Friday, 19 April 2013

I haven't quit!

Please bear with me*, I am in the middle of my final weeks of my final year of university and my days are consisting of waking, showering, studying in the library and sleeping. I just can't fit blogging in at the moment. However, expect a bumper post of all the missing letters to come soon, I'm determined to finish, even if it might not be by the end of April! 

Yesterday I was so sleepy that I fell asleep in my chair at the library. If that wasn't embarrassing enough, I then had one of those falling dreams and jerked awake with a yelp! 

Maybe it's a punishment from the blogging gods for being too slow with my posts >.<

*"Bear with me" - get it?! Cause my boyfriend's name is 'Björn' which is Swedish for 'bear' so I always have a bear with me. Yeaaah!

the little nordic cabin

Monday, 15 April 2013

L is for Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid (Den Lille Havfrue) is a fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen.

The original tale of the Little Mermaid is rather different to Disney's adaptation. Rather than becoming human to get the prince to love her, the Little Mermaid desires a human soul. This is because mermaids live for 300 years but turn into sea foam when they die. Humans live for a much shorter time, but they get to go to heaven when they die. 

The story differs vastly from Disney's and is really quite dark. Instead of giving up her voice, the Sea Witch cuts out the Little Mermaid's tongue. And when she gets her human legs it is extremely painful for her to walk on them. She does have to get true loves kiss, but this is because it's the only way to obtain a human soul. However, the prince is already in love with a temple girl and they get married. The Little Mermaid is heartbroken and turns to her sisters who tell her that to become a mermaid once again she must stab the prince and let his blood drip onto her feet. Her sisters had exchanged their hair for a knife from the Witch. The Little Mermaid cannot bring herself to murder the prince, and instead throws herself overboard and turns into foam. But suddenly she feels herself being lifted and discovers she has become a 'daughter of the air'. She is told that she has been rewarded for her efforts and that if she does good deeds she will eventually gain access to heaven. 

The Little Mermaid has her own statue in the sea in Copenhagen. I'd love so much to visit her one day.

Have a beautiful Monday and a wonderful week ahead, everyone!

the little nordic cabin

Saturday, 13 April 2013

K is for Karlsson på Taket

Karlsson på Taket (Karlsson on the roof) is a book by Astrid Lindgren.

Karlsson is a mischievous little man who often visits Lillebror (a kid called little brother) and gets him into trouble. He lives in the apartment block and everything seems completely ordinary. But Karlsson has this little button on his belly and when he pushes it a little propellor appears on his back, allowing him to fly around. 

Here is a little clip from the animated series:

I think it's really cute. I like the way it's animated too :) Had you heard of this story? It's one of Lindgren's more well known stories but I've never actually read it. 

the little nordic cabin

Friday, 12 April 2013

J is for Jomfruen på glassberget

Jomfruen på glassberget is a Norwegian fairytale. It's title in English is The Princess on the Glass Hill. It was one of the many fairytales collected by Asbjørnsen and Moe and is the story of a princess who is rescued by a man riding a magical horse. 

The rescuer was the youngest of three sons, often teased for sitting around poking the ashes. (Oh hey, remember Askeladden? I told you he pops up everywhere!) One day he hears a horse whinnying and he manages to tame it. With the horse is a brass suit of armour. He doesn't tell anyone about the horse and the next year a suit of silver armour appears. He still doesn't tell anybody and finally on the third year a suit of golden armour appears. 

Meanwhile, a king had set his daughter high up on a glass hill and given her three apples to hold. It was said that the only person allowed to marry her would be the one who managed to reach the top of the hill and take the apples from her. All of the other princes and knights had failed to reach her, but one night a knight rode 1/3 of the way up the hill and the princess threw him an apple. He rode off immediately, taking the apple with him. The next day a silver-clad rider appears and manages to get 2/3 of the way up the hill. The same thing happens, he is thrown and apple before riding off. On the third day a rider appears, wearing golden armour, and rides all the way to the top where the princess gives him the final apple. He then rides away. (I know, men...)

The king then calls a meeting to find the man that has won his daughter. Our hero shows up but his brothers say that he was at home the whole time, poking about, doing his Askeladden business, etc. But luckily he remembered to bring the apples with him and then they all live happily ever after. 

You might have noticed that this isn't my favourite fairy tale. It feels a bit like someone has sat down and thought, ok there needs to be 'three' of stuff, three apples, three brothers, ok that'll do. Now we need something impossible - a glass hill? Perfect! Now lets throw in some random details that don't add anything to the plot of the story. Oh and someone call that Askeladden and get him to show up, he's always good for a laugh! No, but really, it's a nice example of a traditional Norwegian fairytale. I'm just bitter because, as everyone knows, J is a dark horse when it comes to impossible letters of the alphabet :)

the little nordic cabin

Thursday, 11 April 2013

I is for Ice-Maiden

Finally it's time to introduce you to a Danish character! The Ice-Maiden is a story by Hans Christian Andersen, which, I believe was written fairly late in his life. 

