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Abstract

The article evaluates the life and work of N. F. S. Grundtvig as a charismatic leader who played and continues to play a highly significant role in shaping the national life of Denmark. Grundtvig was a Lutheran clergyman and an important writer of hymns, songs, and poetry. Though a key figure in Denmark, he was something of an outsider and prophet in his life and work. Through his public speaking, he challenged Denmark in a time of territorial loss, cultural weakness, and constitutional change to define its identity, to find strength, and to develop fresh approaches to its national life. The article considers his personal gifts and circumstances as factors that led to him becoming a towering figure in nineteenth-century Danish society but argues that his polymath nature and consequent engagement across a range of aspects of Danish society enabled his influence to be embedded deeply in the Danish psyche and life.