History & Traditions, Painting

Proverbs from Olden times in Norway….

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Proverbs may be ” old fashioned” but there is always wisdom within their contents; they may even be considered portentous to some. The young may scoff, but these pearls of wisdom are observations that comes with age, and are a way of communicating a generalisation, in but a few succinct words.

I personally love them, and think they are really something we should ponder about more.  My hobby of traditional Norwegian painting incorporates sayings from, Norway, (of course). These sayings are often painted around the rim of drinking bowls or clothes trunks. Some of these bowls or trunks, were then presented to a bridal couple on the occasional of their marriage. Such traditions are delightful, but sadly absent in my part of the world hence part of my admiration.

I will share some favourite proverbs and their translations with you…

Norwegian Proverbs (norske ordtak)

Alderen kjem ikkje aleine; han fører så mye med seg. Age comes not alone; it brings so much with it.

Bak skyene er himmelen alltid blå. Behind the clouds the sky is always blue.

Borte bra, hjemme beste. To be away is well and good, but home is best ( where the heart is)

Bedre bør du bær “kje i bakken enn mannavit mykje. You can’t carry a better load up a hill than much knowledge.

Ingen kan hjelp den som ikke vil hjelpe seg sjøl. Noone can help someone who will not help him/herself

Gode ord skal du hogge i berg, de dårligere i snø. Carve your good words in stone, the bad in snow.


15 thoughts on “Proverbs from Olden times in Norway….”

  1. Hi! I have a question for you, if you are able to help! I have an old rosemaled bowl from my grandparents, and it’s carved in the shape of a dragon. I am trying to figure out what it says along the rim of the bowl, and from what I can discern using Google translate, there are misspellings in the Norwegian! Here’s what it looks like it says: Tor (or For?) meget å dritte, det gavner dig itte. I think I’ve figured out that the two letters in “dritte” are actually “drikke” since that makes more sense: Tor (or For) meget å drikke, det gavner dig itte, which seems to translate into “Too much to drink, it benefits you restored.” Any ideas? Thanks! Elin


    1. Elin, the saying on the bowl, reads Too much to drink, will not do you good. ( the gavner could be translated as “gain”in respect of your own personal gain, and the itte, as ikke):
      For meget å drikke, det gavner dig itte. Too much to drink, it gains you not. These wooden bowls were commonly used for drinking ale, and the dragon’s head and tail were used as handles.
      Again, I would really love to see a picture of the rosemaling, if you would like to share it with me. Perhaps they brought it with them from Norway. Often there is a date on it, as well, to indicate the age of the piece. What a wonderful heirloom to have. Thanks for visiting my blog.


      1. I find your blog very uplifting. I don’t subscribe to many because I’d not have time to read, as I write fiction myself and am tied up with trying to run this old sailing boat of mine! That’s not to say that there aren’t many wonderful blogs and people out there.
        For me keeping a positive head is everything as I am alone and need to believe in myself. It’s year has been a torrid one so far and I’m surprised to find myself still heading north!

        I like the spiritual dimension in your writing and the hope. It’s very profound and beautiful. Just the kind of thing I need to read. I don’t always get on line but when I do, it’s important to me.



        1. Wow. Thank you so much for your lovely heartfelt comment. It is so nice to know that my humble words might be useful and interesting to someone else. And hope, when there is nothing else, there is always hope. I was never a very positive person, but I have had to learn to be positive and see the positives even in the worst of negative situations. (That doesn’t mean I don’t grumble at times!- I am no saint) but it is quite amazing the effect a positive attitude can bring. And here is another proverb I try to remember: A strong positive mental attitude works more wonders than any medicine! I can imagine especially how important positivity is for you in your situation 🙂 Kind Regards, Amanda


          1. Well said Amanda! Incredible how many folk are out there making the best of things?. Very uplifting! Alchemy is the name of the game.


  2. I have a question that you might hopefully be able to help me with: there’s a story that garrison Keillor tells about an old Norwegian saying on a wall and I thought it was beautiful. I want to inscribe it on a pendant as a gift but I want to make sure the spelling is all correct. In the story he says the saying means “remember to love while you still dare to. Remember to live while you’re still alive.” I put those words in a translator and it didn’t come out the same as the story and it sounds so pretty the way he tells it in the story. Any way you can help me out?


    1. Husk å elske mens du ennå tør. Husk å leve mens du ennå lever, sounds about right. You could also say,”Husk å elske mens du tør det” for the first part. Thanks for stopping by my sight. I had not come across that saying before.


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