map: southern half of Norway
The southern half of Norway.
Arrow points to the Telemark area, below: map: Kviteseid area
Telemark area in the early 1700s. Note "DALANE" and "MORGEDAL" dales.

Some farms in Morgedal: Brekke, Byggland, Bjåland
Some farms in Dalane: Homme, Dalen, Moen, Åkre
Terrain close-up map below:
map: terrain of Kviteseid area
Closer still below:
map: terrain of Kviteseid area

Appendix 1: Kviteseid

1: fjells, glaciers, and ice ages

Telemark province, Norway: Kviteseid parish wedges up into towering, glacier-carved mountains known here as fjells.

Scandinavia lay buried under a vast ice cap for most of the last two million years. The Pleistocene glacial epoch, otherwise known as the Quaternary Ice Age, is not yet over, folks. We are now in an interglacial period of relative warmth, and the ice sheets have retreated to mountain tops. This Holocene Interglacial began around twelve thousand years ago. No telling if this is the beginning of the end for the ice age or just another intermission.

The ice rivers of the last glaciation -- expansion of glaciers to their maximum extent -- carved the fjells of Telemark into a landscape of steep ridges and dales, with long narrow freshwater inland fjords, and long jagged saltwater fjords stabbing inland along the coast. Flat arable land is a rarity in this province of Norway.

2: waterways and iceways

Ancient petroglyphs in Norway show figures on skis using one long ski pole, gripped in both hands. Viking age Norse also used snowshoes, sleds, and sleighs. Winter worked better for traveling long distances than summer, for streams and lakes made roads of ice, good for skidding along. After all, snowpack in Telemark persists into March or April, a good long season.

Lake Bandak (14 miles long) is Norway's 57th largest (in surface area) of 450,000 fresh water lakes. Most are long and narrow and deep, carved out by glaciers in the last ice age.

Kviteseidvatn (Lake Kviteseid, 5 miles long) lies downstream of Lake Bandak. Its outflow heads east-southeast toward the sea. An arm of the lake, an inlet called Sundkilen, juts three miles inland toward today's town of Kviteseid. The town takes its name from the peninsula that embraces Sundkilen.

3: Telemark province, Kviteseid parish

Thelemark was one of many small Old Norse kingdoms, mentioned in saga. "Tele" means frost, ice in the soil, or a layer of frozen ground. "Mark" means territory. A person from this realm was called a "tele" or a "telemarking."

Kviteseid means "white's isthmus," or isthmus of white. It applied first to a farm on the peninsula, then to the parish, then later to the municipal area.

1730: At this point in time, there may have been nothing of Kviteseid village but a dock. Two stony islands partially blocked passage from Kviteseidvatn into Sundkilen inlet.

1892: Steamship commerce began on the waterways after the digging of the Telemarkskanal far downstream. To clear a channel through to Sundkilen, one of the stony islands was blasted to bits. A tannery and a general store were the first community buildings erected in the growing town of Kviteseid.

Kviteseid grew to straddle the mouth of a creek that ran down from the heights. "Dalaåi" means "the creek of the dale." Dalaåi has its source way up in Lårdal parish and traces a 15-mile winding course from the Høydalsmo area (Åe farm) down through The Dales to Sundkilen. ( See Dalen farm in Appendix 3. ) Dalaåi passes Åkre farm, then Moen, then Dalen and Jusureid cottage, then Homme, then the path to Tveit, before it reaches lower farms on the outskirts of town.

åi : creek. Say "ah" but round your lips like "oh," then "ee."

4: plants

Fir, spruce, aspen, and birch cloak the ridges and hillsides in southern Norway. In the far north trees are more scarce, and buildings were once made of stone and turf, but in the south, there was no shortage of timber. The Norse had a custom of planting fir seedlings either side of a new couple's door as symbol of children to come.

Coltsfoot, one of the earliest blooms of spring in Norway, has the Norwegian name of hestehov, which means horse hoof. Molte, also known as cloudberries, are a tasty wild berry highly valued by country folk. City folk might join their country cousins in berry-picking outings, a celebration of summer.

Pansies have the Norwegian name of stemorsblom, or stepmother's blossom.

One ancient commodity from Scandinavia: pelts and furs. Ermine and sable proved especially valuable in trade with the continent where, during medieval times, they were prohibited from use by any but nobility, and were called "noble furs."

Other furs of value: lynx, bear, fox, wolverine.

5: livestock and summer pastures

The Norwegian fjord horse is pony-sized, usually of palomino coloring with a black stripe down the middle of the white mane and along the back, and a central tuft of black in the white tail. The fjord horse has been bred in Norway since Viking times and used for both riding and harness.

Livestock listed for Homme farm in 1657: 1 horse, 4 cows, 7 sheep, 2 goats.

Livestock played an important role in the nearly self-sufficient lifestyle of these scattered farms. In ancient times, wealth was reckoned in the size of herds and flocks. The early Norse bred cattle for meat and hides, and relied on goats for dairy products. (One source says that the price for a cow hide was two pounds of wheat.)

As soon as new spring growth appeared, shepherds loosed the livestock from their cramped winter quarters in the stables and byres, and led them out to pasture. They herded cattle, sheep, and goats up to high mountain meadows as soon as possible and kept them up there all summer long.

Lower pastures, close to the main farm and its haybarn, were set aside for haying. The livestock would need lots of fodder when they were shut up in the byres through the long, cold winter.

If hay ran out? Birch twigs and moss from the highland bogs would serve as feed, keeping the livestock through the worst shortages.

The seter -- the summer farm up in the heights -- often was a full farm of its own, but at minimum had a cottage for shelter and a dairy hut. The seter girls herded livestock to fresh grazing, milked the goats (and in later years, the cows), and made cheese.

Long-horned, red-sided Telemark cattle are hardy and thrive even in poor pastures, providing meat and milk. The breed is known as Telemarkfe. "Fe" means livestock.

One source says, in comparison to another Norwegian breed, "The Telemark cow is more temperamental, territorial and lively. All farmers emphasize that Telemark cows are exceptional when it comes to returning from the pastures at exact times for milking. This has great practical value, and saves a lot of work for the farmer. The Telemark cow is also an individualist, with a lot of interest in her surroundings. She is inquisitive and intelligent, and loves to play and dance." ("Telemarksfeet Som Beiterydder," by Karoline S.W. Hartviksen)

Appendix 2: names, inheritance

1: children, heirs, and dowry

Surnames in Norway were usually patronymic, indicating paternal descent. Aslak the son of Åmund was called Aslak Åmundsson. His sister Aslaug was called Aslaug Åmundsdotter. Women did NOT change their surname upon marriage.

Sometimes the farm name appeared as the final surname: Aslak Åmundsson Moen.

The first son usually gained the given name of the paternal grandfather. The second, that of the maternal grandfather. The first daughter, the given name of the maternal grandmother. The second, of the paternal grandmother.

Subsequent children were named after other relatives -- often after an older sibling who had died. If both grandfathers were named Knut, the family might have two sons both named Knut, needing nicknames to differentiate them.
( see 5: Nicknames )

The Gardssoge volume of the Kviteseid Bygdesoge (see Appendix 11: sources) draws on estate settlement (probate) records for many of its details. Often, the records list for each family the number of children born and then the number that died before naming.

With high infant mortality before 1800, it was common for babies not to survive birth or their early days. If they didn't live until christening, they often did not get a name or a place in the parish records.

In Old Norse tradition of long ago, a newborn would be presented to its father. If he accepted and acknowledged the child as his own, he would take it on his lap and officially pronounce its name.

The oldest son often inherited all or most of the family farm. Other sons had to buy their own land or fend for themselves abroad: traveling, trading, pillaging, settling afar.

Sons inherited a much larger share from their parents than did daughters, since marriages usually involved a bride-price delivered from groom to father-of-the-bride to bride.

In earlier times, any wealth a woman brought into her marriage remained separate from her husband's estate. I don't know whether that custom was still in effect during the 1800's.

A daughter might inherit if there were no surviving sons. This happened at Huvestad farm, where an Ingebjørg was referred to in the parish records as the "odelsgjente" of Huvestad: the gjente / jente (girl) who inherits the odel (alodial) rights to a farm held by the family for at least 20 years.

Under odel rights, if one family member sells the farm to an outsider, any other direct relative has the right to demand to buy it back within five years of the sale, to keep the ancestral farm in the family.

2: siblings, cousins, grandparents

Siblings (brothers and/or sisters) share the same parent. First cousins share the same grandparent, but not parent. Second cousins share the same great-grandparent.

As long as relatives are in the same generation, it's as simple as that. If they share great-great-grandparents, they're third cousins; great-great-great-grandparents: fourth cousins; and so on. If not the same generation, the word "removed" applies.

Since far means father and mor means mother, farmor -- literally "father-mother" -- means paternal grandmother. farfar is paternal grandfather. morfar is mom's dad, and mormor means more and more fun with mom's mom! (moro, coincidentally, means fun!)

But you could just as well say bestefar and bestemor, a generic grandfather and grandmother.

What the English call a great-grandfather, the Norse call oldefar; and oldemor is a great-grandmother.

To go back further generations, the Norse add the prefix of "tipp-," the same way an American would say "great-" -- except it's a generation further back! "tipp-oldefar" means great-great-grandfather. "tipp-tipp-oldemor" means great-great-great-grandmother.

Your child's child is your barnebarn, or grandchild. Norwegian offers quite a choice of words for family relationships. A cousin could also be called a tantebarn ("TAHN-teh-barn": aunt's child) or onkelbarn ("OHN-kell-barn": uncle's child). A male cousin was a fetter.

uncle: onkel
aunt: tante
Inlaws: svigermor and svigerfar: mother-in-law and father-in-law

3: landowners, bachelors, crones

A bonde ("BONE-deh") is a wealthy landowner much like an English country squire: no title of nobility but wielding local influence. The Norse did not revere noble ancestry the way many other Europeans did. If they found their king deficient, they'd toss him out and pick another to take his place.

Most Norwegians worked the land. Any rural fellow who remained single for long was known as a bachelor farmer: "ungkarbonde" -- ung+kar+bonde: young fellow farmer

Kjerring means "woman," in general, and "wife" or "old married woman" in particular. It sometimes even carries the flavor of "crone" or "hag."

4: names in this saga

Disclaimer: These pronunciations are poor approximations!

