Josefine Ottesen
  prize-winning Danish author


Josefine Ottesen is one of Denmark’s most popular authors of books for children and young adults, in terms of both enjoyment and sales. 
During the last 30 years, Josefine’s authorship has, on several occasions, set the agenda on the Danish children and young adults' book scene. The many national awards and international nominations she has received, covering several different works, testify to her broad appeal and popularity. Several of her books for young people have also met with a positive response from a more mature reading public. With her imaginative stories, filled with adventure and fantasy, Josefine Ottesen has contributed to many children’s joyful conquest of reading, as well as retaining young people, boys especially, as readers at an age when their interest in books often wanes.


Helgi the Dane given glowing reviews in Danish press. Read a selection of them here.

June 2014

Josefine Ottesen is among the Danish authors with the most titles in Danish libraries – over 200,000 copies! This makes her the 2nd most-read author in the country.

On 15 September 2013, Josefine Ottesen was presented with the Søren Gyldendal Merit Award, one of Denmark’s most prestigious literary awards. The award is chiefly made to authors who are “in the middle of a strong, distinctive body of creative work”, as the award’s founding articles express it.



(In Danish with English sub-titles)

1. Get an insight into Josefine Ottesen's working methods. Click here

2. Listen to Josefine talking about her motivation as an author. Click here

3. Interview in English with Josefine and US author Tamora Pierce Click here


Recent Titles:

Historical novel:

Helgi Daner (Helgi the Dane)

Helgi is a grown boy the first time he is presented to his real father, Goetrik, the weak and tormented lord over the Danish kingdom. It is not long before his life changes course once more as he is given to the Frankish king as a hostage and a pledge for future taxes.

At the court of Charlemagne, Helgi's desire to become a knight grows, but he is constantly reminded of the fact that he is only the son of a dishonourable vassal king. If Goetrik doesn't pay his taxes, Helgi's head will be cut off and sent north salted in a barrel.

Violent events force Helgi to make a stand. Can he freely choose to serve virtue, truth and beauty, or he is forever bound to the family he was born into? And, despite his father's betrayal, does he have a responsibility when enemies threaten the Danish kingdom? 

Helgi the Dane is inspired by the legends of Ogier the Dane, as found in Chansons de Geste, written in France around the year 1000. Besides telling the story of the Danish prince, "Helgi the Dane" is also a chronicle about the starting point for our common European culture.

Read synopsis and extracts from Helgi the Dane. Click here.

Trilogy: Det døde land (The Deadlands)

"The Deadlands is an impressive achievement - a trilogy about grim powerlessness and a world that is out of joint. With a wise, yet maladjusted, youth in a leading role which he, deep down, doesn't want to play. Jonah's desperation and angst is so insistent that reading becomes a serious and deeply felt experience."  Weekendavisen (newspaper)

The trilogy has been translated to Norwegian.

Read synopsis of the whole trilogy and chapter 1 of Golak here.

Part 1: Golak (Golak)




The language is flawless. It is pure, detached and crafted meticulously with a view to being understood. The reader shifts quickly into being at home in a new world with new rules. The tone is insistent.  This is important!  And the action often takes a break in order to focus on a boy who cannot resist a challenge or a chance to sneer at the old and discover the new.
Politiken (newspaper),  16 October 2008

Josefine Ottesen is an author who takes the  problems raised by the young seriously.  In Golak, the first volume in the trilogy The Deadlands, she tackles such issues as society's rules and the importance of these rules to the community. ....  (she) slices the feelings open with a scalpel for her young readers, who are in that stage between child and adult and have to work out alone how to create a balance between the ego and the common good.

Fyns Amts Avis (newspaper), 22 November 2008



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... an impressive and gripping novel that manages to involve the reader in a world that is constantly seen from new angles. There is no doubt that with this trilogy we are looking at a major work of Danish literature for young adults which will be read and discussed for many years to come.
Weekendavisen (newspaper) 12 December 2009

The yearning to belong ... for unconditional love like that one experiences from a father or mother... the yearning to discover one's roots, permeates Josefine Ottesen's second volume of the trilogy, The Deadlands.
... With an Orwellian pen, Josefine Ottesen pinpoints such dystopian future visions as racial improvement, genetic manipulation, artificial control of emotions … while simultaneously allowing not only her main character Jonah, but also his friends .... to express the desire to live normally.
In this cold technological world, Jonah meets what is perhaps his greatest challenge - his internal crisis.
... Josefine Ottesen describes the teenager’s and young adult's travails with identity as well as with their social network.
Fyns Amts Avis (newspaper), October 2009

