New film about the “Child Wanderings” in Norway

Robin Pedersen Daniel has the lead role in YOHAN. The film is an exiting, action-filled family movie with an historic background. The manuscript is based on true stories about child wanderings which occurred in South of Norway between 1800- 1910. Photo: Simon Mein.

Penelope Film in Kristiansand, Norway are now producing the largest Norwegian family movie production. The film YOHAN, in both Norwegian and English, will be released August 2009. The film is based on the real life experiences of children who were sent out to “wander” in search of work during the 1800’s and early 1900’s in Southern Norway.

In the beginning of April each year children left their families small farms in Konsmo, Hægebostad, Kvås, and Kvinesdal and met at the church in Konsmo. From there, they traveled together from the impoverished interior villages of West Agder to the richer farms in East Agder.

Often, children had to travel 150 – 200 kilometers by foot. The paths the children followed cut across valleys. The landscape was completely different then than it is today. There was almost no forest, as wilderness areas were used for grazing. Some of the routes the child wanderers followed still exist, even though many have been lost to roads, rail road tracks, and fields.

On the richer farms, the children mucked stalls, prepared meals, stacked hay, carpentered, and grazed animals.

During this time, wolves and bears were common threats, and the children had to protect the livestock. The children were given food and lodging, and maybe a pair of new shoes or 50 crowns at the end of a season of work. The work was hard for children between 7 and 15 years of age. Some came to good families and were treated well, while others experienced pure slavery.

Many of the children emigrated to the US, often as soon as they were confirmed at 15 or 16 years of age.  The movie is based on true stories told to Grete and Odd Hynnekleiv by two previous child wanderers who had emigrated to the US. They were at that time in 1991, 99 and 100 years old.

The talented 2009 Eurovision Song Contest winner, Alexander Rybak, has his acting debut in the film. He’s playing a gypsy. Most of the filming is done in Norway, but scenes with the wolves are taped in the mountains of Snow Valley, north of Los Angeles, California.


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