Real People
Andres: "AHN-drayz"
Anne: "AHN-eh"
Aslak: "AH-zhlahk"
Birgit: "BEER-yeet"
Egeleiv: "EGG-eh-lave"
Gunnhild: "GOON-hild"
Guro: "GOO-roh"
Gygri: "YIH-gree"
Halvor: "HALL-vore"
Hæge: "HAG-eh"
Ingebjørg: EEN-geh-byerg"
Jon: "YONE"
Liv: "LEAVE"
Knut: "k'NOOT"
Margit: "MAR-yeet"
Olav: "OH-lahv"
Sigrid: "SIGG-ree"
Sondre: "SOHN-dreh"
Steinar: "STINE-ahr"
Sveinung: "SVANE-oong"
Søren: "SOOR-en"
Såmund: "SOH-moond"
Talleiv: "TALL-lave"
Tarald: "TAR-ahld"
Tarjei: "TAR-yigh"
Tone: "TOH-neh"
Torbjørg: "TORE- byerg"
Torbjørn: "TORE- byern"
Torjus: "TORE-yoose"
Åmund: "OH-moond"
Åshild: "OHZ-hild"
Åsne: "OHZ-neh"

Jøron: "YEW-roan"
Svånaug: "SVOE-nowg"

Places in Kviteseid Parish
Breidalen: "BRIE-doll-en"
Brekke: "BREKK-eh"
Brunkeberg: "BROON-keh-bairg"
Byggland: "BIG-lahnd"
Dalane: "DOLL-a-neh"
Dalen: "DOLL-en"
Donstad: "DOHN-stahd"
Homme: "HOME-eh"
Huvestad: "HOO-veh-stahd"
Håtveit: "HOE-t'vate"
Jusureid: "YOU-soo-ride"
Kviteseid: "KVEETS-ide "
Kviteseidvatn: "KVEETS-ide-VAHT'n"
Loupedalen: "LOOP-eh-doll-en"
Moen: "MOW-en"
Morgedal: "MORE-geh-doll"
Sundkilen: "SOOND-cheel-en"
Tveit: "T'VATE"
Uddedalen: "OO-deh-doll'en"
Øvrebø: "EW-vreh-bew"
Åkre: "OH-kra"

Places in Lårdal Parish
Eidsborg: "IDES-borg"
Ofte: "OAF-teh"
Åe: "OH-eh"

Places in Vrådal Parish
Naper: "NOPP-er"

5: bynames and nicknames

Traditional nicknames played off the formation of the name itself. The "-vor" in the name Halvor comes from the old Norse word "vardr" which means a guard or sentry. I assigned one of many Halvors in this tale the nickname of Varder. (1834)

Aslak > Laki
Aslaug > Asi, Asla
Birgit > Bibbi
Bjørgulv > Bjørgo
Gunnhild > Gunna
Sigrid > Siri
Såmund > Mundi
Talleiv > Toli

Bynames carried some description of the person or their occupation. Some of the totally fictional bynames in this saga:

Old Halvor of Homme
Halvor Lamefoot of Homme
Halvor Longlegs of Åe
Silent Halvor of Brekke
Hard Knut of Brekke
Burly Knut of Dalen
Red Knut of Jusureid

6: Såmund to Simon

Såmund was sometimes written as Saamund.

Egeleiv's husband Såmund of Åkre (1702-1733) left behind a long-lasting legacy: Two grandsons named Såmund, who appear throughout Part Two, as well as two great-grandsons with the same name.

How to keep them straight? Fictional nicknames may help!

  • Såmund the Sawyer Knutsson of Dalen was 24 years older than his cousin Tall Såmund Aslaksson of Åe.
  • Tall Såmund Åe, besides being a grandson of Egeleiv, was also a grandson of Liv, the main character of Part One (1701-1803). He is a major character in Parts Two (1807-1832) and Three (1834-1843).
  • Såmund the Sawyer at Dalen named his fourth son Såmund, probably in honor of Egeleiv's husband, the little boy's great-grandfather. To cut down on the confusion in this tale, I gave this boy the nickname Mundi.
  • Tall Såmund of Åe will also name a son Såmund in 1829.

The legacy of all these Såmunds lives on in the family name Såmundsson that, in America, came to be spelled "Simonson."

Appendix 3: parish farms A to Z to Å

Most information on the farms mentioned in Fiddle and Fjell comes from the "Kviteseid Bygdesoge," an extract from the parish (bygde) records. Assembled in the 1950s by Kviteseid native Torjus Loupedalen, (See Appendix 12: sources)


See bottom of the list. "Å" is the last letter in the Norwegian alphabet, even though some records spell it as "aa."


Bjåland has been occupied since before the Black Plague. Records exist of Bjåland dating back to 1555. It once was the hall of a bonde, the important landowner of Morgedal dale. Bjåland perches up the northwest slope of Morgedal, above Morgedal tarn. Øvrebø farm was a small outfarm a little further uphill. (see also Sondre Norheim, item 4 in Appendix 5)


1768: In the Breidalen entry in the Kviteseid Bygdesoge, Søren Olavsson Breidalen is listed with the occupation of rosemaler. His third son would later carry on the skill. (See a bit more about rosemaling in item 4 of Appendix 9)

1772: Liv's daughter Margit married Søren Olavsson Breidalen.


The Morgedal Hotell today sits upon the lands of Brekke farm. Uphill from the hotel are the world's first slalom slopes, and downhill is Norsk Skieventyr, a museum featuring the sport of skiing.

In the farmhouse at Brekke there still stands today a wardrobe with the names "Såve Vetleson and Gunhild Olavsdotter." This couple bought Brekke farm in 1870, but later, in 1882, emigrated to the United States, leaving the wardrobe behind.

Brekke farm buildings...

Brekke farm buildings

In the foreground stands Brekke farm's loft, and just beyond it is the barn, with a stone bridge to its upper floor where the hay would be stored. On the opposite (downhill) side of the barn would be the entrance to the lower floor where livestock were stabled during the winter. Wheel the haycarts right into the upper loft; lead the cattle into their stalls; fork down the hay. How convenient!

This barn bridge is made of stone. The space underneath a trestle-style wooden barn bridge was neither indoors nor outdoors, and thus a magical in-between place, good for trysting with a sweetheart -- when not haunted by goblins or trolls.

1747: Knut of Brekke, born this year, was the younger of two sons. When grown he would inherit the family farm even though he wasn't the firstborn. His older brother married twice, but had no children. Heirs were needed to carry on the family line. *UPDATE* Later research showed that Olav didn't actually farm at Brekke at this time. His sons moved there later. I decided for the sake of narrative simplicity to continue to portray his family here from the start.

1767: My apologies to Knut Olavsson Brekke (born in 1747, the same year as Aslak, Egeleiv's youngest). Life is hard, and makes some people bitter. I could not honestly portray all our ancestors as shining in honor and virtue, since that is not realistic. To Knut Olavsson Brekke falls the lot of the bad apple in this tale, though there is next to nothing in the records to indicate he had any dishonorable traits.

If this were a full-length novel, it would show flaws and weak- nesses in the character of Liv and the other "good guys," as well as strengths and good traits in the antagonists.

1810: Fact: Guro gave birth to her last child this year, according to the records. Fiction: My account of her illness.

1816: Hard Knut's grumpy nature (and his nickname) are total fiction, but the records do give an actual description of his son Sveinung: "He was a saddle and harness maker... He was a spry, agile fellow, a good ski-jumper and kjøgemester."

1823: The patriarch at Brekke, Hard Knut, died this year but no cause of death is recorded.

1826: Halvor Knutsson Brekke, born in 1795, died in 1826: "found frozen to death in the fields." [Ættesoga, Brekke 7.]

1826: Sveinung got married this year. He was "a saddle and harness maker... He was a spry and spirited fellow, a good ski-jumper and kjøgemester."

1827: In Scandinavian countries, bachelor farmers have quite a reputation for eccentricity. Olav was 39 when he got married to Aslaug Hansdotter who was a childless widow twenty years his senior -- a year younger than his own mother.

1829: Birgit of Brekke was the same age as Hæge Eivindsdotter from a nearby farm, Øvrebø, north of Brekke in Morgedal, and now raising a family at Gjerjord, up Håtveit way. They would have been acquaintances and might have been friends. Hæge's nephew Sondre Auversson was born at Øvrebø. (more about Sondre Norheim in item 4 of Appendix 5)

1832: In 1832, Olav Knutsson Brekke was "found on the 22nd of July in Morgedal Lake where he himself, so far as it can be determined, has shortened his days."

1839: "Talleiv Knutsson Midtbø, farm owner and farm laborer. Took his own life while out in the fields by shooting himself in the chest with a rifle." [Ættesoga: Brekke 10]

The bygdesoge includes a puzzling line: "Sveinung kom av med litt av kvart, gjorde spenne, til og med pening." Here are two possible translations:

  • "Sveinung got away with some pilfering, crafted buckles/clasps -- and now and then some coins."
  • "Sveinung got into a little of everything, caused some excitement, now and then took in money."

Whatever that sentence really means, it was followed by a quite clear line about the consequences: "But then he was reported and had to flee to Nordlande for a year's time." Sveinung Saddle-Maker turned into Sveinung Counterfeiter! [Ættesoga: Brekke VI]

1842: Birgit's nephew, Knut Andresson, married the widow at Huvestad and immediately gained a stepson three years younger than himself, as well as a 13 year old stepson. Within a year she bore him a child of his own, before they emigrated in 1844.


A center of blacksmithing during the Viking Age. Master smiths crafted many weapons and tools here. (item 1 in Appendix 5)

1743: This saga's first mention of Byggland farm refers to 18-year-old Jon Åsmundsson, an acquaintance of Liv and Torjus.

1827-1828: By 1827, Birgit's brother Sveinung of Brekke was farming at Byggland, though his name doesn't appear in lists of owners and leaseholders. Four of his children were born there, from 1827 through 1834.

The current owner of Byggland was also named Sveinung, but he was the son of Liv's oldest daughter Sigrid. He was the namesake of his great-great-grandfather, the traveling merchant who decided to buy Homme where he had often taken lodging. (See the chapter for 1756.)

1828: Liv's eldest daughter Sigrid died at Byggland at age 83.


"Dale" was a word common to both the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse. Dalen (The Dale) is pronounced "DOLL-en." Dalane (The Dales) referred to all the farms scattered up the valley of Dalaåi creek.

