by Knut Pedersen

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Knut Pedersen's novel Pan, published in 1927, is set in Norway in the summer of 1855. The novel follows protagonist Lt. Glahn, a hunter who lives a life independent of civilization, but which abuts civilization, particularly involving residents of a nearby town. The story is narrated by Glahn (with the exception of the conclusion, which is narrated by one of Glahn's acquaintances). The entire story is a flashback, told by Glahn, who tells the reader that, "two years ago it was, in 1855. I will write of it just to amuse myself--of something that happened to me, or something I dreamed." This introduction, coupled with the setting of "a huge forest" near the "confusion of rocks and reefs and islets" lends the story a mystique, similar to that of a myth (this is reinforced by the book's title, Pan, a Greek god of the wilderness and shepherds).

As the novel primarily examines Glahn's relationships with two women, Edwarda (daughter of a local trader) and Eva (laborer and wife of a blacksmith), salient quotes include:

She came straight to me. She said something, and threw her arms round my neck; clasped her arms round my neck and kissed me again and again on the lips. Each time she said something, but I did not hear what it was. I could not understand it all; my heart stood still; I had only a feeling of her burning look. Then she slipped away from me; her little breast beat up and down. She stood there still, with her brown face and brown neck, tall and slender, with flashing eyes, altogether heedless. They were all looking at her. For the second time I was fascinated by her dark eyebrows, that curved high up into her forehead.

This is Edwarda's first demonstration of unrestrained and shameless passion for Glahn. Though she is a comparatively proper and educated young lady, she is deeply attracted to Glahn, to the extent that he is taken aback (and says to himself "But, Heavens--the girl had kissed me openly in sight of them all!").

Eva is in some ways a foil for Edwarda. She belongs to a different class, and, though she is equally attracted to Glahn, she is demure when she encounters him outside of his hut, insisting, "I did not come this way to meet you; I was just passing..." He responds equally well to Eva. In one of their more passionate encounters, he declares:

"Goodness shone in her eyes; she passed her hand over my hair, 'You good, good soul,' I broke out, and pressed her close to me. 'I know or certain I am perishing for love of you; I love you more and more; the end of it will be that you must go with me when I go away. You shall see. Could you go with me?'"

The somber ending of the novel finds Eva dead, beneath the rocks, which Glahn himself had blasted in a mining endeavor. Glahn is distraught, and laments her death in his following posthumous address of her:

"I bury you, Eva, and in humility kiss the sand above your grave. A
luxuriant, rose-red memory flowers in me when I think of you; I am as if
drenched in blessing at the memory of your smile. You gave all; all did
you give, and it cost you nothing, for you were the wild child of life

Glahn's retrospective appraisal of his love for Eva is one of the novel's most tragic elements, and renders the novel as a whole a compelling satire on both the conventions of love and courtship, as well as on civilization as a larger concept.

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