The history

Jo Gjende

Jo Tjøstolvsson Kleppe was born in 1794 in Vågå, Norway. His parents died when he was a child and he grew up with relatives at Heringstad in Heidal. Jo eventually developed into a great hunter. He was more at home among the mountains of the free-roaming reindeer than among villagers. He lived most of his adult life on his own in the mountains, initially as a «travelling vagabond», summer and winter alike, then later in his cottage at Gjendeosen which he built around 1840.

Jo Gjende, the name Jo eventually became known under, became a legendary reindeer marksman. It was said that he shot more than 500 reindeer, mostly large bucks. In the summer of 1855, an Englishman named Blackwell came to Gjende along with one of his countrymen (Rathbone) and a servant. The men spent a good deal of time together during that summer and autumn, and they shared Jo’s passion for hunting and the mountains. Jo Gjende was in many ways the first guide in Jotunheimen, and was contacted by many of the people who wanted to hunt, fish and explore in this area. Jo had a limited acquaintance with the three Englishmen who later wrote the classic «Three in Norway – by two of them» («Tre i Norge – ved to av dem»). During the summer of 1880, which is referenced in the book, Jo spent time with their guide, Jens Tronhus, at the Fearnley Cabin at Russvatnet Lake. Jo died in 1884 at his farm, Brurusten, which he had bought around 1850.

The book «Three in Norway – by two of them» («Tre i Norge – ved to av dem») can still be purchased: An immortal classic from the pioneer days when English hikers dared ever farther in among Jotunheimen’s untamed mountains and peculiar, but well-meaning locals. Recounted with distinctly English humour!

Source: Ivar Kleiven: Gamledågå

Gjendine Slålien

Kaia Gjendine Slålien was born in the summer of 1871 in the stone cottage at Gjendebu. A priest who was passing through the area christened her «Gjendine» on 24 July, 1871 in Gjende.

During her childhood years, Gjendine spent every summer at Gjendebu. she would often be alone with the livestock for up to 3 or 4 weeks. Gjendine later worked as milkmaid at various pastures during the summers and as a servant on farms in the valley.

It was during one of the summers when she was a milkmaid at Skogadalsbøen that she met Edvard Grieg, who was so fascinated by her song that he wrote it down and used it in his pieces of music.

In the beginning of the 1900s, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands spent a number of years in Jotunheimen together with her daughter, and Gjendine was offered and accepted a position as a sort of lady of the royal court during outings in the mountains.

Gjendine lived to be over 100 years old and was pretty much alert and remarkably healthy almost right up until the end.

Source: Arvid Møller: Gjendine

Peer Gynt

«Have you ever chanced to see the Gendin-Edge? Nigh on four miles long it stretches sharp before you like a scythe. Down o’er glaciers, landslips, scaurs, down the toppling grey moraines, you can see, both right and left, straight into the tarns that slumber, black and sluggish, more than seven hundred fathoms deep below you. Right along the Edge we two clove our passage through the air. Never rode I such a colt! Straight before us as we rushed ’twas as though there littered suns. Brown-backed eagles that were sailing in the wide and dizzy void half-way ’twixt us and the tarns, dropped behind, like motes in air. Ice-floes on the shores broke crashing, but no murmur reached my ears. Only sprites of dizziness sprang, dancing, round;-they sang, they swung, circle-wise, past sight and hearing!»