Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Gunung Api

Gunung Api. Volcano in whose vicinity the Forest Folk first domesticate fire in Fire and Ice. Its exact location is unspecified, but it lies on the far side of the Baltic Sea from Sealand. Its slopes are surrounded by the vast and richly populated Forest of Change: a paradise whose memory gives rise to the myths of Eden, the Isles of the Blest, and the world-tree Ygdrasil, while Gunung Api itself is the archetype of Loki and Lucifer. Gunung Api’s ultimate fate is to be ground down by glaciation and deposited as shingle in the Baltic, but the fire it provides allows a distinctive people—formed by an intermingling of the Forest Folk and the Ice Folk—to thrive in Scandinavia. They follow a nomadic existence as hunter-gatherers, whose legacy is a hereditary restlessness, until the crucial inventions of agriculture and animal husbandry permit a further diversification of folkways.


*Sealand. Major eastern landmass of what is now Denmark; part of an archipelago separating the Baltic Sea from the Cattegat channel. A Sealand fjord is the birthplace of Norna Gest, the immortal hero of The Cimbrians and rediscoverer of the technological rudiments of seafaring. The development of sailing ships allows Gest’s family to colonize Sweden before he embarks on a world-encompassing odyssey in search of the Land of the Dead.

Migration routes

Migration routes. Gest’s fellows institute a great Stone Age migration, crossing the Baltic and penetrating the heart of continental Europe, then...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Bredsdorff, Elias, Brita Mortensen, and Ronald Popperwell. An Introduction to Scandinavian Literature. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1951. Surveys Jensen’s achievements as a novelist and poet. Calls The Long Journey the novelist’s most important fictional work; comments on Jensen’s reliance on Darwinian theory as the basis for his assessment of human nature.

Mitchell, P. M. A History of Danish Literature. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1957. Summarizes Jensen’s career and influence. Describes The Long Journey as a work heavily influenced by Darwinism; claims characters serve as types symbolizing the cultural and technical progress of humankind.

Rossel, Sven H. A History of Scandinavian Literature, 1870-1980. Translated by Anne Ulmer. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982. Describes Jensen as a literary pathfinder for twentieth century Scandinavian writing. Explains how his early prose essays form the ideological basis for the plot and theme of The Long Journey.

Rossel, Sven H. Johannes V. Jensen. Boston: Twayne, 1984. Introductory study containing a chapter on the novelist’s handling of mythic themes in his novels, including The Long Journey; claims the work vivifies a central theme in Jensen’s work, the longing for the lost land of Paradise. Explains how the author viewed the novel as a kind of Bible for modern times.

Topsöe-Jensen, H. G. Scandinavian Literature: From Brandes to Our Day. Translated by Isaac Anderson. New York: W. W. Norton, 1929. Reviews the literary achievement of a writer considered the central figure in Danish literature in the early decades of the century. Considers The Long Journey to be one of several works in which Jensen dramatizes humankind’s evolutionary progress.