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In the Hall of the Mountain King

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"In the Hall of the Mountain King" (Norwegian: I Dovregubbens hall, lit.'In the Dovre man's hall') is a piece of orchestral music composed by Edvard Grieg in 1875 as incidental music for the sixth scene of act 2 in Henrik Ibsen's 1867 play Peer Gynt. It was originally part of Opus 23 but was later extracted as the final piece of Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1, Op. 46. Its easily recognizable theme has helped it attain iconic status in popular culture,[citation needed] where it has been arranged by many artists (see Grieg's music in popular culture).

The English translation of the name is not literal. Dovre is a mountainous region in Norway, and "gubbe" translates into (old) man or husband. "Gubbe" is used along with its female counterpart "kjerring" to differentiate male and female trolls, "trollgubbe" and "trollkjerring". In the play, Dovregubben is a troll king that Peer Gynt invents in a fantasy.


  \new PianoStaff <<
    \new Staff \relative d {
      \tempo "Alla marcia e molto marcato" 4 = 138
      \clef bass \key d \major
      \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"french horn" 
      <fis fis'>1->\fermata^\markup{ \teeny \halign #1.5 "Horns"} \pp
      \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"pizzicato strings" 
      b,8-.^\markup{\teeny "Celli u. double bass pizz."} \p cis-. d-. e-. fis-.-> d-. fis4-.

      eis8-.-> cis-. eis4-. e8-.-> c-. e4-.
      b8-.cis-. d-. e-. fis-. d-. fis-. b-.
      a-.-> fis-. d-. fis-. a4-.-> r4
    \new Staff \relative g,,{
      \clef bass \key d \major
      r1 \fermata
      \set Staff.midiInstrument = #"bassoon"
      b4-.-\markup{\teeny \halign #1.5 "Bassoon"} \pp fis'4-. b,4-. fis'4-.
      b,4-. fis'4-. b,4-. fis'4-.
      b,4-. fis'4-. b,4-. fis'4-.
      d4-. a'4-. d,4-. a'4-.
The two-phrase theme, written in the key of B minor

The piece is played as the title character Peer Gynt, in a dream-like fantasy, enters "Dovregubbens (the troll Mountain King's) hall". The scene's introduction continues: "There is a great crowd of troll courtiers, gnomes and goblins. Dovregubben sits on his throne, with crown and sceptre, surrounded by his children and relatives. Peer Gynt stands before him. There is a tremendous uproar in the hall." The lines sung are the first lines in the scene.[1][2]

Grieg himself wrote, "For the Hall of the Mountain King, I have written something that so reeks of cowpats, ultra-Norwegianism, and 'to-thyself-be-enough-ness' that I cannot bear to hear it, though I hope that the irony will make itself felt."[3] The theme of "to thyself be... enough" – avoiding the commitment implicit in the phrase "To thine own self be true" and just doing enough – is central to Peer Gynt's satire, and the phrase is discussed by Peer and the mountain king in the scene which follows the piece.[4]


\relative c{\set Score.tempoHideNote = ##t \tempo 4 = 138
\clef "bass" \key b \minor fis8-. \p gis-. ais-. b-. cis-.-> ais-. cis4-. | d8-.-> ais-. d4-. cis8-.-> ais-. cis4-. | fis,8-. gis-. ais-. b-. cis-.-> ais-. cis4-. | d8-.-> ais-. d4-. cis4-.-> r4}
Modified theme in F major

The piece is in the overall key of B minor. The simple theme begins slowly and quietly in the lowest registers of the orchestra, played first by the cellos, double basses, and bassoons. After being stated, the main theme is then very slightly modified with a few different ascending notes, but transposed up a perfect fifth (to the key of F-sharp major, the dominant key, but with flattened sixth) and played on different instruments.

The two groups of instruments then move in and out of different octaves until they eventually "collide" with each other at the same pitch. The tempo gradually speeds up to a prestissimo finale, and the music itself becomes increasingly loud and frenetic.

Lyrics of the song in Peer Gynt[edit]

Character Norwegian English
The troll-courtiers: Slagt ham! Kristenmands søn har dåret
Dovregubbens veneste mø!
Slagt ham! Slagt ham!
Slay him! The Christian man's son has seduced
the fairest maid of the Mountain King!
Slay him! Slay him!
A troll-imp: Må jeg skjære ham i fingeren? May I hack him on the fingers?
Another troll-imp: Må jeg rive ham i håret? May I tug him by the hair?
A troll-maiden: Hu, hej, lad mig bide ham i låret! Hu, hey, let me bite him in the haunches!
A troll-witch with a ladle: Skal han lages til sod og sø? Shall he be boiled into soup and broth?
Another troll-witch, with a butcher knife: Skal han steges på spid eller brunes i gryde? Shall he roast on a spit or be browned in a stewpan?
The Mountain King: Isvand i blodet! Ice-water to your blood!

