The Dovre Line

A musk ox stands on the Dovre rail line

Photo: Kai Jensen
A musk ox stands on the Dovre rail line.

Asker, Norway

The Dovre Line is the 344-mile-long main line of the Norwegian railway network between Oslo and Trondheim. It shares its proper name with that of Dovrefjell (Dovre Range), the mountains between the eastern part of the country and Trøndelag County. 

That topography led to Dovre becoming prominent in Norway’s national awareness. In 1814 at the Norwegian Constitutional Assembly in Eidsvoll, the delegates took an oath of being Enige og Tro indtil Dovre falder (United and loyal until the mountains of Dovre fall).

Dovre is one of the oldest placenames in Norway, now of a village in Innlandet County, with its church and station. It is derived from the Old Norse word Dofrar, the origin of which is not documented. But Dofrar is grammatically related to the word Dofri, mentioned in Nafnaþulur, part of the prose Edda, a medieval Icelandic literary work. In the Nafnaþulur it is the name of a Jötunn, in Scandinavian mythology a race of giants often in conflict with the gods.

The story of Dovre has continued in modern times. In 1736, the first church was built at the village of Dovre. In 1867, dramatist Henrik Ibsen wrote Peer Gynt, a play in verse. The fifth and final act of it includes the story of Dovre Gubbens Hall (literally “Old man of Dovre’s Hall”). Together with incidental music for it written in 1874 – 75 by composer Edvard Grieg, Peer Gynt has become one of the most known and widely performed Norwegian plays. Lamentably, in the English language version of the play, the significance of Dovre has been lost in translation, as Dovre Gubbens Hall became “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”

In 1914, the celebration of the centennial of the Norwegian Constitution included the issue of a postcard featuring the delegates’ oath of being Enige og Tro indtil Dovre falder.

In 2021, Issue 2 of Frimerke Posten, the bimonthly magazine of Norway Post’s Frimerketjenesten (Philatelic Service) featured Dovrebanen (The Dovre Line) in its commemoration of the Centenary of the Line. Its cover photo is of a Muskox, a species that lives in Dovre and is depicted in the coat of arms of the Dovre municipality.

This article originally appeared in the June 4, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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M. Michael Brady

M. Michael Brady was born, raised, and educated as a scientist in the United States. After relocating to the Oslo area, he turned to writing and translating. In Norway, he is now classified as a bilingual dual national.