This is from a project in 2012 called ”Kromosomer/chromosoms”, where I read all I could find of Norwegian folklegends. This is a presentation of characters in Norwegian folklore. I noted a particularly growing interest in folklore, so you can look at this as an attempt to display a list of characters as a resource to work with in different media. All the characters presented are collected from Norwegian legends and not folktales.
As said, this little research was a pilot project of «chromosomes». The basis for this presentation, which is not complete, is legends published by ”Norsk Folkeminnelag” (”the Norwegian folkmemory”). I wanted to see the characters as they have been presented in the «people’s mouths.» Most of these legends are written down as «they were told,» on dialect and often incomplete as stories.
I have used the texts as they have come to me, based partly on Nyrnes nonlinear experience of art, working with ”folds” as they occur.
The legends are collected in the period 1848 (and possibly some even earlier) to approx. 1960. The folklegends tells about meeting with people from the unseen world and ghosts etc and there are large local variations in the experience of the meetings that have been made. Terms, names and concepts can both act as a collective term and designation of a local phenomenon.
The books I’ve read is a random selection based on what is available, some of which are found digitalized.
I present the characters in alphabetical order according to their Norwegian name.
Alv/er – English: Elf
I have found only a presentation of the elves. It is more a description than a story. Elves are described as small naked boys with big hats on their heads. An eye witness saw them dancing in a circle at moonlight night.
Attganger – English: Directly translated it means ”Walking back” or to be more precise – it means ghost.
This is one of the characters you find often when it comes to Norwegian folklegends. It has a nummerous of meanings, beyond being a dead person. The description that usually goes again is that someone broke a promise and the dead comes back to remind the person of the betrayal.
Otherwise you have explanations for the phenomenon such as: a ”attganger” is a corpse that does not rot because of a misdeed. Or ”attganger” was someone who had a score to settle. What they could have forgotten to do was things like: they had forgotten to sharpen their knives before they died, or they returned because some had been unkind to them while they lived.
From one valley in Norway, called ”Osterdalen”, it is a tale of a child who dies and comes back. The child plays with his sisters and brothers, and the family is getting so used to the dead child that they forget that he really is dead.
”Attganger” could also return because they wanted to be of some sort of help. If a marriage had been good, they were around to help their spouse like finding things they could not find anymore. Several legends tells about wife returning to help their husbands.
Bjorn – Bear
You have werewolf, but what do you call one turning into a bear? A collective term for both is ”hamloper”. Directly translated ”hamloper” means someone who runs with skins/fur.
In the legends I’ve read, I have noticed a rather general and perhaps significant difference between the werewolf and the bear. While the werewolf is an involuntary condition, turning into a bear is absolutely of ones own will. Those who had the ability to turn into a bear, did so because they wanted to take revenge or scare someone.
There is also another difference from the werewolf. Legends of werewolf deals with only males, while among the bears there are also women.
In order to kill such a bear, you had to use silver bullets.
The theme will continue next Thursday.