Andreas Doppler is around 35 and he is many things. He says:
I am a cyclist. And I’m a husband and a father and a son and an employee. And a house owner. And lots of things. We are so many things.
And all of a sudden, it all seems to be too much. His father dies. He takes a bad spill on his bike. And everything changes.
He decides to change his life and to live in the forest just outside Oslo. In his need for sustenance, he kills a big moose who happens to be a female with a small moose. The small moose “adopts” Doppler and sticks around. Doppler eventually decides to call him Bongo. Bongo follows him everywhere and even sleeps in his tent.
While Doppler decides to drop out of the rat race, he somehow maintains some relationship to his family and occasionally takes care of his young son Gregus, who spends time with him in the forest. Following a visit to her husband early in his stay in the forest, Doppler’s wife gets pregnant. However, Doppler seems not to feel a sense of responsibility for this event. Even after his brother-in-law threatens him if he does not return to his family and take his responsibilities, he does not feel compelled to do so.
Although Doppler stays in the forest in an attempt to remove himself from the obligations of living in society, Doppler still attracts others such as a depressive model builder, a house robber, and a reformed reactionary turned peace-lover.
The book cover says that this is “an enchanting modern fable about one man and his moose.” Well, what is the importance of the moose?
Bongo provides him with an excuse to stay in the forest, a focus for his energy. In effect, it anchors him there. Through Bongo, he can relate to the forest and its other inhabitants. It also keeps him from killing another moose.
Bongo could also be understood as the concrete manifestation of his conscience. Bongo is there to force him to reflect on his actions and their consequences.
Alternatively, Bongo could stand in for his sense of innocence, his primal being. He often says that Bongo is not very bright and does not understand certain things. But Bongo also seems to understand some essential aspects of life, such as survival.
Through the winter, Doppler sculpts a totem that represents him, his father, his son and Bongo. This totem illustrates, for the entire world to see, the essential relationships in his life, that form the foundation on which he can stand even if he feels alone. Once the totem is finished, he can finally move on. Which does not mean he will return to his former life.
Loe, Erlend, Doppler, Anansi International, 2012. Originally published in Norwegian in 2004.