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The Legacy of Olav and Nidaros

Nidaros Domkirken
Nidaros Cathedral – the northernmost cathedral in the world

“Olsok (literally “Olaf’s Wake” or “Olaf’s Vigil” – that is the eve of St. Olaf’s Day) is now the Norwegian name for 29 July, traditionally the date of the death of King Olaf II Haraldsson of Norway, in the Battle of Stiklestad, east of Nidaros (Trondheim), Norway, in 1030.

  Olaf II Haraldsson (995 – 29 July 1030), later known as St. Olaf, (or St Olav), was King of Norway  1015 to 1028. Born in Ringerike, he was the great grandchild of Harald Fairhair, the first King of Norway.

Even as a young boy, Olaf had a strong conviction that he was going to lead Norway and be their eternal King that would unite them into one Kingdom. As a Viking chieftain, he went raiding through Estonia and Scandinavia, but it was whilst awaiting the close of  winter in Normandy he was baptised in Rouen Cathedral, (now Notre Dame), by Robert the Dane, Archbishop of Normandy.

Nidaros Cathedral
Nidaros Cathedral side door

 

The year 1015 saw Olaf back in Norway and with the support of the five Kings of the Uplands, Olaf declared himself King. Furthermore, he then conquered the south of Norway, founding Borg, (now the town of Sarpsborg), and even made peace with the King of Sweden.

However, his reign over a united Norway was not to last, and he was forced to flee into exile, from Canute the Great who had the support of discontented Norwegian nobles. When Canute’s Regent was lost at sea, Olaf took the opportunity to seize back his kingdom, but died at the ensuing Battle of Stiklestad.

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Stiklestad Church where Olaf fell in battle Source: Wikipedia

It is said that Olaf’s body is buried somewhere near the present day site of Nidaros cathedral,  by a stream. Some time after the burial, legend has it that Olav’s coffin rose up out of the ground, and was re-interned. Rumors begun to circulate in the community about Olaf’s exploits and his legendary status, and when the coffin again rose up out of the burial site as second time, the people opened it and it was said to “smell like roses”.

Burial place of St Olav
Burial place of St Olav

A year after his death, he was canonized as a Saint. Construction  began on the Nidaros Cathedral in 1070 over the burial site of St. Olaf. The oldest parts  of Nidaros, still in existence date from the middle of the twelfth century, as fire has reduced the cathedral to ruins until the Reformation.

As the northernmost cathedral in the world, it is a site of pilgrimage even today.


Nidaros Domkirken
Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway built to honour St Olav

 

Olaf was canonized by Bishop Grimkell in Nidaros on 3 August 1031, and is remembered as Rex perpetuus Norvegiae, the Eternal King of Norway. [He is, however, remembered] more so than his attempts to finally and forcefully convert the country to Christianity, Olaf’s martyrdom at Stiklestad appears to have contributed decisively to establishing the Church in all parts of the country.” [Odd Steinar]

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Pilgrims would leave their mark on Nidaros cathedral walls to ward off evil

It seems that Olaf, like many Scandinavian kings, used his Christianity to gain more power for the monarchy and centralize control in Norway. The cult of Olaf not only unified the country, it also fulfilled the conversion of the nation, something for which the king had fought so hard. [Wikipedia]

 

And today the Olsok legacy lives on, not only in Scandinavia, but also in many parts of the world, where Scandinavian heritage is honoured. Whether this was Olaf’s primary or secondary intention, it is clear that he is remembered as Norway’s patron Saint:  the King who united Norway for the first time.

gammel bro2014
In Trondheim

Something to  Ponder About

 

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shadows
Community

Shadow – Book by Karin Altvegen

Very Lord of the RingsNowadays people talk a lot about chasing happiness. There are a multitude of books courses about being happy. Feeling happy has become something that we constantly desire convinced that when we have found the secret to being happy, everything will fall into place perfectly. Not being happy has come to be equated with failure. Is it possible to be happy each waking day, year in year out? Is it something worth striving for? Karin Altvegen explores this in her novel, “Shadow.”

Prior to reading this book, I had only read one other book by this author. Shame which had been described as:

“An existential thriller about the power of fear and the brains capability to repress things that is to painful to remember. About the fatal consequences of an atypical childhood.  And about the biggest shame of all: The feeling of not having been loved by one’s parents.”

