Author and adherent of the "nynorsk" language movement
Bolette Christine Pavels Larsen, author, daughter of solicitor Jonas Lund and Inger Marie Munthe, was born in Sogndal i Sogn on 18 October, 1847, and died in Bergen on 8 December, 1904. She moved to Bergen at the age of 17. On 6 November, 1874, she got married in Gloppen to Ole Johan Larsen, managing clerk at the branch office of "Norges Bank" (Bank of Norway) in Bergen. They had no children.
Bolette Larsen was strongly committed to the "nynorsk" language movement, and played an important part in reviving the association called "Vestmannalaget" after a passive period in the early 1880s. She translated stories of everyday life from Swedish, and wrote her own stories in the local Sogn dialect. Bolette Larsen was also a regular literature critic in the newspaper "Bergens Tidende", as well as corresponding regularly with Garborg, Hamsun, and other authors.
...to preserve Bolette's memory...
Ole J. Larsen was deeply grieved when his wife died only 57 years old. Quickly it became very clear to him, indeed a mission in life, to preserve her memory. In a letter to their friend in Fjærland, the hotel owner Olaus Dahle, he wrote in the winter of 1904/1905: "... There is an empty chair facing me at my writing desk. I cannot understand how I can endure this grief. - The only thing worth living for now is to preserve Bolette's memory"
In the same letter he puts forward the idea of a memorial in Fjærland, asking Dahle to appoint a committee to raise money. Larsen also had an idea to raise a memorial to his wife in her childhood village of Sogndal.
Impressive memorial in Bergen Bergen
The memorial stone in Bergen came first. In August, 1905, the widower erected a three-metre-high gravestone made of granite - "a monument", he called it himself - on her grave at the Møllendal churchyard. A close friend, the painter Ivar Rusti, formed the inscription. The vertical inscription at the front reads as follows: BOLETTE C PAVELS LARSEN. At the back: 1847 - 1904.
O. J. Larsen the driving force
In Sogn the hotel owner Dahle accepted to be in charge of the work to raise a memorial in Fjærland. He wrote to prominent men in the area, asking them to contribute to the initiative by: a) entering their names on an appeal to be announced in Sogn and in Bergen and b) by contributing directly to the fund-raising initiative. There were mixed reactions to this initiative. One man said that this was just another "newfangled idea", and in his opinion, the memorial came too soon. However, most people supported the initiative. Olaus Dahle also started looking for a proper stone for the memorial, and became more and more involved in the work of forming the stone and raising it.
But it was in Bergen the driving force lived, the widower O. J. Larsen. He wrote letters, putting forward suggestions, giving orders for tasks to be carried out, and at times expressing his impatience that more could have been done, and that the whole project was dragging on.
The unveiling ceremony
In good time before St Olaf's Day (29 July), 1907, the stone was erected, close to an old road up the valley of Mundalsdalen. Later it has been said that the stone was not meant to be raised there in the first place. It was supposed to have been erected somewhere near where the present school is located, but as the spring thaw made it impossible to transport the stone any further, they simply decided to erect the stone where the drivers had been forced to give up.
Editor Jens Kvåle in the liberal paper Sogns Tidende wrote about the unveiling ceremony on the eve of St Olaf's Day in 1907. "A couple of hundred people attended the ceremony, and it was a mixed group of people", Kvåle writes. "There were friends from Fjærland, "nynorsk" adherents from Sogn, relatives and friends from various parts of the country, English and German women and men, even an English vicar and a German professor."
The ceremony opened with the singing of Garborg's national hymn "Gud signe Norigs land". Then the teacher and sexton Anders B. Vamraak went up to the stone to give the ceremonial speech. He interpreted Bolette C. Pavels Larsen's life calling as a bridge-builder between the rural and urban cultures. A friend of Mrs Pavels Larsen, miss Bølling, was given the honour of unveiling the memorial stone.
The hotel owner O. Dahle then gave an account of Bolette Pavels Larsen's summer visits to Fjærland, and he underlined her work with the local Sogn dialect. Towards the end of the ceremony, the managing clerk Larsen thanked everybody who in one way or another had contributed to raising the memorial, and mayor Tjugum accepted the stone as a property that the village (the municipality of Balestrand) would protect for ever.
The programme also included special songs for the occasion by Anders Hovden and Jens Tvedt, as well as the performance of the poem Fjærlandsfjord by O. J. Larsen, with a melody composed by Olaf Paulus, harmonized for mixed chorus with soloist.
The stone was moved
In 1982, the "Bolette stone" was moved to the playground of the Fjærland school. Anders Aarskog, Sjur Mundal and Oskar Brunborg were the men behind the initiative to move the stone. The reason was that many people thought the stone was raised at "a rather unsuitable place" close to the old road up the valley of Mundalsdalen.
The written material available does not contain any direct information that the stone was raised at another place than originally planned, but there are a couple of references to its location. In a letter dated in January, 1906, Larsen writes to Dahle that he wished very much that the stone would be erected at a place they had talked about, a place Bolette used to walk to. He remembers one of the last times they were there. It must have been close to the fjord, because he writes "The fjord was smooth and glittering with constant changes of reflections"
At any rate, there is no proof of any dissatisfaction as to the location of the stone; on the contrary, Larsen himself was very pleased, "the stone has been raised at a nice place", he writes after receiving a photograph of the raised stone prior to the unveiling ceremony.