This continuation of Josephine Ottesen dystopic serial, "The Deadlands", is remarkably good. The connections between the first book and this one are nicely drawn into each other and the universe is full of fantasy, but still down to earth, so one remains engaged. In addition, Jonah’s personal development is interesting to read about, and there is a superbly maintained level of suspense throughout the book. Just like the first book, "Resurrection" gives food for thought …
Fyns Stiftstidende (newspaper), 25 October 2009


Part : Genfødt (Resurrection) 

Part 3: Gudløs (Godless)






The young man's conflicts include in particular the definitions of good or bad. When is one human, all in all? And Josefine Ottesen ensures that the ethical debate about compassion and genetic engineering creeps right in where the tips of one’s nerves can go into overdrive and bring the reader to question his/her own existence.
Fyns Amts Avis (newspaper) 7 May 2011


Josefine Ottesen is excellent at putting words on existential issues and ethical dilemmas. There is a long way to the destination in the total of just under 900 pages the trilogy spans, but the road towards it is absolutely worth following. Ottesen's thorough research within technology and modern genetic science is impressive and smoothly integrated into the tableaux of the novel which emerge at an impressive level of detail around a comprehensive gallery of characters. And there are very few writers on Danish soil who match Ottesen's ability to forcefully and with nuance pick the lock of a complicated mind, thus creating a meaningful dialogue with the reader about the major issues in relation to existence and meaning, at both the individual and the global level. It is great art.
Information (newspaper) 15 July 2011

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Hullerikkerne fra syvstammetræet
(The Holiwags from Seven-Trunk Tree)

The series has been translated to German and Norwegian.

Read extracts from the first two volumes here

A Holiwag is about 7 cm tall, with claws on its toes and good hearing. Holiwags resemble us people quite a lot - they can argue and fight; they can be as silly as popstars; and they possess qualities like heroism and drive. ... Josefine Ottesen tells a tale without sentimentality - but with a rather sweet quality - about animals and little creatures who live in fearful harmony with each other. The point of the tale is that you have to travel out into the world to see with your own eyes. Maybe you'll discover something new! ... Claus Rye Schierbeck has illustrated the book throughout with black and white drawings which reflect the spirit of the tale with joy and precision; pictures which are full of movement, seriousness and spectacular camera angles!

Politiken (newspaper), 25 July 2008

A book to be read out loud, with crackling oaths and onomatopoeic words, a dramatic, fabulous story, full of fun and lively characters. ... The fantasy is adroitly integrated into a mixture which never descends into the sentimentally wishy-washy, but always has a grip on the large and small nuances there are in the games people play. A simply faultless combination.
Information (newspaper), 25 July 2008

The third volume about the adventurous holiwags, 7cm high, for reading aloud for somewhat advanced children between 5 and 10 years old, and suitable for own reading from about 9 years old. Here there are thrills, adventure and excitement with nature as a good, educational backdrop.

The story is well told in plain language, with warmth, excitement and some thrills and spills. In addition, nature plays an important and realistic role amid the fairy-tale story that organises its tools really effectively and beautifully. The book's illustrations support the story well.

Children and adults who enjoyed the author's books on the flower fairy Roselil ... can continue here and get some more modern and relevant adventures in a countryside framework.
An exciting third volume in the series. The story is well told and well-illustrated in a beautifully designed book. An excellent book to read for the read-aloud shelf for almost the entire family, and for good readers of both genders.
Torben Bråe Olesen

Purchasing consultant for libraries

... this delightful little fairy tale that is perfect as an everyday read-aloud book before bedtime for four to seven year-olds. 
Wing Swish and Otter Splash is largely told in children's language even though some words will probably require an explanation from the reader. The stories are exciting and yet they are told with warm and adventurous fun and at eye level with the target audience, who will be able to nod in recognition of many of the situations - because funnily enough, holiwag children resemble all other children around the world with their wonderful shared universes, where the real reality and the magical reality have been randomly mixed in different, foolhardy concentrations.
Jan Vandall
(book review website)