Huldredrøm: Dream of the Hid-Folk by Christopher R. Knutson
Knutson's romantic tale of trolls, changelings and Norwegian folk high up in the Rondane mountains is a beautiful device for recording some of the ancient folklore of the region. While the main plot is a fairly predictable rendering of Romeo and Juliet, Knutson paints it with detailed images of his Norwegian heritage, recounting oral tradition in a way that is both alluring and satisfying.
It is hard to know how much of the book is indeed Knutson's own invention, since his blurb states that he has "recorded the eternal Dream of the Hid-folk" – suggesting the main plot itself could perhaps be inspired by an oral diatribe. Extensive endnotes identify some of the myths that have been used to influence the narrative, whilst directing the reader to further sources of information on these traditions.
But the writing itself is another deep attraction of this novel. Knutson describes his scenes with all the flow of casual speech, and seamlessly segues into natural dialogue. By doing so, even the most fantastical of scenes – such as the King of the Trolls angrily throwing his minions about – appear as true as those of the village folk farming and feasting. The author's voice is nowhere to be seen, and – although it is easy to recognise early on the usual tale of star-crossed lovers – plot twists are cleverly disguised. As such, instead of groaning at the end that I had expected all the "revelations", I felt uplifted for having been right all along.
The dramatic finale is also well worth the effort. Tales of this kind have a multitude of endings perceived to be traditional, and they each have their dangers and their attractions. Knutson plumps for one of the riskier options, but pulls it off with great aplomb – which he could not have done without first writing in such a way as to help you see the two main characters as thoroughly real, and cajoling you to root for each of their separate, and at times conflicting, causes.
Ultimately, Huldredrøm is a light and fun read, but also one that is highly recommended to anyone interested in the oral traditions of Norway, and their possible impact upon the literature and society of today.
Huldredrøm is available on Amazon and on the author's website, www.christopherknutson.tateauthor.com. Purchasing a copy of the text also entitles the reader to download a free audio version of the book from Tate Publishing.