Margit Sandemo

Margit Sandemo
Margit Sandemo

Margit Sandemo in the Göteborg bookfestival, October 2005.
Born 23 April 1924 (1924-04-23) (age 87)
Lena, Østre Toten, Valdres, Norway
Occupation Novelist
Nationality Norwegian Swedish
Genres Historical fantasy, pulp fiction
Spouse(s) Asbjørn Sandemo (1946–1999)
Children Henrik, Tove and Bjørn

Margit Sandemo (née Underdal, born 23 April 1924, in Østre Toten, Oppland) is a Norwegian-Swedish historical fantasy author. She has been the best-selling author in the Nordic Countries since the 1980s, when her novel series of 47 books, The Legend of the Ice People, was published. She has also written many other book series such as Häxmästaren and Legenden om Ljusets rike.

Typical features for works of Margit Sandemo are among other things history, fantasy, romance, suspense and supernatural phenomena. The plots of her books are often very complex and meandering, and continue from one book to another. In the central role are distinct amulets, old writings and symbols, which the main characters decipher in order to solve riddles stage by time, while fighting against evil powers. The events of the majority of her novels take place in Europe in the Middle Ages and in the beginning of Modern Times, especially in Norway and Iceland. Sometimes the main characters have adventures further away, such as in Spain and Austria. Medieval knight castles, bewitched forests and old-fashioned, idyllic manor milieu are among the settings the stories take place in.

Among her literary role models, Sandemo names William Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoevsky, J.R.R. Tolkien, Agatha Christie and Kjersti Scheen. She read the whole of works of Shakespeare at the age of eight years, and wasn't much older when she turned to crime novels. Kalevala, the national epic of the Finnish people, Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne and King Lear were her favourites. In the adult age she has read significantly less, fearing subconscious plagiarizing. She says that she has got artistical influences also from the Kalevala motifed paintings of Akseli Gallen-Kallela and the goblin motifed paintings of Gerhard Munthe. Other sources of inspiration have been classical music, such as the compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as well as old Europeans folk stories. Besides these she fonds of Star Wars films, thriller film The Silence of the Lambs directed by Jonathan Demme and earliest episodes of TV-series X-files. To her mind the newest episodes of the series are pure rubbish.[1]


Stages of life

Childhood and youth

Margit Sandemo was born 23 April 1924 in a farm in Lena, Østre Toten, Valdres, Norway. Her father was a Norwegian poet, Anders Underdal, who was born in Valdres in 1880, and died in 1973. Underdal was born out of wedlock, and according to Sandemo herself after an alleged affair between the Nobel-prize winning Norwegian author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832–1910) and a 17-year-old croft girl named Guri Andersdotter (d. 1949). Audun Thorsen has written a book contradicting this allegation, entitled Bjørnsons kvinne og Margit Sandemos "familiehemmelighet" (in English: "Bjørnson's Woman and the "Family Secret" of Margit Sandemo") (Genesis forlag, Oslo 1999.), which the author herself hasn't read, because she thinks "that it would be too great of a shock for her".

During her childhood it was thought that the alleged unmarried affair to Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson must be kept secret. Even Anders Underdal, who early on gave an account of his origin to his children, fell silent about that matter later in life. Nobody knows why. Sandemo herself doesn't like talking about her ancestry in public.[2]

Sandemo's mother was a Swedish countess Elsa Reuterskiöld (1892 – 1967),[3] whose occupation was teacher. She was born in Blekinge for 4th eldest of the nine children of the county chief Axel Gabriel Adam Reuterskiöld (1863 – 1938) and Finnish-Swedish countess Eva Beata Gabriella Oxenstierna (1864 – 1949) from Korsholm and Wasa, but she lost her title of nobility when she married unnobled Anders Underdal. Sosialdemocratic Reuterskiöld took an active part in politics.[4] Sandemo is on the mother's side a descendant of numerous Europeans noble families, and over 800 kings and 112 emperors are counted among her ancestors.[5]</ref> Her earliest ancestors has been traced as far back as year 350 BC.[6]

Elsa Reuterskiöld met Anders Underdal the first time in her summer holiday journey in a valley in Valdres. They married quite soon after that in 15 June 1921 and Underdal bought a small farm, where they moved, which was located in Huldrehaugen, Grunke, Moen, close by Fagernes. There the couple had five children, Margit the second eldest. She had one elder sister called Eva and three younger brothers, whose names from the oldest to the youngest were: Axel, Anders and Embrik. There is only a seven-year age gap between the eldest and the youngest. One of brothers, Anders, committed suicide in the 1950s at the age of 29.[7] Reuterskiöld and Underdal divorced in 1930, because of her mother thinking her down-to-nature husband ways of life were unsuitable to a noble woman like her. When she moved back to Sweden, she brought her five children along.