It's quite a morbid tale, which is normal for this author. Tales like the Little Mermaid and Thumbellina are not as sweet and mild as the later versions that we read as children. The original versions tend to be rather sinister. The Ice-Maiden is no exception to this, it is the tale of a young boy whose mother falls into an icy ravine and dies. She was holding her little boy, but he survives due to a kiss from the Ice-Maiden. The Ice-Maiden then goes on to haunt him throughout his life before drowning him on his wedding night. 

My boyfriend's cabin is in a place called Funäsdalen, where these beautiful mountains can be found. In the summer we went hiking and passed a ravine where it is said a Sami woman fell down whilst travelling in her reindeer-drawn sled and died in the snow below. Seeing that ravine was an eerie reminder of this tale.

the little nordic cabin

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

H is for Heðin Brú

Heðin Brú was a Faroese writer, translator and spectacular wearer of glasses and tweed suits. I love his hair. He looks like such a gentleman!

I've picked him for my letter 'H' today because it's rare that I get to write about anything Faroese since, like Greenland, it's one of the Nordic countries I'm less familiar with. Which is odd considering I spent a year learning the language. But anyways... 

Heðin Brú is a really important figure in Faroese literature. He started out as a fisherman, then turned to agriculture and spent some time studying in Denmark. When he returned to the Faroe Islands he travelled around meeting people and gaining inspiration for his novels. 

He is considered important because of his extensive work as a translator, translating works of world literature into Faroese. Examples are the tales of Brothers Grimm, Emily Brontë, William Shakespeare and Henrik Ibsen. 

Have you read anything from the Faroe Islands? Have you been there? Are you one of those people who heard "Faroe Islands" and immediately thought "pharaoh" and mentally placed the islands somewhere near Egypt? ;)

the little nordic cabin

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

G is for Grýla

I'm getting a little behind with these posts, aren't I? I'm having one of those crazy weeks full of sleeping and essay writing and marshmallows and reading and more writing and sleeping and lollipops. I've hit that stage where I'm not sure whether I've had too much coffee, or not enough. 

I've decided to take a little break from it all to tell you about a certain horrid Icelandic giantess, Grýla.

Believe it or not, this terrifying witch of a woman is a Christmas character from Icelandic mythology. If I was an Icelandic child, I think Christmas would be a horrifying time of year for me. Grýla's favourite food is naughty children and she is never full. During the Christmas period she leaves her home in the mountains and hunts for naughty children, which she likes to boil into stew. She became linked to Christmas in the 17th century but her character dates back to at least the 13th century. During the 17th century it actually became prohibited to tell tales of Grýla because it was just too scary for the children. 

Here is a folksong about her, it's a nice example of the beautiful Icelandic language, just be thankful you can't understand it or you might not be able to sleep tonight!

the little nordic cabin

Sunday, 7 April 2013

F is for Filifjonkan

Filifjonkan, (Fillyjonk in English) is a character from the Moomin tales, created by Tove Jansson. The Fillyjonk looks like a sort of cross between a rodent and a human and has a desire for freedom from worries and to not have to be tied down to anything. We meet Filifjonkan when she accompanies Snorkmaiden on a trip to a wishing well, where we learn of her preoccupation with disaster. She believes strongly in tradition and due to the fact that she clings to these sorts of thoughts, she is unable to experience the freedom or happiness that the Moomin family have. 

I've loved this character ever since I heard my boyfriend's sister in law call her tiny little daughter (the cutest little girl in the world) 'Filifjonkan' whilst affectionately tickling her. The name always reminds me of that little girls delightful squeals :)

Whilst Filifjonkan is a relatively minor character, I think that in terms of psychology she is one that many of us can relate to. The ties we have to our own minds and the thoughts that prevent true freedom are something that is explored within this character. I think we're all secretly striving for the happiness and freedom of thought found within the Moomin family. 

the little nordic cabin

Friday, 5 April 2013

E is for Erik the Red

Good evening my dears, how are you all? I quite miss talking directly to you, rather than just typing information here! I'm sorry I've been slow with commenting, I have deadlines coming up at the end of April so I'm feeling a little frantic! 

Anyways, lets talk about Erik the Red, the guy who founded the first settlement in Greenland!

We know about Erik the Red from the Icelandic Sagas, texts that were passed down from oral tradition during the viking age. It is said that Erik had to leave Norway because he had committed manslaughter there. He moved to Iceland but then he killed a bunch of people and ended up getting himself outlawed. Smart, huh? 