The Gardssoge says that on the grounds of Dalen farm there was a frost-free spring called Dalaspåi that gave plenty of water whether in ice-choked winter or parching summer. My translation: "Old tales say that this spring was holy and luck-giving. People rode a long way on Christmas Eve to water their horses at this spring. Those who came first were most lucky." (All sources I can find state that there are no hot springs in Norway except one in the far north.)

1730: Olav Dalen was born in the late 1500's. His great-grandson Såmund -- Egeleiv's groom -- grew up at Dalen among his kin, but since he was a third son and not the heir, he moved away from home when he got married, to the highest farm in Dalane. [Ættesoga: Dalen I and 21]

1750: Egeleiv's firstborn son Knut bought Dalen farm from his father's second cousin. The aging relative he brought home to The Dales was his grandfather's second wife. She died in 1756.

1787: Knut Såmundsson Dalen applied for a permit to build a sawmill on his property. It was one of only eight mills in the parish at that time. I gave his son Såmund the nickname "the Sawyer."

Lumber was Norway's major export. Fifty years earlier, in an effort to protect their monopoly, big lumber companies tried to get local mills closed down. The government compromised by imposing regulations for farm sawmills including registration, quarterly reporting and fees, and stipulation that home-milled boards must be noticeably inferior to the big companies' products (such as, trimming only two sides of the log instead of four before sawing into planks). Farm mills could not sell to strangers from outside the parish, either.

1823: "It appears that then Såmund came into great debt and had to sell the farm. He died in poverty and neglect in Sjodal in 1845, 83 years old and his wife at Jusureid." Såmund sold Dalen farm to Knut Olavsson in 1823, and Såmund moved into the outfarm at Jusureid. [From the Gardssoga]

Three Dalen sons were now living at Huvestad: Knut, 31; Bjørgulv, 24, married to the heiress of Huvestad; and Såmund, 19. There is no record of Knut or Såmund ever marrying.

1824: Gunnhild's younger sister Hæge Såmundsdotter Dalen got married to a man from the Kallåk farm over in Morgedal, a couple miles southeast of the Brekke farm.


A bonde by the name of Aslak lived at Holtan farm in 1593. In 1611, Homme farm belonged to the Holtan estate.

Local lore: someone hid some silver spoons in a tree on Holtan grounds, and they're still out there somewhere! Also, there is an old oak tree with a hollow in its trunk near a spur of rock, and at the base of the cliff, in the oak's shadow, sits an ancient slab of stone supported by three short stone legs. This is where you were supposed to set out food being offered to the nisse that lives in the holy oak tree.


Near the farm of Homme stands a steep knoll called Hommesnip. "Nip" is a mountaintop with extremely steep flanks. I've anglicized the name to Homme's Crest. From the top of Homme's Crest, you can see both Morgedal and Kviteseid, according to the owner of Homme land in 2006.

A description of a farm on the mountain's east flank mentions crags. Hommesnip juts steeply over the sloping fields of Homme, though not as high as the ridge behind it to the north. It's just under one mile as the crow flies from Homme farm's courtyard south to the top of Hommesnip. The gardssoga mentions Homme land stretching northwest up the ridge to Lauvmannstolen, which I can't find on the detailed map site I favor. In that direction it shows Fivlandsnuten: Cotton Grass Peak.

Homme once included 150 acres, most of which was forest land. The farm had stands of currant and raspberry bushes. It also has a few ancient piles of rocks called grave mounds, though the heaps may simply be stones cleared from fields.

1730: Sveinung Taraldsson was born in 1705, the older of two brothers and thus the heir of the farm Homme. He had three sisters. We don't know what farm his wife Åsne Jonsdotter came from. [Ættesoga: Homme 4]

1756: Halvor's great-grandfather Sveinung was a traveling peddler and trader. The account of Gunnar selling Homme to Sveinung is one of few anecdotes preserved from the old days. The account doesn't mention his wares, but items most likely to bring him a profit would be supplies the nearly self-sufficient farms couldn't produce on their own.

1759: At some point in time, Halvor's father Sveinung moved to Uddedalen, a farm across the ridge to the west, on the steep slope leading down to Lake Bandak. Though Sveinung's father had "Homme" appended to his name, Sveinung was known by "Uddedalen."

At any rate, Halvor was the one to inherit Homme. Halvor's younger brother, Tarald, seems to have moved to Uddedalen with their parents, since his first two children were born there in 1768 and 1771.

Tarald's next child was born at Byggland in 1776, and five years later his father Sveinung died there as well, so Sveinung must have moved along with Tarald's family.

Sveinung's wife Åsne lived thirteen more years, to die in 1794 at Homme. Tarald was still at Byggland, since he died there five years later. Halvor's and Tarald's mother must have gone to live with Halvor sometime between 1781 and 1794.

1782: One source mentions a painting of Adam and Eve in the loft at Homme, dating from 1782; another mentions a painted carving. Neither say who the artist was. Sadly, there were no buildings still standing at Homme when I visited.

1794: Legal transfer of deed from Halvor to Torjus.

1816: The lynx encounter related in chapter 1816 probably happened a decade later than this. (The brave cotter's wife at Bergdal was named Bergit. She was born in 1801, and would have been only fifteen at this time.)

1829: Halvor Torjusson (with a fictional byname "Lamefoot"), though six years older than his brother Jon, did not inherit Homme farm. He never married. The parish records show only his birth date and speculate that he may have emigrated to America. In the meantime, second son Jon is listed as the heir.


The Gardssoga volume of the Kviteseid Bygdesoge relates details about the Huvestad outbuilding with dates and owner's initials carved into the planks. It also mentions another old bur with 20 tarry crosses.

1816: Fact: Olav Halvorsson Huvestad was indeed born with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot and six teeth in his mouth, and did not survive his infancy.

1839: Gunnhild's brother, Bjørgulv Såmundsson from Huvestad, was "found dead on Morgedal's heights which he'd been traveling over by night." No reason is given for his nighttime journey. [Gardssoga: Dalen]


Torjus Knutsson (1895-1954) lived at Loupedalen farm. Is this the same Torjus Loupedalen who compiled Kviteseid Bygdesoge from parish records? His farfar Olav was a second cousin of Vetle Torjusson, who emigrated to the USA the same year as did Jon and Birgit of Homme farm. That Vetle was also second cousin to Jon and Birgit's little girl, Tone, who is my great-great-grandmother! Did they travel in the same party?


Moen has been farmed for more than a thousand years, possibly as far back as Viking times. The origin of the farm name might be traced back to either "the moor" or "distant, obscure rain or snow clouds."

Both possibilities fit the landscape well, for Moen sits high in the uplands of Telemark province in Norway, where heavy clouds often drag down from the heights, veiling the slopes in drizzling shrouds.

Though my sources don't give the exact location, Gygri's Nose is found in the Moen area, and the tradition is to greet the giant Gygri while throwing a stone at her fallen nose.

A few years after his father's death in 1701 -- the opening scene in Fiddle and Fjell -- Aslak Åmundsson married a widow who had a daughter from her first marriage. They had two more daughters and that all-important son and heir named Åmund after his grandfather. The first daughter was named Gunnhild after Aslak's mother. The second daughter they named Egeleiv after Aslak's maternal grandmother. [Aslak and his daughter Egeleiv: Ættesoga: Moen 16 & 23]

Aslak's brother Olav died in 1712 without wife or children. Aslak's youngest sister, Birgit, also died young. Aslak's other two sisters married and moved to their husbands' farms.

Aslak's brother Steinar Åmundsson married and had seven children -- four girls and three boys. His second son he named Åmund, for that was the tradition, to pass along the names of forebears to the next generation, whether another cousin already had that name or not.

In a custom even more confusing to folk outside Scandinavia, Steinar's other two boys were both named Olav, one in memory of an uncle he would never know, and one to honor the maternal grandfather. They could have been known as Olav the Big and Olav the Small, or some other such nicknames.

1730: We don't have a wedding date for Egeleiv, but since her first child was born in 1731, it is likely she married the year before. Her husband was Såmund Knutsson of Dalen. [Såmund Knutsson: Ættesoga: Dalen 21]

1747: Egeleiv, who already had five children, gave birth to twins in 1747, including little Aslak.

1755: The records don't say when Steinar moved away from Moen to begin farming at Utbøen on the Kviteseid peninsula. It could have been years earlier. Steinar's second son Åmund later inherited Utbøen.

Steinar's oldest son Olav (here tagged as "the Elder") farmed further down the peninsula at Utsund, just across Sundkilen from his married sister Gunnhild. Two generations of Olav's descendants farmed at that location.

Moen was farmed for the next three generations by the descendants of Steinar's older brother Aslak.


It was quite a journey to Naper farm which lay in Vrådal parish, near Vråliosen at the west end of Vråvatn, next lake south of Bandak.

Today, Naper farm is a bed and breakfast on a working farm, with sleeping for 7 or 8 people, and access to a rowboat at the nearby lake.


1730: In 1664 a silversmith from Kongsberg (known for its silver mines) moved to Tveit, several miles down the valley from Moen. Olav and his older brother Torjus were great-grandsons of the silversmith. [Ættesoga: Grå I., 313, and 314]

1744: We don't have a wedding date for Liv and Torjus, but their first child, Sigrid, was born in 1745. Torjus' age is an estimate since his birth date is not recorded, but his younger brother Olav was born in 1719. Torjus' father being a fiddler is pure fiction.

1747: Liv named her second daughter after her mother Anne.

1749: Liv had her third daughter, Margit.


1768: In the lineage listed under Homme farm, Sveinung (married to Åsne) farmed at Uddedalen. His elder son Halvor married Liv and farmed at Homme. His younger son Tarald married Halvor's step-daughter Sigrid, the eldest daughter of Liv. Tarald first farmed at Uddedalen along with his parents. Tarald and Sigrid named their first son after the baby's farfar Sveinung.


Beside the path to Øvrebø cottage stands a sign telling about one noteworthy person who was born there. "This site, like many other places, often changed tenants. Many are those who have seen their first light of day here at Øvrebø. Among these was Sondre Ouverson (later Norheim) who was born here 10 June 1825..." (Sondre Norheim: item 4 in Appendix 5)


Higher up in the mountains from The Dales and Morgedal, upstream along Dalaåi creek, lies the dale of Høydalsmo, in the next parish to the northwest: Lårdal.

