Dikken Zwilgmeyer

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Dikken Zwilgmeyer (Barbara Hendrikke Wind Daae Zwilgmeyer, 20 September 1853 – 28 February 1913) was a Norwegian children's writer, and is regarded among the most significant innovators of Norwegian children's literature around 1900.

Personal life[edit]

She was born in Trondheim as the daughter of later stipendiary magastrate and Member of Parliament Peter Gustav Zwilgmeyer and Margrethe Gjørvel Daae. She and her family lived in Risør from the time she was 8 years old. Her uncle Ludvig Daae was a politician and Minister of the Army. She did not marry, and died in Kongsberg in 1913.[1]


Inger Johanne gets her head stuck in the fence of a chicken yard on St John's Day. From the 1919 English language version of What Happened to Inger Johanne (p.67), translated by Emilie Poulsson and illustrated by Florence Liley Young.

Zwilgmeyer had no formal education. She showed early talent for painting and writing, and took lessons with various painters, including Christian Krohg. Her first published story was "En Hverdagshistorie", printed in the magazine Nyt Tidsskrift in 1884. Her first story for children was "Afbrudt 17. mai", published in the magazine Illustreret Tidende for Børn. Her first children's book was Vi børn, from 1890, signed "Inger Johanne, 13 years old". This book became a great success, and eleven more "Inger Johanne" books followed.[1] Among these are Karsten og jeg from 1891, Fra vor by from 1892,[2] and Barndom from 1895. Anniken Præstgaren from 1900 is probably the book with largest audience. It is estimated that Zwilgmeyer's books were printed in 600,000 copies up to 1903.[3] "Inger Johanne" remained a favourite for Norwegian children for generations, and Zwilgmeyer's books are regarded as a significant innovation of Norwegian children's literature around 1900.[1]

In 1895 she published her first book for adults, the short story collection Som kvinder er, about the poor circumstances for unmarried women, and in 1896 the puberty novel Ungt sind. These books were more or less met with silence from the contemporary literary critic. The collection Som kvinder er was reissued in 1953, and then received as a forgotten literary pearl from the 1890s.[1] In the 1900s she wrote histrorical novels and stories, including the collection Mægler Porsvold og andre historier from 1902, and the novels Emerentze (1906), Maren Ragna (1907) and Thekla (1908).[1]

In an obituary from 1913 Sigrid Undset emphasized Zwilgmeyer's two faces, the nice children's writer and the more bitter critic of society.[1]

What Happened to Inger Johanne was translated into English by Emilie Poulsson, a Scandinavian American children's author. Accompanied with illustrations by Florence Liley Young, the English language version was published in Boston in 1919.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Kvalvik, Bent. "Dikken Zwilgmeyer". In Helle, Knut. Norsk biografisk leksikon (in Norwegian). Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget. Retrieved 29 June 2010. 
  2. ^ Henriksen, Petter (ed.). "Dikken Zwilgmeyer". Store norske leksikon (in Norwegian). Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget. Retrieved 29 June 2010. 
  3. ^ Nettum, Rolf Nyboe (1975). "Gullalderen i norsk barnelitteratur". In Beyer, Edvard. Norsk Litteraturhistorie (in Norwegian). 4. Oslo: Cappelen. pp. 296–298. ISBN 82-02-02999-6. 
  4. ^ "What Happened to Inger Johanne". gutenberg.org. Project Gutenberg. May 23, 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Dikken Zwilgmeyer at Wikimedia Commons