It seems this theme and moral stand is continued in Karin’s novel, Shadow; So it was with trepidation and a pre-conceived idea that I read this book. And it certainly was about not facing one’s fears and loneliness! The shadows of the past can be forgotten, but their imprint might be indelibly fixed.

This is the story of a son trying to emulate his father: a psychological thriller about relationships and how the past can influence the future – how actions live on after they are long forgotten – what starts from a lack of good parenting, is then compounded by a serious lack of communication, ends with characters who take drastic and monumentally tragic couses of action.

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Featuring the writers Alice and Axel Ragnerfelt who hold a dark secret, ‘Shadow’ is a family history marked by what seems almost to be a generational pattern of despair. communication.

“She remembered how at first she was so proud to bear the Ragnerfeldt name. Her friends would get a dreamy look in their eyes whenever he was mentioned, and they wanted to hear all about what he was like. But when they noticed her ambivalence and lack of enthusiasm, she was met with suspicion, as if her words had sprung from envy. No one wanted to hear anything negative about Axel, the national treasure. She stopped saying what she felt and joined his crowd of admirers, at least outwardly. It was easier that way.”

One protagonist ponders the moment at which a personal calamity begins?

“When does the first flake fall that will form the snowball? At what stage does the movement start? Was it the day when he secretly chose the linguistic path, …. By now everything had been in motion for a long time. There was only one hour left until what they thought was theirs would be lost for ever.”

“But even a bell’s invisible crack is revealed by a dull peal. Had the evil always been inside him? Or had it taken over when everything was stolen from him. When all that remained to him was the ability to shatter in order to retaliate.  Too late he realized that he had directed his revenge at himself. That what he had shown himself to be capable of had chained him to a shame too heavy to bear.

So how does he handle it?

Gratefully he felt it (the alcohol) take over. The feeling of liberation when the brain when numb. When he was no longer capable of comprehending the depth of his pain. Why weren’t human beings born this way? With their blood spiked from the start with a small percentage of alcohol? With the defense mechanism disconnected and the soul in a state of peace. Was survival really so important that it outweighed all suffering?

Sometimes I think that today we have trouble finding happiness because of our deep fear of suffering. Is happiness a type of contentment?
Contentment is a feeling of having obtained or achieved what can reasonable be desired. And this novel discusses individuals who struggle with contentment…..the courage to settle down and dare to be satisfied with what they have.Very Lord of the Rings

But then on page 154 Altvegen writes, “Someone who puts caution first stifles the life he’s trying to save.”  and the writer’s astute observations made me ponder more about happiness and life, but in a different way.  A tale of murder and family secrets is not for everyone, yet I wondered why this novel was left sitting on my TBR shelf, for so long. It is seriously good.

Shadow is a novel  by Karin Altvegen from 2007 that has been translated into English.

Rating: 8/10

The good: Skillful and suspenseful convoluted plot that switches back and forth with  surprising twists and turns. The depth and layers of this book gives me somethings to ponder about.

 

Book - The cop killer
Community

Anne Holt: Fear Not (2011)

Oslo fjord

This novel is the fourth in the Norwegian series with Johanne Vik and Adam Stubø as the husband and wife team, with Adam being the ‘gentle giant’ detective and Johanne, his wife who is an ex profiler with a nose for investigative leads.

Very soon in the novel, we are introduced to several different story threads:

Johanne´s vulnerable daughter, Kristiane, gets lost when the family participates in a wedding in Oslo, and if a mysterious stranger had not saved her, she might have been killed in front of the tram.

Bishop Eva Karin Lysgaard is found murdered on Christmas Eve in Bergen. She is a popular person, well known for her struggle to keep the church united despite the question of marriage of homosexuals.

The body of a seventeen-year-old asylum seeker is found in the harbour of Oslo. The young man was a prostitute, and soon after a homosexual woman disappears from a happy relationship.

Marcus Koll, affluent businessman, lives together with his partner Rolf and his son, Little Marcus. Beautiful and safe on the facade, but apparently Marcus fears he will be the next victim.

