Elves' Hill

Elves' Hill (Danish: Elverhøj) is a comedy by Johan Ludvig Heiberg, with overture and incidental music by Friedrich Kuhlau (Op. 100), which is considered the first Danish national play.

Elves' Hill
Written byJohan Ludvig Heiberg
Date premiered6 November 1828
Original languageDanish


Elves' Hill was commissioned by Frederik VI for the wedding of his daughter Vilhelmine Marie and Frederik Carl Christian (later Frederik VII) and premiered on 6 November 1828, 5 days after the wedding.[1][2] Since the premiere, the play has been performed more than 1,000 times at the Royal Danish Theatre.[3]


The work incorporated both the texts and melodies of two traditional ballad pieces featuring folklore about the Elven king. Heiberg localized the legend of the Elven king to Stevns.[4] To these, the motif element of the swapped children was added. King Christian IV is cast as a sort of detective, who unravels the mystery.

The two ballads used were Elvehøj (DgF 46B) which begins "Jeg lagde mit hoved til Elverhøj" (I laid my head down on Elves' Hill)" and Elveskud (DgF 47B) that begins "Herr Oluf han rider saa vide" (Sir Oluf he rideth so far-and-wide). These ballads had appeared in Udvalgte Danske Viser fra Middelalderen (1812), edited by Werner Abrahamson.[4][7][8][9]

The work also contains "Kong Christian stod ved højen mast", which became the royal anthem of Denmark. It is set to Kuhlau's arrangement to a tune already being sung to the lyrics originally written by Johannes Ewald for an entirely different play.[10] However Elves' Hill is considered instrumental to the romantic popularity of the anthem.

In the eighth Olsen-banden movie (Olsen-banden ser rødt), the Olsen gang bombs, drills, and hammers its way through an opera house's basement in synchronicity with the music of the Elverhøj Overture.


  1. Shore 2008, pp. 131
  2. Møller, Kristian Langdal. "H. C. Andersen i Helsingør" (snippet). Anderseniana. 2. rk. II:4: 342–51., p.344n "der opførtes 1. Gang 5 Dage efter Brylluppet"; Reprinted in: [Strejflys over hans Liv og hans Digtning] (1968), p.20.
  3. Wamberg, Niels Birger (1971). H. C. Andersen og Heiberg (snippet). Politiken. p. 275.
  4. Kuhn 2000, p. 295
  5. Shore 2008, pp. 136
  6. Shore 2008, pp. 152
  7. Shore 2008, pp. 133–135
  8. Abrahamson, Werner Hans Frederik, ed. (1812). "XXXIV:Elveskud, p.234; XXXV, p. 237". Udvalgte danske viser fra middelalderen. 1. F.F. Schultz.
  9. Grundtvig, Sven (1856). "46. Elvehøj, p.105-; 47.Elveskud, p. 109-". Danmarks gamle folkeviser. 2. Samfundet til den danske literaturs fremme.
  10. Shore 2008, pp. 156–157


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