Cultural impact[edit]

  • British rock band The Who recorded a performance of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" in 1967. This version went unreleased until 1995, when it appeared as a bonus track on a CD reissue of The Who Sell Out.[5][6][7] Tucson Weekly has called this cover a "Who-freakout arrangement"[8] One reviewer called The Who's version the "weirdest of these" covers on the CD, and says it is "a rendition of the corresponding extract from Grieg's Peer Gynt suite ... [yet] it hardly sounds like Grieg here, anyway..." Another says that "the main function of the composition is to evoke thoughts of (naturally) King Crimson and (unnaturally) Pink Floyd, because in parts it sounds exactly like 'Interstellar Overdrive'."[9]
  • Dutch producer Patrick van Kerckhoven released the single "Ruffneck rules da artcore scene!!!" in 1996, borrowing the melody of "In the Hall of the Mountain King"; the record reached number eight in the Dutch top 40.
  • D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation (1915) used the song to build up to the Union attack on Atlanta. The song had by that time already been used in film scores, whether for Ibsen's play or other works; yet the popularity of Griffith's film helped to establish it in the American popular imagination.[10][11]
  • "In the Hall of the Mountain King" plays a major plot point in Fritz Lang's early sound film M (1931). Peter Lorre's character of child killer Hans Beckert whistles the tune whenever he is overcome with the urge to commit murder. However, Lorre himself could not whistle – it is actually Lang who is heard.[12] The film was one of the first to use a leitmotif, associating "In the Hall of the Mountain King" with the Lorre character. Later in the film, the mere sound of the song lets the audience know that he is nearby, off-screen. This association of a musical theme with a particular character or situation, a technique borrowed from opera, became a staple in film.[10][13]
  • The British theme park Alton Towers have repeatedly used the theme "In the Hall of the Mountain King" since 1992 with the opening of the Runaway Mine Train and the Haunted House as a central musical identity to the park. The main theme is present in nearly all of the park's music and is often the most common association of the theme.[14]
  • In the 1993 animated series Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is sampled as part of the show's opening theme alongside "Flight of the Bumblebee" and the theme from the original Sonic the Hedgehog video game. The tune also appears in every episode, serving as a leitmotif for antagonists Scratch and Grounder.[15]
  • The piece is also sampled in Ashnikko's 2021 single "Halloweenie IV: Innards".[16]
  • "Petey's King of France" from the 2004 musical film Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers was based on "In the Hall of the Mountain King".
  • In the video game The Witness, a key challenge in the game plays "Anitra's Dance" and "In The Hall of the Mountain King" to reflect the time the player has to complete the challenge. The accelerando and crescendo of the latter piece creates the sense of urgency as time runs out.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ibsen 1985, p. 67.
  2. ^ Peer Gynt, Scene Sixth, translated by Robert Farquharson Sharp (1864–1945)
  3. ^ Ibsen 1985, p. 17.
  4. ^ Santon, Tim. "Review" (Ibsen's Peer Gynt illustrated by Arthur Rackham). Stella & Rose's Books.
  5. ^ The Who dot Net web site Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ 200th Anniversary celebration of Grieg
  7. ^ "The Who". www.nndb.com.
  8. ^ Tucson Weekly
  9. ^ "The Who". starlingdb.org.
  10. ^ a b Powrie, Phil and Robynn Jeananne Stilwell (2006) Changing Tunes: The Use of Pre-existing Music in Film
  11. ^ Barbara Saltzman, "Griffith's 'Birth of a Nation' Reborn on Lumivision Disc", Los Angeles Times, June 21, 1991. Found at LA Times archives. Accessed May 23, 2011.
  12. ^ Falkenberg, Paul (2004). "Classroom Tapes — M". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 2007-08-08.
  13. ^ Costantini, Gustavo. "Leitmotif revisited". Filmsound. Retrieved 2006-05-10.
  14. ^ "BBC Proms 2023: 10 pieces of classical music you didn't know you knew". BBC Bitesize. Retrieved 2023-09-06.
  15. ^ "GI Commentary Track – Sonic Christmas Blast". Game Informer.
  16. ^ "Ashnikko shares new Halloween themed track 'Halloweenie IV: Innards'". Rolling Stone UK.


  • Ibsen, Henrik (1985) [1876]. Peer Gynt. Translated by Peter Watts. Penguin.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]