The Norwegian town of Sarpsborg unveils a new statue marking their town's connection to Roald Dahl.
Roald Dahl’s father Harald Dahl came from the Norwegian industrial town of Sarpsborg, a two hour drive south of Oslo. It's on the opposite side of the Oslofjord to the island of Tjöme where Roald Dahl spent so many happy summer holidays in his youth. He wrote about Norway in Boy: Tales of Childhood:
All my summer holidays from when I was four to when I was seventeen were totally idyllic. This, I am certain, is because we always went to the same idyllic place and that place was Norway… In a way, going to Norway every summer was like going home… To us it was the greatest place on earth.
On 3 June 2016 I went to Sarpsborg, invited by the Mayor to unveil a statue marking the town’s connection to Roald Dahl. This ceremony was part of a bigger celebration happening all year: one thousand years since Sarpsborg was founded by King Olaf in 1016. The town is of course delighted that their famous ‘descendant’ - the world’s number one storyteller - also has a major anniversary in 2016: Roald Dahl 100!
Two new pieces of public art were being added to Sarpsborg’s main street. The Mayor of the county of Østfold unveiled a stone and metal model of a bear reclining in a bath: the bear is from the town coat of arms, and the bath symbolises the importance of water to the town, as well as the local people’s reputation for enjoying the good life!
The sculpture I unveiled was inspired by one of Roald Dahl’s stories for teenagers: The Boy Who Talked with Animals, from the collection The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More. The story is a typically tough, even shocking read, but with a magical twist. The sculpture makes the town’s link to Roald Dahl in a subtle and charming way.
You can see the official photos from the event on the Sarpsborg Kommune Facebook page, and below are some I took of my short but sweet visit to Roald Dahl’s ancestral land.
The sculpture inspired by the The Boy Who Talked with Animals.
An actor, in character as ‘Harald Dahl’, speaking to the crowd after the statue inspired by a Roald Dahl story is unveiled.
Within seconds of the statue of the giant turtle being unveiled, children were climbing all over it – a wonderful reaction to a fun piece of public art.
The main street of Sarpsborg, decorated for their millennium celebrations during 2016.
This is the mighty Sarpsfossen – the great waterfall on the river Glomma that gave the town its modern name. Hydro power plants are based around the falls.
Harald Dahl in Sarpsborg
Above: map showing the location of Harald Dahl's childhood homes in Sarpsborg, and images of the houses below.
Left, Dronningens Gate, Harald's childhood home, 1865 (no. 254 on map). Right, St. Marie Gate 105, Harald's second childhood home, 1875 (no. 44 on map).