1784: Aslak Såmund's Son carved his own initials and those of his wife, Åsne Halvor's Dotter, onto the lintel of a new loft at Åe farm, along with the date: "ASS AHD 1787"

1811: Liv's daughter Åsne died at age 55. Like most deaths in this saga (but not all) I made up the cause of death. In the probate records recorded after Åsne passed away, there is no mention of Såmund's 22-year-old sister Anne. Did she die before now, or get married and move away?

1814: The information given about the folk at Åe farm this year is patched together from several sources: two distant relatives and the records of Kviteseid and Lårdal parishes.

A marriage record photocopy held by one relative (D. O.) says that in 1814 Såmund Aslaksson Åe married Aslaug Knutsdotter Åkre, who died in 1827. This relative also notes that the couple had a son Aslak and twins Birgit and Aslaug.

The other relative (J. P.) has records indicating the twins lived only one day, and that the first child in the family, the first Åsne, did not survive long either. These records list siblings after Aslak: Knut, a second Åsne, Talleiv, and a second Birgit.

At this time, Åkre was farmed by Knut Tovsson, followed by his son Tov, according to Kviteseid Bygdesoge. Tov had a sister Aslaug, born in 1791 -- probably the one who married Såmund.

Two years after Aslaug from Åkre married Såmund from Åe, Tov Knutsson Åkre married an Egeleiv Aslaksdotter from Høydalsmo, and her age matches that of Såmund's younger sister Egeleiv. (According to legal records having to do with Åe farm that the current owners of Åe provided. These records say Såmund owned Åe after his father.)

Confused yet? Conclusion: If these tidbits are linking up correctly, then Såmund and his sister Egeleiv married the sister and brother at Åkre.

1815: Såmund and Aslaug had a baby girl the year before, but it looks like she died in infancy. No death info -- no more info at all -- but the next daughter has the same name.

1816: Young Aslak Såmundsson was born on April 28, 1816, and a few weeks later, his sixty-nine-year-old grandfather, Aslak Såmundsson, died on June 20, 1816.

1820: Såmund's brother Halvor married his cousin Sigrid (Margit's daughter) from Breidalen. Their first child would be born here at Åe but the rest of their children would be born at Breidalen.

1827: Death of Aslaug, wife of Såmund Aslaksson, mother of his five surviving children.

1828: Gunnhild from Dalen married widower Såmund of Åe. 1829: Gunnhild's first child, a boy, was named for her father Såmund (whom I call "The Sawyer"). Since the baby's father was another Såmund ("Tall Såmund" in this account), the child's full name was Såmund Såmundsson.


1730: Såmund Knutsson Åkre married Egeleiv Aslaksdotter Moen, cousin of Liv Steinarsdotter (main character of Part 1). Egeleiv spent her life at Åkre until her death in 1769. Her seven children were born at Åkre, ending with twins in 1747.

1747: Aslak Såmundsson and his twin Torbjørg were born.

1773: There were three deaths this year in the family at Åkre. The saga follows the youngest son, Aslak, who lost his widower father, his twin sister, and the brother just older. There was an influenza epidemic that year, according to one source -- likely cause of the multiple deaths.

One brother and two sisters were married and living elsewhere. They survived. That left only Aslak and his sister Margit at Åkre. Margit never married. She ended up a pauper, supported by the parish. Did Aslak sell Åkre? It appears that after the 1773 tragedy, he worked at other farms in the area.

1786: Records show Åkre farm was now owned by a Knut Tovsson Kallåk. His new bride was named Birgit.

1791: Daughter Aslaug was born to Knut and Birgit.

1812: The folks at Åkre farm (Knut or his heir Tov?) built a huge loft, big enough to host community gatherings.

1814: Aslaug Knutsdotter Åkre married Såmund Aslaksson Åe.

Appendix 4: buildings, churches

1: hearth & chimney, loft & bur

A farmstead often consisted of a main dwelling, a summer cookhouse, a haybarn and a byre for livestock (often the haybarn would be the upper floor of a byre), and several smaller storage buildings. The smallest outbuilding was a bur: just one little room on short stilts. A two-story stabbur also stood on short stilts (an attempt at preventing rodent infestations). A loft resembled a stabbur, but the upper floor was larger than the lower and often used as guest quarters. One loft mentioned in the records was large enough to host parties.

Until around the year 1800, homes in Norway were still heated by a fire in an open hearth in the middle of the one main room, with smoke escaping through a hole in the roof. Indoor air quality could be very poor in the winter, and that contributed to high infant and child mortality.

This had been the traditional homestead building style across northern Europe for centuries until the Little Ice Age (starting in the mid-1300's) led some shivering people to think up new ways to conserve heat.

The Norwegian word for chimney is skorstein: skår (cleft in a mountain) + stein (stone)

Barns were painted with the cheapest paint available, which was tinted red by ox blood. Whitewash, more expensive, was used for churches or the houses of wealthy people.

2: Old Kviteseid church

On the south bank of Kviteseidvatn is a site considered sacred by the earliest Norse. Among other observances they venerated an ancient, polished, dark-green stone of unknown origin, larger than a cabbage. Was it smooth to begin with, or did it become so because of the many hands stroking it over the ages?

1200s: After the Norse converted to Christianity, they built a stave church on the ancient sacred site, and kept the polished green stone. Woodworkers carved two neck-entwined dragons into the wooden lintel over the door.

When a church built of stone replaced the stave church, the builders integrated the old dragon lintel into the stonework, and build a hatch in the wall of the chapel as an honored place to store the smooth green stone. (Mentioned in the chapter for 1756) (So thrilled to get a chance to see the ancient relic, I forgot to pull out my camera...)

3: Brunkeberg church

1200s: Another stave church was built at Brunkeberg, downstream from Morgedal dale. It was built all of wood without using nails. The congregation stood through services. Like most early church buildings, it had no pews.

1790: One source says the stave church was torn down to make way for a "modern" late-18th century cruciform stone building, though another says it burned down around 1600. Was another stave church built after the original? Or was Brunkeberg churchless for nearly two centuries?

My premise: The stave church had substantial damage but was partially repaired and still functional until it deteriorated even more due to age and weathering. This way, I could work in the account of the wedding processions following the ancient route -- through Homme farmlands and into Morgedal -- which was related to me the day I visited Homme.

The lumber might have come from a local sawmill, like the one at Dalen. Reflecting ponds were commonly found in churchyards since few people had mirrors, and women wanted to look their best for church.

Today it is still common for people to go to church no more than once a month, often only for major events like christenings, weddings, and funerals, and religious holidays.

4: Eidsborg church

1200s: Just over the parish border in Lårdal stood another stave church. This one was kept in good repair -- and still stands today!

the stavechurch at Eidsborg

the stavechurch at Eidsborg, in 2006

farms dating back to the Viking Age
farms dating back to the Viking Age

Appendix 5: history, celebrity

For prehistory -- glaciers and ice ages -- see Appendix 1.

1: Viking Age

Norwegian, German, Dutch and English share common roots more than two millennia ago. Norwegian comes from the North Germanic branch of Teutonic, while English comes from the West Germanic branch.

Danish and Norwegian vikings traded and raided on British shores. They also settled along the coast of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, leaving traces of Old Norse influence on the English language.

The Old Norse had several settlements in our corner of inland Telemark. Donstad was one of three royal residences of Prins Dond, an exiled Swedish king. (Did he marry the daughter of one of the numerous Norwegian kings?) Close to Donstad was Byggland, a center of ironworking. Master smiths crafted high quality weapons and tools there in the Iron Age. For more on Prins Dond, see item 4 in Appendix 10.

Bønder (plural of bonde: a wealthy landowner) in ancient times ruled large self-sufficient estates at Bjåland, Holtan, and Moen.

TING: an assembly of peers that makes judgments on community matters in an ancient democratic process used as far back as Viking times. A large assembly, or parliament, was called a storting. ("stor" means big.)

The Althing (All Assembly) of Iceland is one of the oldest parliamentary institutions in the world. The first Ting or Thing met in 930 AD. All free men could attend the assemblies, which also served as the big social event of the year!

At a local ting in Morgedal in the 17th century, one of the cases involved settling a dispute about a brawl. One man accused another of beating him three times with the butt of an axe. The defendant claimed that he hit his victim only twice, and that the third blow hit another guy who had stuck his nose into the confusion! Judgment came down against the defendant for the full three blows.

2: Middle Ages and Rennaissance


Denmark came to be viewed as largely Christian by AD 1000, Sweden not until the end of the 11th century. In Iceland, Christianity was officially adopted at the Althing in 1000

1000s: Two Norwegian kings, both named Olaf, contributed to the conversion of Norway to Christianity. Olaf Tryggvason reigned from the 960s to around 1000. Olaf Haraldsson, 995-1030, came to be known as Saint Olaf. He and his ecclesiastical adviser, Bishop Grimkell, presented a religious code in AD 1024, establishing the Church of Norway.

1152: The church was organized nationally, with the seat of the archbishop in Nidaros (Trondheim).

1200s: Parts of the Old Testament were translated into Old Norse. The Norse built wooden stave churches like jagged towers. (See items 2-4 in Appendix 4.)

1319: King Håkon V died. Norway came under joint rule by the other Scandinavian nations: Denmark and/or Sweden, as the political tides would turn.


1539: Norwegians officially accepted Lutheranism, which was brought to Norway by Christian III, king of Denmark and Norway. He reigned 1534-1559 at the start of the Reformation.

1500s and 1600s: Several translations of the Bible came out in Danish, since Norway was under Danish rule.

1624: A fire destroyed the medieval city of Oslo. Christian IV, who ruled both Denmark and Norway, rebuilt the city and named it after himself: Christiania or Kristiania. (The name Oslo was restored in 1924.)

1736: Parliament mandated education for all children.

3: Industrial Age


The Musical Society of Bergen was established in 1765, and changed their name in 1769 to The Harmonic Society. Today it's known as the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 1774 the Society had twenty instrumentalists, in the same format as Haydn's Esterhazy orchestra in Austria at that time. By 1788 they had 25 members.

By then, Haydn's popularity had grown all across Europe, and even reached to America. He was a good friend of Mozart's. The two had met in 1781 at a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach.


1776: "Amerika" is the Norse spelling of America.

1792: France became a republic. The following year, the middle class would riot, and then would come an uprising among the peasants.

1794: Denmark and Sweden forge a treaty of "armed neutrality" which later would be joined by Russia and Prussia. Great Britain viewed this treaty as hostile to her interests.

1801: The British navy destroyed much of the Danish fleet in their home harbor at Copenhagen. The Brits then threatened the Swedish port of Karlskrona. Russia worked out a compromise which Sweden was compelled to adopt.

