Six children stand with their backs to us looking towards a dense green forest. Wearing costumes typical of the period, they hold each other by the hand. They are still at a safe distance from the wood. But although it is the middle of the day, and there are no dark shadows to pose an immediate threat, it is hard to say what the forest might conceal. The path ahead disappears among the trees – do they dare to follow it? The children are the link between the viewer and the mystical forest, while at the same time serving an important compositional function in the painting.
In 1903 Dr. Max Linde asked Munch to decorate the children’s room at his family villa in Lübeck, Germany. The proposals that Munch presented in December 1904 were, however, not well received. The doctor found the motifs with their kissing and dancing couples a touch too “adult” to grace a children’s room. One exception may well have been The Fairytale Forest, although not even this was purchased by Linde. Thus the paintings for the “Linde Frieze” ended up in different places. Munch had worked on the material for The Fairytale Forest for some years. He took the theme further in the so-called “Freia Frieze”, which was commissioned by Johan Throne Holst, director of the Freia chocolate factory for the company’s 25th anniversary in 1923.
The Fairytale Forest was bequeathed to the museum by Alfred Larsen in 1950.
Text: Ellen J. Lerberg
From "Edvard Munch in the National Museum", Nasjonalmuseet 2008, ISBN 978-82-8154-035-54