What do the crimes have in common? Are old family secrets behind all these crimes, or is the common denominator homosexuality? Johanne Vik is engaged in researching hate crime, and via her research she can point out the connection among the seemingly isolated events to the police.

There are many things to like in this series, but it seems to me that Holt has this tendency to involve Johanne and her children every time. Exciting for the characters, and fundamental to the storyline perhaps, but not very credible. But then it is fiction, isn’t it? So why quibble?

I guess that whilst I enjoyed this Anne Holt story, it does lack a little of the intensity I feel when I read the Hanne Wilhemson’s series. Perhaps I feel more for the character of Hanne, for her keen detective sense and her stoic, rigid and sometimes arrogant manner, than I do for Johanne Vik and Adam Stubo who seem to be awfully familiar to another couple in a similar detective series written by a Swedish crime writer.

If you are a Nordic crime fiction fan, you won’t be disappointed, but the bar is getting ever higherin the realms of Mordic crime fiction with many more excellent writers, emerging from the colder regions of the world, each year.

Rating: 7/10

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Something to Ponder About

Community, History & Traditions

Proverbial Thursday – Proverbs and Quotes from around the World

vigelandI find profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and marvel at the way they can be so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and across cultures, and speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes like proverbs, can make us think more deeply about something.

Each Thursday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought provoking.  I hope you will too.

“Liten tue kan velte stort lass”–Little strokes fell great oaks.

Norwegian proverb

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”

(Robert Louis Stevenson)

Some words to ponder about.

History & Traditions

Proverbial Thursday – Proverbs from around the World

I find profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and marvel at the way they can be so succinct in communicating messages to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and across cultures, and speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes like proverbs, can make us think more deeply about something.

Each Thursday, I post a Proverb or Saying and a Quote that I find thought provoking.  I hope you will too.

Iceland

Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid;
 courage means you don’t let fear stop you.

Your cattle will die, your friends will die, you will die, but your reputation will never die, if you get a good one.

Odin, (Mythical Viking god)

Icelandic proverb from the Sagas.

Something to ponder about this day.

Book review, Community

Recommended Scandinavian Authors

blog pictures 001Until recently, I ran a Scandinavian book club amongst the Nordic clubs in my city. The book club was a success until everyone got too busy and decided to go home to Scandinavia for the summer. (Can’t say I blame them!) Over the years that it was active, I managed to accumulate a list of interesting authors, and at my blogger friend Poppy’s The Viking Queen’s suggestion, have published the below list according to country of author’s origin, for anyone who wishes to discover the wonderful world of Scandinavian fiction.*

  • My primary interest is crime fiction so be warned that this list is not exhaustive and is heavily biased towards  writers of crime fiction. Most of these titles have been translated into English.

I will reveiw Lars Kepler’s book in coming weeks.

Danmark –

Christensen, Lars Saaybe – Historical Fiction

Christian Jungersen – The Exception TBR
Sara Blaedel – Blue Blood, tr. Erik J Macki & Tara F Chace. Crime fiction featuring Louis Rick.
Elsebeth Egholm – Three Dog Night. An Excellent Writer

Friis, Agnete & Kaaberbol, LeneThe Boy in the Suitcase; Not a bad read

Peter Høeg – Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, (a great read) and others much more obscure
Steffen Jacobsen – When the Dead Awaken
Martin Jensen – The King’s Hounds, tr. Tara Chace

Lotte and Soren Hammer – The Hanging, tr. Ebba Segerberg

Jussi Adler-Olsen – Redemption

Dan Turrell – Murder in the Dark, tr. Mark Mussari

Finland –

Antti Tuomainen – The Healer tr: Lola Rogers  TBR

Leena Lehtolainen – Her Enemy, tr. Owen Witesman  TBR

Pekka Hiltunen – Cold Courage, tr. Owen Witesman TBR

Jokinen, Seppo  – Detective Sakari Koskinen series TBR

Iceland –

Arnaldur Indridason – Cold Crime/ police procedural series featuring Inspector Erlendur: at least one of which was made into a movie (Jar City)

Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson – Daybreak,  TBR

Halldor Laxness – Iceland’s Bell and Atom Station (historical fiction; depicts Icelandic rural life)

Yrsa Sigurdardottir – Someone to Watch Over Me TBR

Norway –

Thomas Enger – Burned

Karin Fossum – I Can See in the Dark, tr. James Anderson. Crime Fiction. Often writes about people on society’s fringe. Inspector Konrad Sejer series

Jostein Gaarder – Sophie’s World – Fiction story that introduces you to philosophy in a fascinating way.

