Peer Gynt” by Henrik Ibsen is a centerpiece of Norwegian culture. But the character of Peer Gynt seems to be at odds with the stoic stereotype commonly associated with Norwegians. He is a colorful and selfish scoundrel who travels the world just living for the moment. He deserts his widowed mother, gets drunk and steals the bride at a neighbor’s wedding and abandons her in the mountains. He’s selfish and lazy. He’s a lying braggart, a womanizer, and a thief.
St. Olaf professor Todd Nichol says Peer Gynt is only one side of the Norwegian character. “He is a bookend to another great figure created by Ibsen, Brand,” Nichol explains. “Brand is a highly idealistic, enormously willful Lutheran pastor and Peer Gynt is a feckless opportunist.”