Knut Hamsun was born in poverty and raised in servitude. He was sent to work for an uncle who would pay for his keep, and whose palsy made the child's unexpectedly fine penmanship of considerable use. Hamsun saw much to read in the size, shape, and condition of hands, and his were frequently whacked for copying mistakes. His interest in the words themselves also arrived early, and he must have felt, in this sort of upper-class manual labor, both its similarity to the tailor's trade his father pursued and its difference from the art that his hands were already itching to emulate. Hamsun would later sometimes falsely laud this unpretentious life -- falsely because he knew he was utterly alien to it, was a slacker about his tasks and dimly ashamed of his connection to them. As if he were avoiding recruitment, he attempted to run away, and attacked his own foot with an axe, not the best method if you intend to travel. Hamsun even romanced the idea of suicide. When he dreamed, he dreamed of stories written on the sky, of Hamsun's glory waving in the wind of the world's attention. His parents had no way of understanding such ambitions, and he would never be able to say, with any success: "Look, Mom and Dad, look at what I've done." So he would cut them out of his life, along with most of his siblings, one of whom he would sue much later for assuming Knut's adopted surname.