A song of struggle
When I try to explain the textual content of Norwegian folk songs to foreigners, I usually start by explaining that there are three main categories.
- The first (and largest) category is Love.
The grand love, the love you can never have, the love who loved you endlessly and then died.
She died (of illness) and then he died (of grief).
He died (in some small battle) and she killed herself (in a field of wild roses).
He fell in love with her, she turned out to be a troll, they both die.
She is a troll, needs love to break the curse, they both die.
And of course: the impossible love - the love you have for someone who is "out of your league", like a count or the son of a rich man.
- The second category is Death by animal attack and/or killing/stealing/selling/trading/loosing animals.
Where did my goat go? I can't go home unless I find it.
Who stole the ox? The thieves looked sad.
I want to kill that crow and make stuff out of it. I can because I have a rifle.
The girl was eaten by a wolf.
I loved my horse and then it died. When it died I got eaten by a wolf.
And before I reveal the third largest category I must point out that there are several sub-categories, such as:
I hate my wife she is a whiney bitch.
Sex and penis.
Drunk men who sober up and finally get married.
Trolls and other creatures.
- The third category is:
"Trying to build a house or farm in a steep slope/hill/mountain. It fell down so I tried again. Oh the struggle, I love Norway anyway".
Today I went on an adventure with my colleague Christian.
He knew of a place. An old farm located deep within the woods, situated in/on a steep slope.
(Notice the massive amount of stones piled up under the buildings).
The owners had died several decades ago, leaving their farm and belongings behind.
They had no relatives so the farm was still there with all its inventory, almost untouched.
Yes... a time capsule showing several generations of lived life. A mix of the old and the new, from the 1800s until the abrupt end in the 1980s.
We set out to ascend the hills, passed lakes and streams, tumbled through thick pine forest and strolled through flowery meadows.
We encountered a capercaillie and a deer. They were scared shitless.
As we reached this "valley beyond all reason", the farm revealed itself.
With caution, and in detail, we investigated each and every house: the barn, the shed, the stabbur, the stable and the main house.
Time had taken its toll on the wooden log houses.
Gravity was pulling them down the slope and towards the fjord.
There is nothing to be done.
We found so many inscriptions and carvings it almost felt like Christmas.
Apparently, "behind the barn" was the place to be.
We found names, latin inscriptions, bad words, drawings of boats and a badly carved
In general, we were amazed by all the details and gadgets we found.
This was better than any museum.
Why? Because it was not staged. It was raw, messy, pure and had hard evidence of lived life.
The houses and items had repairs. So much was broken but stil on display. There was a mess in the drawers. The interior was a clash of styles in furniture, clothes and objects belonging to different decades - conspicuously similar to any real home. Thus not being similar to any museum reconstruction I have ever seen.
A life of struggle and of Norwegian countryside poverty. A life of worries and a battle against gravity.
Thank you Christian for showing me this place.
And just for the record: we took nothing home.
No need to upset the farm spirits.
Norwegians endured the harshness and steepness of the land. Thanks to the struggle of our ancestors, who were literally clinging onto it, we can now enjoy the rewards.