Margit Sandemo got never a good relation with her father. He was the strict man, who punished his children to close them into garderoby. During the German occupation in Norway in the II world war he supported nazis openly - the thing Margit could never forgive for him. When he was absent from home, his children dreamed about his death. There would say in his obituary: "Thank you for the God, who did not let this happen already before". Margit Sandemo has told she has tried deal with him so little as it's possible, because she wants blackpaint nobody.[8]

Without any permanent address, the family had to spend irregular vagrancy life in corners of the relatives living in manors in different parts on Sweden, which was in Margit Sandemo's opinion somewhat humiliating. During her time in Sweden, she missed her birthplace in Valdres, Norway, which she still considered her true nationalplace. Also her mother's occupation as a teacher may have been one of the reasons for moving so often. Margit took her compulsory education in a nine-year girl school, after which she studied in various night schools, as in an art school and was as an auditor in Dramaten. She got good grades, the best for behaviour, even though she took never schooling seriously. Sandemo had a gift for arts as a child. She was skilled at painting, singing, playing and poetry, making her mother very proud of her. However, she did not have any dreams to become a novelist. Margit spent her childhood summer in the estate of her grandparents in Blekinge.[9]

Margit lived a happy childhood until in the age of eight years, when she fell victim to rape. This was the first of three times and lightest. She was an adventurous tomboy, who was pleased to do long rambles far away from home. Her family had a dog, who she had in the habit of walk, but he or she has been never with her when she fell victim to violences. The second rape, which victim she fell about in the age of ten years, was exceptionally brutal. The rapist used as his tool an axe, causing a lifelong injury for her, in other words exterminated her urethra, and after it she has must "trot to a water closet" every half an hour.[10] Rapists were three separate men and always unknown for her from before. She thinks ages of the rapists were something between 40–60 years. Margit hid happened things from all other people, including her own mother until in the age of 60 years, when she took her one close friend's confidence. Sandemo has dealt with these happenings in the 38th volume of the novel series Sagan om Isfolket by her, Små män kastar långa skuggor (in English: Small Men Throw Long Shadows), yet from a character's point of view. In October 2004, she told in her interview given for a Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet she killed her third rapist, a wandering pedlar, which victim she fell in the age of twelve years. By her own words, she had killed this man throwing a big stone at his head and lugged the dead body down a hill and put and hid it in a ditch. The third time had revived both previous times and she had flied into a rage.[11]

When she had finished her autobiography Livsglede in the beginning of year 2010, Margit Sandemos sister Eva Underdal told her she had gotten raped even the fourth time. She had come back to home in late evening in the age of nine, as pale with knees covered in scratches, but she must have reject the memory of this event later. These events discouraged her, which went into that she tried commit suicide in the age of seventeen years with sleeping pills, but three days later she was as health as before that.[8]

In year 1945, Margit met her future husband Asbjørn Sandemo (1917–1999) first time during the haymaking in the West Mountains of Vestre Slidre in Valdres. Asbjørn, a son of Ludvig Andersen (1879–1972) and Hulda Karlsson (1889–1956) came from Idd in Halden and was a plumber for his education and a new WWII veteran. At this stage, Margit's mother Elsa Reuterskiöld had ended her wandering life style and settled down live at Valsberga in Södermanland, where Asbjörn and Margit first moved, too, because they hadn't something else place got to go. They get married 29 March 1946 in Strängnäs. At this stage, they get seven children, which only three grew up; four others were born as dead or were miscarried. Three children are Henrik (b. 24 December 1945), Tove (b. 1949) and Bjørn (b. 1950). The family moved back to Huldrehaugen in Valdres in 1964. Now Margit Sandemo has seven grandchildren and five greatgrandchildren (2009). Eldest grandchild was born in 1969.

