from Épinal would have been unthinkable under the Nazis. The motive behind their interest in Nordic people and everything Germanic was to propagate a cultural and national Germanic identity: Every- one who didn’t correspond to this ideal was seg- regated from the rest of society and persecuted. “Only few read the texts in the Icelandic original,” suspects Mohnike. He has determined that the reason why elements from them nevertheless became so well known was in no small measure due to the popular operas of Richard Wagner. The composer is said to have studied the Norse myths in detail before writing them. Archaeologists also played a role in their popularization: Carl Doepler took inspiration from archaeological findings in designing costumes for the inaugural Bayreuth Festival in 1876. Comparative philologists of the 19th century constructed trees of Indo-Germanic languages showing how the Germanic, Slavic, and Gallo- Romance speech areas formed from common roots, diverging ever further from one another. Mohnike diagnoses two opposing trends: “The great histories of community and shared identity stabilize the narrative of identity. When they are adjusted to fit local needs, they are also sepa- rated from their original historical context.” At the same time, this narrative was joined by another image of the North created by European literary studies: On the one hand, explains Grage, these scholars also emphasized Germanic roots, “but on the other hand, the same academic disci- pline discovered modern Scandinavian literature.” Authors like the Dane Jens Peter Jacobsen, the Swede August Strindberg, or the Norwegian Henrik Ibsen explored the pressing societal issues of the times in their texts: the place of women, economic and social problems, religious ques- tions. These writers achieved their breakthrough around the year 1870 – not just in Scandinavia. The great dramatist Henrik Ibsen in particular took the German stages by storm. Ibsen scholars characterized him as a kind of Nordic Sphinx: as a great riddle, as a mythic figure, as the product of a nation shaped by magnificent nature and landscapes. At the same time, they used his work to fashion an image of Norway as a country Father Siegmund, mother Sieglinde, son Siegfried (from left): Carl Doepler took inspiration from archaeological findings in his costume designs for the inaugural Bayreuth Festival in 1876 with the first complete performance of the Ring of the Nibelung. Source: Klassik Stiftung Weimar Karlsson-on-the-Roof, Pippi Longstocking, Emil of Lönneberga, and the Bullerby children (from left): A series of stamps commemorating the 80th birthday of Astrid Lindgren features well-known characters created by the children’s book author, whose stories influence many people’s image of Scandinavia today. Photo: rook76/Fotolia 10 Specialtopic:ResearchintheUpperRhineregion