Arland O. Fiske: Trolls and mountain roads in Norway
If you ever go Norway, look out for the trolls. I’ve never actually seen a live one, but there is so much talk about them that they must exist. The time to be on the alert is after dark.
I thought about this as we left Lyngdal shortly before sunset to drive to Hemsedal, north of Gol in Hallingdal. The distance isn’t so far, but the roads are full of sharp curves. To save an hour of time, we took the shortcut over the mountains at Rødberg instead of staying on the main highway through Geilo.
Saving an hour seemed like a good idea, but I had forgotten how sharp and narrow the mountain switchback roads could be. By the time we got to Rodberg, it was pitch black. I breathed a sigh of relief when we had finally twisted our way to the top. But it wasn’t over. Then we wound our way down until we came to a level road along the Tunnfjord. We could see farm lights along the way. I felt better by the fjord, as I didn’t think there would be any trolls there.
We began to climb again when we took the fork in the road to Nesbyen. Now we were headed straight into troll country again. I drove cautiously down the middle of the road at a reduced speed. The last thing I wanted to do was hit one of those fearful creatures. There is no telling what kind a spell they might cast on us.
A strange object lay on the road ahead. I slowed down, but not too slow. There it was, a large sheep sleeping on the highway. If we could get to Hallingdal and follow the river north to Gol, I figured we’d be safe. Since my earliest ancestors in America came from that valley, the trolls should be no danger.
After about three hours of frenzied emotions, we arrived in Hemsedal and found our motel. We hadn’t seen any trolls, but I felt they must have been watching us all the way.
We arrived late in Hemsedal, but our dinner had been kept for us. We didn’t get to visit with any one because all the other guests were gathered around the television watching election results.
If you don’t believe in trolls, just read the story of the “Three Billy Goats Gruff.” The stories in Asbjornsen and Moe’s book, Norwegian Folk Tales, illustrated by Werenskiold and Kittelson, has actual pictures of them. They are powerful enough to convince any unbeliever.
Some people bring home troll statues when they to Norway, but not me. I’m staying clear of them. When Paul Kemper was along on our Scandinavian tour in 1984, he showed great courage by having his picture taken alongside the figurine of an especially ugly one.
I’ve heard that trolls tried to get into people’s trunks when they immigrated to America.
Fortunately, so far as is known, none of them succeeded. People who claim some knowledge of these mysterious creatures say that they are ugly, have humped backs, crooked noses and wear pointed red caps. They are supposed to live underground in fine houses of crystal and gold.
Why do trolls fascinate us humans? It is because they have magical powers, can tell fortunes and are able to make people rich, it is said. The way to scare them off is to play a stereo full blast with rock music. They can’t stand the noise.
Trolls don’t trust anyone either, because Thor used to throw his hammer at them. They are not like the elves, called Nissens in Denmark, whom farmers feed at Christmas to protect their cattle.
Ireland has its leprechauns, Germany its poltergeists, France its goblins and England its pixies. But none of them compare to the trolls for pure ugliness.
Fortunately, they don’t look like Norwegians. Besides that, they have tails. But my advice is, keep your eyes open!
Next Week: Homecoming to Hemsedal
— ARLAND FISKE, a retired Lutheran minister who previously lived in Laporte and now lives in Texas, is the author of 10 books on Scandinavian themes.