Knut Hamsun – Hunger; I would get shot for not mentioning it, and drawn and quartered for saying that it was boring, my apologies to all Norwegians, but,as it was considered a landmark in literature, it is listed here.

Gaute Heivoll – Before I Burn, tr. Don Bartlett

Anne Holt – Crime fiction from a former Norwegian Minister for Justice including the Hanne Wilhelmson detective series and characters: Former FBI profiler Johanne Vik & Detective Inspector Adam Stubo

Jorn Lier Horst – Closed for Winter, tr. Anne Bruce. Character: Chief Inspector William Wisting, Larvik

Jan Kjaerstad – The Conqueror

Gunnar Kopperud – Historical fiction and politics intertwined. Should be just my thing but “The Time of Light” is violent and not my favourite book, but listed here anyway)

Jo Nesbo – Thriller/crime fiction series with Detective Harry Hole. Also stand alone novel “Headhunters” was made into a movie in 2011

Per Pettersen – Out Stealing Horses and To Siberia (set in Denmark during WWII)

Gunnar Staalesen – Cold Hearts, tr. Don Bartlett

Linn Ullman – Daughter of actress Liv Ullman, novelist. Stella Descending is a good read.

Sweden –

Karin Altvegen – Shame, Shadow:- psychological thrillers

Ake Edwardson, – Series of crime fiction including Death Angels

Kerstin Ekman,

Kjell Eriksson,Crime series

Marianne Fredrikkson – Hanna’s daughters: Wonderful story of three generations of woman. Excellent fiction. ‘Simon & the Oaks’ was made into a movie in 2011

Grebe & Traff – More Bitter Than Death

Marie Hermanson – The Devil’s Sanctuary, tr. Neil Smith

Published in the US only (at the moment):  Anna Jansson – Strange Bird, tr. Paul Norlen, Stockholm Text

Mari Jungstedt – The Double Silence, Unseen, Unspoken. (Crime Fiction)

Mons Kallentoft – Savage Spring, tr. Neil Smith; Midwinter Sacrifice

Lars Kepler – The Fire Witness, The Hypnotist (currently reading, and reads well, scarey, and a bit bloodthirsty in parts)

Camilla Lackberg – Journalist Erica Falck crime fiction series set in Fjallbacka, Sweden Light crime fiction where the characters become more like old friends

Jens Lapidus – Never F**k Up (apa Never Screw Up), tr. Astri von Arbin Ahlander

Stieg Larson – Lisbeth Salander Trilogy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, well you know the rest…..

Åsa Larsson – Rebecka Martinsson series of detective novels.

John Ajvide Lindqvist – Let the right one in- Story about vampires, but don’t let that put you off. I would never read books on vampires, but this one is very different and was also made into a movie, and remade into an American movie.

Henning Mankell – Very popular crime fiction writer. A multitude of books, and TV series (Swedish/English)

Liza Marklund – Very popular crime fiction with the character: Annika Bengtzon (journalist) Also a TV series

Anders de la Motte – Game, tr. Neil Smith

Håkan Nesser – Set in a fictional town in Sweden with Inspector Van Veteran (police procedural/crime fiction with cutting sardonic wit)

Woman with Birthmark, The Return

Kristina Ohlsson – The Disappeared, tr. Marlaine Delargy

Leif Persson – Linda, as in the Linda Murder

Roslund & Hellstrom  – Fictional character Detective Inspector Ewert Grens. – in my TBR pile.

Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo – A timeless Martin Beck police procedural and crime fiction series written in sixties/seventies

Alexander Söderberg – Set in the South of Sweden

Johan Theorin – The Darkest Room. Creepy thriller/crime fiction set on Gotland, an island off the coast of Sweden

Tursten, Helene – crime fiction featuring  Inspector Huss, Gothenburg

Worthy also of note:

Andrew Stevensen – Non- Fiction; “Summer light”; A Walk across Norway. Not a Norwegian writer, but nevertheless great travel account.

