Inger Wiehl


emigration, adaptation, culture, language


This presentation poses the challenge of emigrating versus that of staying home, exemplified by a Southern Jutlander who stayed home during the years of Prussian rule between 1864 and 1920 and one who left for America during those years. It begs the larger question of who endures more, those who leave or those who stay behind, a salient issue underlying all emigration and any significant parting. Put in classical terms: Who faces the greater challenge Odysseus or Penelope? He endures any number of dangers on his way back from Troy; she stays by her loom and keeps home intact for her returning husband and the inheritance of their son, Telemachus. Whom does Homer privilege? Neither, it would seem. Penelope asks the riddle of their marriage bed and Odysseus answers. She upholds and protects the history of home and generations. In that process she demonstrates her determination to remain faithful and to have faith in the seriousness of her endeavor, which is lent significance by Odysseus's struggles to return home. Those are the themes of myth as they illustrate our individual and collective needs to find home, to protect home, and, in the effort, to maintain our personal dignity.