I've always liked the story that when Iceland was discovered, the explorers named it Iceland because it was so cold, but on discovering Greenland afterwards, realised that they should have reserved the name for that place instead. However, according to the sagas (/wikipedia, where I've just learned this) it was Erik who named it Greenland, having returned to Iceland after he'd served his time away, because he wanted to give it a more appealing name than Iceland had. Either way, I've always thought how the names Iceland and Greenland were kind of mixed up :)

Have you ever read any of the Icelandic sagas? I really do recommend them - I find it really fascinating that they had been passed down orally for so long before finally being written. I love the Chinese Whispers effect that they got, since they began as historical tales but as they were passed on, certain details were changed, leaving us with stories of beserkers and witches and magic. They're wonderful!

the little nordic cabin

D is for Danny the Champion of the World

Did you guys know that Roald Dahl was Norwegian? I didn't know that until I began my degree four years ago. He moved to Cardiff when he was young, but he loved Norway and spent many of his summer holidays there with his Grandmother. 

Last year I did a project on Roald Dahl and gave a presentation on how his Norwegian heritage influenced his work. You might have noticed the huge Norwegian influence in his book, The Witches, for example. There are lots of hidden clues to his love of Norway throughout his books, the funniest of which is how all his mean characters are typically English farmers, whilst the sweet grandmothers, teachers and little children are the positive (and, sometimes Norwegian characters). 

Danny the Champion of the World isn't one of my favourite books, but is an example of the negative, sterotypical English character. Danny and his father poach pheasants from a rich man's estate and are threatened by him. Danny is labeled champion of the world when he comes up with a plan to trick the antagonist, by drugging all the pheasants and stealing them whilst they're sleeping!

I like the fact that the stories of Roald Dahl are English, written in the English language and read by English children who have no idea about Roald Dahl's heritage. If it wasn't for Norway and the magic that the country gave to him in terms of imagination, I doubt we'd have these wonderful stories today. 

the little nordic cabin

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

C is for Captain Longstocking

Ok, so fun fact about the Nordic languages: They don't really have the letter "C". Swedish does, but after searching my brainbox all day, I couldn't come up with anyone. So please forgive my cheating, "captain" begins with a "k" in Swedish, but we're speaking English over here, so I think it's ok :)

Captain Longstocking is Pippi Longstocking's father. He is the only person who is as strong as Pippi and it is from him that she inherited her knowledge and sense. He went missing and was feared dead, but actually he had washed up on an island and became a chief there. Despite Pippi's love for life aboard ship, when her father returned she decided to stay in the house he gave her as the stable life that he had intended for her was something that she had become attached to. On one trip to the island where her father was chief, Pippi was renamed Princess Pippilotta. She had always imagined that while he was missing he had become king of the land somewhere, so it is fitting that Captain Longstocking's little daughter should become 'princess'. 

the little nordic cabin

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

B is for Bjartur

Bjartur of Summerhouses is the protagonist of Icelandic Author, Halldor Laxness' book Sjálfstætt Fólk (Independent People). This was the first novel I've ever read by a Nordic author and if I wasn't already in love enough with Iceland, this pushed my obsession over the edge. 

His daughter, Asta Sollilja describes him better than I ever could: “She peeped out from under the blanket, and there he was, still sitting on the edge of his bed, when all the others had gone to sleep, mending some implement or other. No one stirred any longer, the living-room fast asleep; he alone was awake, alone was chanting, sitting there in his shirt, thickset and high-shouldered, with strong arms and tangled hair. His eyebrows were shaggy, steep and beetling like the crags in the mountain, but on his thick throat there was a soft place under the roots of his beard. She watched him awhile without his knowing: the strongest man in the world and the greatest poet, knew the answer to everything, understood all ballads, was afraid of nothing and nobody, fought all of them on a distant strand, independent and free, one against all.”
I highly recommend Independent People, the rich landscape and cultural descriptions begin on the very first page and there is nobody more equipped to introduce you to this magical country than Bjartur himself. 


Monday, 1 April 2013

A is for Askeladden

Happy 1st April everyone! If you are new here, welcome! I'm so pleased to meet you :)

My A - Z theme is Characters from Nordic Literature

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Askeladden.

Askeladden can be found in quite a few Norwegian folktales. His name would be 'Ash Lad' in English,  and I think this comes from his tendency to sit and daydream whilst poking at the ashes in the fire whilst his older brothers display how they are going to succeed in life. You could therefore say that Askeladden is the typical unsuspected hero of these tales. 

The story that I'm most familiar with is called "Askeladden som kappåt med trollet". In this story, Askeladden meets a troll in the forest, while he is chopping down trees. The troll is angry, but Askeladden tricks him into helping him. Afterwards, Askeladden is taken back to the trolls house. Askeladden tricks the troll by challenging him to an eating competition. While the troll is spooning food into his mouth, Askeladden is sneaking it into a bag that he has tied to his front. The troll complains that he is full and cannot eat any more, but Askeladden tells him that if he cuts a hole in his stomach, then he can make room and eat as much as he likes. Askeladden shows him: he takes a knife and slits the bag that he has been putting the food in, telling the troll that it is his stomach that he is slitting. The troll copies him, but instead slits his stomach open and dies.

I can't wait to read what you have all come up with for the letter A! Have a beautiful Monday, everyone.

the little nordic cabin