Thunder God – a historical fiction novel about the Vikings and what it was like to live in those times. Loved this one, was really in the moment with the character.

Some more authors that I am not so familiar with:

Tor Age Bringsvaerd – science fiction literature – Norwegian
Ingvar Ambjörnsen – Elling series – one has been made into a movie
Anne B Ragde
Zoë Ferraris
Roy Jacobsen
Erlend Loe
Louis Masterson
Sulaiman Addonia
Margit Sandemo
Dag Solstad – • Professor Andersen’s Night

And if you like those books, you probably would also like this one, which is  more a travel book, but its non-fiction theme is Scandinavia.

True North – Gavin Francis  Travels in the Arctic, following the travels of ancient Nordic explorers.

I recommend checking out Karen over at Euro crime for seeking details of other Scandinavian authors and further listings of individual Scandinavian titles to ponder about.

Australia, Community, History & Traditions, Painting

Scandinavian Festival 2013

Scandinavian festival“Newstead overrun with Vikings!”

 

But there was no raping nor pillaging this time and just as well:  10,000 + people were present in Austin Street. [The Scandinavian community is big here]

Now set to become an annual event, the second Scandinavian festival was in full swing on September 8th and all the Nordic clubs attended. It was wonderful to see not only the craft from the Icelandic community, but the Finnish club as well, (their donuts were to die for).

But the food did not end with Swedish meatballs and Danish pølse med remoulade ( Hot dogs with mustard sauce ). There was also icecream, pytt i panna (a kind of bubble and squeak), organic Breads and Danish pastries, as well as Norwegian waffles,Danish Christmas decorations, Norwegian handicrafts, (including my Rosemaling), stunning watercolours, from Norwegian artist Marianne Seldon, Vintage Danish furniture, historical group Saga Vikings displays and Ikea products.

Very very Scandinavian!

It was such a warm day, as days can be in this region, so one had to really use the imagination to believe you were in Scandinavia, but there were moments when many of us forgot the sub tropical conditions and reminisced about the homelands, or for others, discovered for the first time, the real delights of this ethnic region and its cultures.

 

Scandinavian festival

Just as well I was kept busy on the Norwegian craft group stall, else I would have gained several kilos in weight stuffing myself with good Nordic tucker! Pity I missed the smorgastørta, (it sold out early), and the entertainment: folk dancing, and the Scandi choir, but there is always next year. However, I managed to snavel some Copenhagen Ice- cream and Icelandic Kleiner (they are also Danish, but who wants to quibble) and not pressure the waistline too much! I should ponder about that.

Community, History & Traditions

Scandinavian midsommar in Australia

midsummer

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scandinavian Australia

How can a Scandinavian midsommar  be held in the depths of winter, yet the temperature and weather conditions be the same? The answer is when it is held Down Under’ in Australia! The ethnic clubs of Scandinavia are active and popular with those Scandi expats living or working in Australia.

The Danish club of Qld, for example started 140 years ago ( with some Norwegian members) to support those who had immigrated from Denmark, the Norwegian club some 50 years ago, and the Swedish and Finnish club are represented too. Each clubs hold various activities throughout the year as a way of preserving the traditions and culture of their homeland.  Whilst the language barrier in Australia,  is not so much a problem for Scandinavian immigrants arriving today, the clubs still play a role in social connections, activities and pastoral care of their members.

The Danish club also has an active group of folk dancers and historical reenactment ‘Viking’ group. The Norwegian club has traditional craft and baking days as well as the annual Constitution day March on Syttende Mai, and the Swedish club holds a increasingly popular Midsommar celebration, complete with dancing around the Maypole, which, of course, has been decorated, as is the tradition, with flowers and all clubs are represented in thecombined Scandinavian choir.  The Folk bank, Kupaleja, comprises Swedish, Norwegian Danish and Australia members and they provide the traditional instruments and music.

I try to join in with the activities as much as I can, being an active member of the Danish and Norwegian clubs and midsommar particularly is a lot of fun.

The individual club links are found here:

Swedes Down Under

Norwegian Club of QueenslandSaga Viking reenactment group

The Danish Club in Brisbane

Saga Vikings


Do you have an ethnic club in your area?

What traditions do they follow?

Something to ponder about.