The Ash Lad: In the Hall of the Mountain King

By Tab Olsen

The Ash Lad is an excellent fantasy adventure movie! It’s well worth watching and great for the whole family! Especially if you’re a fan of The Princess Bride, you will love The Ash Lad. It’s an action-packed adventure that’s light-hearted, sweet but not saccharine, silly but still smart—just like The Princess Bride.

In this movie, Espen “Ash Lad,” a poor farmer’s son, embarks on a dangerous quest with his brothers to save Princess Kristin from a giant troll known as the Mountain King, in order to collect a reward and save his family’s farm from ruin. They even use Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Peer Gynt as background music in the main action scene!

According to legend, the princess was obliged to be married before her 18th birthday, or else she would be taken away by the “mountain king” of trolls. Nordic King Erik orders his daughter Kristin, who heretofore had turned down all suitors, to marry Danish prince Fredrik. Prince Fredrik arrives to wed Kristin, but she refuses him and runs away.

The king promises his daughter’s hand and half the kingdom to whomever can save her. Prince Fredrik sets out with his burly men, but they face unexpected competition from the three peasant brothers: Per, Pål, and Espen. Playful, clumsy Espen, a daydreamer unable to get any chores done, had always tested his father’s patience, so this is his chance to prove himself.

I was surprised to find this rare jewel of a movie on Amazon Prime. An entertaining adventure that watches like a good book reads – i.e. slow-paced but never boring – The Ash Lad is a blend of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Princess Bride, Jack and the Beanstalk. The engaging family-friendly fantasy will entertain everyone from the very young to the young at heart. One note for parents of young children – the troll and forest nymph scenes may be a little intense for kids under 4, but overall it’s a good, clean fantasy with a moral ending.

A story like this could easily end up being cheesy, but they did a great job. This Norwegian movie is actually better than many Hollywood fantasy films. It’s definitely not got the budget of Lord of the Rings, but still the landscapes were breathtaking and fantastical. The combination of beautiful natural scenery, amazing costumes, cool set pieces, nice musical score, great special effects, and top notch cinematography all work together to make a movie that should be a part of every family’s library.

The Ash Lad movie is fun, whimsical, optimistic – just like the story’s hero. I enjoyed the glimpse into the legends of another culture. If you like stories set in medieval, fantasy, swords-and-sorcery worlds – and are in the mood for something lighthearted – I bet you’ll love this movie. I’ve watched it twice already, and enjoyed it both times.

I normally prefer subtitles to dubbed movies, but I was pleasantly surprised with this one. The English voice-overs could have been a bit better, but they were acceptable and not cringe-worthy. By the way, The Ash Lad was released on 29 September 2017. It was the second highest-grossing film in Norway in 2017, after Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This Norwegian film is a classic – right up there with The Princess Bride!

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