1802: In France, a constitutional amendment made Napoleon Bonaparte first consul for life.

1804: At Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Bonaparte declared himself Emperor of France.

1805: Battle of Trafalgar: The British destroy the French fleet. Worried that France would then make use of the Danish fleet, the Brits decided to take preemptive action.

1807: The Second Battle of Copenhagen: The Brits bombarded Copenhagen, killing thousands. Denmark capitulated. The British shanghaied the Danish fleet. Resentful, Denmark joined the continental alliance. In retribution, the Brits blockaded the sea route between Denmark and its subsidiary, Norway, leading to several years of isolation, economic crisis, and hunger for the Norse.

1807: Frederik VI ruled as prince regent in the stead of his mentally ill father, King Christian VII, from 1784 until Christian's death in 1808. Frederik VI then took the crown as king of Denmark and Norway.

1812: The horribly cold year of 1812 went down in history. In local history books, anyway. A prelude to 1816?

1814: King Frederik VI had given his cousin Christian (son of his half-uncle) a secret mission back in Norway. What was it? There was also rumor of a secret arrangement that made Christian his heir.

The treaty of Kiel was signed on January 1, 1814, after Danish King Frederik VI's surrender to Karl Johan of Sweden.

Although the prospects of 1814 didn't play out as planned, Norway went on to celebrate Constitution Day every 17th of May: "Syttende Mai." ("CERTAIN-deh MY") Children go on parade through the streets, and at the palace in Oslo the royal family appears on a balcony to greet the cheering crowd.

1815: In April, the Indonesian volcano Mount Tambora erupted for ten days, "a colossal event that ejected immense amounts of volcanic dust into the upper atmosphere." (Wikipedia) The northern hemisphere's frigid summer of 1816 may have resulted from the vast clouds of volcanic dust blocking the sun. 1816: A change in currency under Swedish rule. The kroner replaced the daler (or riksdaler). Two kroners to the daler.

("Daler" sounds very close to the American "dollar." The word "dollar" (of Low German/ Dutch origin) comes from the thaler or daalder or daler coins used by various German states, and refer to the dale where they were first minted. )

1818: King Karl died, and in Stockholm, Sweden, Karl Johan became king of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway.


Printed material would have been in Danish, which for four centuries dominated government, education, and business. Liv would have been reading and writing Danish, if she indeed received an education as instituted in 1736.

By 1800, nearly 100 percent of Norwegians were literate, compared with about 50% in the rest of Europe!

Until 1837, vital records like birth dates were kept by the parish, since the church was the sole administrator in rural areas. The parish priest would travel from one church to another, scattered throughout his parish, like a circuit rider in America's Old West. Folks would gather at their local church on the one day of the month they had a priest attending.

Late 1800s: There arose a nationalistic movement to modify spelling to match actual pronunciation, and the first truly Norwegian Bible was produced.

Today, there are two official written forms of Norwegian in Norway: Bokmål, which still bears a heavy Danish flavor, and Nynorsk, which tries to more closely approximate the dialects unique to Norway. Problem is, there are many, many local variations of dialect!

The speech in the remote dales of Telemark has retained more of the flavor and grammar of Old Norse than most other dialects in Norway. Their lifestyle remained rather medieval until the 1800's -- except for that near 100 percent literacy rate! Books, leaflets, and magazines got shared around until they became dog-eared and worn.

4: Sondre Norheim


Sondre Auversson is the one semi-famous person to be found in this saga. He was born at Øvrebø, north of Brekke in Morgedal. His family moved to the shores of Sundkilen, but after his mother died, his widowed father returned to Øvrebø with his two young sons.

1829: Sondre was four and his older brother Eivind was seven. 1830: His father remarried and went back to his farm on Sundkilen's shores. A sister would be born two years later.

As the years went by, Sondre often visited his kin in Morgedal, and was well-known there for his love of ski jumping. His cottage-and-ladder ski jump uphill of Bjåland farm, along with his stepmother's reactions, won a place in local lore.

His modifications of the ski shape and its bindings made it possible for the skier to take the twists and turns used, from then on, in slalom skiing. slalåm: sla (hill) + låm (tracks)

1863: Sondre cleared land for Norheim, a cotter's farm connected with Gjersund farm, a couple miles south of Brekke. He took the farm name as his own surname. Sondre Norheim would later be known as the Father of Modern Skiing. A statue of him stands today on the shore of Morgedal Lake.

1884: Sondre Norheim emigrated to America with his wife and two grown sons. One son had gone earlier, in 1878, and two daughters at an unspecified date.

Sondre first settled in Minnesota, then later moved to North Dakota, a flat, flat prairie land with no mountains, no hills, no slopes for ski jumping. But propped outside his cabin door there always stood a pair of skis.

(Sondre or his aunt Hæge: see 1811, 1826, 1829, 1837, 1839)


Another son of Norway who gained some acclaim in America, Snowshoe Johnson was born 70 miles north of Kviteseid town. His "snowshoes" were 10-foot-long cross-country skis.

Appendix 6: a-viking to America

1: 1838-1839: explorers, recruiters

Brothers Ansten and Ole Nattestad sailed to America in 1838 to explore immigration prospects. Ole remained and founded the Jefferson Prairie colony in Rock County, Wisconsin.

Ansten returned to Norway and recruited more than a hundred immigrants. 1839 was the first year for immigrant ships to sail from eastern Norway.

In late spring 1839, Ansten's group booked passage on the Emilie under Captain Anchersen. The Emilie was a weather-worn bark rumored, at that time, to be 150 years old, and with a tonnage of probably 225 tons, according to "An Immigrant Shipload of 1840," by C.A. Clausen. Captain Anchersen had to turn away some prospective emigrants because his ship could carry only one hundred passengers. The Emilie left Drammen for America on June 12.

That year, practically all of Captain Anchersen's passengers came from Numedal, northeast of Telemark (while two years later most of them were from Telemark). Nattestad must have recruited mostly in Numedal, but word may have spread to Telemark.

Don Simonson says that Såmund Aslaksson Åe emigrated to America in 1839 along with his grown sons Aslak and Knut. No variation of their names appears on any passenger list for that year. However, there were several ships that sailed that year for which no passenger lists survive.

Among them, The Skogsmand under Captain Rundberg sailed from Drammen on July 15, 1839. The only passengers listed for The Skogsmand were Johannes Johansen and Søren Bache. Søren was the son of Tollef Bache, a well-known Drammen businessman and industrial leader.) Could there have been other passengers as well?

The Skogsmand arrived at Providence, Rhode Island, on September 2. The immigrants took the usual route to the interior up the Hudson River, through the Erie Canal, and across the Great Lakes.

Johannes Johansen and Søren Bache set out from Fox River in Illinois (founded in 1834) and made their way to the Jefferson Prairie region where they met the Nattestads. They traveled with an unnamed companion. (Såmund Aslaksson, perhaps?) They had planned on going on to the Muskego settlement, but instead headed for the Koshkonong region before returning to Fox River after a journey of 3 weeks. Johansen and Bache then wrote a report to folks back home. (Perhaps Såmund sent a letter along with theirs?).

Søren Bache, who settled in Muskego, kept a journal and wrote many letters about his travels. (His writings were the only source of information about The Skogsmand available for Norway Heritage website's compilation about emigrant ships.) Søren Bache's letter to friends and family back home in Norway was printed and circulated in the spring of 1840.

My premise: Såmund Aslaksson of Åe farm got word of the recruiters from the neighboring province and joined their company, traveling with them downstream to Drammen. He didn't make the cut for The Emilie, waited five weeks, and got passage along with Johansen and Bache on The Skogsmand.

2: 1842: from Norway to America

(from The Norwegian-American Historical Association)

"With few exceptions, the 1842 immigrants were farmers. The manifests identify one printer and one carpenter. American records reveal that one person became a businessman, another a blacksmith, and that two became wives of pastors.

"Of the 518 immigrants whose origin has been identified, 264 came from Telemark, and 198 from Numedal. Since the majority of those from Telemark were from mountain areas close to Numedal, it appears clear that the influence of such pioneers as Ole and Ansten Nattestad was continuing."

1842: Såmund Aslaksson settled his family at Åkre farm, then set out again for America. He took a ketch from Langesund to Le Havre where he took passage on The Tuskina, one of 89 steerage passengers, including 68 Norwegians. They arrived in New York on September 5, 1842.

The Washington also made a run that summer, carrying 62 passengers, nearly all of whom came from Telemark

182 people (35 families) from Telemark, led by Olav Knutson Trovaten, moved to Koshkonong. Telemarkings also were numerous in Pleasant Spring township. (item 3 in Appendix 1)

3: 1843: emigrants from Åe/Åkre

Gunnhild's family might or might not have traveled with Jon's group on the first leg of the journey, by sleigh to Langesund on the coast, but we do know they made the trans-Atlantic crossing separately.

1843: on May 5, Gunnhild and her five young children boarded The Washington, a brig captained by Herman Roosen Smith. They sailed out of Langesund for a sixty-four day voyage, and arrived in New York on July 5. (information from the Norway Heritage website)

Såmund Aslaksson's three grown children from his first marriage -- Åsne, Talleiv ("Toli"), and Birgit ("Bibbi") -- do not appear on the same ship's list as Gunnhild and the little ones. Some family records indicate they eventually arrived in the United States.

4: 1843: emigrants from Homme

1843: There were five packet ships that carried passengers from eastern Norway to Le Havre in 1843. Which one did Jon's and Birgit's party travel on? We don't know.

From Le Havre, France, Jon's and Birgit's party of thirteen travelers took passage -- the first 13 on the passenger list! -- on the sailing ship Lorena, under Captain John Urquhart. They arrived in New York on July 17. (from the Norway Heritage website)

The party from Homme included Birgit's mother Guro (age 76). It's not clear who Signe was. The only information about her is her age, 20. There was no patronymic or farm name attached to her in the records.

Birgit's niece and nephew, Anne Andresdotter and Bjørn Andresson, were in the party.

Jon's second cousin Anne Sveinungsdotter at Byggland was the right age for another Anne in his traveling party, though the records don't say she emigrated. The only information we have about her is her birth date. (Ættesoga: Homme 51)

It's confusing about Jon's older brother Halvor, age 45. All we know about him is his name and birth date, but there's a brief note on his line in the records: "to U.S.A.?" There is no Halvor listed in Jon's traveling party -- but there is listed a 45-year-old male by the name of Ole in the group. Was that Halvor's nickname, by any chance?