While Margit chose her professional career, she knew only that it should be artistic. She tried out, for example, painting, tree-cutting, textile art, sculpture, folk singing and acting in the plays by Ingmar Bergman. She did office work during two months, too. Once she tried out stone-cutting, but due to it their sewers were blocked up and they were forced to explode out them with dynamite. Then all plaster water had to wash away. However, she was really satisfied with nothing of these professions.

Literary career

Margit wrote her debut novel Tre Friare (Three Suitors) at the age of forty. At that time, she had no experience writing; however, she had already outlined thirty of the following novels in her mind. She has said that being a novelist is something you are born to do, rather than become. Tre Friare was rejected from different publishers more than hundred times, until the publisher of Ernst G. Mortensen in Oslo decided serialized that in a magazine. Sandemo, who wished that would will be published in the form of book, couldn't in the beginning accept that, but she calmed down soon. Whole series of serial novels followed the debut work. Margit wrote her thirty first novels at Siesta Café Konditori, the railway coffee bar in Fagernes. She has yet habit of drafting her novels first there. Later all serial novels by her were published as a forty-volume series of novels called Margit Sandemos bästa följetonger (The Best Serial Novels by Margit Sandemo).

Her books, which weave supernatural themes with historical facts, have made her well-loved throughout Nordic countries and beyond. Her books can be read in Danish, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish and Swedish. In early 2007, it was revealed that her series Isfolket would be published in English for the first time.[12]

She has written some stand-alone books, but her main claims to fame are her series. Of her extensive series, Sagan om Isfolket is perhaps that for which she is best known. It comprises 47 books, which follow generations of a family from the 16th century until present day as they battle a terrible curse.

Legend of the Ice People

The first volume of The Legend of Ice People.

In year 1980 the publishing house Schibsted förlag suggested writing of a historical series of novel to Margit Sandemo. First she didn't get excited about this idea and she decided continue to write serails for magazines. Among her own words, she changed her mind when she saw in year 1981 a picture about a medieval church painting in news paper. There was a woman making butter in a butter churn and the Devil behind her, who tried seduce her. Sandemo got an idea about 47 books comprising serie of novels The Legend of the Ice People from this picture, although in the beginning she thought that the serie will comprise only eight books. The first volume, Spellbound, published in year 1982.

Books published in English

Spellbound by Margit Sandemo (the first book in the Sagan om Isfolket series, translated as The Legend of the Ice People) was published in English in the UK by The Tagman Press on 30 June 2008. Sandemo came to London to promote its publication.[13] A further five books from the series were also published in 2008.[14]

Official website

The Margit Sandemo Official Website was launched in 2008. It contains news and information about the publication of her books in the UK. Other features include an English language forum and "Messages from Margit", updated by the author herself.[15] The English publications of the books have now been discontinued, which means the website is no longer updated. Unofficial fan sites exist at, and

Notes and sources

  1. ^ Sandemo:på nettet Friday 23 April 1999, Dagbladet.
  2. ^ Margit Sandemo: Velger aldri bort lesere mine. Wednesday 2 July 1997, Dagbladet.
  3. ^ The family tree of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson in
  4. ^ Norwegian biography
  5. ^ Angrer på at brente brevene. Saturday September 11, 2002
  6. ^ Margit Sandemo: Vi är inte ensamma p. 77
  7. ^ Margit Sandemo: Vi är inte ensamma, p.180-181
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ Bli bedre kjent med Margit Sandemo: "Folkeforfatteren". Allers 16/97
  10. ^ Margit Sandemo: Vi är inte ensamma. p. 11-12.
  11. ^ Margit Sandemo: Jag har mördat en män. Aftonbladet 22 April 2004
  12. ^ Isfolket blir engelsk. Aftenposten, 10.4. 2007
  13. ^ Saner, Emine (2008-06-23). "A life in fiction". The Guardian (Guardian News and Media). Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  14. ^ "Books by Margit Sandemo". Margit Sandemo Official Website. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  15. ^ "Home". Margit Sandemo Official Website. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 

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