46 pages 1 hour read

Henrik Ibsen

Peer Gynt

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1867

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Symbols & Motifs

Crowns, Kingdoms, and Steeds

From the beginning of the play, Peer believes that he is truly meant to be an emperor. Repeatedly, he claims to be a prince and tries on different crowns and kingdoms. And as Peer tells the troll princess: “You can tell a prince by the steed he rides!” (79). His first steed, the reindeer, may or may not be imaginary. The reindeer takes him far from home, nearly killing him, and would allow for a heroic return home if he were to be believed. The reindeer antlers become a symbol of what would be the end of his search for greatness when he hangs them over the door to his hut. His first potential kingdom is the troll kingdom in the mountain. Peer and the troll princess ride her steed, Grane, who is a pig. The kingdom is similarly bleak, as the troll princess explains, “Ah! You don’t understand. That’s our custom, here in the mountains. Nothing is what it seems. For example, when you come to my father’s palace, you probably won’t recognize it. You’ll think it’s a rubble-heap” (78). Peer is ready to accept the troll kingdom until the king tells him that he must undergo an operation to give up his human self.