There is also a 29-year-old "Ingeberg" listed in Jon's group, who might be the Ingebjørg related to the Huvestad family. (Ættesoga: Huvestad 92)

1843: Vetle Torjusson of Loupedalen farm -- Jon's cousin once removed -- emigrated in 1843 with his wife and two-year-old son. Their names don't appear on ships' lists accompanying either Jon's party or Gunnhild's. However, aboard the ship Jon sailed on were a number of passengers simply ticked off as members of groups, unnamed. Perhaps Vetle was on board after all. (Ættesoga: Loupedalen 58)

5: relatives who emigrated later

        (OR NOT AT ALL)

1844: Birgit's nephew Knut Andresson Brekke left for the United States in 1844 along with his wife, the widow of Gunnhild's brother, and their three children. (Ættesoga: Dalen 53)

1852: Birgit's sister Ingebjørg emigrated with her husband, two grown children and their families. (Ættesoga: Hasleberg 52 & 59)

1854: Birgit's brother Andres, his wife Kari, and their youngest daughter followed to America, though four of their older children remained behind. (Ættesoga: Brekke 18)

1861: Jon's brother Sveinung would live only another two years after Jon's emigration, but his widow and three children and her second husband would follow to the United States in 1861. (Ættesoga: Homme VI, 16, 22-24)

Jon's youngest brother Steinar spent the rest of his life at Homme, as did their father Torjus. Steinar's firstborn son eventually emigrated. (Ættesoga: Homme 11 & 17)

Birgit's brother Sveinung stayed in Norway the rest of his life, but four of his five children emigrated some time later.

6: 1800s: steerage passengers

From Norway Heritage website: "The 'steerage', or between-deck... was originally the deck immediately below the main deck of a sailing ship.

"In the early days of emigration the ships used to convey the emigrants were originally built for carrying cargo. In reality the passengers were placed in the cargo hold. Temporary partitions were usually erected and used for the steerage accommodation.

"To get down to the between-deck the passengers often had to use ladders, and the passageway down between the hatches could be both narrow and steep....

"The ceiling height of the between-deck was usually 6 to 8 feet. The bunks, made of rough boards, were set up along both sides of the ship...

"On these ships there was only a small corridor between the bunks. Each bunk was intended to hold from three to six persons, and these were often called family bunks... The bunks were usually double-deck beds, i.e., there was one bunk on top of the other...

"The bunks had straw mattresses or mattresses stuffed with straw. The emigrants had to bring their own pillows, blankets, animal hides and other necessary bedclothes. Contemporary sources report that lice and fleas thrived in this environment."

Thanks to these organizations for their informational websites:

Appendix 7: in America

Såmund Aslaksson Åe started out in the Muskego settlement in eastern Wisconsin. He lived near Beloit, Wisconsin, before settling his family in Pleasant Springs Township, north of Stoughton, Wisconsin, in 1844.

Gunnhild's children grew up near the family of Jon and Birgit. On October 23, 1856, Halvor Såmundsson -- or Simonson, by now -- married Tone Jonsdotter.

Keeping things in the family,
Halvor's younger sister Aslaug ("Asi")
married "Varder," Tone's big brother Halvor!
(nicknames: of author's fabrication)

map of some states of USA in 1840s
some states of USA in 1840s

Halvor and Tone moved their family of four to Minnesota in 1862. Simon Halvor Simonson, the second of thirteen children, was two years old at the time.

Halvor & Tone's American-born children (from family records):

  • Betsey Simonson (1859-)
  • Simon Halvor Simonson (1860-1943)
  • Aleck, Simonson (1863-)
  • Julia Simonson (1865-)
  • John Simonson (1869-)
  • Helena Simonson (1871-1938)
  • Aleck Simonson (1873-)
  • Mary Simonson (1875-1875)
  • William Simonson (1876-)
  • Halvor/Henry Simonson (1879-)
  • Alice Simonson (1881-1942)
  • John Simonson (1883-1941)
  • Cora Simonson (1885-)

In 1887, tall, lanky, black-haired Simon broke tradition and married outside the tight-knit Norwegian enclave, to a petite redhead (of Irish ancestry) named Dora Belle Riggins.

( See my other saga, "Shimmering Horizon," for the dramatized history behind Dora Belle's ancestry! Simon comes onto the scene in the chapter for 1886. )

Simon's second son Oscar settled in Wyoming. Some of Oscar's sons, including my father, moved to the west coast.

A century after my immigrant ancestors traded the mountains of the Old Country for the flatlands of the Midwestern New World, I grew up in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, a land cloaked in evergreens, riddled by glacier-delved fjords -- a pale echo of the majestic, rugged fjells of Telemark.

I don't ski nor play the fiddle, but I can pipe old Norse tunes on a sheepbone flute identical to those used in viking times!

Appendix 8: food and meals

1: meals and diet

In the old days, Norwegians ate two meals a day, with barley meal mush often the only dish on the menu. Wheat doesn't grow well so far north, but rye and oats were sometimes cultivated. The "bygg" of Byggland means barley.

Most farms were so isolated they had to be self-sufficient. The Norse grew kitchen gardens of peas, cabbage, onions, and garlic, and kept herds of cattle, goats, sheep, and pigs, which provided meat and dairy products. They hunted wild game on the forested ridges, caught trout and eels in the streams and lakes, and competed with bears for wild honey. (The Norwegian word for honey is "honning," similar in origin to the Old English "hunig.")

Since the traditional old-time diet of grains, dairy products, and meat was lacking in vital nutrients found in greens and fruits, Vitamin C deficiency -- often called scurvy -- was a problem in the mountains of Telemark. Scurvy wasn't well understood until much later, in the 1900's. Some of the symptoms of a severe case can include bruising on the legs, bleeding gums, sunken eyes, diarrhea, muscle aches, and loss of nails. With artistic license I used scurvy as one cause of death encountered at Homme farm in 1823.

2: barley, oats, rye ... and glaciers

During the eleventh and twelfth centuries -- the peak of Earth's last global warming period -- the climate in Norway was warm enough to grow wheat as far north as Trondheim.

Then came the Little Ice Age, from 1350 to 1850AD, roughly speaking. We're still in the tail end of that chilly period. Wheat doesn't grow well in the north, but barley, oats, and rye can handle the cooler, shorter summers.

If the current global warming trend continues, mankind will need to adapt to the shifting climate, the way it has through all previous ages. There actually is no standard for Earth's climate. It's always changing!

Those who mourn the receding glaciers don't remember the farms that those same glaciers crushed and swallowed a few centuries ago. What temperature swing comes next? Will wheat grow in Norway again, and grapevines in England?

3: porridge

Background on barley porridge, from the recipe book Mat frå Telemark (p. 47): "Graut was daily fare. It was barley meal boiled in water. The kettle stood over the heat until the meal was cooked. But then some would treat it so that the mush was dryer. They beat in a sufficient amount of new meal, and then took the graut-kettle off the fire. This means that the mush consisted of one part cooked meal, mixed with raw meal. Graut was served up in large bowls, and many ate out of the same bowl, each after their ranking in the household." (Don't try this recipe... it deserves relegating to some dusty archive!)

Friends and neighbors were usually invited to come for the midday meal the day following a healthy birth.

The following recipe sounds a little more appetizing: a variation fit for celebrations like harvest or childbirth. This recipe, enough to serve a crowd, comes from Morgedal. (from Mat frå Telemark)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Childbirth Porridge ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1 pound butter
8 cups milk
1/2 beaker (?) of heavy cream
1/2 cup semolina
wheat or barley flour
salt to taste

Melt butter in the kettle. Add milk and cream and let it boil with semolina for about 10 minutes. Add sifted flour, enough to make a thick porridge. When the porridge is thick enough and well-boiled, then the butter makes the porridge float in the kettle.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Childbirth porridge was traditionally served up in a bucket made of juniper slats, and decorated on the exterior with rosemal folk painting.

One porridge bowl was often used by the whole family, but everyone had their own wooden spoon, often intricately carved. When you finished eating, you licked your spoon clean and jammed the handle in a crack in the wall until the next meal. Dishes done!

4: flatbread and kling

Flatbread and tortillas have a lot in common: unleavened bread rolled flat and cooked on both sides on a large, flat skillet. Flatbread was originally baked from barley flour. The rolling pin often had carved designs that left imprints in the dough and may have helped the bread keep from forming bubbles. Two wooden slats called peels were used to roll and lift the sheets of dough.

In the old days, a team of skilled women would often travel from farm to farm during the spring and fall, making flatbread for each household. Bakstekjerring is the word for a baker-wife.

Flatbread was usually allowed to dry, then stacked in storage sheds where it would keep for months. It would be moistened to soften it before using.

Kling is made with layered flatbread slathered with home-churned butter and sugar and perhaps some cinnamon. Brødsoll is broken flatbread served in a bowl of milk, sweetened with sugar.

Potatoes were introduced around 1800, an import from the New World. Many of today's flatbread and lefse recipes call for cooked potato in addition to wheat or barley flour. They also often include milk and butter.

5: potato: the newcomer

The potato plant is native to the Peruvian Andes. Potatoes "grow well in cool, moist areas, and is a reliable, uncomplicated crop." (The Grolier Encyclopedia of Knowledge, 1991) Food experts back in 1991 said a diet of potatoes and milk will supply all the nutrients the human body needs.

1700s: the potato became a major food staple in Ireland. Unfortunately, all the potatoes being grown in Ireland descended from one original tuber, and thus were genetically identical. One potato disease in the 1800s devastated the whole country's crops. Cooked, mashed potatoes can be mixed with the meal or flour of wheat, barley, or rye in lefse recipes. Some recipes call for only mashed potatoes, no grain at all! The potatoes are mixed with butter, then have milk and cream kneaded in.

6: cod and lutefisk

Shoals of cod change their migration pattern due to shifts in ocean currents and other environmental factors. When the fishing is good, great catches of cod are preserved by drying or salting.

Lutefisk is made from salted or dried fish (with cod being the most often used) soaked in a lye-and-water mixture for two days, which preserves it in a jelly-like consistency.

You can't eat it like that! It needs several days of soaking in water, changed daily, to make it edible. Even then, most Norwegians avoid the dish, traditional though it may be. Fish soup is much more appetizing!

