Creator of iconic Danish TV series dies aged 105

Lise Nørgaard, the creator of Danish television series Matador, has died aged 105.

Creator of iconic Danish TV series dies aged 105
Danish journalist and author Lise Nørgaard pictured in 1981. Nørgaard died aged 105 on January 1st 2023. Photo: Jette Ladegaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Danish journalist and author Lise Nørgaard died late on New Year’s Day after a short illness, her family confirmed to media in Denmark on Monday. She was 105.

Nørgaard created Matador, the 1970s TV series loved by millions of Danes. The series remains hugely popular in 2020s Denmark, decades after its release.

The impact of Matador means that Nørgaard’s passing will be considered a loss of one of Danish television and popular culture‘s most influential figures.

In a statement, Nørgaard’s daughter Bente Flindt Sørensen said her mother was “deeply grateful for her many friendships with young and old alike, which she maintained until her death, and for the incredibly many people she met along her way, or who followed her, and who have embraced her with great love and overwhelmingly positive interest.”

“She was a frontrunner and a role model and great inspiration for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” she said.

“We have all benefited from her love, life experience, wise advice and positive and humorous approach to life. We are grateful to have had her in our lives for so long, and she will be greatly missed,” she said.

Born in 1917 in Roskilde, Nørgaard was a trained journalist and worked for Danish newspapers of record Politiken and Berlingske during her career.

In the 1960s, she wrote for the weekly magazine Hjemmet, giving advice to young women and girls on topics including sex and gender roles. Her views and advice often clashed with patriarchal outlooks of the day.

She also wrote manuscripts for two films starring Dirch Passer, the prominent Danish comedy actor of the 1960s and 1970s, and several episodes of seventies series Huset på Christianshavn.

Despite her impressive career up to this point, most Danes will remember Nørgaard primarily for her legendary series, Matador.

Made by broadcaster DR in the late seventies and early eighties but set during a period spanning the years 1929-1947, Matador follows a range of characters and families spanning the class divide, portraying life in a provincial town as it goes through generational change and historical upheaval.

The depth of Matador’s characters, brilliance of Nørgaard’s writing and polished acting by its large cast has long-since secured Matador a position as one of Danish television’s all-time great shows.

Mixing melodrama, light humour and intrigue, the series has almost become part of the national subconscious over the years. Many Danes can recall scenes, characters or memorable lines from the show – even if they were born decades after its original broadcast.

Millions of DVDs and VHS tapes of the series have been sold, setting records according to DR.

Despite its popularity and impact, Nørgaard told the journal Journalisten in 2017 that “I think it’s a bit boring that things always have to be about Matador”.

“I feel that I’m a journalist first and foremost,” she said.

In a programme made by DR in 2017 to commemorate her hundredth birthday, Nørgaard said “being old doesn’t make you something special”.

“You are just someone who has lived long,” she said.

Nørgaard will be buried at St. Pauls Church in Copenhagen, according to the family statement, which also requests peace to honour the memory of their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother until the funeral has taken place.

READ ALSO: Danish TV: The best shows to watch to understand Danish society

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Amateur treasure hunters’ gems go on display at Denmark’s National Museum

They may be derided elsewhere but in Denmark, hobby archaeologists who hunt treasures with metal detectors are such an asset that the National Museum has dedicated an entire exhibit to their finds.

Amateur treasure hunters' gems go on display at Denmark's National Museum

“What they save now means the world for what we can do in the future and how we can build our museums,” exhibit curator Line Bjerg told AFP.

“What they do really matters.”

In Denmark’s muddy soil, if objects “are not saved, then they are lost to history”, she added.

In three rooms on the museum’s bottom floor, visitors can learn about “detectorists” and admire some of their discoveries, including rings, necklaces and gold coins, all marked with the name of their finder.

In the Scandinavian country once populated by Vikings, amateurs can use metal detectors almost everywhere as long as they get permission from the landowner. They are not, however, allowed to dig beneath the top layer of soil.

Any archaeological finds have to be turned over to a local museum for an initial evaluation before they are transferred to the National Museum for an in-depth assessment — and a possible reward.

Detectorists’ hauls can be abundant.

“Last year, we had almost 18,000 objects that were sent for treasure trove processing. The year before that it was 30,000 objects,” Bjerg said.

Known as “Danefae”, any archaeological artefacts found by treasure hunters automatically belong to the state, under an old medieval law.

According to Torben Trier Christiansen, an archaeologist with the Historical Museum of Northern Jutland, the collaboration with the hobbyists is

They are “one of the most important collaborators of the museum”, he insisted.

There are more than 250 detectorists in his region, with the most active among them handing over around a hundred objects per year.

Arne Hertz, a 64-year-old pensioner who heads a local association of detectorists, said “people are pleased to do the right thing by handing over the findings”.

Experts Krister Vasshus, left, and Lisbeth Imer hold golden bracteates unearthed in Vindelev, Denmark in late 2020. Imer holds a golden bracteate features an inscription mentioning Odin, the Norse god. (Photo: John Fhær Engedal Nissen, The National Museum of Denmark via AP) 
Writing history together

The unique collaboration is based on a mutual understanding. On the one hand, archaeological sites won’t be looted. On the other, authorities are able to showcase the amateur discoveries.

“Sometimes it’s these particular finds that change our history because they add knowledge that we simply did not have before,” Bjerg noted.

One section of the biggest exhibition room is dedicated to the “Vindelev Treasure”.

Comprised of 22 gold objects, it was buried in the sixth century in southwestern Denmark and found in late 2020 by an amateur who had just bought a metal detector.

The treasure trove includes a bracteate — a thin coin stamped on one side.

“And on the inscription of the bracteate is mentioned the name of Odin, the Norse god. And it puts Odin 150 years before we actually knew that he existed as a god,” Bjerg said.

“We’re building our history together in Denmark.”

For detectorists, whose finds have on occasion been displayed at local museums, the exhibit at the National Museum is a major recognition.

“It’s very impressive to see how the things we’ve found are displayed — and to see that we are actually helping a little to enrich Denmark’s history,” 38-year-old Simon Grevang, who works in online marketing and has been a detectorist for four years, told AFP.

The exhibit has drawn crowds since opening in February.

Annie Lund, a 72-year-old retiree who was enthralled by the jewellery on display, said it was a good way of making history accessible.

“Twenty or forty years ago, this was only for a small group of people, scientists… not for the general public. So I think this is really good,” she said.