What is a Firkanttun?
Ready for some theory? Don't worry, there are nice pictures too!
In the 1700s a traditional Norwegian farm in the Trøndelag region usually consisted of:
- Farmhouse (Våningshus)
- House for brewing and baking (Eldhus)
- Mouse-proof storage house for grains, food and clothing (Stabbur/Bur)
- Stable (Stall)
- Barn (Fjøs) for cows, sheep, pigs and hay
- A sauna (Bast'u) used for drying grains, getting clean and some times even giving birth.
- An out door toilet (Utedo), sometimes with two or three seats (Let's make pooping a social activity!)
- Wood shed (Vedskjul)
- A Smithy (Smie). Due to risk of fire, the smithy was situated outside the square.
These buildings were placed in an enclosed square, hence the name "firkanttun" which directly translates firkant = square, tun = yard.
Because yes, in the middle of the square there is a yard, a farmyard.
In our farmyard stands an old Linden tree.
Around it: One L-shaped barn, one fjøs, a Stabbur and a Våningshus. The Våningshus and the barns were built in 1850, the Stabbur was built in 1952.
The våningshus is a traditional building called "Trønderlån". I will elaborate on this in another post (It's super interesting, promise!).
To our knowledge, there has been a settlement in this location since before the Viking age.
Reading the landscape, the farm was presumably located exactly where our farm is located to day.
From the farm we can see the Trondheim fjord and all the way to the city of Trondheim!
This means our ancestors could keep track of what was going on in town and who and what arrived by sea. They could also pay attention to if the cairns were lit on fire...
From Longhouse to Firkanttun
As some of you probably know, the Vikings lived in Longhouses.
In a Viking longhouse you would have all functions and facilities (except toilet) under one roof. The humans lived in one side of the building, the animals in the other.
Living with animals was practical because it kept the animals safe from wild animals. Also, the animals produce heat (Viking age radiator!).
As a Viking re-enactor and living history enthusiast I have lived in several reconstructions of Longhouses.
My conclusion is that they are far from my romantic ideas about the past.
They are dirty, smelly and cold. The sand from the dirt floor gets in all your food, there is smoke everywhere and it smells of animal feces.
Also, living with animals is a challenge regarding hygiene.
During the 1700s and 1800s Norwegians were slowly enlightened by the rich knowledge of other (traveling) Norwegians, thus gaining knowledge about both bacteria and fashion (Denmark and Sweden <3).
This inspired Norwegians to build several separate houses with separate functions.
Now a farmer's wife could butcher the goat in one house and bake the bread in another. Infection risk minimized!
Now, let's take a break and enjoy this romantic picture of this epic and clean Viking in front of a stunning reconstruction of a really big (penis enlarging) Longhouse. (My friend Gøran is in the picture).
From many small to a few large
So, in the 1700s, Norwegians were building Firkanttuns with many buildings with separate functions.
Then, in the mid 1800s industrialization (and capitalism) happened to the Norwegian farm society and culture. In Norwegian, this stretch of years is referred to as "Det store hamskiftet" - which means "The big changing of skins". (You know, like snakes do, or like teenagers do when they reach puberty).
Farmers started using machines instead of human labour.
Also, the trading connection between rural areas and cities developed. Farmers started "selling and buying" instead of relying on self-sufficiency.
For the Firkanttun this meant structural changes. The government encouraged (new laws passed in 1821 and 1856) the construction of new buildings with several functions under one roof. Hence our large L-shaped barn that accommodated many features and functions.