Appendix 9: customs & traditions

1: weddings

A relative or friend would serve as a go-between for arranging a betrothal between the families of the bride and groom. There would be token exchanges of money, lands or cattle. The legalities ensured that if the bride wished to divorce later, she would retain an inheritance from her father.

The bride wore brightly embroidered smock, skirt, and apron. She decked out with a belt and jewelry of silver, and wore an ornate silver crown with silver bangles jingling from the brim. It was traditional for a bride on her way to her wedding to carry a hymn-book.

A fiddler traditionally leads the bridal procession to the church

It is 14 miles from Moen to Brunkeberg by the winding mountain paths. In olden times people followed the route from farm to farm as described in the chapter for 1730. One source on the bridal procession shows the bride riding ahead of the groom, but another mentions the two riding together in a cart.

One source says that right before the wedding service, a lur is blown to announce it. A lur is a long straight wooden trumpet. This source also says the church's main door is slammed three times in order to keep evil spirits out!

While most in the congregation stood through the ceremony (no pews), there were two richly ornamented chairs for the bride and groom. It isn't clear if they would sit side by side or facing each other.

In the 16th century, it was recorded that women of Telemark would often bring bandaging materials to wedding feasts, knowing their husbands were likely to brawl! The kjøgemester, or master of the feast, helped keep the celebration jovial, shepherding drunken guests outdoors where they could settle their differences without spoiling the party indoors.

One source mentions paying a small donation to dance with the bride. Another says a bride is supposed to dance until her crown falls off.

The northern Europe custom of drinking a cup of mead every day for the first month of marriage may explain the origin of the word "honeymoon" -- for mead is brewed from honey and sometimes known as "honey wine."

2: fiddling and dancing

Did any of our ancestors play the hardanger fiddle? The records don't say. A fiddle of some kind did show up in one branch of the family in the early 1900s.

The Hardanger fiddle has thinner wood than a violin and extra strings. Four strings are strung and played like a violin, while four or five understrings resonate sympathetically in a haunting echo like a bagpipe drone. The "hardingfele" is usually highly decorated with mother of pearl inlay on the tailpiece and fingerboard, and black ink decorations on the body. The scroll at the top of the pegbox is often carved into the shape of an animal head.

The fours strings of a violin are tuned to the notes G, D, A, and E, in ascending order. (If you know any music theory, you'll recognize the intervals as fifths.)

A Hardanger fiddle is slightly different. It tunes to A, D, A, and E... at least that's how the sheet music shows it. Each note is actually a musical step higher: B, E, B, and F#.

The resonating understrings are usually tuned to D, E, F#, and A, the very notes that Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg uses in his theme for Morning Mood, one of his best-known pieces.

Young folk looked forward to barn dances, the most lively entertainment of the mountain dales, where they traded partners for the light-footed springar dances and the slower-paced gangar steps, often accompanied by hardanger fiddle and a drum.

The telespringar is a lively folk dance from Telemark with a syncopated rhythm. ("tele-" : item 3 in Appendix 1) The beats in each measure of music go long, medium, then short. The dancers dip slightly on the second beat and spring up for a quick bouncy step on the third. The man's hand guides his partner through fluid moves beside him, ahead, behind, and sometimes all around him! Dancers are free to improvise.

In the halling dance, young men show off their athletic skills by great leaps and cartwheels.

Other old Norwegian musical instruments: a langeleik, similar to a mountain dulcimer, and fipple flutes, such as whistles and recorders. Sheep bone flutes were used back in the Viking Age. The Norse harpa was a lyre, not a pillared Welsh-style harp.

3: winter and jul

When Catholicism took the country in the 11th century, the most honored pagan festivals got appropriated as Christian holy days. Jul, pronounced "YULE" comes from the word "hjul" which means wheel, since the year turns around through the same seasons year after year like a wheel spinning.

Jul originally celebrated the winter solstice -- the shortest day of the year. North of the Arctic Circle, during the pits of winter, the sun didn't rise above the horizon at all. Noon would bring mere twilight. It was a grand thing to celebrate Yuletide, the turning of the wheel and the promise of longer days to come.

Telemark lies south of the Arctic Circle, so during the depths of winter the noontime sun still briefly rises above the horizon. But nighttime gloom swallows up most hours of the day.

In equal measure, at the summer solstice the sun reigns most of the day, and only sinks below the horizon for a short while each midnight.

One Christmas tradition: Folks lofted up a julenek -- a sheaf of grain -- on a pole in the farmyard so birds could have a Christmas feast, too.

4: painting and woodworking

Telemark is as far north as Juneau, Alaska -- not far from the Arctic Circle. In winter, the long nights leave only a few hours of daylight. During dark winter days, men spent much of their indoor time carving, decorating even the most commonplace of wooden utensils.

Norwegian woodworkers specialize in the making of cleverly jointed wooden boxes. Rosemaling, a traditional craft in many parts of Norway, is a style of painting with colorful floral and leaf motifs.

5: more traditions

Hop-goat is the Norse term for the game known elsewhere as leap-frog.

Wrestling has been a favorite sport for centuries among the Norse. One good way for active young men to burn off energy while house-bound through a week-long blizzard!

A budstikk was a message carved on a length of wood and sent by messenger to summon the fighting men of an area to battle.

According to old standards of barter, a pound of good grain was worth two cow-hides. (As mentioned in a publication by the Sauherad Historical Society in 1995: "Hallvard Gråtopp" by Birger Kirkeby, translated by Evi Christenson)

In the old days, only a corpse would lie flat. Sleepers would cuddle, reclined on cushions, in a box bed much too short for stretching out.

Appendix 10: speech and wisdom

1: Norse words & pronunciation

Ø ø - say EE but purse lips like OO
Å å - purse lips like OH but drop jaw like AH

bakstekjerring:BAHK-steh-chair-ing: baker-wife
barnebarn: BARN-eh-barn: child's child, or grandchild
bestefar: BEST-eh-far: grandfather
bonde: BONE-deh: wealthy landowner, no title
bønder: BØND-dair: plural of bonde
daler: DOLL-er: Danish currency
far: FAR: father
farfar: FAR-FAR: father's father, paternal grandfather
farmor: FAR-MOR: father's mother, paternal gramma
fjell: FYELL: mountain
fossegrim: FOSS-eh-grim: waterfall creature
gangar: GONG-ahr: folk dance with even steps
halling: HALL-ing: folk dance, leaping, somersaults
ja, jo: YAH, YOH: yes (jo: if question is in negative)
jul: YULE: winter solstice; Christmas
kjerring: CHAIR-ing: wife, woman, crone, hag
kjøgemester:CHØG-eh-mest-er: master of ceremonies
kling: KLING: buttered and sugared flatbread
kroner: KROH-ner: Swedish currency
lennsmann: LENNZ-mahn: sheriff
minnestein: MINN-eh-stine: remembrance stone: monument
mor: MORE: mother
morfar: MORE-FAR: mother's father
mormor: MORE-MORE: mother's mother
nei: NIGH: no
nisse: NISS-eh: gnome-like otherworldly being
oldemor: OLD-eh-more: great-grandmother
orm: OARM: snake, serpent, dragon
(riks)daler: REEKS-dollar: Danish currency
rosemal: ROSE-eh-mahl: floral folk painting style
seter: SET-er: summer dairy farm in the heights
skald: SCALD: a clever poet-musician
snute: SNOO-teh: end, tip, point
springar: SPRING-ahr: folk dance with syncopated steps
telegangar: gangar dance, Telemark-style
telespringar: springar dance, Telemark-style
tusmørke: TUSS-mur-keh: elf-dark: twilight, gloaming
tusse: TUSS-eh: human-like otherworldly being; elf
uff da: UFF dah (see next section: idioms)
åi: Å-ee: creek

2: idioms and expressions

They say Eskimos have twenty different words for snow. Well, the Norwegians have many terms for winter weather and the skills and gear it takes to get around in the snow. Winter weather even creeps into idioms. If you want to refer to an obstacle, you say there's a toboggan in the way.

"i viking" is the Norwegian phrase for "on a Viking expedition," or "on a raiding voyage." It really isn't a verb form, the way it's rendered here in English.

"Nordmann" means "north man": a Norwegian. The "d" in "nord" is silent, so when a prominent Viking negotiated land in France where he could settle with his followers, the French heard him refer to himself as a "Normann." Thus came the name of Normandy.

"Ja" ("yah") is yes and "nei" ("nigh") is no. To answer yes to a question phrased in the negative, the Norse say "jo" instead of "ja." ("You didn't see a dog run by, did you?" "Jo, I did.")

"God dag!" ("GO DOG") is the all purpose greeting, literally meaning good day. "God," with a silent d, means good. In the evening you might say "God kveld" (good evening) or when departing, "God natt" (good night). (The word for God is "gud," rhyming with "mood.")

"Skoal!" is the traditional greeting as two people lift their cups in a toast to each other. They are supposed to keep eye contact as they drink. "Skål" means "cup."

"Uff da!" is used to express alarm, disgust, irritation, or regret. To uffe is to complain or groan.

"Roll out of the quilt and into the straw" is a Norse idiom that means nearly the same as "Out of the frying pan and into the fire."

3: word power: wise sayings

In ancient times, the words of a skald bore a lot of weight in society. You didn't want a skald to make up a sarcastic poem about you, for that would ruin your reputation and make you a laughing-stock.

The last line in the chapter for 1765 is part of a translation of one of dozens of wise sayings handed down in the Håvamål since Viking times, composed in alliterative verse. Handed down orally for many years, at last they were written down in the 13th century Poetic Edda.

Alliterative words start with the same consonant or syllable. The 1765 quote matches up frail with feeble, and body with blessed and bairns. This Teutonic tendency survives today in English pairings like "bed and breakfast" and in store names like "Dunkin' Donuts" and "Taco Time."

Some sayings from "The Håvamål: The Words of Odin the High One," dating from Viking times:

  • A cowardly man believes he shall live forever, if only he guards himself from going to battle; but old age gives him no peace, even if he is spared the spear.

  • The miserable man, troublesome and nasty, he always blames and laughs at others; he ought to know, but he doesn't, that he himself is not free of flaws.

  • Reticent and thoughtful should a prince's son be, and weapon-bold; glad and friendly shall each man live until his dying day.

In the chapter for 1771, I have Liv quote a saying from the Håvamål: "Be not a shoemaker, nor yet a shaft maker save for thyself alone -- lest the shoe be misshapen, or crooked the shaft, and a curse on thy head will be called."

However, the quote about a widow's grief, mentioned in 1842, comes from "Tales from the Fjeld" by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen.

Appendix 11: folklore, saga, song

1: Norse folklore

Norwegian fairy tales almost always begin, Der var en gang... "There was one time..." Often they end with, "Og snipp, snapp, snute, nå er eventyr ute." Both snipp and snute mean the end of something. Snapp means brisk and lively. The last phrase means, "Now is the fairy tale over."

In Norwegian folklore, the nisse is a brownie-like creature attached to the farm, who might live in a hollow oak or a hole in the ground. You must be careful not to offend him, or he'll bring the farm bad luck.

The tusse-folk can more easily be mistaken for humans. Mischievous, magical, and shape-shifting, they were said to dwell within stony mounds or in the depths of the haunted mountains themselves. They are said to kidnap people, or drive them crazy when alone in the woods. "Berg-taken": abducted by elves to their realm "under the mountain." (berg: mountain)

"The expression 'taken into the mountain' could refer to any sudden psychological change in a person. The change is usually associated with a traumatic experience such as getting lost on a mountain or in a forest...

"The elves were generally feared because they struck humans with sickness, as reflected in the term 'elf shot.' " (A Danish expression) [from "Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend"]

"tusmørke" is twilight, a magical time of dimness. "mørke" means "dark"

Orm, or worm, meant a serpent or snake (or even a dragon). A carved dragon's head often crested the ridge-poles of Viking halls and the prows of Viking longships. "A sea serpent lurked in Storvikfjorden [the east end of Kvitseidvatn], so people couldn't get past... The serpent was a plague on the land for a long time, but then they asked the priest to pray that it might go away... the serpent had fled into the mountain again. There are still traces of its flight in the mountain which is called Ormfarberget." (Orm: serpent far: lair berg: mountain)

A variation: A serpent lurked in a little lake in Austenå area. "It grew and became so big that the lake was too little to hold it. It took its way down to Kvitseidvatn to find a new dwelling. In Ormfarberget there is still a hollow in the mountain where the serpent plunged in. The serpent was an obstacle to all who journeyed upon Kviteseidvatn, and they had to go by land in the vicinity of the serpent.

"...In the end they went to the Wise Woman in Sauherad, who told them to cut a bunch of hazel rods and sharpen each on both ends. Someone should row out to the serpent and cast some rods to it, and when it set after, he should row back and throw rods in his wake. This they did, the serpent swallowed all the rods, and in the end was so full of rods that it burst."

A dreaded sea monster.

Among the many supernatural beings to be found in tales of Norway, here's one you might want to meet. The fossegrim dwells in waterfalls, and plays the most haunting music on fiddle, rebec (early violin), or harpe (lyre). If you're lucky enough to hear one play, and have the good manners to make a heart-felt compliment on the music, and have a fairly decent personality, the fossegrim might visit you in your dreams.

Very unpleasant dreams. You'll think your fingers are being torn off your hands as the unseen visitor pulls and yanks on them. But when you wake in the morning after that awful night, you'll have an uncanny knack for music yourself!

Trolls supposedly came in all sizes, small as gnomes, big as giants. The fairy tale -- or troll tale! -- related in the chapter for 1756 is found in the local folklore about Kviteseid church.

You don't want to travel at night on the road past Haugland farm! Not unless you're brave enough to come face to face with the ghost of the huge troll Sote. He lost a battle with his rival, the giant Gase, and collapsed on the road from Brunkeberg to Seljord, blocking the path. They built a great grave-mound (a haug) over him since he was too huge to bury. Ever after, the ghost of Sote has haunted the mound called Sothaug. (I could find no trace of the mound in the modern day roadway.)

How to prevent a haunting? The advice (in the chapter about 1760) about using seven brooms and planting flax seed is found in folklore from Østerdalen, a valley in eastern Norway.

2: songs

"Ned i Vester Soli Glader": "In the West the Sun is Setting"

In the west the sun is setting.
    God our Father, thanks for blessings.
    Keep us safe the whole night long.
Thanks for food, and thanks for healthiness,
    Thanks for clothes and thanks for happiness.
    Bless our hearts with peace and calm.

God our Father, while we sleep now,
    Let thine angels their watch keep now.
        Thru' the night, shine from thy throne!
When the sun sets on my last day,
    Up to heaven help me find my way.
        Over the starbridge, lead me home.

I first use this song in the chapter for 1756, though it actually dates from the next century. It was written by Anders Hovden, and comes from Eidfjord in Hardanger, northwest of Telemark. Translated by Joyce Holt. (Lidele Galen Lidele God, p.107)

"Det var reven og rotta og grisen" (translated by Joyce Holt) "The Fox and the Rat and the Pig" (Lidele Galen Lidele God, p.30)

    The fox and the rat and the pig,
    They wandered out onto the ice.
    Then out there ran
    A wise old man
    With staff in hand
    And drove them back to land!

"Pig" (gris) and "ice" (is) rhyme in Norwegian.

In chapter 1771, Halvor sings an old folksong which I translate like so: "Old Gunnleik, Old Gunnleik, sat in the barn and mended shoes. You can betcha that Old Gunnleik will make those shoes too small to use." (Lidele Galen Lidele God, p.47)

3: stories

The well-known tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff came from the mountain dales of Norway. (chapter 1763)

Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe grew up hearing the tales transcribed by the German Grimm Brothers. Asbjørnsen and Moe wanted to gather a similar collection of folklore in their native Norway. Their first book came out in 1841, and included the tale of Kari Trestakk, rendered into English as Katie Woodencloak.

An English translation of the folk tale told by Gunnhild to Birgit (mentioned in the 1807 chapter) can be found online by searching for Katie Woodencloak. Kari/Katie is described as clever, and comes up with a way to snare the prince of her dreams, but he seems a rather snooty character. Not much of a catch by today's standards!

"Shortshanks" (mentioned in the 1797 chapter) is one of the Norwegian folktales collected by Asbjørnsen and Moe. Under the title "Minnikin" it was included by Andrew Lang in "The Red Fairy Book." The part about the magical ship harks back to old mythology about the magical possessions of the Norse gods.

Tussar og Trolldom, a book of folklore from Telemark, related the tale about a toad from Utgarden farm near Seljord.

4: from saga

The tale of Rig, related in chapter 1828: This fragment of an old saga is found in the Rigsthula. "The name Rig itself is almost certainly of Celtic origin," one website says, supposing that the poem was crafted by a wandering Norse singer who had passed through Celtic lands.

The Icelandic annotator who wrote down the saga (around 1300 AD) interpreted "Rig" to mean the Norse god Heimdall, though modern folklorists think Rig's behavior sounds more like Odin.

Yng was another name for the Norse god Freyr, who supposedly was the first ancestor in the Yngling dynasty. Some sources believe the gods of Norse mythology were ancient warriors whose reputations grew each time their stories were told down through the centuries.

Dan the Magnificent spun off to "Danemark": The Norwegian word "dan" means eager. In English as well as Norwegian, one definition of a "mark" is a tract of land. The Norse pronounce "Dane" as "DAWN-eh".

Different ancient sources give different parentage for Sigurd Ring, also mentioned in the 1828 story-telling scene. His ancestry as listed here was mentioned in the Gesta Danorum written by Saxo Grammaticus in the 12th century.

One saga local to the Kviteseid area tells of Prins Dond, otherwise known as Ånund, brother of Eirik King of Sweden. (The Norwegian word "don" means "roar.")

One website, which later went defunct, related local lore about the descendants of Prins Dond, including the following items:

  • Listing number 004 featured Ånund of Svearike and mentioned his local nickname, Prins Dond. "Svearike" is a variation of Sverige, the Norse term for Sweden: the rike, or kingdom, of the Svea, or Swedes. "Rike" may well derive from "Rig."

  • Listing number 005 told of Aslak Ånundsson, and his son Roald Rygg was number 006.

The lineage at Holtan farm from the 1500's is found in the Syftestad farm listing in the Kviteseid Bygdesoge.

The tale of Harald Hårfagre ("hair-fine," or Fairhair) is told in the Heimskringla.

The magic ship Skidbladnir is mentioned in sagas: The Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, and the Heimskringla.

In Norse mythology, Idun, the wife of the god Bragi, guarded the magic golden apples that gave the gods eternal youth. Some think that Bragi is another name for Odin, which would make Idun the same person as Odin's wife Frigg.

There may have been a mistranslation along the way, for one old source implies that the magical golden fruit was an acorn, not an apple!

Story in 1832: The story of Aslaug Kråke comes from an old account of the kings of Norway. Ragnar Lodbrok, King of Denmark, was the son of Sigurd Ring of the Yngling dynasty in Sweden.

"kråken" means "the crow." "kraken" refers to a giant squid, a sea monster.

The Skagerrak: The arm of the North Sea that lies between Norway and Denmark, about 80-90 miles wide.

Appendix 12: sources

Many thanks to:

  • Don Simonson (my father's cousin: great tips on Norway)
  • Vern & Jean Warmbo (a third cousin: more tips)
  • Donna Olsen (had compiled family history information)
  • Joan Phelan (had compiled family history information)
  • Kari-Mette Brekke (Morgedal Hotell: found local contacts)
  • Kari Aardalen Midtsund (3rd cousin! Took me to visit Dalen)
  • Turid Lundeberg (Took me to visit Homme)
  • Ed Egerdahl (conversational Norwegian teacher and tour guide)

Much of the Nordic and European historical material came from Ed Egerdahl's Norwegian classes offered for many years in Ballard, Washington. He also led summer tours in Norway.

In 2006 I visited Telemark on my own. I walked most of the sites in Fiddle and Fjell, snapping hundreds of photos. Then in Oslo I joined Ed Egerdahl on his "Best of Norway tour," visiting Hallingdal, Bergen, Ålesund, Trondheim, Bodø, and the Lofoten Islands, researching at libraries, museums, and living museums (reenactments) along the way.

A prime source for this work is the two-volume "Kviteseid Bygdesoge" assembled in the 1950s. Kviteseid native Torjus Loupedalen extracted information from the parish (bygde) records and organized them by lineage (Volume I: Ættesoga, or ancestry history). Olav Bakken wrote Volume II: Gardssoga, or farms history, which organized that data by location.

Printed sources in addition to the Kviteseid Bygdesoge:

  • Tussar og Trolldom (folklore local to Telemark)
  • Lidele Galen Lidele God (Norwegian folksongs) (including the evening hymn, one theme in this book)

Online sources: