The Norwegian Fjords

Cover art
Cover art

[Frontispiece: Sogne Fjord, Gudvangen (missing from book)]









Published September, 1907

Black's Smaller Series
of Beautiful Books








"Every lover of the Lake District will do
well to secure a copy of this beautiful
book."—The Guardian.

"This very handsome and acceptable
volume."—The World.

"The book is one to pore over at leisure, and
to enjoy either when on a holiday or after
returning from one."—Yorkshire Post.

"This beautiful book is a triumph of local
literature and art which will be a treasure to
all in whose way it comes."—Whitehaven News.

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                      64 & 66 FIFTH AVENUE, NEW YORK

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                      309 BOW BAZAAR STREET, CALCUTTA



The fjords of Norway, by their unique charm, annually attract an increasing number of English and American tourists.

This volume, the artist hopes, may be found useful to the traveller who desires a more intimate acquaintance with the country and its people than may be acquired from a casual visit to its shores.

It is the outcome of periodical visits to Norway extending over the last fifteen years, including two winters spent among the fjords and mountains of that delightful and interesting country.

In claiming for this volume no literary merit whatever, the artist trusts that the {vi} reader, whilst accepting it as perhaps a feeble statement of bare facts, will find compensation for any lack in this respect by appreciating his efforts in the illustrations. A.H.C.





Bergen—The Hardanger Fjord—A peasant's homestead, and home industry—Horticulture—Land tenure—Boat-building from ancient times—The staple food of the peasants—"The Gothenburg system"


The Hardanger Fjord (continued)—Means of communication—A drive by "kariol" from Vossevangen to Ulvik—Ullensvang, the fruit-garden of Hardanger—The ancient and national arts of wood-carving, tapestry weaving, and embroidery—The Hardanger violin—Waterfalls—Glaciers—Fjord formation


The "Eddas" and "Sagas"—Heathen mythology—A pagan temple—An ancient "Stav-kirke" at Vik—Folklore and superstition—"Balder's Baal," or midsummer's eve fires, of pagan origin—Wedding customs



The Sogne Fjord—Balholm and the "Frithjof's Saga"—Life at a "sæter" or mountain out-farm—A bear-hunter's tale—Sea-fight between King Sverre and Magnus Erlingssön, A.D. 1184—An ancient farmstead in Næröfjord—A wedding at Gudvangen—The Nærödal


The Sogne Fjord (continued)—Forestry


The mining industry—Lærdal and the Borgund church—The Vettisfos—Lyster Fjord and Jötunheimen—The Norwegian Tourist Club—Jöstedalsbræ, the most extensive ice-field in Europe—Urnæs "Stav-kirke," the oldest church in Norway


The Nord Fjord—The approach from the sea-coast—Typical fjord scenery—Three beautiful lakes: Loen, Stryn, and Olden—Glaciers and avalanches—A drive from Falejde to Öie—The magnificent gorge of Nordangsdal


Thee Norwegian Established Church ("den Norske Stats-Kirke")—The Reformation—The Lutheran creeds—The Bishops and clergy—The dioceses, deaneries, and livings—Church missions—Free education obtains in Norway—Schools and colleges—The University



The Hjörund Fjord—Öie to Hellesylt—An evening idyll—The Geiranger Fjord and its waterfalls—An ancient farm near Meraak—By steamer to Næs—The grandeur of the Romsdal—The River Rauma—Salmon fishing—The great sea fisheries—The midnight sun—Winter sports in Norway—Wild animals and game—Molde, the most beautifully situated town in Norway




SOGNE FJORD, GUDVANGEN (missing from book) . . . . . . Frontispiece

      GODÖSUND (missing from book)
      Ã–SE FJORD













To approach the Norwegian coast at sunrise is an exceedingly enjoyable experience. Myriads of rock-islands in the sea and cloud-islands in the sky, their perspective terminating on the distant horizon in a peaked range of inland mountains, themselves like a cloud floating in golden vapour of dawn.

As the rising sun burns its path upwards, the sparkling sea reflects the glory of the sky in countless hues, and the magic of morning is felt in the air, cool and clear as crystal, as the steamer slows to await the pilot and the sea-birds wheel around.


Threading this intricate maze of islands, indications of human habitation soon become evident perched on grassy headlands or nestling in rocky creeks, and soon we are at the busy wharf of the first port of call, Stavanger, a bustling and clean little town, whose eleventh-century cathedral stands in dignified contrast to the brightly-painted wooden buildings at its feet.


The navigation of the coast here is exceedingly intricate—rocky islands and skerries innumerable, and narrow winding channels; lighthouses, which are seen at every turn, and on both sides of the steamer's course, indicate the dangers and test the skill of the pilot and captain as the steamer proceeds in a north-westerly direction to Bergen, the metropolis of Western Norway.

Founded by King Olaf Kyrre in 1070, Bergen has witnessed most of the stirring events of the nation's life.

The population of the town is now 72,000. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the Hanseatic League, {3} which then monopolized the commerce of Northern Europe, held absolute sway here in Bergen, and the quaint Tydskebryggen (German quay) was their trading quarters. Near by the fortified tower of Rosenkranz was built to hold the Hanseatic quarter in check. It adjoins Haakonshal, the ancient palace of King Haakon Haakonson, who died in 1263.

This is the most ancient part of the town, although it is at present undergoing a change. Tydskebryggen is being modernized; its old-world character is fast disappearing.

Close by is St. Maria Kirken, a quaint twelfth-century church, formerly in possession of the Hanseatic League.

Triangelen (the fish-market quay) is interesting on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, where a fleet of small fishing-boats is moored alongside, lively and witty bargaining going on between buyer and seller which is highly amusing to witness. Bergen is in many respects a most interesting town, the ancient rubbing shoulders {4} with the modern—the electric tram-car with the carrier's cart and "kariol"; the slender wood-framed, sack-covered booth with the gaily-painted kiosk; and the latest fashions from London and Paris with the divers picturesque costumes of fisherfolk and farmer, "striler" and "bönder." Handsome stone-built shops stand cheek by jowl with the low red-tiled wooden ones, no two alike, in every variety of size and colour, relieving the monotony of the narrow and crooked streets.

The climate of Bergen is exceedingly mild and humid, not unlike that of the west coast of Scotland, and the numerous shops where umbrellas and rain-coats are displayed for sale give some indication of the prevailing weather, although I have known it to be fine there for several days together. But this not being in the nature of a guide-book—"Baedeker," "Beyer," and "Bennett" supply all the information one necessarily requires, and much more than I have space to admit {5} here—we must pass on to the chief subject of the book, and enter the fjords, taking first the Hardanger Fjord.

This beautiful arm of the sea is second in regard to length, the Sogne Fjord being the longest; but what it lacks in this respect is more than balanced by the charm of the scenery and the greater area of land under cultivation—orchards gay with blossom, and well-trimmed farms with brightly-painted wooden houses, red, yellow, or white, perched high on the mountain's flank, or nestling nearer the fjord margin. This beautiful district of Hardanger has been the theme of poet and painter for generations.

The Hardanger costume

The Hardanger women are mostly of fair complexion, with blue eyes, and their costume is the most picturesque of any in the country. It consists of a bright red or green bodice, gay with beads in front, clean white linen sleeves, a large white head-covering ("skaut"), blue skirt trimmed with coloured braid, and a belt of beads with an old silver filigree clasp. The {6} unmarried wear the hair hanging in two long plaits down the back, and for headgear a small white cotton shawl tied under the chin in place of the more elaborate "skaut" of the married.

It is an interesting sight to witness on Sunday mornings the well-filled boats coming from all parts of the fjord parish, men and girls alike rowing their graceful boats to church. On landing, they arrange each other's toilet on the beach, and when inside the sacred edifice, the women and girls sit on one side of the centre aisle and the men on the other.

The service is Lutheran, and there is much singing of hymns or "psalmer" in a leisurely way while sitting. The farmer's dog is also quite a "regular attender," but he is usually well-behaved, and no one appears to take the slightest notice of him unless he happens to pick a quarrel with another of his species.

Odde, Hardanger Fjord.
Odde, Hardanger Fjord.

After, and sometimes during, Divine service small groups of farmers may be seen in the churchyard talking over the {7} state of the market—of crops and cattle and other gossip—as each one repeatedly turns over the ample "quid" of tobacco in his mouth. It may be that they meet only once in three weeks, for many a parson has two or three churches to attend to. But the churches are, as a rule, well filled, no matter what happens to be the condition of the weather.

A peasant's homestead

In their homes these peasants live the "simple life" in square log houses of primitive form, finished on the outside with weather-boarding, turf laid on birchbark for roof-covering, on which grow masses of wild flowers, and one may even see a young birch-tree find root there and flourish.

The houses are painted on the outside, according to the taste of their owners, red, white, or yellow ochre, and these bright spots of colour add a cheerful note to the landscape.

Inside the house the log walls are allowed to season, and in time they acquire a rich tone of brown. There is {8} generally one principal room on the ground floor, and in it the farmer, his family, and servants live and have their meals together in quite patriarchal fashion. In this room also are commonly found a couple of beds used by the farmer and his wife, the other members of the household having theirs up in the loft.

The cooking is done in the large common-room, as is also the carding, spinning, winding, and weaving of home-grown wool for the family in quite primitive fashion on ancient wheel and wooden hand-loom, this industry being their chief employment in the long winter nights.

Outside the farm-house there is always a store-room, called a "stabbur," standing separately. This building rests on short strong pillars of wood to keep out the rats and other intruders, and in it are stored dried meats, cheeses, milk, and other foodstuffs.

An additional outbuilding, called a "bui," is used for keeping the clothing, tapestries, blankets, etc.; also the daughter's {9} wedding trousseau and old silver articles—heirlooms—including a bride's crown of silver gilt, all stored away in huge chests ("kists"). Here may also be found carefully treasured a variety of ancient carved and painted wooden bowls and tankards, out of use except at weddings and other state occasions.

Another detached outhouse, called an "ild-hus," is used for the baking of "flad bröd," a kind of rye cake, crisp and dry, and of the thickness of brown paper.

Yet another small outhouse is required for drying corn for brewing purposes, farmers being permitted to brew ale for their own consumption only, the sale of it not being lawful. Most households enjoy their home-brewed ale at Christmas-time, and they may even keep a small quantity over until Easter.

In addition to these small outbuildings there are, of course, the barn and cowhouse, with accommodation for horses, sheep, and pigs, forming altogether quite a little hamlet.


On the farms the womenfolk must look after the cattle, sheep, and goats, in addition to their ordinary household work, so they have not much time for idle recreation. The only important break in their humdrum lives, and to which they look forward with gladness, is the annual removal of the household, in the early summer, to the "sæter," or mountain outfarm, a description of which, and the life there, I will deal with in a subsequent chapter.

The male members of the family are chiefly occupied with the raising and trading in domestic animals—horses, cattle, goats, sheep, etc.—in cutting faggots from their woods, and in the making of barrel-hoops for sale in the nearest towns. Boat-building also employs much of their time.

Horticulture—land tenure

Horticulture does not play any very prominent part in Norway, although, on most farms it is carried on to some extent, together with regular farming.

Among the more enlightened peasantry it is the rule to find outside the dwelling-house a kitchen garden where vegetables {11} necessary to the family are raised, such as cabbages, turnips, carrots, onions, peas, and beans, and of fruit-trees we may find in many places pears, apples, cherries, currants, gooseberries, and strawberries.

On every hand the planting of fruit-trees is increasing, and in favourable years quite excellent results may be obtained, but the rough climate during the winter renders the fruit yield somewhat uncertain. It is only in a few districts around the Christiania Fjord and the Hardanger Fjord that horticulture is carried on to any greater extent than to satisfy the farmer's own requirements, although at the present time there is a strong movement for the promotion of horticulture, and many of the counties ("amt") have appointed gardeners, who travel round the district giving farmers free instruction in the laying out and management of gardens and orchards. Perhaps it may be as well to mention here that the Norwegian peasant has always enjoyed a freedom which to the same class in other countries has been denied.


In former centuries the feudal system was generally adopted in most European countries, but it has never existed in Norway.

The peasants have always maintained their freedom to acquire property anywhere within the limits of their own country; this circumstance, however, did not prevent an accumulation of the landed estates in a few hands, the result being that the peasant class to a very great extent became tenants and leaseholders, and less than one-half of the land of the country was utilized by freeholders.

As far back as 1685 a Royal Ordinance was issued by which a landowner who utilized more than one estate should pay double taxes on those in excess of one; as a consequence the farms were gradually sold to the peasants, a process which is going on to the present day.

This system of peasant proprietorship has worked remarkably well in the country, nine-tenths of the farmers being now freeholders; they have consequently a {13} more substantial interest in the development of their farms and in the improvement of their land.


Boat-building is a lucrative employment, and this industry is carried on in many places on the Hardanger Fjord—chiefly at Jondal; also at Rosendal, on the ancient and beautifully situated barony of Rosenkrantz, at the foot of the mountain Melderskin.

The building of boats is the most ancient industry with which the Norwegians are acquainted.

Pliny the elder tells us that in the reign of Nero the Romans voyaged as far north as the Baltic, and Tacitus goes on to describe what lies beyond—that they knew, at any rate, the southern portion of the Scandinavian peninsula; and he speaks of their finding the country rich in arms and ships and men.

There are yet other proofs from a far earlier age in the rock-carvings or runes called "helleristninger," dating away back to an age not less remote than 500 years {14} B.C. These are found, among other places, at Leirvaag farm in Askevold, on the south side of Atlöen, and at Bohuslän in Southern Norway, where they are associated with many chambered tombs of the Stone Age.

These carvings represent ships, some of them being quaint representations of sea-fights, the boats being somewhat similar in appearance to those used by the Vikings of the ninth and tenth centuries of our era. Rude as these rock-carvings are, they give us some idea of the kind of vessels employed in that very remote age: they represent long row-boats with very high carved prows or sternposts, and are steered not by a rudder behind, but by an oar at the side, and from this practice is derived our word "starboard" or "steerboard," being the right-hand side of the vessel.

The Vikings used also a square sail, which could be hoisted when required. This they had learnt indirectly from the Romans.

The traveller among the fjords of Norway {15} may, to this day, see those heavy boats with high prows and square sails, which have an indescribable air of antiquity about their build, contrasting quaintly with more modern-built craft of coasting vessels and fishing-smacks.

Although this ancient type of boat is fast dying out, the traveller will yet find a number of them in Nordland, and these are still more like the Viking ships of old, having also high pointed sterns.

These old-fashioned boats are a link between us and the remotest past of Scandinavia, of the early period of the rock carvings, and of the romantic period of the Vikings.

The boats built in Hardanger differ in form from those of the Sogne Fjord and Nordland, as the traveller will note as he proceeds northwards, the Hardanger type being of light and elegant construction, and drawing less water than those to which we are accustomed.

Every peasant and cotter has his own boat or boats, and these may be seen {16} everywhere along the fjord, either in use on the water, or pulled up on the strand, and, where there is found a convenient landing-place, log-built boathouses are erected.

Norwegians are fond of gay colours, as evidenced in the painting of their houses and boats. Many farmers build their own boats out of wood grown on their own farms, and some build to sell again. The cost of a four-oared boat is about twenty-five kroner (twenty-eight shillings), a six-oared fifty kroner, and an eight-oared boat seventy kroner.

Staple food of peasants

As fish plays an important part in the diet of the peasants, the boats are greatly in use. The fjords being great arms of the sea, most kinds of sea-fish are caught therein, sometimes in very large quantities, herring being often in such densely-packed masses that quite a number of fishermen use large wooden shovels to transfer them to their boats, returning repeatedly to the harvest until the mass has dispersed.


At such times these fish are placed in barrels and salted, being either kept for winter use at home or shipped to the nearest seaport town.

Fish and oatmeal porridge—"havregröd"—have formed from the earliest times the staple food of the Norwegians, as we learn from the sagas, and in "Hārbarôsljòô," in the "Sæmundar Edda":

"Àt ek i hvìld
    aôr ek heiman fòr
sildr ok hafra."

"För jeg reiste hjemme fra, aad jeg i fred sild og havre," which, translated, reads, "Before I left my home, ate I in peace fish and oatmeal."

[Illustration: Godösund (missing from book)]

The peasant's ordinary routine for meals is commonly as follows: At 6 a.m., oatmeal cake or potato cake and buttermilk; at 8 a.m.—the chief meal of the day—is served fish, and boiled, salted, or dried mutton with potatoes; at 12 mid-day, oatmeal porridge and buttermilk; at 4 p.m., dried, smoked, or salted fish {18} with potatoes and buttermilk; at 8 p.m., oatmeal porridge and milk.

This primitive food is still the daily custom of the peasant's household, although in some places coffee is used after the meals, and a very poorly-baked brown bread of barley or rye, occasionally mixed with oats; but rarely do they eat wheaten bread.

Much has been written by Norwegian authors with reference to the lack of cleanliness in the peasants' homes, but since so many foreign travellers in later years have visited the country, there has been a very considerable improvement in this respect.

The real cause of untidiness was that the women had really too much to do in looking after the cattle and farms, which took up the principal part of their time. Thus the ordinary household duties—the care of the children, cooking, etc.—were to some extent neglected.

This stigma can no longer be applied, as, by their own industry and thrift, the {19} peasants mostly are now in a more prosperous condition. They are thus able to afford more assistance on the farms, and their wives are spared much of the degrading work which was their lot in the past. They have, consequently, more time for the care and education of the children, and their homes will now compare favourably in cleanliness with any of their class with which we are acquainted.

The "Gothenburg system"

The present prosperity of the Norwegian peasant may undoubtedly be traced to the working of the liquor law of 1871, popularly known as the "Gothenburg system," by which it is now made extremely difficult to obtain intoxicating liquor, especially spirits.

The Norwegian nation may now take premier place among nations with regard to sobriety. Norway, however, has not always taken up such a favourable position. During the years 1830-1840 we find the country ravaged by the "spirits plague," with its attendant sad results, moral, economic, and sanitary. By a law {20} of 1810, anyone was allowed to distil spirits from his own produce. This naturally resulted in an alarming increase in the consumption of alcohol.

In the "forties" legislation took energetic measures against this, being at the same time strongly supported by the voluntary abstinence movement. The manufacture of spirits was only permitted when it was done wholesale, and was, at the same time, restricted to a limited number of distilleries. No one was allowed to retail spirits without a licence from the Local Board, who had also "local option" in the matter, sale of spirits being forbidden on Sundays and holy days, and on the afternoon preceding these. A heavy tax was levied both on the home production and on retail sale.

The beneficial consequences of this wise legislation were soon apparent. The number of bars decreased rapidly through a breaking off of drinking habits, and a consequent decrease in the consumption of spirits was distinctly perceptible, as {21} well as the increased prosperity and improved public health. The rural districts in particular were almost cleared of spirit-selling, which was now restricted to the towns.

By the law of 1871 the Local Boards in the towns were allowed to make over their retail rights to philanthropic companies—"samlag"—which, instead of seeking to make the largest circle of customers, made it their aim to supervise and restrict the drinking of spirits, and whose net profits from the business should be devoted to "objects of public utility"—in other words, it was the introduction of the "Gothenburg system."

This system is also in force in Finland and in Sweden, but the Norwegian differs from the Finnish and Swedish in several points, especially in the fact that the profits do not, as in the neighbouring kingdom, go to the municipal funds. Norway does not, therefore, tempt the municipalities to improve the state of its finances by an increased trade in spirits.


Finally, by a law of July 27, 1894, all men and women over twenty-five years of age were allowed to decide by voting whether there should be any sale of spirits in their town for the following five years. As a result of this there has been prohibition of late years in a number of towns. For the whole country there is now only one "samlag" to every 10,000 inhabitants.

It thus follows that the many millions of kroner saved annually in households by the reduced consumption of intoxicating liquors have contributed greatly to raise the economic well-being of the nation, and it has been said, with reason, that the Norwegians have educated themselves to abstinence and sobriety.

Thus, on every hand we see evidences of this wise legislation in the enlarged and modernized farms, increased acreage of land under cultivation, the scientific planting of fruit-trees, and the more general use of modern implements of husbandry.




Hardanger Fjord is most fortunate in its means of communication, it being so easy of access by water from the towns of Stavanger and Bergen.

Native fjord steamers call at all the principal places en route at least once every day, and the traveller may arrange his journey so as to include a variety of overland routes, posting by "kariol" or "stolkjerre" on good roads, engineered with great skill, through magnificent scenery.

From the commencement of the seventeenth century the peasants have been required by law to supply horses and to convey travellers at a reasonable and fixed rate of payment, and posting-stations {24} in connection with hotels and inns are now established on all high roads, at distances varying from eight to fifteen miles.

A line of railway was opened in 1883 from Bergen to Vossevangen, by which the Hardanger and Sogne districts can be reached in a few hours.

The journey by road from Vossevangen to Eide or Ulvik is an agreeable experience, especially after several days on the steamer, and this gives as good an example as any of the pleasure which may be derived from this mode of travelling.

To Ulvik by "kariol"

It was late in the autumn when I last made this journey, in bright, cloudless, October weather, warm sun, and crisp, frosty air—quite an ideal day for driving, as the roads were dry and firm. About five miles on the way the road ascends through a forest of pine-trees and high, rocky knolls, into whose deep shadow the sure-footed pony plunges, to emerge into the warm and dazzling sunshine. We drive by the craggy margin of a series of wild mountain tarns, whose {25} surface is still as Dian's looking-glass, and in whose depths are reflected the craggs, the silver birches and pines, so perfectly that you could with difficulty see where the land joined the water's margin. In a near pool a trout rises, leaving circling lines of light blue ripple on the surface of the sleeping water, thus accentuating the perfect stillness. For a moment we pause, just to enjoy for a brief space the silence profound.

Ulvik, Hardanger Fjord
Ulvik, Hardanger Fjord

The pony's hoofs no longer click on the hard road; only the faintest murmur of some distant stream can be heard, or the rustle of a crisp leaf as it falls from the graceful silver birch near by, which stands—singly of its kind—a striking contrast to its more sombre companions the pines—a harmony of gold, silver, and deep warm green—in the bright sunshine of this perfect October morning.

Onward and upward we drive along the wild mountain road, still embosomed in trees, when, at a sharp bend, on emerging from the forest, suddenly we are confronted {26} by an awful abyss, enclosed by an amphitheatre of huge perpendicular mountain buttresses, while near at hand, and from just beneath our feet, plunges Skjervefos with mighty volume into the chasm hundreds of feet below, sending clouds of spray high into the air.

The road now descends in long zigzag sweeps down the breast of the steep cliff, and passes, through clouds of spray, over a bridge near the foot of the waterfall. Down the steep valley we pursue our way and pass several farms, where large numbers of goats are fenced in their winter quarters near to the houses.

The tiny hamlet of Vasenden is now reached, and after a change of horses here, we continue our journey uphill again for several miles, on the road to Ulvik. The steep mountain road is well wooded most of the way, until at length the watershed is reached.

Here a fine lake, Espelandsvand, reposes at a height of some 1,200 feet above the fjord, surrounded by high mountains. {27} The road in descending approaches in several places the very brink of a deep and narrow gorge, from whose hidden depths arises the deep gurgle of the mountain torrent on its hurried way to join the waters of the fjord below.

The white church of Ulvik now appears by the margin of the blue fjord beneath us. Clustering around the church are the hotels and brightly painted cottages in their orchards. Across the winding fjord rise range after range of snow-topped mountains, forming a panorama as fair as one could wish to behold, and a fitting termination to an enjoyable drive through such varied scenery as that which is found between the fjords of Sogn and Hardanger.

One of the most perfect fjord views is to be obtained from Ullensvang, in the Sör Fjord, a few miles from Odde. This place has the reputation of being the fruit-garden of Hardanger. It has been the favourite resort of artists and poets for generations.

Here we see, across the narrow fjord, {28} the huge snow-field and glacier of Folgefond stretching in undulating line along the graceful mountain masses. Near at hand stands the medieval church on a green promontory, and along the margin of the graceful sweep of bay brightly painted farms nestle in extensive apple orchards.

In the bright warm days of early summer, when these fruit-trees are in bloom, the picture is of exceptional beauty, the wealth of blossom contrasting effectively with the snow masses and blue mountains across the sparkling fjord.

From Kinservik—an easy morning's walk from Ullensvang—comes that quaint and purely national type of wood-carving which has been revived in recent years in Hardanger district by Lars Kinservik. Here he may yet be seen busy at work, assisted by a number of chosen carvers, and surrounded by cleverly designed and skilfully executed work in wood—dragons and other grotesque motifs from pagan {29} mythology being worked into exquisite pattern on high-backed chair, massive sideboard, and roomy settle.

The art of wood-carving

The revival of this national and beautiful art of wood-carving is steadily growing, and in this district it has spread to Östensö and many other places in Hardanger, and from Vossevangen into the Sogne Fjord district, where clever carvers are found at Vik and at Lærdal.

Wood-carving in Norway is one of the most ancient of the industrial arts, and it shows a well-connected development from the days of the Vikings, who carved in bold design the figure-heads which ornamented their warships. But the most interesting and important period of this art is seen in the massive and richly-carved doorways to the wooden "stav" churches.

The earliest of these show distinct evidence of Irish influence, the ornament being usually composed of ribbon festoon, with grotesque figures of animals and snakes. The most characteristic of these {30} carvings date from the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Following on this interesting period we find the influence of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman, in which twining festoons of vines and various other plants are associated with dragons and other winged monsters in bold spiral design up the massive door portals. Figure subjects inspired by the sagas appear to have been in great demand, and we find quaint designs of this kind taken from the Niflung and Volsung sagas. A number of these richly-carved portals are preserved in the Bergen Museum.

Östensö, Hardanger Fjord
Östensö, Hardanger Fjord

From the thirteenth to the sixteenth century the doorways of the peasants' houses were similarly ornamented, and this decorative art was followed up by the similar treatment of furniture and articles of domestic use.

Early in the seventeenth century a fresh impetus was given to peasant-carving by the introduction from the North German States of the Frisian patterns. These are {31} in low relief, and consist chiefly of circles and wedge-shaped designs of great variety and beauty.

Examples of this period are far from rare, and in the proud possession of the peasantry they are treasured as heirlooms, along with home-woven tapestries, old silver ornaments, and antique embroideries.


Tapestry-weaving as a domestic industry has progressed hand-in-hand with wood-carving, and this ancient art is still a favourite occupation of the Norwegian housewife, who finds both pleasure and profit from its pursuit.

The earliest sagas tell us of woven pictures, thus pointing to the fact that even in those very remote times the Norwegians showed an inborn artistic sense.

Of textile fabrics from the Viking age fragments only have been found, and these in most cases were discoloured from contact with metallic objects and by the moisture from turfy soil. Woollen stuffs as well as linen were used, even in the {32} Bronze Age, and the woven patterns were always of geometric design, and were worked in one or more colours, gold-wire, gracefully twisted, being used for decoration on the garments.

Cloths with figures in colour on them, and which rather resemble the famous Bayeux tapestries, are much prized. Coloured embroidery from medieval times is extremely effective, and displays skill and ability of a highly artistic order. Their full and harmonious colouring and beauty of execution make these cloths very valuable.

The upstanding loom was used for weaving of picture tapestries, and it is still to be found in the districts most noted for this domestic industry—Hardanger, Sogn, Telemarken, and Gudbrandsdal.

In 1893 the Norwegian painter, Gerhard Munthe, introduced a new and original style into the cloth-weaving industry which has had excellent and far-reaching results. His designs are based on the {33} old Norwegian fairy-tales and folk-lore. They are grotesquely fanciful and highly imaginative, bold and harmonious in colour, and extremely decorative in effect. The movement is rapidly extending, and a new life for this beautiful industrial art is in course of development.

The Hardanger district is famous for men who are clever in the art of making the violin, and their skill in the use of this instrument is known throughout the country.

The Hardanger violin

This Hardanger violin is in form higher and more arched than the ordinary violin. A dragon's head usually forms the scroll, the other parts being richly ornamented by carvings and inlaid with ivory and mother-o'-pearl. There are four strings over the finger-board, and four or more underneath; the latter act as sympathetic strings, and are usually of fine steel wire.

The violin is the favourite musical instrument of the country people, and on it they improvise their musical impressions of Nature's sounds, such as "Twilight {34} Hours," "The Song of the Thrush," or the ringing of chimes and marriage bells.

Through nearly all Norwegian music there runs a strong undercurrent of sad melancholy, which may be attributed, no doubt, to the isolated and solitary lives of the people, and to the effect on their natures of the scenery and surroundings.

Öse Fjord
Öse Fjord

Often the most talented performers on the violin are those whose homes are in lonely and almost inaccessible places, where the voices of Nature—the sighing of the wind among the pines, and the murmur of waterfalls—play on the strings of their susceptible temperaments.


Norway is the land of waterfalls. In no other country are they so numerous, and the murmur of them may be in your ears during many days of travelling. The beautiful district of Hardanger is particularly happy in this respect.

The moist and warm summers produce a vegetation unequalled in richness and beauty, and in the springtime, when the snows are melting, the warm and still air {35} is palpitant with the music of countless waterfalls. Some, appearing to shoot from the sky over high perpendicular crags into the fjord, or gurgling in deep gorge unseen, send mellow music floating in the balmy air above in delicious waves of sweetest sound.

In the immediate neighbourhood of Odde, on the innermost reach of the Hardanger Fjord, are found some of the finest waterfalls in the country. One of them in particular—the Skjæggedalsfos, or, more properly, Ringdalsfos—is considered by many travellers to be the grandest waterfall in Europe.

I visited this magnificent fall about the end of May in perfect weather.

Landing, after two hours' row from Odde, at the farm Tyssedal, by the fjord's margin, a path is found which leads uphill through aromatic woods of silver birch and pine, and winding up the rough, craggy, and bosky valley of Skjæggedal, it approaches in places quite abruptly the very brink of the deep dark gorge where {36} thunders the river in a succession of cataracts. After a walk of some three English miles, the farm which takes its name from, or gives it to, the valley is reached.

Just before I arrived at the farmstead, I overtook a young peasant and his wife, who were driving a herd of goats before them. The man had several young kids in a covered basket slung over his shoulders. The woman walked in front of the goats, knitting as she went.

Procuring a boat and boatman at the farm, I was rowed across a small lake formed by the river widening at this place. I had for my companions de voyage the peasants and their goats, these of themselves being quite as much as the boat could carry. There was but little room for the rower, but with short and steady strokes he landed his cargo over in safety.

The young peasant informed me that on their way from Roldal they had observed for some considerable time the {37} movements of a bear making her way with two cubs over the Hardanger-vidde in the direction of Ringdalsvand (lake), our destination, and although the man carried a gun, he was unable to follow the bear on account of the goats under his charge.

On bidding good-bye at this place to these young peasants and their domestic flock, I noticed that the man's attire was somewhat out of the ordinary and quite picturesque. He wore dark-blue knee-breeches, with stockings of undyed wool, red shirt-sleeves, and wideawake hat of grey felt. A number of old silver coins, used as buttons in a double row, decorated his brown waistcoat; his gun and coat were thrown over his shoulders, and in his hand he carried a long alpenstock, thus making up together quite a picture which suited well the romantic surroundings.

We continued, and in a short time we came to a large lake—Ringdalsvand, and my guide invited me to take a pair of {38} oars, and he himself took the other pair. We rowed steadily on in a light breeze, which gave to the lake an intense blue colour reflected from, the sky. On every side were towering cliffs and snow-topped mountains, whose steep bases were clothed with fragments of forest which had escaped destructive avalanches. Not a sign of human habitation presented itself; only wild Nature, sublime and grand in the extreme, surrounded us.

Skjæggedalsfos, Hardanger Fjord
Skjæggedalsfos, Hardanger Fjord

After about two hours of hard rowing, we pull up the boat on a pebbly strand at our destination, near to the head of the lake. We are now just beneath the magnificent falls of Skjæggedal, which leap from the top of huge cliffs and send immense volumes of spray to a considerable distance; while on the gauzy vapour, which rises up from huge cauldrons at its foot, the arc of a brilliant rainbow is formed in the sunshine of mid-day. The very earth around seems to vibrate through the deafening roar from this mighty waterfall. To hold a conversation with the {39} guide is quite impossible, unless I shout at the very height of my voice, and a feeling of deafness remained for a considerable time after leaving the place.

After sketching the falls, my paper being quite drenched by the fine spray which filled the air, my guide joined me in an impromptu cold lunch on the sunny strand.

In returning, the foss was in sight during an hour's rowing, until, passing along the base of a huge crag, at a bend of the lake, it quickly disappeared from view.

In this immediate neighbourhood are other waterfalls, the most graceful of which rejoice in the name Tyssestrengene, and their waters also descend into this Ringdalsvand. These beautiful falls are not so imposing as those we have just left, but they are very picturesque. They plunge down some 500 feet of quite perpendicular cliff, in slender, graceful streams, which are seen to creep through a natural bridge of glacier ice at the sky-line.


Other noted waterfalls in the Hardanger district are Vöringfos, Laatefos, and Espelandsfos; each one of these has quite a distinct character of its own, derived from more or less romantic surroundings.

The constant erosion caused by the mighty power of water, cutting into the mountain masses of conglomerate and granite, has been the means of forming the deep, narrow cañons and fjords, and, in conjunction with moving glaciers, has been Nature's chisel, by which has been shaped the present picturesque beauty of the scenery.


In the period known as the Great Ice Age, Norway is supposed to have been entirely covered with ice-fields, just as Greenland and Spitzbergen are at the present day. Remnants of these snow-fields and glaciers still remain, in this district, on the immense mountain plateau which lies between the Sör Fjord and the sea-coast.

Here, too, we have the extensive Folgefond {41} ("fonn," or "fond," mass of snow). This enormous expanse of snow and ice covers the plateau at a height of some 3,000 feet to 5,000 feet above sea-level. It is from thirty-six to forty English miles in length, and from nine to sixteen miles in width. From this great snow-field glaciers descend in every direction, following the line of the valleys. The most noted of these are the Bondhus glacier in Mauranger, and the Buarbræ at Odde.

The most extensive general view of the great Folgefond snow-field is obtained from the high land which lies between Roldal and Seljestad on the east side, and from the neighbourhood of Teröen, at the entrance to the Hardanger Fjord, on the west.

In sailing into a west-country fjord, and observing how it winds along with no great breadth between the rocky cliffs, that rise higher and higher the farther we penetrate, we could quite believe it to be a real fissure in the earth's crust.


We receive the impression that the steep sides of the fjord must continue down to immense depths. Soundings show, however, that they soon turn off to a somewhat flat bottom, that a cross-section is almost in form like a trough, with more or less sloping sides, whose height is small compared with the breadth of the trough; but, as the fjords are, as a rule, very long—the Hardanger Fjord being about 116 miles—we nevertheless get very considerable depths in the fjord basins, viz., from 2,500 to 4,000 feet.

Fjord formation

These characteristic and uniformly shaped basins are not found anywhere except in those countries that have once been covered by inland ice, nor is there any other natural force known that is able to hollow out such peculiar trough-like basins.

Ice-cut land has always quite a decided and easily recognizable character, and a Norwegian fjord landscape might, therefore, quite easily be mistaken for a scene from the west coast of Scotland, or for {43} one from the lakes of Italy or Switzerland.

The fjord glaciers in the west country were formed by the confluence of ice-streams from the upper valleys. These valleys, too, have everywhere acquired the same peculiar trough-shaped cross-section, where the sides curve together towards a flat bottom.

This glacial excavation further differs distinctly from the more even lines of river erosion in a longitudinal section. Each glacier works according to its own power, without being associated very closely in level with the branch valleys, as is always the case where running streams have produced the river beds.

In these deep west-country valleys, especially, it is noticeable how often the shape of the side valley opens out far up the slope of the side-wall of the main valley, so that the rivers must fall in rapids and waterfalls over this impediment.

Even if two glacier streams of equal power flowed together, it would be an {44} exception if they had excavated to exactly the same depth; there are, therefore, continual ledges in the longitudinal section of the valleys, alternating with rapids and waterfalls.

All these characteristics are unknown in those countries where the rivers have had to make their own regular lines of fall, but they are always found in glacier-scored land.

Bondhus Glacier, Hardanger Fjord
Bondhus Glacier, Hardanger Fjord

There is not much room for extensive valleys on the narrow peninsulas between the fjords, nor is the distance between the head of the fjord and the watershed very great, being steep. The rivers are therefore short, although in many places the volume of water is comparatively large, owing to the heavy rainfall and, in spring and early summer, to the quickly-melting snow. Thus the depth of the fall down to the fjord head is very steep, and it is therefore here, where the mountain forms are grandest, that the waterfalls are most numerous, and where they are the highest.


Above the head of the fjord and the upper reaches of the branch fjords there exists in some places a corresponding series of lakes, or lake basins, at a height of some hundreds of feet above the fjord level.

Glacial action

In the Hardanger district Sandven, Eidfjord, and Graven lakes are examples. Here, too, are rock basins of the typical fjord form filled with river-water, answering to the erosion caused by the extremities of the shorter glaciers in the valleys.

The inland ice during the great glacial period must have extended above even the highest peaks in the interior of the country; but during the lesser or later glacial period, when the extremities of the glaciers only extended to the above-mentioned series of lakes at the heads of the fjords, the higher mountain-tops—at any rate near the coast—and the highest peaks, say, of Jötunheimen, have stood above the great glacier, and have thus escaped the general process of grinding.

They appear, however, to have been {46} considerably affected by natural forces in quite a different manner. Their surface is frequently broken up into loose fragments, and we find at their base long lines of rocky débris. We also constantly find them developed into characteristic Alpine forms.

Small glaciers in their hollows gradually wear down as they recede into semicircular corries, which cut up the original mountain forms into rugged ridges and peaks. These corries can only be developed above the snow limit, and outside the greater region of inland ice, or in among the rocky peaks above the glaciers' surface, and we see quite Alpine forms lifting their sharp peaks above the undulating snow-field on the extensive mountain plateaux.




From the brilliant and heroic Viking age originate those priceless gems of early literature, the "Eddas" and "Sagas," poems and prose of the greatest beauty.

The "Eddas" chronicle the exploits of pagan gods and legendary heroes, in no way historical; they are purely mythological. They convey to us in the form of poetry an idea of the pagan mythology of the North in pre-Christian times. They were written at a period following on the first settlement of Iceland, which was accomplished by pagan Celts and Norwegians in the days of Harald Haarfagre, about A.D. 874, and they were continued long after the introduction there of {48} Christianity by King Olav Trygvesson, A.D. 1000.

Snorre Sturlason, the Skald, about A.D. 1220 composed what is known as the "Younger Edda," being inspired by the oldest poetry in the Celtic and Icelandic languages.

The "Sagas" had their beginning in oral tradition. They celebrated the deeds and exploits of heroic men of the early Viking age. These stories were greatly embellished by the "Saga"-makers, who related them in the halls of petty kings and chieftains at great feasts, and we may be sure they delighted the hearers, who took part in imagination in the lively doings of their brave ancestors.

The learned Ari Frodi was first to commit these "Sagas" to writing in the year 1130. From these early writings we gather some information regarding the heathen gods of mythology.

Heathen mythology

We learn that Odin was all-father and god of war. Thor, the son of Odin the Thunderer, was ruler of the air and a {49} deadly foe to "jotuns" (giants) and wizards. Niord was controller of winds and protector of sailors, and Freya was the goddess of peace. Balder the Beautiful was the sun-god. "Trolds" are spirits of the mountains, forests, and lakes, and "valkyries" are the beautiful maidens of Odin.

Asgaard was the home of the "æsir" (gods), Valhalla the hall of the departed heroes in Asgaard. Neiffelheim was the frozen underworld, and Muspelheim the place of heat and fire, while Loki was the enemy of the gods (Lucifer).

Images of these gods were placed in the pagan temple, which was called "Hov," or "Hove." This edifice was built of stone or wood. It consisted of a nave and chancel. In the centre of the nave stood a large flat fireplace of stone, on which the flesh of the sacrifice was cooked. The smoke from the burning found its way through a square hole in the roof. Rude benches ran along the sides of the walls, and in the midst of {50} these was placed, in a conspicuous position, the high seat, with its great carved pillars ("stolper"), and it was on this seat that the heathen chief sat who officiated at the sacrificial rites.

In the centre of the chancel stood the altar. This was placed on a slight elevation, above the hard earthen floor of the temple. Ranged at the back of the altar were the wooden images of the pagan gods, with the principal one—oftest Thor—in the centre. On the altar the victim of the sacrifice—usually an animal, but sometimes a human being—was slain and laid, and the blood was caught in huge bowls of wood or metal, kept expressly for that purpose. The blood was then sprinkled on the altar and walls, on the images of the gods, and on those worshipping.

Hung on to the altar was a large golden ring, which the officiating chieftain bore around during the mystic rites and ceremonies. On this ring were sworn all oaths at the "Thing" meeting, or {51} local Parliament, which generally met on the same day, at the conclusion of the ceremonies.

A pagan temple

Hove Kirke, at Vik, in the Sogne Fjord, is a fair example of such a temple. It dates from the eleventh century. It was restored by the Norwegian architect Blix in 1880. Built of stone, it is picturesquely situated on an eminence, at an elevation of some 200 feet. It overlooks the village and bay of Vik, and across the Sogne Fjord the prospect terminates in the glacier of Vetle Fjord, and the high and rugged mountains of Fjærland.

Nearer the village, and on a conical mound, stands also the wooden "Stav" church, which here forms the subject of our illustration. Dating from the twelfth century, it is one of the finest examples of its kind in existence in the country. It is now owned by the Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Monuments of Antiquity.

Inside this church, among other quaint objects of interest, is a baldaquin, {52} decorated with early medieval paintings and richly carved. The massive church portals show also antique carving in bold design, and some fine old hinges almost cover the heavy door with their decoration.

Superstitious beliefs

Superstition is not yet quite extinct in Sogn. In places such as Vik, where the mountains are high and steep, and the valley is narrow and wild, it is no wonder that the peasants retain to a great degree the superstitious beliefs of their ancestors.

Hearing from childhood those weird fairy tales and legends which are the fireside sagas of the peasantry, and spending their whole lives in association with such relics of antiquity as these hoary churches and the scattered burial-mounds ("grav-haug") of dead warriors of pagan times, we can quite understand why it is that vestiges of heathen superstition still exist among the peasantry, and it is discovered in many a quaint form in their daily lives, even in these enlightened days.

If we stroll among the farmsteads, we {53} may observe a cross within a circle painted on many a barn-door and outhouse, this being done as a protection against the mischievous tricks of the "trolds" (gnomes). These are believed to live up in the wildest and most lonely places in the mountains. Whenever cattle on the farm fall sick, it is put down to the work of the "trolds."

Vik "Stav-kirke" Sogne Fjord
Vik "Stav-kirke" Sogne Fjord

On Christmas Eve the peasants burn a candle all night in the house, and at early morning they go into the cow-house and singe each cow on the tail as a protection against sickness.

"Trolds" are thought to be very musical. If there is an exceptionally clever fiddler at a wedding feast, the peasants say that the performer must have been up the mountains and learnt from the "trolds," who are believed to play weird and bewitching music in the loneliest recesses of the mountains.

In addition to "trolds," there are "huldr" (fairies or sprites). These are said to be very beautiful, and they {54} sometimes assume human form, the only difference being that they have a cow's tail. These "huldr" have their abode underground, and always close by the farm buildings.

It is told that on one occasion a servant-girl by ill-chance threw hot water out from the kitchen door, and immediately the "huldr" called out noisily, screaming that the hot water was scalding them and their children underground. Peasant women to this day will never throw out hot water from their doorways without first saying, "Take care, you who under live." Should children fall sick, the neighbours will say that "the mother cannot expect anything else, for she is in the habit of throwing hot water from the doorway, and the 'huldr' are having revenge."

There is a legend relating to a peasant girl who, on her way to a lonely "sæter," or mountain out-farm, heard a voice near her call out, "Tell Turid that Tarald is dead." The girl could see no one near, and {55} on arriving at the "sæter" told the other girls there what she had heard; immediately there came a loud cry out of the ground, "Oh, it is me who is called Turid, and Tarald is my husband."

A similar story is found in Plutarch, A.D. 120, in which he relates that a skipper sailing among the Greek islands heard a voice which called out, "Thamus." Thamus was the name of the skipper. Twice the voice called out, and he did not answer; but on hearing it for the third time he did reply. The voice then called out to him loudly, "When you come to Palodes, call out that the great Pan is dead."

Thamus thought that he would sail past Palodes, but would not utter a word of what he had heard unless the weather happened to be still. When he arrived there, however, the sea was quiet, and he, remembering the words, called out loudly that the great Pan was dead. Immediately there came from the island a great moaning as of many voices weirdly blended, {56} and this that happened was soon related in Rome.

A quaint conception relating to mountain folklore refers to what is known in Sogn as "jolaskrei," a kind of kelpie or old witch wife; these belong to the nightriders of the kingdom of the departed. They are seen on high, ugly mountain ridges at dead of night. When these kelpies are out, they often visit the stables of the lonely farms and take out the horses. These are brought back again, however, just before dawn, but so overworked or overridden and tired that they are quite ready to collapse with fatigue. To guard against this inconvenience, the peasants paint a cross on the stable door, or lay an axe underneath it. In some places even now the farmers place food and drink on the table on Christmas night after all the family have retired, this being for the kelpies; otherwise they might be angry and cause much annoyance.

In some districts these curious sprites or goblins are known as "vaasedrift." These {57} ride or drive through the night among the farms; and there are those now living who relate that in their fore-elders' time the bits and reins were found on the horses in the early morning, having been placed there by the kelpies.

The spirits of dead Vikings and chiefs who are buried under those huge mounds, "grav-haug," are thought to visit each other, and may be seen flitting to and fro on Christmas eve and for thirteen nights after.

"Nykk," "nökken" (nixies) are known throughout the country. These were in former times seen near deep and gloomy mountain tarns and by the brooks. These nixies are able to transform themselves into any kind of animal or reptile, sometimes even assuming strange and grotesque shapes, with heads both front and back; they are the spirits of fresh water.

A peculiar legend originates from Underdal in Aurland, in the inner Sogne Fjord. In the olden time there was quite {58} a plague of snakes in that place. A Finn from Nordland happened to be travelling in the neighbourhood. The Finns have always been held in great dread by the Norwegian peasants on account of their pagan practices, witchcraft and sorcery. This pagan Finn offered to rid the place of the reptiles if only there was not among them what he called a "hvidorm" or "visorm" (a wizard serpent), which he described as being in shape like a long hempen rope; it was quite white, and had a red head. The peasants informed him that the "visorm" was never seen there.

The Finn then built up a large "baal" (funeral pyre), and fixed up a high post near by, up which he climbed; it was just so high that none of the snakes could reach him. There he sat and beat loudly on his conjuring drum with a drumstick of reindeer horn, and began to conjure.

Then out sprang the snake, which was charmed by the noise of the "rune" drum, and forthwith sprang all the other snakes: {59} from fell and brake, from crag and wood, all came racing up to the fire. But now, alas! came also the "visorm" so dreaded by the Finn, who shrieked that it was now all over with him, for in company with "visormen" came always "hvidormen," the dragon snake.

Thunder was heard in the crags close by, and a huge piece of rock was hurled into the fjord. As the dragon snake came forth, down sprang the Finn from his high seat; but he was promptly seized by "hvidormen," and both disappeared into the funeral pyre together and were burnt up. It was in this way that Underdal was rid at once of both snakes and Finn, and this happened long ago.

"Trolds" (sprites) and "horven" or "kraken" (sea-monsters) were thought to inhabit the sea and lonely parts of the coast and uninhabited islands in the old days, but it is uncertain whether people nowadays quite believe in this nonsense, although they might say "You must have been a-fishing with 'kraken' to-day" if a {60} fisherman happened to come in with an unusual harvest of fish.

"Kraken" is also thought to be the legendary sea serpent which is said to have been seen in still summer weather on the deep sea, far out from land, by fishermen, but always at a distance, never near enough for them to be able to take its dimensions. This sea-monster is supposed to be about one hundred fathoms long, and to wriggle over the surface of the water, at times heaving itself even to the height of the masts of a ship.

An old saga speaks of a kind of merman, "hav-strambr," a sea-monster, whose head resembles a man's helmeted head, the lower part of the body being in shape like to an icicle, and no one has ever seen where it ends. When this monster appears it is said to be a sign of storm and shipwreck.

Quaint customs

A custom which had its origin in pagan times is the lighting of the Saint John's fires, "Sankt Hans," or "Balder's Baal," on midsummer's eve, a festival of the sun, {61} held on the longest day. It is intimately connected with sun-worship, Balder being the sun-god, and fire a symbolic image of the sun.

"Balder's Baal, solbilledet, smukt, brændte paa
viede stene."[1]

[1] Frithjof's saga.

This, translated, reads:

"Balder's symbol, sun's beautiful image, burned
in pyres on rocks consecrated."

We read in the Icelandic sagas that the two great festivals of the year in heathen times were Yuletide and midsummer, and both were celebrated by the lighting of great fires. This primitive custom is better preserved in Norway than in most other countries, but even here it appears to be slowly dying out.

Exactly at midnight the fires begin to appear, and soon every promontory, rock, and mountain breast is alight; hundreds of fires shine and glimmer as far as the eye can see, casting their lurid reflections on {62} the waters of the fjord in the brilliant twilight.

Around the nearer fires may be discerned shadow-like figures moving round the blaze in the dance, the music of the fiddle being almost drowned by the singing and merriment of the young people who are taking part in the proceedings.

A mock wedding forms part of the ceremony, a young peasant girl being dressed as a bride, wearing on her head a crown of birch twigs; the other girls, in national costume, follow in procession, headed by the fiddler, and the boys bring up the rear. The dancing afterwards is kept up all through the long midsummer night.

It is a very effective sight to see the well-filled boats stealing over the water from the surrounding farms, the young folks, dressed in holiday costume, coming to take part in the festival.

In several places along the fjord it is the custom to build a strong raft of logs; this is piled high with combustible material {63} and floated some distance from shore, where it is anchored. When in full blaze it looks very effective, and lights up the water with ruddy reflection.

Numbers of boats may be observed to creep mysteriously around the fire, at a safe distance from it, and the lively notes of the fiddle and of singing float sweetly over the water.

Another old custom still survives in this district of Sogn. When it becomes known that two young people are to be engaged to be married, the boys in the district shoot into the air with rifles, and fire small cannon around the house on the evening when the young man goes to ask of the parents their consent to the engagement. They also ring hand-bells and blow a horn; these noises must surely prove rather disconcerting to the newly betrothed.

In some cases the prospective bride-groom has many miles of rowing along the fjord before he reaches the home of his lady-love. His visit is usually paid at the end of the week, and he generally spends {64} the night there. As a practical joke, the peasant boys have been known to take his boat, drag it up on shore, and hide it in some secluded place, much to his great discomfort and annoyance when he wishes to return in the morning.

At all large weddings, to which may be invited from 150 to 200 guests, festivities are usually kept up for a week or more.

Dancing and fiddling go on day and night continuously, the "Hailing" and "Spring" dances being general favourites on these festive occasions.

The music to these dances is exceedingly lively, even barbaric in character, and the dances are consequently wild and exciting. The services of the Hardanger fiddler are in great request, and he finds himself engaged throughout the springtime, going with his fiddle from one wedding to another.

Each wedding party engage their own fiddler, and he it is who leads the procession from the farm to the church door, and it often occurs that several weddings take {65} place at the same church at the same time. There is great competition among the fiddlers on such an occasion, each one playing to the very extent of his ability. With a jaunty air the fiddlers step forward, and each neighbourhood upholds with pride the honour and reputation of their own fiddler.

Ese Fjord
Ese Fjord

It happened that on one such occasion the church folk were divided in their admiration between two fiddlers of about equal cleverness. One side claimed that a feat had been achieved on the way to the kirk by their fiddler, who, while all along playing his best, did at the same time chaff his comrades who stood on the roadside as he calmly went on with his difficult bridal march, as though it were quite the most easy and natural thing in the world.

This same spirit of rivalry also possesses the younger men; each vies with the others in skill and cleverness in the dances, in which their ability to kick the highest is put to the test for the admiration and {66} applause of the onlooking girls. This rivalry would result at times in quite a battle royal of words, and even more seriously, it would end in real danger to life and limb.



THE SOGNE FJORD (continued)

Sailing down the Sogne Fjord from the sea coast, the scenery gradually assumes wilder and grander proportions as we advance. At Vadeim it is just beginning to be interesting and attractive, and when we come to Balholm we enter into the finest part of the fjord.

Here are prosperous farms, smiling orchards, and waving cornfields, and as an effective contrast, glacier and snow-field crown the high and steep mountains around.

Tradition points to this place as the scene of the Swedish poet Tegner's "Frithjof Saga."

Among other burial mounds ("grav-haug") {68} of chiefs from the Viking age at Balholm is pointed out that of King Belè, whose daughter was Ingeborg, whilst at Framnæs, across the fjord, dwelt Frithjof the Viking. These names all occur in the "Frithjof Saga."

At Balholm stands an English church, the only one to be found among the fjords. Built for the use of English visitors in summer-time, its design is similar to that of the ancient wooden "stav-kirk," at Vik in Sogn. It was erected recently, mainly through the efforts of the brothers Kvikne, who during their lifetime have been the means of transforming Balholm from a mere wilderness to a place of great beauty, and one of the most important places of resort among the fjords.

In an earlier part of this book reference was made to the life at a "sæter," or mountain out-farm, a description of which may here be found of interest.

Many of the peasants who live alongside the fjords are also owners of large portions of the mountain plateaux in their {69} neighbourhood, and on these excellent grazing is found in the summer months.

When the heavy work of the spring has been finished on the home farm, and the snow has left these highlands, and when the vegetation has had time to establish itself anew, the whole farm household gets ready to remove the domestic animals to the "sæter." It is a picturesque sight, this cavalcade, the animals all confusion, cattle lowing and sheep bleating, their bells tinkling merrily as they skip about, the sturdy little ponies, heavily laden with necessary goods and chattels, bringing up the rear. All seem full of glee that they can now have a few months of ideal grazing on those high lands after their imprisonment indoors all the long winter.

Climbing and struggling onwards up the steep valley, then through almost trackless regions of rocks and stunted trees, they at length arrive at their destination, often after some fifteen or twenty miles of travelling.

Life at a "sæter"

At the "sæter" they rest for the {70} summer months amid rich vegetation by the margin of a lake or mountain tarn, surrounded by high mountain-tops. Here they graze on the bosky slopes to the music of babbling brooks.

The "sæter" houses are mostly small and low, of one story only; they are usually of a very primitive type, being, in fact, the earliest style of house building now in existence in the country, this ancient form surviving here long after it had been abandoned in the home farms. Attached to the dwelling-house, or forming part of it, is a dairy where butter and cheeses are made.

A white cheese, "melkost," is made from fresh cow's milk; a very strongly-flavoured old cheese comes from buttermilk—it is called "gammelost"; and from goat's milk they make "gjedost" or "brimost."

The women and girls only live up at the "sæter," and in addition to the cheese and butter making, they must attend to their domestic animals during the four longest summer months.


The men come up from the home farm at the week-ends with necessary provisions, and take back with them the produce of the "sæter."

Bracing is the rarified air of these high lands; and although the sun's heat is great, it is tempered by the breezes which come from snow-field or glacier on the higher mountains around.

A sæter, Vetle Fjord
A sæter, Vetle Fjord

When the wild berries are ripe, the younger girls climb the heathery slopes and fill their wooden pails with the cranberries, bilberries, and cloudberries ("multebær"), which abound in great profusion.

Fagesi, Levros, Pentekol, Buskin: to these and other quaintly sounding names the cattle answer, the goats also being known individually by such names as Skjomos, Blegeros, Kvideben, etc.

The cattle have their chosen leader, who wears a bell attached to a leathern collar around the neck; they are led by its sound, and keep within hearing distance as they graze. The sheep and goats also wear bells, {72} nearly all of them, but the sound of these is quite distinct from the cattle-bells.

At a certain time every evening the cows may be seen slowly making their way of their own accord to the "sæter" house, where they quietly wait to be milked.

When it is necessary to call them from a distance, they answer to the sound of the "lur," a kind of alpine horn. This is made of birch, and is about four feet long. When blown lustily it gives out notes clear and sweet, in sound not unlike those of a cornet.

On the "lur" the "sæter" girls are expert performers, and during the long summer evenings they love to make the mountain crags echo with delicious airs, which they produce from this primitive instrument.

The cattle know instinctively when there are bears in the neighbourhood.

At such times they hurry to the "sæter" huts, around which they crowd, and from their melancholy lowing the girls are led {73} to know that there is danger near. A bonfire is quickly made and kept alight throughout the night; the "lur" is also brought into requisition. Thus, by the aid of fire and music, the danger is averted, for Bruin, being fond of neither, gets himself away as quickly as he can.

Not very many years ago bears were fairly numerous in the high and wild mountain region which lies between the Sogne and Nord Fjords, but, owing in a great measure to the more general use of better guns, they have steadily decreased. The average annual number of bears shot in Norway between the years 1840 and 1860 was 230. This number has gradually dwindled down to a yearly average of 40 for the past decade.

Fjaarland in Sogn is a noted stronghold of these animals, and in this neighbourhood many bears have been shot in recent years.

One old peasant, who lived in Suphelledal here, informed me that he had during his lifetime shot over 30 bears. As witness to his tale, his face and scalp showed even {74} then old, but quite distinct, traces of the rough handling he had received in the pursuit of his favourite sport. On one occasion, after having lain in wait for several days up the mountains, he was suddenly confronted by a she-bear with a young cub. So quickly did she appear from behind a rock, and so close to him was she, that he had not time to fire before she struck him on the head with her powerful forefoot, which action tore his scalp over his face and laid him prostrate on the ground. For a moment he felt the hot breath of the bear around his ears as he lay with face buried in the turf. No doubt thinking that he was killed outright, she proceeded, at a few yards' distance, to scrape with her powerful claws among the loose earth and débris in order to make a hole in which to hide her prey.

She stopped from time to time to look up from her work to see if her victim showed any signs of life, and being at length convinced that all was well, she went on with her task with greater energy, and {75} from her strong claws the loose earth and stones flew in all directions.


The peasant's opportunity, for which he had breathlessly waited, presented itself. Jumping up, he seized his rifle, and with cool and steady aim he was fortunate in bringing down by that one fatal shot a fine animal in the pink of condition. He succeeded at the same time in securing her young cub, and thought himself to be in great good luck that day.

Two fine glaciers, Bojumsbræ and Suphellebræ, are in this district of Fjærland, and both may be visited in a few hours from Mundal. These glaciers are arms of the great Jostedalsbræ, the most extensive ice-field in Europe.

The Bojumsbræ is the most important of the two in regard to size, and the surroundings are majestically grand. King Oscar II. visited this glacier in 1879.

At the Suphellebræ may be seen and heard at any time huge masses of ice falling over the precipice which cuts off the lower from the upper glacier.


At the foot of the lower glacier are several very beautiful ice-caverns, deep blue in colour, from which flows the pale-green ice-water on its way to the head of the fjord which is not far distant.

Glaciers of Fjærland

The valleys in this district are wild and grand. There is, however, rich grazing land, and the peasants are all well-to-do; they retain in primitive fashion the habits and customs of their ancestors, and are very hospitable and kind-hearted.

The people of Sogn—"Sogninger," as they are called—are, on the whole, a powerful and gifted race. Those of Outer (Ytre) Sogn are, as a rule, placid and even-tempered, and the natives of Inner (Indre) Sogn are quick, lively, and excitable. Their dialect ("Sognemaal") is clear, rich, and full-sounding. It is one of the dialects most resembling the old Norwegian language.

Sogn was at one time the seat of mighty families, and many a warlike company of Vikings has sailed from this fjord. The ancient kings of Norway occasionally {77} visited Sogn, but not always in a friendly way.

An old historical saga tells of a visit which King Sverre paid the "Sogninger" to take vengeance upon them for the killing of his bailiff at a place named Kaupanger, near Sogndal. Kaupanger, by Sverre's orders, was burned, and so were the houses of Sogndal. The inhabitants of these places fled to the mountains and woods, where they hid themselves and thus escaped.

Fjærland, Sogne Fjord
Fjærland, Sogne Fjord

Immediately after this event King Sverre met his antagonist, Magnus Erlingson, at the mouth of the Sogndal's Fjord, at a place called Fimreite. Here it was that the rival fleets came into contact. The king gained the decisive victory, and thus secured to himself the crown of Norway. This engagement was fought in the year 1184.

On the left bank of the Sogne Fjord is Slinde. At this place, near the close of the thirteenth century, lived Audun Slinde, one of the powerful chiefs whom {78} King Erick dispatched to Scotland to fetch his bride, the Princess Margaret.

Outside the churchyard at Sogndal stands a "bauta sten," an upright column of stone, on which is the runic inscription: "King Olav shot among these stones."

As we proceed along the main Sogne Fjord we obtain glimpses down branch fjords, and beautiful vistas open out. Mountain torrents and waterfalls are seen on every side threading their steep descent among the crags, now gliding over smooth glaciated rocks, now wriggling in tortuous, snake-like fashion, then a sudden leap over a steep precipice, ending with a final splash into the waters of the fjord.

A steamer's cargo

At sunset the new-fledged moon peeped over snow-topped mountains, which are ruddy with the sun's last rays. The fjord water around is dashed with purple and pale gold, rose, and emerald. A large, cumbersome boat, laden to its utmost capacity with sheep and lambs, puts out from shore {79} to meet the awaiting steamer. The boat is roped to the steamer's side; the sheep, handled tenderly, are transferred from it to improvised pens on the steamer's foredeck, the sheep in one compartment and the lambs in another. There is also a large open packing-case, which contains the youngest lambs.

A chorus of deep bass and thinnest treble continues spasmodically. The shepherd is among his flock, his whole time taken up in keeping watch and ward over them, especially over the lambs, whose feats of jumping tax to the utmost his patient watchfulness.

As the steamer ploughs along, a pleasant breeze plays on the surface of the now steely grey water.

The snow on the high mountains changes colour to a pale lilac, and the moon brightens as twilight advances, while over in the west the first faint star of evening glimmers in a sky of palest amber.

As we proceed the fjord contracts, the {80} mountains are higher and steeper, in places almost perpendicular, and the waterfalls rush down with greater impetuosity into the dark fjord.

We now turn into the Nærö Fjord in brilliant twilight, and some of the grandest and wildest scenery of Sogn is presented to our view. We observe that the kind shepherd is covering up with a sackcloth the smallest lambs, which are in the packing-case on the fore-deck, as a protection from the cool night air, which is rather inclined to be frosty, even on this lovely night of May. The farther we advance up this fjord, the more sombre and overpowering is the impression we receive of this magnificent fjord scenery.

Næro Fjord
Næro Fjord

We now approach the little hamlet of Dyrdal, romantically situated at the entrance to the narrow valley of the same name. Here huge mountains rear their massive walls into the twilight sky. The Nærö Fjord is narrowest at this point, being only a few hundred yards wide.

The sound of the steamer's syren now {81} echoes with a metallic ring from one mountain to another in diminishing cadence of sweet notes, and in reply two large boats put out from shore to meet the steamer. With much struggling the woolly flock is transferred to the boats from the steamer, the sheep and lambs appearing quite happy—to judge by the sound of their voices—at the prospect of being on terra firma again.

At a lonely farm situated in the wildest part of Nærö Fjord it was my happy fortune to stay for some days in the merry month of May. On my arrival there, and in compliance with a signal from shore, the steamer slows up, and a boat is brought alongside. A friendly good-bye to the obliging captain, and I am rowed ashore, where I meet the kind owner of the farm, my host. He and his good wife ("kone") show me through the house, an excellent example of a "bonder's" home of the olden time.

The principal living-room is about twenty feet square. The walls display {82} unusually thick baulks of timber, while the huge beams show distinctly the marks of the axe which fashioned them. The heavy doors are nearly square in shape, with lock and handle of antique design in wrought-iron. On one side of this room stands an elevated open hearth ("peis"), over which hangs a crane, and to this is attached a huge copper cauldron. The smoke from the peat fire escapes through the roof by a very wide open chimney. A clean-scrubbed massive table almost fills one end of the room by the side of the wall-benches. High-backed chairs, several spinning-wheels, and a carpet-weaving frame help to fill up this spacious apartment.

To reach the room set apart for me I must climb up wooden ladder-like steps. My room, simply but comfortably furnished, was fresh and clean. On the left side in a dark corner was the customary low, wooden, box-like bed, which I saw at a glance was, for one of my stature, much too short. It was piled high with {83} some soft material on the top. This covering proved on examination to be a 4-feet square air-tight bag containing eiderdown about a foot deep. Under this was only the thinnest cotton sheet, and I began to wonder how these two as a covering could possibly remain together in harmony throughout the night, and as to whether they were calculated to cover all one's limbs at one and the same time.

On being very considerately asked on the following morning how I had slept, and if I would like an extra eiderdown on, I courteously but firmly declined.

In the Nærö Fjord

At 8 a.m. came breakfast-time. On the table were placed several kinds of native cheese, brown bread, butter and potato-cakes, dried mutton ("spege kjöd"), and boiled potatoes, four boiled eggs, and a large bowl of creamy milk. In addition to these delicacies, a cup of excellent coffee was brought in. The meal nearly ended, and not having made much impression on this mass before me, the good {84} wife again invited me—almost coerced me—"to make a good meal," and seemed quite disappointed to find that my capacity was so limited.

Similar fare was my portion for the other meals, varied only with boiled goat's flesh, ptarmigan ("rype"), and hare or wild reindeer.

These kind-hearted peasants did all in their power to make my stay comfortable. They enjoyed a little gossip from the world outside their fjord, and it was interesting to hear them talk in their very pronounced and ancient dialect ("Sognemaal"), which is as unlike modern Norwegian "as she is spoke" as the English of Chaucer's time is to our own modern tongue.

At Styve, the wildest and most impressive part of this narrow fjord, the massive peaks of Steganaase tower overhead, on their tops a crisp powder of new snow—this was at the end of October—and across the fjord rise up perpendicular buttresses of mountains of equal grandeur and {85} awe-inspiring character. The fjord is here about 4,000 feet deep.

At twilight the full moon was just struggling from among wreathing mists which clung around the high peaks, indicating at the same time the presence of showers of fine snow above, and as we proceeded light snow-flakes descended, falling lightly on the steamer's deck.

We were now ploughing through crackling ice, which floated in detached patches on the surface of the water.

In winter-time the fjord from here to the hamlet of Gudvangen is completely frozen over, the steamer being quite unable to proceed farther. The fjord is at that time a highway for sledge traffic to and from the steamer. In this manner the mails are conveyed over the ice to Gudvangen, where other sledges are in waiting to carry them overland to Vossevangen.

Gudvangen is so completely enclosed by huge mountains that the sun's rays do not reach it during four months of winter. {86} The sun lights up some of the nearer tops, however, about mid-day, but then only for about a couple of hours, when all becomes grey again.

In winter and early spring destructive avalanches of snow and rock shoot down with terrible velocity into the fjord and valley from the precipitous mountain masses above, especially when thaw sets in and the heavy mantle of snow is melting.

At one place in particular in Nærödal it will be observed, in driving, that the road threads in and out among huge boulders of rock. These massive stones formed part of a huge avalanche which descended from the crags here only a few years ago. The postman, driving at the time down the valley, only just escaped the danger by taking shelter under a large boulder near the remains of a former avalanche.

Many of the farm-houses in this narrow valley are built under the shelter of rocks, so as to be protected from the wind, {87} which sweeps down the valley at times with terrific velocity, chiefly in winter.


Some years ago I spent two October weeks in Gudvangen and Nærödal. Arriving there overland from Vossevangen, and not dreaming but that I was certain of obtaining accommodation at the inn at Gudvangen—it being considerably past the time of tourists—to my intense surprise, I found the place full to overflowing with country folks in holiday attire—a wedding party—and, to the music of the riddle, the younger peasants and girls were dancing the favourite Halling-fling.

Every room at the inn was crowded, cakes and home-brewed ale being everywhere in evidence.

The kind and genial innkeeper, with profuse apologies at being unable to accommodate me in the house, found me, at last, a little room over the bakehouse close by, which I found fairly comfortable under the circumstances—it was at least warm and dry.

The following morning all was bustle {88} and excitement. In the roadway outside the inn rosy-cheeked peasant-girls, in their prim, bright costumes, were exchanging pleasant banter with the boys, while the older men lounged around in groups, with hands in pockets, engaged in talking gossip at intervals between puffs of tobacco-smoke.

The wedding "bryllups" was to be celebrated that morning, and everybody was now ready except the bride, whose friends were engaged in adding the final touches to her maidenly toilet. A start is soon made, first a kind of informal procession along the short stretch of road to the pier, and a scramble into the boats, then out on the fjord, their oars keeping time to the strains of the fiddle. They row along pleasantly for a couple of miles, and then arrive at the small white wooden church, which is situated picturesquely on a rocky mound at Bakke.

There is, from here to Gudvangen, a footpath, but in parts it is somewhat rough. In several places it crosses screes {89} of loose stories, which repeated avalanches have ground down in their career from the overhanging cliffs above to the deep fjord below. Every winter this mountain path across the screes is wiped out of existence, and a new one has to be made when the spring comes.

The wedding service over, the whole party, the clergyman ("presten") now included, return to the inn to partake of the wedding feast, and to drink the healths ("skaal") of bride and groom. The festivities are prolonged with hearty excitement, eating, drinking, and dancing the Halling-fling and Spring-dance day and night for over a week.

During my stay at Gudvangen at that time, an old woman, short in stature and poorly clad, approached me one day by the roadside, and, carefully unwrapping a many-folded parcel, at length produced a few English coins of silver and bronze. These she had earned during the past summer from passing travellers by the sale of flowers from her little garden {90} patch. She begged me to exchange into Norwegian money these coins, which she could not use. It was a pleasure to see her wrinkled face light up with genuine gratitude for this slight service rendered her.

A few days afterwards this same little woman met me again, and gave me a tiny paper packet, which, she said, contained a few four-leaved clover sprigs. These she had taken all day to discover among the scant herbage on the mountain-side, and if I would only take and keep them, I should be lucky ever after. And who shall say that I was not?

Nærödal is one of the grandest valleys in Norway. The narrow ribbon of road threads the deep valley, crossing and recrossing the clear mountain torrent, whose close acquaintance is kept the whole of the distance to the foot of the steep Stalheimskleven.

All the way the stupendous mountain masses seem almost ready to topple over from both sides into the narrow, gorge-like {91} valley. The high, dome-shaped mountain, which is a conspicuous feature on our right as we proceed, is Jordalsnuten. Eagles, falcons, and other birds of prey inhabit these rugged fastnesses.

Nærödal, from Stalheim, Sogne Fjord
Nærödal, from Stalheim, Sogne Fjord

At an ancient farm at the foot of Jordalsnuten the farmer showed me the feet and powerful claws of a golden eagle. These he had converted into base and pillar for a pair of candlesticks. It had happened on one day during the previous summer, when the farmer's household were engaged in the hay-field, that their work was interrupted by the sight of a large eagle, poised at a height of several hundred feet in the air. From its talons a young sheep was hanging. As they watched they saw that the eagle was gradually descending, although making powerful and frantic efforts to rise. As it neared the ground all hands rushed at once to the spot, and with hay-fork and scythe they attacked and dispatched the powerful bird and saved the sheep. Evidently the weight was rather more than {92} the eagle could carry away, and, being unable to extricate its crooked talons from the woolly fleece, it found itself entrapped by its own prey.

The road now gradually ascends the valley, and at the foot of Stalheimskleven it takes sixteen zigzag sweeps up the face of the cliff, which is here about 1,000 feet above the valley. Immediately on the right as we ascend we see a pretty waterfall, Sivlefos, and on the left we get a glimpse of Stalheimsfos. These two fine waterfalls are romantically situated in deep and craggy gullies.

From the summit of the pass we have one of the grandest and most impressive views of the kind in Norway. Looking backward down the sublime Nærödal, the grey, rounded dome of Jordalsnuten rises majestically on the left, its steep sides deeply furrowed by the action of avalanches. The mountain mass on the right is Kaldafjeld, and in the extreme distance we can just distinguish Kilefos, the fine waterfall near to Gudvangen. At {93} our feet are the two waterfalls we saw on our climb up Stalheimskleven, Sivlefos and Stalheimsfos, foaming in their rocky ravines, their combined waters flowing on in a silver thread along the bottom of the deep valley. So narrow in places is the valley that there appears to be only room for the river and the road.

In the summer months this highway from Vossevangen to Gudvangen, connecting the Hardanger district with that of Sogn, is much used by travellers, and traffic is often greatly congested, especially at the terminus at Gudvangen, where the Sogne Fjord steamers are joined.

We are now among some of the most magnificent scenery in the country, and this grandeur is continued into the impressive Aurlands Fjord, which rivals its neighbour Nærö in sublimity. The huge mass of Bejteln, furrowed with enormous ravines, stands like a sentinel at the junction of the two fjords, with snow-crested Steganaase behind, rearing its mighty peaks to the skies. Huge perpendicular {94} buttresses wall in the fjord on both sides, and from their tops waterfalls are precipitated in long streaks down the glistening dark rocks, while deep gorges are torn into the mountain forms, separating one immense gable from another.

At the foot of one of these deep gorges, and romantically situated, is the small hamlet and church of Underdal. To the left, farther up the fjord, stands Aurland, or Vangen, the principal village in the fjord parish ("vasbygd") of Aurland. The small stone church here, it will be observed, has an unusually high-pitched gable and steeply sloping roof.

From the head of this Aurlands Fjord, by ascending the Flaamsdal (the valley of the swollen river), magnificent views are obtained out over the fjord.

The road up this grand valley terminates at Myrdal Station, on the new Bergen-Christiania Railway, and near the Hallingdal entrance to the long Gravehalsen tunnel, amid mountain scenery of overwhelming grandeur and sublimity.



THE SOGNE FJORD (continued)

At Frönningen a profitable business is done in tree-felling. Large forests of pine and fir clothe the steep sides of the mountains here, and modern saw-mills are erected at the foot of a torrent by the margin of the fjord.

Seen from here, the glaciers of Fresvik and Rambæren, both over 5,000 feet high, stand out boldly against the sky.

A very charming effect of sunshine and shower won my attention near here one afternoon in the month of May. Immediately in front of the steamer, and from the mountains on one side of the fjord to those on the other, stretched a most vivid rainbow; the snow-capped mountains of {96} Lyster were faintly visible beneath the arc, through a misty veil of rain-gauze. As the steamer proceeded the rainbow appeared to retire, so that we were not to sail under the beautiful arc-en-ciel on that occasion. Instead, we were presently enveloped in driving rain, and to pace the wet and slippery decks was no longer an enjoyable occupation. The mountain-forms were all wiped out by the rain-curtain, and, from a state of comparative calmness, the waters of the fjord became almost as choppy as the open sea.

This condition of the elements did not last long, however. In the space of an hour all was again in brilliant, almost dazzling, sunshine, the rocks and trees on the mountain slopes sparkling with raindrops, and the air became fresh and cool.

It will be observed, as we sail along, that this district is more thickly wooded than almost any other part of Sogn, many of the mountains being quite covered with the dark foliage of pines, even to their summits.


The real forest trees of Norway are the Scotch fir ("furu"), the spruce ("gran"), and hardy birch. These trees grow all over the country, sometimes in unmixed, continuous forests covering large areas, but, generally speaking, they are associated with oak, elm, and ash, in smaller numbers.

In the eastern and southern parts of the country these trees cover the mountain slopes from the bottom of the valleys up to a height of some 2,500 feet above sea-level; at this elevation they are succeeded by hardy forests of birch up to another 1,000 feet; higher than this the shrubs of the mountain plateau—the dwarf birch—only survive.

Small forests are found near the coast in places where they are protected by islands or promontories from the sea winds, but we must go farther inland, and to the heads of the larger fjords, before we can come across any large extent of forest-covered country. The western part of Norway, however, is not remarkable for its forests in comparison with the eastern districts.


Hedemarken Amt (county) has the largest forest area, while Stavanger Amt has the smallest. Of the timber intended for sale, considerable quantities are sent abroad, chiefly spruce and Scotch fir. Birch is found throughout the country, as a rule in company with other trees, and may be seen brightening up the dark coniferous forests with its silver bark and delicate foliage. There are two species of birch—the lowland or white birch, with graceful drooping branches, and the hardy mountain birch, which is rather darker in colour and more stunted in form. It is only in the most northern countries that the "lady of the woods" attains its full beauty. The birch is one of the most useful of trees, the wood being used for a great variety of purposes. The inner bark is used for tanning, and the outer, thicker, bark for the roofs of houses, being placed under the thick covering of turf. The leaves are used as fodder for cattle.

Among other species of trees which grow around the lowland farms and {99} meadows are found the aspen, whose wood is used in the manufacture of matches, the alder, the rowan and hazel, along with the useful ash. The wood of the last-named is largely used in the making of the "lang ski" (snow-shoes).

Timber-felling usually begins in the late autumn. It is an arduous and ofttimes dangerous occupation, and requires hardy and strong men. As the larger forests lie often at a considerable distance from the inhabited districts, many weeks are spent by these woodmen in log huts specially constructed for the purpose in the vicinity of their work.

The timber, having been felled and stripped of its bark, is collected in convenient places, and when the snow is sufficiently deep, it is then hauled to the nearest river, where it is stacked to await the melting of the snow and ice, when it is floated down the swollen torrent or river, and by this means it is carried down to the lake or fjord and taken to the saw-mills.

Norway in ancient times had a larger {100} area of forest than it has at the present. In the fourteenth century the Hanseatic League appropriated the commerce of the country. They cut down the forests nearest the coast, also farther inland around the fjord districts, and exported the timber, having at that time considerable commerce with the Dutch, and later—in the seventeenth century—with the English and Scotch.

Forest fires, and the growing consumption of timber, as the population increased, along with reckless felling on the farm lands, have been the means of denuding the west country of the larger forests, thus leaving the mountains comparatively bare and desolate and the plateaux a wilderness.

The State owns very extensive forests, chiefly in the extreme north and east of the country, altogether covering an area of some 2,500 square miles. These forests are under the control of forestry managers, overseers, and rangers. A commercial system has been devised by which these {101} forests are kept up to their original size and value, State nurseries for the rearing of young trees having been established at several places in the country, the two largest being at Voss and Hamar. Three forestry schools for elementary instruction in the cultivation and treatment of forests, and an agricultural college for advanced instruction in the same, have been founded in recent years.




The mining industry, which commenced activity in the seventeenth century, was responsible for the consumption of very large quantities of timber, and this has been going on for the last 270 years. The Kongsberg silver-mines, which are owned by the State, have alone some fifty square miles of State forest set apart for their requirements. The ore at these mines is virgin silver, occurring in lodes, and it is sometimes found in large nuggets weighing up to 200 pounds. These silver-mines were commenced in the year 1624.

Copper-mining was started at Röros in 1646. The most important copper-mines in the country are the Kongensgrube, Arvedalsgrube, and Storvatsgrube; the {104} ore found in them is copper pyrites, and a large quantity is exported. There are also extensive copper-mines at Sulitjelma in Nordland, at Aamdal in Telemarken, and at Valahei in Hardanger.

Owing to the condition of the forests and the consequent rise in the value of charcoal, iron mining has not been very profitable, and many old works have been closed. The Arendal iron-ore mines are the only important mines now worked, and the ore is noted for its excellent quality.

The mining industry

It will thus be seen that the mining industry in Norway is not of very considerable importance, the reason being that, although the country is fairly rich in minerals, the cost of conveyance to the coast is yet too great for much profit to be made.

Those districts which are found to be rich in iron-ore happen to lie in almost inaccessible country, and as coal does not occur except on the out-of-the-way island of Andöen, the native conditions are not favourable for smelting.


In Gudbrandsdal and at several places near Throndhjem soapstone is quarried in considerable quantities, and is now extensively used for building purposes. The cathedral of Throndhjem is built of this stone.

Slate of a beautiful green colour is quarried at Voss and in Valders. Granite, syenite, and porphyry are found in great abundance all over the country.

Minerals which contain rare and beautiful metals and earths occur in several places—at Arendal, for example—and these minerals are highly treasured in all scientific collections.

The village and neighbourhood of Lærdal, or, properly, Lærdalsören, is a notable example of tree-denuded country. Hidden away on a branch of the great Sogne Fjord, and surrounded by bare and massive mountains, Lærdalsören owes its chief, perhaps only, claim to importance from being the chief avenue of traffic to the Sogne Fjord from the land side. Owing to its enclosed situation, the direct {106} rays of the sun do not reach the village during some five months of the winter season, being in this respect in a worse position than Gudvangen.


The village of Lærdalsören lies on a broad, flat, well-cultivated plain at the estuary of the river Læra, or the Lærdalselv, an excellent salmon river. The valley through which this river flows is superbly wild and picturesque; the mountains which enclose it are bare, rocky, and desolate. The farther up this valley we go, the wilder becomes the scenery, and the torrent thunders in many a cataract along the base of the ravine-like valley.


We may observe in several places huge cauldrons worn out of the solid rock by the action of water, a number of these cauldrons being now far above the present level of the river. We may also see, as we proceed, that the road crosses several ancient lake basins, now dry, the river having, in the course of ages, gradually worn down their rocky barriers, thus draining the water from them.


Some twelve miles drive up this magnificent valley we arrive at a place called Borgund, where stands the quaint and curious "stav kirke" of that name. This extremely interesting and fantastic church was built in the twelfth century, and is in quite the best state of preservation of any church of its kind in the country. It is not now used for Divine service, a new and more commodious church having been built near by, for the better convenience of the inhabitants of the district. This ancient "stavkirke" of Borgund is now the property of the Antiquarian Society of Christiania. Every part of this curious church is of extreme interest—six tiers of pagoda-like, shingle-covered roof, numerous gables from which spring grotesque dragons' heads, and lofty and elaborately carved portals. On the massive door is carved, in runic characters, the following inscription:

"Thorir raist runar thissar than Olaf misso."

(Thorir wrote these lines on the fair of Saint Olaf.)


The church is picturesquely situated in the grandest portion of the ravine-like valley of Lærdal.

To return to the village. In the evening we might enjoy an hour among the clusters of old houses, and down by the boats hear the mellow tone of the dialect of Sogn; or, strolling by the margin of the still fjord, see the first discernible star of evening prick his image like a diamond in the calm water, while all around the great mountains repeat their mighty forms in accurate replica, save where a slight puff of evening air disturbs the reflection in a long streak of silver ripple, dying away as softly as it had begun.

A boat puts out from a tiny creek near by, and silently steals into the line of vision. Only the faintest plash of the oars is heard, and voices perhaps imagined. A line of sparkling light marks out the boat's track across the deep reflections slowly fading away as the boat passes out of sight.

Sailing out of the Bay of Lærdal on a {109} bright summer's morning, and all nature being in its blithest mood, we should be dull mortals indeed if we were not touched by some chord in the melody, and rejoice, even with the birds, in the glorious sunshine and the rarified atmosphere.

The morning sun sparkles on the blue fjord, and the delicate haze on the mountains indicates the prelude to a hot day, so we take some little care to place in a shady position our deck-chairs, and any stray whiff of breeze is encouraged and acceptable.

The fjord is still, and, like a mirror, reflects accurately the image of each mountain and crag, tree, and grazing cow. The steamer ploughs along, and the long wash it creates breaks noisily in its rear on cliff base and rocky strand.

We now arrive at the small village, or hamlet, of Aardal, at the head of the branch fjord of the same name. The hamlet is picturesquely situated on an elevation above the shore, and for a {110} background has an imposing amphitheatre of high mountains.

The grandest waterfall in the Sogn district is in this neighbourhood—the Vettisfos. This waterfall plunges into a deep and awful chasm from a height of some 900 feet. The way to it is romantic and rough, and, to add a spice of flavour to the excursion, the district is a well-known haunt of bears at certain seasons of the year, but not in summer-time.

In the Vettisgjel, a very deep and narrow ravine on the way to the waterfall, destructive avalanches of rock are frequent, especially after winter's thaws or heavy rain.

Lyster Fjord

In Lyster Fjord—the longest arm of the great Sogne Fjord—the scenery is diversified and beautiful, but milder in character than that which we have recently been viewing.

At the head of the fjord, however, the scenery is picturesque and grand, in character somewhat resembling that of the {111} Lake of Lucerne, and by many travellers thought to be quite as beautiful.

Skjolden, at the northern extremity of the fjord, is a starting-point for Jötunheimen (the Giant Mountains), the Alps of Norway—the home of giants ("jötun") according to Norse mythology. This wonderful group of mountains is in the very heart of the country, and it is here that the grandest peaks in the whole of Norway are found, Galdhöpiggen, (8,396 feet) and Glittertind (8,380 feet) being the highest.

This uninhabited region of weird grandeur has been considerably opened out to travellers in recent years by the efforts of the Norwegian Tourist Club. Hostels, huts, and "sæters" have been built, roads and tracks improved, safe bridges thrown over inconvenient and dangerous torrents, and the services of trustworthy guides secured at all convenient places in this extensive district; so that for pedestrian expeditions made through this region now, although {112} involving much rough walking and consequent fatigue, food and accommodation will be found, especially if travellers enrol themselves members of the Norwegian Tourist Club. This ensures them certain privileges, and preference of accommodation over all other travellers who are not members.

In Lyster Fjord we find one of the most beautiful valleys in Sogn—Jostedalen by name. Thickly populated, carefully cultivated, and well watered by the Jostedalselv and its tributaries, this valley is, like most Norwegian valleys, a deep ravine, especially at its head. It divides an extensive plateau of everlasting snow, and here are numerous glaciers, ramifications of the great Jostedalsbræ, the most extensive ice-field in Europe.

The farms and mountain "sæters" in this fertile district are numerous and picturesquely situated. The branch valleys are richly cultivated, and the peasants are, on the whole, in prosperous circumstances.


This beautiful district of Lyster is also noted for its extensive orchards, "Gaard" (farm) Kroken, which is situated at the foot of Krokedalen, being the most famous. Near the farm an extremely fine waterfall 1,400 feet in height leaps from the crags of Kivenaase.

There are several interesting old churches in the district of Lyster—at Dösen, Joranger, and Urnæs.

The latter church stands high on a promontory opposite the village of Solvorn, which is situated in a valley across the fjord.

Urnæs "stavkirke" is considered by antiquarians to be the earliest of the wooden churches now in existence. The eminence on which it stands is some 300 feet above the fjord. The church was built about the year 1100, at the time that Christianity was introduced to this part of the country. This was in King Olaf Kyrre's time, the King who caused many churches to be built in the west country.


Both inside and outside of the church are quaint carvings, which show unmistakable signs of early Irish influence in the design and craftsmanship. On several of the pillars inside the church are writings in runes ("runeskrift"). The church plate and ornaments on the altar are very quaint and ancient.

Urnæs church, Lyster, Sogne Fjord
Urnæs church, Lyster, Sogne Fjord

Urnæs "stavkirke" stands on the site of a yet earlier erection—a pagan temple, some of the material of which may be traced in the existing building. These pagans had evidently good taste in the choice of a site for their temple.

The view from this place, overlooking the fjord to Solvorn, is very beautiful.

On the promontory below, and near the fjord, stands a giant's "gravhaug," or "kjæmpehaug" (a huge burial mound), where, according to local tradition, the Viking Ragnvald was buried along with his magic sword. There have been "finds" in it dating back to the Bronze Age.

Near this place are several tall standing stones ("bautastein"), which evidently {115} mark the sites of prehistoric interments. The fjord steamers seldom call here, but across the fjord at Solvorn boats may be hired to row over the short distance, and a few hours might be agreeably spent at this beautiful and interesting place.




The first impression we receive on approaching the fjords from the sea is perhaps not often a pleasant one, especially in dull weather. Monotonous grey rocky islands appear to look with wicked eyes on every ship that passes by them, as though expectant of another victim to embrace in the deep waters, there to be torn and mangled in their cruel fangs. Over these rocks moan everlasting breakers, whose weird dirge-like sound is blended with the wild shrieking of sea-birds till it almost appears that there exists some close uncanny relationship and wicked conspiracy between rocks, birds, and breakers.


The steamer, which gradually threads its way through this maze of coast-islands, now emerges into more open water, and presently we arrive at Florö, an island in the blue sea, bright with houses, warehouses, and shipping. Quite a small town has grown up here, and Floro is now an important calling-place for the larger steamers and a great fishing-station.

In a few hours we come to the large island of Bremanger, on whose eastern end stands the huge towering mass of Hornelen, peaked and furrowed, rising perpendicularly out of the sea, the crags appearing even to overhang the steamer as we sail close to the mountain-wall. Here the heavy surges moan in a most uncanny way, and echo in deep notes up the huge cavernous rents in the mountain-side before us.

According to an ancient tradition, King Olav Trygvesson in the tenth century scaled this many-peaked mountain and rescued one of his followers who had got into danger among the crags.


We are now at the entrance to Nord Fjord, and the steamer seems to make its way towards a towering but distant mass of high mountains, on which we discern large uneven patches of perpetual snow. Gradually, as we advance, the nearer masses of rock appear to part asunder, in order to allow the steamer to pass through.

We come now into the fjord proper, and by degrees a new attraction grows into our interest as we say good-bye to the monotonous; for now we may see fresh and unexpected sights—large bright patches of green, small white wooden churches and clusters of brightly painted cottages dotted here and there—and they one and all appear to extend a smile of welcome to us as we approach. We hear the snow-white mountain becks breaking into waterfalls on every side as they hurry on and plunge themselves gleefully into the sparkling fjord. Graceful birches clothe the valleys and shelter in the rocky clefts in the mountain-sides, while in the {120} background are those same snow-topped mountains that we have seen for the last few hours. They are nearer to us now, and as we sail from one side of the fjord to the other, calling to take in or to discharge passengers and goods, these same snow-crowned heights seem to follow us on our way, as if they kept watch and ward over an enchanted land.

We now come to a broader stretch of fjord: larger valleys open out to the view, and the sky seems brighter. This open space crossed, more frequent signs of civilization meet the eye. The farms are larger and the stretches of cultivated land are more extensive.

We now discern hayfields, cornfields, and potato patches. The houses and farmsteads are larger and more substantial, showing that there is a more prosperous people in these inner parts of the fjord.

Frequent waterfalls are passed, some of which send their spray even over the steamer's deck as they leap down the precipitous cliffs. Torrents come with a {121} noisy swing down the steep valleys, turning in their course many a tiny wooden corn-mill.

Everything around seems full of life, and pleasant sounds meet the ear—the murmur of rocky becks, the tinkling of sheep and cattle bells, the plash of busy oars on the clear silvery water—and the merry voices of children are heard as they play on the pebbly strand near by. The eye is refreshed by the sight of the bright cottages which are embosomed in their own little orchards surrounded by green fields, and a background of richly wooded slopes leads up to the blue mountains above and beyond. An ancient church reposing in its quiet domain gives the keynote to the whole—one of harmony, simplicity, and Arcadian peace.

As we gaze on such a scene, it seems to have the power to fascinate and to hold us, as though in the grip of some unseen force of fairy magic, and from which we tear ourselves almost unwillingly away.


The scenery increases in grandeur the farther we penetrate, and the mountains and valleys are more densely wooded. We dip into narrow branches or ramifications of the main fjord, where beautiful vistas open out, and as we sail down Gloppen Fjord to the hamlet of Sandene the views are especially charming.

A salmon river, Stryn, Nord Fjord
A salmon river, Stryn, Nord Fjord

From Visnæs, at the northern extremity of the innermost branch of the main Nord Fjord, we can drive along the banks of a noted salmon river and visit the beautiful Strynsvand. This lake is quite surrounded by magnificent mountains, on which lie extensive glaciers, Skaalan, on our right, being the most conspicuous. Around this lake are many large farms; some are situated high up the mountains in apparently inaccessible places. Here also wild valleys open out in all directions, and continue their ravines up to the bases of the glaciers. At the foot of one of these ravine-like valleys, and just underneath the massive Skaalan, and in a picturesque situation by the {123} lake's margin, stands the little church of Opstryn.

At Hjelle, at the eastern head of the lake, a fine mountain-road has been engineered, and this traverses the wild and romantic Vide Valley.

The view looking backward from Vide "sæter" is magnificent. The narrow valley is hemmed in by mighty and steep mountain forms, and Stryns Lake, green with glacier water, is seen far below, while across the lake rises the huge mass of Skaalan and its glacier as a background to the picture.

Sincerity, honesty, and freedom from conventional cant are the chief national virtues of the Norwegians, although inquisitiveness is rampant in this district. The outer forms of politeness are often very little observed.

On arriving at an inn, the traveller is seldom welcomed by the host or hostess, and on his departure he may not even then see them. This omission may leave on the traveller the impression of neglect, {124} but it arises partly from the people's national unobtrusiveness and simplicity of character. Also, as the innkeepers are nearly all peasants, and their chief business is farming, this apparent neglect may thus be accounted for, and some allowance be made.

On meeting with a stranger, it is the custom with the natives of this district, and considered by them to be the height of politeness, to ask such questions as the following: "Stranger out on a journey, I suppose?" "And where do you come from, I wonder?" "And what kind of business do you follow?" "And what do they call you where you come from?" These rather inquisitive questions are always put very politely, and they are usually answered in the same vein.

This apparent inquisitiveness is really but a conventional manner with them, and means only an introduction to a friendly chat, in much the same way that some people in our own country begin a conversation by commenting on the weather.


Among themselves these primitive peasants salute each other on meeting with "Godt mod" ("Keep in good courage," or "good heart"); and if a neighbour should be at work; "Gud velsigne arbeidet" ("God bless your work"), or, on coming into a room where the family are at their meal, the salutation is, "Gud velsigne maden," or "signe maden" ("God bless your food").

Many of the peasants in this district, especially the older ones, wear to this day quite a picturesque costume. It differs in some respects from the dress of those in other districts. The men wear knee-breeches of a coarse grey cloth ("vadmel") and white, thick stockings, a red coat with a very high collar, and a tall, stiff felt hat.

The women wear a close-fitting red or green vest or bodice, elaborately trimmed with silver braid back and front, and white sleeves. Those who are married wear a tall cloth cap, generally black, and somewhat resembling in shape an elongated fireman's helmet.


The girls usually wear on the head a coloured handkerchief. In former times they wore long skirts from earliest childhood, but latterly, much to the disgust of elder dames, short skirts have come into fashion.

In this inner district of Nord Fjord are three very beautiful lakes—Stryns Vand, which I have just referred to, Loen Vand, and Olden Vand. All three are situated in the heart of scenery of the grandest character. The mountains around are higher than any we have yet seen, and glaciers and waterfalls are here more numerous. The valleys are deep and narrow, and farmsteads are few and far between; often some five or six miles of rocky land divides them from each other.

Some of these ancient homesteads nestle among mighty boulders which have detached themselves ages ago from precipitous crags above.

In spring and autumn, after heavy rains, these farms are still farther isolated. {127} The rocky streams are then swollen into foaming torrents, and the footpaths are destroyed, or of very little use, and to pay a visit to a neighbour one must either creep under a waterfall or climb up the steep mountain flank some thousand feet before being able to cross over the impetuous stream.

As we reach the head of a valley we come to those death-still places which have no houses, no road, and no name—desolate wildernesses where huge mountains embrace each other in glacier and snow-field.

These majestic mountains raise their peaks some 6,500 feet into the heavens, and they completely enclose the three enchanting lakes which form the crowning beauty of this district.

The bases of the mountains are clothed with splendid birch-woods, and in the valleys near the water grow roses and other flowers—a rich and abundant flora, which contrasts beautifully with the sombre grandeur of the surrounding {128} scenery. Surpassing the famous Alpine lakes in majesty, these of Norway can also vie with them in charm.

Loen Vand may be considered quite the most characteristic and imposing of these lakes. Glaciers descend from all the mountains around, the magnificent Kjendalsbræ being perhaps most conspicuous. So near to the edge of the precipice do these glaciers creep that they almost appear to overhang the lake.

In several places it is nothing unusual to see enormous masses of ice pushed over the edge of the cliff, and to hear them fall with a metallic rattle down the precipitous rocks, leaving in their wake clouds of finely-powdered snow.

Profound and impressive is this sublime nature. Everything is on such a grand scale that we feel as pigmies in the midst of it as we row on the deep lake, whose still surface reflects as in a mirror every detail of the majestic scenery. Crags, trees, and farmsteads, even sheep and cattle browsing on patches of {129} greensward—all repeat their images in reversed replica on the quiet bosom of the water.

In the hot days of early summer and in this clear and rarefied atmosphere this is a most enchanting sight, and one whose treasured memories shall live for aye.

Loen Vand and glacier, Nord Fjord
Loen Vand and glacier, Nord Fjord

We now retrace our steps and return to join the native fjord steamer, and here we see in process of embarking quite a lively and interesting cargo. Already the little steamer appears to be full. We observe that sheep and cattle are put into improvised pens on deck. On the crowded pier we see that yet more sheep, lambs, and cattle are to be taken on board. Other pens of wooden hurdles and anything available are hurriedly made, and as the hold of the vessel is full already, places are also found for the animals in the passage near the engine-room. Now arrive a number of goats and kids, some of the latter being carried in the arms of bright-faced peasant girls, who now stand on the pier to await the time when their struggling burden can be placed {130} somewhere on the crowded steamer. Several bony cows and calves are now unceremoniously lowered down on to the deck by the noisy crane, each one separately in a sling. These last comers are now fastened to the rails along the ship's side. The lamb-pen is now tenderly covered with sackcloth as a protection from the cool night air by the red-faced, good-natured steersman before the steamer starts.

These domestic animals are being transferred from the home farms to their respective "sæters," which lie in other parts of the district. There the cattle wax fat on the rich grazing of the high land during the summer months.

As we sail near the shore we may observe in certain places that a peculiar elevated staging on tall, slender legs overhangs the water. It is usually fastened to some jutting rock.

This contrivance is used by the peasants as a look-out for the purpose of fishing for salmon. It is called a "laxeverp." In {131} the box-like framework at the top is placed a seat, and from this point of vantage the fisherman is able to see down into the deep clear water and ascertain if there are any salmon in the nets below. These nets he regulates by lines held in his hand, the ends of which are attached to the mouths of the salmon nets.

There are usually two men out a-fishing. One is seated on the "laxeverp," the other goes out in a boat to any place indicated by his companion, draws in that part of the net, and secures and kills his fish. At one of these fjord "laxeverps" may be killed in the course of a day from twenty to thirty salmon in the height of the season.

Falejde, beautifully situated on the north side of the fjord—we are still in Nord Fjord—is a well-known centre for a variety of excursions. Visnæs, however, has taken from Falejde in recent years a great deal of the tourist traffic, being a more convenient starting-place for the lakes we have just spoken of, also for the {132} new overland route to the Geiranger district via Vide Valley. Personally, I prefer the older route from Falejde and via Grodaas, down the magnificent Nordangsdal to Öie, on the Hjörund Fjord, in the district of Söndmöre.

Falejde to Öie

About the end of the month of May, and beneath cloudless skies—there had been no rain to speak of for the past three weeks—I left Falejde to take this charming drive by "kariol" and sure-footed pony.

After a lingering farewell glance at the beautiful fjord view, as seen from the little inn here, we commenced our journey. In the still and warm morning air one could hear the drowsy hum of bees and the clear notes of a song-bird. Sheep and cattle browsed on the hilly slopes, their bells tinkling as they grazed on grass still wet with dew.

Uphill we went, through odoriferous pine-woods, the roadside being fringed by an abundance of wild-strawberry in full flower, and among moss-grown boulders {133} cranberry and whinberry bushes showed themselves in great profusion. Here and there are large patches of bell-heather and ling, which still retain, though now faded, their last year's bloom.

A snow-plough by the roadside has not yet been removed, showing how near we are to the past season, and how closely connected with it is this warm sunny day of May. The pine forest we are still passing through becomes denser now, and the morning light is as twilight in this thick glade.

Our attention is suddenly drawn to a lively squirrel, who swings rapidly from branch to branch; a pine marten is in full pursuit. In the excitement of the chase they are both quite unobservant of passers-by, and across the trees which overhang the road they spring, and it is not long before the sound from the forest depths of the thin piping squeak of the hunted squirrel tells of tragedy.

Between the tall trunks of the pine-trees we obtain occasional peeps of blue fjord {134} and snow-topped mountain forms as we drive along.

Having now crossed the watershed, we gradually descend, and patches of cultivated land begin to appear on the wide valley sides. Passing several farms ("gaard") we now see below us an extensive lake, Hornindalsvand, along whose rocky shore we drive; and presently we arrive at Grodaas, the little inn and hamlet being prettily situated in a tree-fringed bay on the lake's eastern margin. Surrounding this broad and beautiful lake are high mountains of picturesque form.

Large farmsteads are here, and well-cultivated land, and an air of prosperity pervades the place. Continuing our drive along the wide valley, Hornindal, we gradually ascend through more open country. The snow-clad mountain-tops are nearer to us now, and on both sides their craggy forms appear in many a quaint-shaped peak. Farther on, near "Gaard" Kjelstadli, we are at a height of about 1,400 feet above sea-level. That apparently {135} inaccessible pinnacle in front of us is Horndalsrokken ("rokken")—the distaff. Here we approach a magnificent mountain region, and, descending the steep hilly road to where it divides at "Gaard" Tryggestad—one branch going to Hellesylt—we enter that deep and gloomy valley, the Nordangsdal. This narrow gorge-like valley is closely hemmed in by high, majestic, and sharp-peaked mountains. Below "Gaard" Fibelstad and Hougen, as we descend, this huge chasm-like valley contracts and becomes so narrow that there is barely room in some places for the rocky torrent and the road between the perpendicular mountain buttresses.

We now drive alongside five very narrow lakes in succession; these completely fill up the bottom of the gorge. At several places on the road we are compelled to dismount, and walk over huge, deep snow-patches. These are the remains of winter avalanches which have not yet melted; they stretch across the road, and form natural bridges of hard snow over the torrent which gurgles {136} below. Emerging from this deep and terrible gorge, we gradually descend, passing on the way the sequestered hamlet of Skylstad.

So enclosed is this little group of turf-roofed houses by high mountains that the inhabitants do not feel the warm sun's rays during the greater part of the year.

The Hjörund Fjord

From this place, by easy road, we drive along the widening valley, and, passing several poor farms, we at length arrive at Öie, a small hamlet picturesquely situated by the shores of the narrow Norangs Fjord, an arm of the grand Hjörund Fjord. By the Norwegians themselves this is thought to be the grandest of all their fjords. It is not easy to decide, however, as each one of them has its own particular characteristics.

Hjörlund Fjord, Öie
Hjörlund Fjord, Öie

The mountains around here attain a height of some 5,000 to 6,000 feet. Their tops are peaked and pinnacled; some even appear to lean forward, as though ready to spring out across the fjord or valley. Decorative patches of snow and glacier {137} rest between their huge flanks, and woods of hardy birch and alder clothe their bases.

Majestic scenery is this, of the sharp peak and pinnacle type, and of its kind no grander is there in the whole of Norway.

                "The mountains near
Stand up in fixed and monumental gaze,
As pyramids precipitous and bold."[1]

[1] G. Gilfillan.




The Norwegian Established Church ("den Norske Statskirke") owes its present constitution to the Reformation, and about the middle of the sixteenth century it became by legislation the public religion of the State. It is known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The three creeds which together form its symbolum are the Apostolic, Athanasian, and Nicene-Constantinople. In addition to these, there are accepted the Augsburg Confession and Luther's Shorter Catechism.

The kingdom of Norway is divided for ecclesiastical purposes into six bishoprics, and each of these dioceses is subdivided {140} into deaneries, of which there are eighty-three. Out of the deaneries are formed the separate livings ("præstegjeld"). These number at the present time 480. The livings, especially in country places, include one or more sub-parishes, each with its own church or chapel-of-ease.

Ecclesiastical matters

According to the Norwegian law, the King must always belong to the Established Church, and he possesses the supreme jurisdiction in ecclesiastical affairs. The King appoints the Bishops, and his sanction must be obtained to the preferment of the rest of the clergy.

The Ecclesiastical Department of the State has the administration of considerable sums of money that have been realized by the sale of property which belonged to the priests and monasteries in Roman Catholic times. This money is placed to a fund which is used for the benefit of the Lutheran clergy and as pensions for their widows, also for the advancement of education.

The Bishops are remunerated by the {141} State, chiefly from the funds which were appropriated by the Government at the time of the Reformation.

The country clergy have the free use of the glebes which belong to the State, and among other sources of income to the livings are the parsons' tithes and sundry rent charges on landed proprietors in the parish.

In the towns the tithes have largely been commuted by the municipality, and are now paid to the clergy by the community in the form of rates, their stipends being further augmented by voluntary contributions and by certain grants from the Government.

According to a law passed in 1897, all the churches and churchyards in Norway, with a few exceptions, will in a short time become the property of their respective congregations. For this purpose a church fund is now in process of formation, being raised by the commutation of all church tithes, and by the addition of certain royal tithes of pre-Reformation origin. The {142} proceeds of this fund will be devoted to the maintenance of, and the repairs to, the churches, the deficit to be made up by the parish or municipality.

Among the many religious efforts which are liberally supported may be mentioned the Norwegian Missionary Society, which was founded in 1842: Zululand, Natal, and Madagascar are its fields of labour; the Santhal Mission in India; and the Norwegian Lutheran China Mission. There are also home missions and local religious associations for the relief of the poor and the care of the sick. In addition to these, there is a mission to the Jews.

Great was the reluctance of the Norwegian people to receive the reformed faith, which they were compelled by law to do in the middle of the sixteenth century; but they have since become loyally and deeply attached to it, and there are probably few countries in Europe where the ministers of religion have a greater influence in the administration {143} of the affairs of the country and the education of the people than in Norway. It has been the nation's endeavour for the last century to develop and improve the education of her children.

Public instruction

An effort was made by royal ordinance as early as 1739 to introduce into the country a system of general school attendance, and to arrange for the establishment of a permanent school in each parish. At that time the clergy were the sole leaders in school matters, each in his own parish, and it is owing in a great measure to them that, in the face of the numerous difficulties of all kinds which had to be overcome, the school has made continual progress. Its development has always been in a democratic direction. From a parish school for the poor, it has become a national school, where a general education is provided which is accessible to all members of society.

Free and compulsory education obtains in Norway. It consists of a seven years' course. In the country districts it is {144} adapted for children between the ages of eight and fifteen, and in the towns for those between seven and fourteen. The reason why Norwegian children begin their education so late in the country parishes may no doubt be attributed to the fact that they have in most cases to travel great distances in order to attend school.

The Department for Ecclesiastical Matters and Public Instruction is the highest school authority in the country. Next follow the School Directors, one for each of the six dioceses; these superintend the primary schools. The Bishop and Dean also take an active part in the superintendence, and the priest in supervising the instruction in religious knowledge.

There are six public colleges, one to each diocese, for the training of school-masters and governesses—as school-mistresses are called—for the primary schools, and in these colleges they receive free tuition. The college course extends {145} to three years; it was formerly a two years' course.

There are also four private colleges, in which a considerable number of free students are admitted and are paid for by Government grant.

The Government votes an annual sum amounting to 10,000 kroner (£555) towards travelling scholarships for teachers in primary schools. Several municipalities also devote sums of money annually for the same purpose.

County schools ("amtsskoler"), one to each county, are instituted as continuation schools, and the syllabus is practically the same as that which obtains in the primary schools, but the aim is a higher one. The girls are instructed in needlework and house management, and the boys in wood sloyd and technical drawing. In some of these schools instruction is also given in gardening, agricultural subjects, and the English language. In aid of these schools the State grants three-fourths of the total amount {146} voted by the county authorities for up-keep.

Direct Government grants are also made to a few People's High Schools for advanced education. There are in Norway at the present time thirty-six working-men's colleges, ten of these being situated in country districts. The first was erected in Christiania in 1885.

The instruction at these colleges is given in the evenings in the form of lectures on a variety of subjects. The lecturers are chosen from among scientific men, schoolmasters, doctors, military men, etc. The Government grant to the working-men's colleges is equal to one-half of that which is contributed by the municipalities.

In addition to the foregoing there are also established a number of Government grammar-schools ("latinskoler") and higher grade schools, known as "gymnasia," for those who wish to lay the foundation for a continued higher education and as a preparation for the University. {147} The principals ("rektorer") of these schools, as well as the other permanent assistant-masters, are Government officers, and receive their appointments from the King.

Norway has only one University, the Royal Frederik University in Christiania, founded in 1811. The number of professors at the present time is sixty-five; they are appointed by the King.

The leaving examination at a "gymnasium" ("examen artium") entitles the successful candidate to enter his name as a student at the University. The total number of students there is now about 1,400, and they receive free instruction. Small fees are, however, required for permission to enter for the various examinations. The expenses of the University are chiefly defrayed by the Government.

Connected with the University are various laboratories, scientific institutions, and collections, among them being the National Library, the Botanical Gardens, the Historical Museum, the Astronomical {148} Observatory, and the Meteorological Institute. Theological students receive practical training at a college affiliated to the University.




Leaving now the magnificent Hjörund Fjord, we take the road from Öie to Hellesylt. Ascending the gorge of Nordangsdal, we again arrive at "Gaard" Tryggestad, at which place the road branches off for Hellesylt, and we drive down a steep, well-wooded valley along the banks of a mountain torrent. The river thunders down a rugged chasm, at times lost to sight in the mysterious depths of the gloomy, cavernous gorge; then, emerging into the open and madly plunging over huge boulders, it sends its spray over us in clouds as we pass.

The steep road descends through hanging woods of tall pine and graceful birch, {150} and at a clearing in the forest a small farm, surrounded by its own green fields, is passed, and we now obtain a glimpse of the village of Hellesylt, reposing down by the margin of the bright fjord of Sunelv. Picturesquely perched on elevated ground above the red-tiled house-tops stands the church.

Deep in a valley to our right repose the remains of a huge avalanche of snow, surrounded by trees, with whose fresh, green foliage the white snow presents the striking contrast of winter and summer side by side. The time of cherry-blossom is almost over, but there is a wealth of apple and pear blossom in the many orchards around sunny Hellesylt.

Öie to Helleslyt

Having had so many hours in the "kariol," it is refreshing to sit by the margin of a fjord again; to breathe in quietude the incense-laden air, and to listen to the faint murmur of some distant waterfall; to watch the rays of the westering sun stream from behind the nearer mountain in an intense amber {151} glow, deeping gradually into rose, and illuminating the snow-topped peaks across the fjord yonder in a most enchanting way.

The nearer mountains are in purple shadow. In one short hour the light on each ruddy top dies away, and their colour is slowly transformed to that of cold, silvery blue as they are one by one deserted by the sun's rays. All the peaks are now of blue, purple, and silver—cool and refreshing to look upon. Hardly has the last mountain taken on his silvery hue when a light zephyr breathes softly across the sleeping waters of the fjord in a steely glitter. But what is this weird light that is stealing over all Nature in softest and most delicate blush when we expected the cool twilight? It is the afterglow. An ethereal rosy golden light slowly intensifies on the mountains. It is more diffused than the actual direct glow from the setting sun, and not nearly so brilliant; but a dreamy glow, mysterious and bewitchingly weird in the intense stillness.


A slight breeze disturbs the surface of the water, and the fjord now ripples with a thousand hues from sunset sky and rosy-tinted mountains. It is now fast approaching the hour of midnight. Almost already the first faint signs of dawn appear in the north, where a solitary star is but barely discernible in the pale amber sky; and as we gaze on such a scene with reverent and grateful hearts, we offer up a pæan of praise, and thankfully store away in the treasure-house of our memory the recollection of a perfect night of June spent amid such romantic surroundings.

The Geiranger Fjord

In the character of the scenery of Geiranger in Söndmöre we have a blending of the Alpine splendour of Nordland, with the wildness of Jötunheim, the beauty of Hardanger, and the grandeur of Sogn. Whether we approach this fjord from the land side and drive down the splendidly engineered road in zigzag windings to the village of Meraak, or sail in from the main Stor Fjord, we obtain an equally vivid {153} impression of Geiranger's beauty and grandeur.

Here the scenery of the Söndmöre district maybe said to attain its most perfect expression. Sogn has higher mountains, but Söndmöre, with its bold, sharp peaks, makes quite as overpowering an impression on the mind of the traveller, attracting and captivating him with its enchanting power.

Geiranger Fjord
Geiranger Fjord

Geiranger Fjord and district are noted for beautiful waterfalls, and from the hamlet of Meraak, if we row for a couple of hours, we can visit the Seven Sisters Waterfall—its proper name, however, is Knivsflaafos—a bevy of falls who plunge gaily side by side down a high, precipitous cliff into the fjord. Their number varies at different times according to the state of the weather, and we are not always able to count the mystic seven. Other sisters appear after heavy rain, and thus increase the family to eight or nine; and in hot weather four only are to be seen.


These falls, which descend from a great height almost without touching the cliff, seem to shoot downwards like rockets in myriads of large and small douches of water—these, as they descend, pierce through the fine spray which they create, and thus cause a very pretty effect, especially when the sun's rays cause rainbow hues to float on the delicate gauze of spray.

Another beautiful waterfall near here is known as "Brude Slur" (Bridal Veil). This "fos" descends almost as a veil from the sky-line of the high cliff, and spreads its streamers over the face of the dark rock. In stormy weather I have seen this waterfall lifted bodily by the wind and carried upwards into space, to descend like rain at some distance.

On the opposite side of the fjord, high up on the precipitous cliffs and in a romantic position, is situated an old farmstead, "Gaard" Skaggeflaa by name, and from the rugged crags in close proximity to it is a picturesque waterfall, Gjeitfos (Goat's Fall). {155} The only means of access to this lonely farm is by a dizzy goats' track, which threads its devious way upwards from the shore of the fjord across the breast of the steep cliff. In one place the track is completely blocked by an overhanging rock. This is scaled by means of a ladder.

Some years ago there lived a farmer here who refused to pay his share of the local taxes. The wily farmer would never visit the village shops for provisions or other necessaries until he had first made quite sure that the "lensmand" (sheriff's officer) was not in the neighbourhood; neither would he fish on the fjord, only at a place just beneath the cliffs on the top of which his farm lay.

On one occasion the "lensmand" came close upon the delinquent unawares. He followed him up the difficult goats' track, climbing and slipping until he came to the ladder. Quickly scaling the rock, the tricky farmer pulled up the ladder after him, and so left the breathless and angry {156} "lensmand" to find his way down again, for he was quite unable to proceed farther.

Near to the entrance of Geiranger Fjord, and among a number of large boulders which lie at the foot of the steep cliffs of Nökkeneb (Nyxies' Peak) stands an ancient "gaard," called Sultevik.

At this farm an ancient outbuilding of logs, called a "rogestue," is still used as in primitive times. The exterior is unpretentious in appearance, but the interior is quite interesting. The hut is built of thick balks of timber, and the turf-covered roof is supported by heavy beams, which are dark with the smoke of centuries. On the hard earthen floor, rudely built of stones, stands an elevated hearth-fire, the smoke from which escapes through a square hole in the roof. Over the fire hangs an ancient iron "gryte" (cauldron), suspended from a movable wooden pole. On one side of the room stands a massive bench-like table, on the top of which was placed a large trough of wood, which was in use for kneading dough. It must have {157} been used for centuries, to judge from its appearance. On the outside it was much worn and stained by age, while on the inside appeared many different stratifications of meal and flour dough, which also pointed to the fact of its being used for untold years.

Two robust peasant girls were busy together making potato-cakes, placing them for baking on a slab of slate which rested on stones over the peat fire. Through the smoke I could just see on a shelf a few old carved and painted wooden articles of domestic use—butter-holders, bowls, tankards, and dishes—and these were in daily use.

A quaint iron lamp ("kole") is suspended from a beam in the ceiling, and this is the oldest form of lamp now to be found in the country. In it fish-oil ("trail") is burned, and a piece of tow hangs as a wick from the lip of the open heart-shaped saucer which contains the oil. This lamp will not give a brilliant light by any means, but these simple {158} peasants put up with it for the good and sufficient reason that they have nothing better.

This majestic fjord of Geiranger is noted for great avalanches of snow, sometimes of rocks, which in the winter and early spring descend from the steep mountains around.

Near Madvik Farm, at the entrance to the fjord, an unusually severe avalanche of stones and snow occurred a few years ago, the concussion from which was felt for several miles around, and on the water huge waves were formed, which swept with great velocity into the neighbouring branch fjords, and even across to Hellesylt, causing no little damage to property on the shore.

Söholt to Romsdal

I see from my diary that the fjord steamer left Meraak in Geiranger at the unearthly hour of 2 a.m., and that in six hours I arrived at Söholt on a fragrant morning in June.

At this place I hired a "kariol" and boy for the drive to Vestnes. In crossing the {159} extensive moorland which forms the watershed, we met a picturesque group of farmers with their wives and children, and the cattle, sheep, and goats. They were on their way to the "sæter" farms, there to stay for the summer months. A couple of rustic carts were drawn along by sturdy cream-coloured ponies, and in the carts the youngest children sat quite comfortably among the various domestic goods and chattels which were for use up at the "sæter."

Meraak, Geiranger Fjord
Meraak, Geiranger Fjord

Along the side of the road, which here crossed the bleak moorland plateau, tall standing stakes were placed at intervals in order to guide the traveller in winter-time when the road lies buried underneath the deep snow.

Vestnes is not an attractive place. From here the town of Molde can just be seen across the wide fjord, but it is too far distant for the view to be at all interesting.

Showers and sunshine alternating made the short steamer voyage from Vestnes to {160} Aandalsnæs attractive, for the mountains of many peaks which surround the far-famed Romsdal were in view most of the time. Cloud shadows chased each other among their rugged forms and over the great patches of unmelted snow which lay on their summits.

The Romsdal

The village of Aandalsnæs, or Næs, owes the cause of its existence entirely to the magnificent scenery amid which it is situated. Veblungsnæs is the older port of call for the fjord steamers, but Næs, being more conveniently placed for travellers visiting the Romsdal, it has rapidly grown into favour in late years. The river Rauma, noted for its splendid salmon-fishing, separates the two villages.

Seen from Næs, also, the panorama of majestic mountains is much grander than from Veblungsnæs. On a fine summer's evening the rocks on the sharp peaks of Romsdalshorn and Troldtinderne (witch pinnacles) are all crimson and purple with the sunset, and bright tongues of fiery cloud are often seen burning and quivering {161} about them; and the river, brighter than all, flows silently down the broad valley in a glittering sheet of gold. Long level lines of dewy mist lie stretched along the valley, almost hiding the mountain bases by their filmy vapour.

Sometimes one may hear the peasant girls calling the cattle down from the hills by singing the "fjeldviser"—musical ditties whose notes are similar to those with which Jenny Lind once charmed great audiences in many lands.

The Romsdal, down which flows the river Rauma, is one of the grandest valleys in the whole of Norway. At Næs the valley is wide, and luxuriant green pastures and beautiful trees enliven the landscape.

Romsdalshorn, whose peaked top rises to over 5,000 feet, stands conspicuously at the entrance to the valley, and near to it on the left tower the still more lofty pinnacles of Vengetinderne, while on the right are the strikingly picturesque Trolltinderne (witch pinnacles), from whose {162} rugged sides great avalanches of snow and rocks are precipitated in winter. Part of the serrated ridge is known as "Brudefölge," or Bridal Train.

Farther up, and beyond Horgheim, the valley becomes narrower and more ravine-like; and here the river flows with greater impetuosity, and threads its way through a chaos of enormous blocks of rock, the result of some tremendous landslip.

The mountains of Romsdal
The mountains of Romsdal

At Flatmark (Flat Field) the valley becomes broader again, and the mountain scenery around is extremely grand and impressive.

Between here and Ormheim several fine waterfalls are precipitated from rocks some 2,000 feet in height, the chief among these falls being the Vermafos, which assumes imposing dimensions after rain or during the melting of the snow in early summer.

The road now ascends the once-dreaded Bjorneklev (Bears' Cliff) in numerous windings, and at Stuefloten attains the height of over 2,000 feet above fjord-level. {163} At this place ends the Romsdal, one of the most widely celebrated routes in Norway.

The river Rauma is about thirty-seven miles long from its source at the Lake Lesjeskogen to the Romsdals Fjord, and it is counted among the best salmon rivers in the country.


Salmon-fishing in the rivers is carried on with the rod as a sport, and large sums of money are paid annually by sportsmen for the renting of rivers. Seine nets are also largely used by fishermen. These nets are placed at the mouths of the rivers, and in this way large hauls of fish are often made.

Salmon is fished all along the coast from the beginning of May to the end of August, and, since the practice of bag-netting was introduced some fifty years ago, the proceeds have increased enormously. Most of the fish is exported, a large quantity going to England.

The fishing industry may be considered the most ancient and important means of {164} livelihood of the Norwegian people. More than a thousand years ago, according to the old sagas, "splendid painted ships, with sails of several colours," sailed with fish from Norway to England; and this great industry is still one of the most important in the land, especially the sea fisheries, which obtain their peculiar value from the natural conditions and geographical features of an exceedingly long coast-line, with its deep inlets and numerous islands.

The great sea-fisheries

Of the great sea-fisheries, that of cod-fishing is by far the most profitable, and in its pursuit the greatest number of men are employed. It is carried on all along the coast, but most extensively in the northern part of the country. At the fishing stations in the Lofoten Islands alone some 40,000 men are employed during the first three months of the year.

Farther south, and especially in the wide fjords of the Romsdal County, sea-cod fishing has always been carried on {165} more extensively than at most other points along the coast.

Cod vary in weight from 9 to 20 pounds, but they have been taken weighing as much as 90 pounds. Codfish is prepared, as a rule, either as "klipfisk" (salted and rock-dried fish), or as "törfisk" (dried stock-fish). The most important product, however, is "klipfisk." It is cleaned and salted at the fishing stations, and then sent away to convenient drying-places, where the fish is laid out on the flat rocks ("klipper") to dry, or on the shingly shore, where such is found.

Romsdal Fjord, from Næs
Romsdal Fjord, from Næs

It is an attractive and interesting sight to see the native women at work on the broad pebbly strand, their many-coloured garments fluttering in the breeze as they turn over the thousands of fish to dry in the sun. When sufficiently dry the fish is piled into circular stacks about 4 feet high; a flat wooden cover is then placed on the top, and this is held down by boulders of stone to protect it from the force of the wind. These wooden caps are usually {166} painted a bright Indian red, and in appearance form a lively contrast to the deep blue water of the breezy fjord and the pale pebbles on the sunny strand. Many thousands of tons of "klipfisk" are exported annually, chiefly to Spain.

The preparation of "törfisk" is more simple than that of salted cod. The fish in this case, when cleaned, are usually hung up by the tail to dry in pairs, on large wooden frames or scaffolds called "hjeller."

Next to the cod the herring fisheries are the most important in the country. These fisheries vary, however, very considerably, and the time during which the fish visit the coast is often of very short duration. The herring shoals come in twice a year, once in winter and once in summer or autumn; and it sometimes happens that quite suddenly, and as if by some stroke of magic, the sea becomes brimful of herring, and then after a short time it is just as suddenly empty again. At such harvest-times the fishermen are very hard at work both day and night, and have {167} barely opportunity to take their food or rest; and as the sea is often rough, and the weather wet and stormy, their calling is at these times fraught with many dangers. As compensation, however, they have their long intervals of rest—perhaps too many of them. The farmer-fisherman of the fjords is in many respects better off, as he can find other employment if his daily fishing fails for a time, especially in the spring and summer months, when farm work claims his attention and crops have to be harvested and housed.

The summer day is of long duration in Norway. During the light nights Nature dreams, day meets day, and away up in the north the sun illumines the heavens by night as well as by day. Even in the southernmost parts of the country the setting sun barely sinks below the horizon from the end of April to the beginning of August, consequently bright twilight prevails during the whole of that period; but we must travel farther north and reach the polar circle before we see {168} the sun shining all through the summer night.

At Bodö the sun does not set from the beginning of June to the first week in July; and at North Cape the midnight sun is visible from May 12 to July 29, and its orb presents from that place a most weird and impressive sight.

In winter, on the other hand, twilight takes the place of daylight in these high latitudes, and at North Cape the sun is not seen from the middle of November to the end of January.

Farther south, however, at Throndhjem, the sun rises at 10 a.m., and sets at 2.30 p.m., on the shortest days of winter; and at Bergen there are nearly six hours of daylight at that time of the year.

Norway in winter is not quite so dreadful a place as most people would imagine. After the first heavy fall of snow the days become bright and clear, and blue skies prevail, often for several weeks in succession, especially in districts which lie at some distance inland from {169} the coast, or near the heads of the larger fjords. The air is here fresh and bracing, and the five hours of sunshine during even the shortest days make walking, sleighing, and ski-running attractive exercises. On the darkest nights of mid-winter the sky is palpitant with the luminous northern lights—the aurora borealis—which stream up from behind the dark mountains in prismatic hues of great brilliance; and when the full moon shines on the sparkling fjord and on the deep, crisp snow, it is exhilarating to take a long sleigh drive over the frosty roads by the margin of the fjord, to sup at a friend's house on an evening at Yuletide.

Winter sports

The winter sports of Norway are celebrated far and wide, and they bid fair to become as attractive to pleasure votaries of snow and ice as are those of the Engadine. These sports are held in the month of February each year, at Holmenkollen, near Christiania, and at Throndhjem.

Among the essentially national sports {170} held at fixed times at these centres may be mentioned that of ski-ing, or, properly, "skilöbning" (leaping on snowshoes). This is the most popular of all their sports, and it is the means of attracting many thousands of people, including numerous foreigners, chiefly English and German.

The use of the ski (pronounced "shee") as an easy means of locomotion is, in the opinion of historians, of very ancient origin, and came to Norway with the Lapps long before the dawn of the Christian era; and from that remote time to the present the ski has been worn, chiefly by the peasants in mountainous districts, and is also very popular with the army. As a national sport it has had a great revival in recent years, and almost every boy and girl in the country now possess "skier."

Wild animals and game

Another form of sport for which Norway is celebrated is that of the hunting and shooting of wild animals and game, and in this respect it is an ideal country {171} for sportsmen. In the great forests that cover rather more than one-fifth of its entire area game of all kinds is to be found.

Among beasts of prey the bear and wolf are still common in the remoter parts of the country; also the lynx and glutton, although the latter is fast becoming extinct. The Government offers a reward for killing any of these animals, including the fox, of which there are large numbers.

The elk is now becoming rare, but there are large herds of reindeer in a wild state on the mountain plateaux, and the red deer is also found, though less frequently than in former times.


Of the wild fowl the capercailzie is the finest, and there are found everywhere "rype" (ptarmigan), and hazel and willow grouse. The latter are without comparison the most important game in the country.

The most valuable of the wild-fowl, however, is the eider-duck, on account of {172} its down. This bird is most abundant among the northern islands, although it is also found in large numbers at many places along the coast.

We have followed the principal fjords of the west country, from Hardanger northwards, and now we come to Molde. This bright little town is more beautifully situated than any other in the country. It lies sheltered and calm by the blue waters of the Molde Fjord, over whose broad expanse are seen, to the south and east, the magnificent Söndmöre range of mountains, with their many peaks and glaciers. On a calm summer's evening, when the setting sun lights up each peak and pinnacle with its golden glow, the scene from this place is one of enchanting loveliness:

"Ye mountains hoar of earthfast stone,
Where ancient Thor presides alone;
Ye fjords that smile in silver blue,
Each rock and isle, farewell to you."[1]

[1] Frithjof Saga.



  Aamdal, 104
  Aandalsnæs. See Næs
  Aardal, 109
  Æsir (heathen gods), 49
  Afterglow, the, 150
  Agriculture, 10
  Altar, heathen, 50
  Andoen, coal on, 104
  Animals, wild, 170
  Antiquarian Society of Christiania, the, 107
  Arendal iron-ore mines, 104
  Ari Frodi, the Skald, 48
  Art of the Viking Age, 29, 31
  Arts, industrial, 28, 31
  Arvedalsgrube, 103
  Asgaard, 49
  Astronomical Observatory, 148
  Atlöen, 14
  Aurlands Fjord, 57, 93
  Aurora Borealis, the, 169
  Avalanches, 86, 110, 158

  Bakke, 88
  Balder, the Beautiful, 49, 61
  "Balder's Baal," 60
  Balestrand, 67
  Balholm, 67
  Bear-hunting, 73, 171
  Belè, King, 68
  Bergen, 2, 23, 168
    -Christiania Railway, 94
    Museum, 30
    -Voss Railway, 24
  Bishoprics, the Norwegian, 139
  Boat-building, 13, 16
  Boats, ancient forms of, 15
  Bodö, 168
  Bohnslän, 14
  Bojumsbræ, 75
  Bondhusbræ, 41
  Borgund, "Stav-Kirke" at, 107
  Botanical Gardens, 147
  Bremanger land, 118
  Bronze Age, the, 114
  Brudeslurfos (Bridal Veil Falls), 154
  Buarbræ, 41

  Capercailzie, the, 171
  Ceremonies, pagan, 49
  Character, national, 123
  Cheese-making, 70
  China, mission to, 142
  Christiania-Bergen Railway, 94
    University, 147
  Christianity, introduction of, 47, 113
  Christmas Eve customs, 53, 56
  Church, the Lutheran, 139
    tithes, 141
  Churches, ancient ("Stav-Kirker"), 29, 51, 107, 113
  Climate, 4
  Coal on Andöen, 104
  Cod-fishing industry, the, 164
  Colleges, public and private, 144
    working men's, 146
  Copper-mining, 103
  Costumes, national, 5, 37, 125
  Creeds, Lutheran, 139
  Customs, primitive, 60, 124

  Dances, national, 62, 64, 89
  Dialects, native, 76, 84
  Dioceses, ecclesiastical, 139
  Dösen, 113
  Drink traffic, the, 19
  Drives by "kariol," 24, 132, 149, 158
  Drying fish, method of, 165
  Dyrdal, 80

  Eagles, golden, 91
  Ecclesiastical dioceses, 139
  "Eddas," the, 47
  Education, Government grants to, 143, 146
  Eide, 24
  Eiderduck, the, 171
  Eidfjord, 45
  Elk, the, 171
  Embroidery, native, 32
  English Church, an, 68
    language taught, 145
  Erlingsön, Magnus, 77
  Espelandsfos, 40
  Espelandsvand, 26

  Fairy tales, 52
  Falejde, 131
  Farming, 7
  Fibelstad Haugen, 135
  Fiddle, the Hardanger, 33
  Fimreite, sea fight off, 77
  Finland, 21
  Finn sorcery, 57
  Fires, St. John's, 60
  Fireside "sagas," 52
  Fishing industry, the, 16, 163
  Fjærland, 51, 73
  Fjord formation, 110
  Flaamsdal, 94
  Flatmark, 162
  Florö, 118
  Folgefond snowfield, the, 28, 40
  Folklore, 52
  Food of peasants, 17
  Forestry, 95
  Fox, the, 171
  Framnæs, 68
  Fresvikbræ, 95
  Freya, 49
  "Frithjof's Saga," 67, 172
  Frönningen, 95
  Fruit-growing, 11

  Galdhöpiggen, 111
  Game, 170
  Geiranger Fjord, 132, 149
  Glacial action, 40, 43
  Glittertind, 111
  Gloppen Fjord, 122
  Glutton, the, 171
  Goat-fanning, 26, 36
  Gods, pagan, 48
  Gothenburg System, the, 19
  Government Grants to Education, 143, 146
  Gravehalsen Tunnel, 94
  Graven Lake, 45
  Grazing, cattle, 69
  Greek Skipper's Tale, a, 55
  Greenland, 40
  Grodaas, 132
  Grouse-shooting, 171
  Gudbrandsdal, 32, 105
  Gudvangen, 85, 92

  Haakonshal, 3
  Haarfagre, King Harald, 47
  Hallingdal, 94
  "Halling" dance, the, 64, 89
  Hamar, 101
  Hanseatic League, the, 2, 100
  "Hārbarôsljòô," the "Edda," 17
  Hardanger costume, 5, 37
    fiddler, the, 64
    violin, the, 33
  Heathen superstition, 48
    temples, 49
  Hedemarken Amt, 98
  Helleristninger (Runes), 13
  Hellesylt, 135, 149, 158
  Herring-fishing industry, the, 16, 166
  High-seat pillars ("stolper"), 50
  Hjelle, 123
  Hjörund Fjord, 132, 136, 149
  Holmenkollen, 169
  Home farm, life on the, 7, 81
    industry, 30, 32
  Horgheim, 162
  Horndalsrokken, 135
  Hornelen, 118
  Hornindalsvand, 134
  Horticulture, 10
  House-building, 7, 81
  "Hove" (a heathen temple), 49
  "Huldr" on, 53
  Human sacrifices, 50
  Hunting, 170
  Husbandry, 10

  Ice Age, the, 40
  Iceland, 47
  Icelandic literature, 48, 61
  "Ildhus," an, 9
  Images, pagan, 50
  India, Santhal Mission to, 142
  Industrial Arts, 30, 32
  Ingeborg, 68
  Inquisitiveness, native, 124
  Instruction, Department of Public, 144
  Irish ornament, early, 29, 114
  Iron-ore mines, 103

  Jews, mission to the, 142
  Jondal, 13
  Joranger, 113
  Jordalsnuten, 90, 92
  Jostedalen, 112
  Jostedalsbræ, 75, 112
  Jötunheim, 45, 111

  Kaldafjeld, 92
  "Kariol," drives by, 24, 132, 149, 158
  Kaupanger, 77
  Kilefos, 92
  Kinservik, 28
  Kitchen, an ancient ("Rögestue"), 156
  Kjelstadli, 134
  Kjendalsbræ, 128
  "Klipfisk," 165
  Knivsflaafos, 153
  Kongensgrube, 103
  Kongsberg silver mines, 103
  Krokedalen, 113
  Kyrre, King Olaf, 2, 113

  Laatefos, 40
  Lærdalsbrön, 29, 105
  Lamps, ancient, 157
  Land-tenure, 12
  Laplander. See Finn
  "Laxeverp," a, 130
  Legendary lore, 52
  Leirvaag, 14
  "Lensmand," a (sheriff's officer), 155
  Lesjeskogen Lake, 163
  Lind, Jenny, 161
  Liquor laws, the, 19
  Literature, Icelandic, 48, 61
  Loen Vand, 126
  Lofoten Islands, the, 164
  "Lur," a, 72
  Lutheran Church, the, 6, 139
  Lynx, the, 171
  Lyster Fjord, 110

  Magnus Erlingsön, 77
  Margaret, Princess, Maid of Norway, 78
  Marriage customs, 64, 87
  Mauranger Fjord, 41
  Meraak, 152, 158
  Merman, a, 60
  Meteorological Institute, 148
  Midnight, sun at, 167
  Midsummer's Eve fires, 60
  Mining industry, the, 103
  Missionary societies, 142
  Mock wedding, a, 62
  Molde, 159, 172
  Mundal, 75
  Music, national, 33
  Muspelheim, 49
  Myrdal station, 94
  Mythology, pagan, 48

  Nærödal, 86
  Næröfjord, 80
  Næs, 160
  Natal and Madagascar, mission to, 142
  National character, 123
    collections, 147
    costume, 5, 37
    sports, 169
  Niffelheim, 49
  "Niflung Saga," the, 30
  Niord, 49
  Norangsfjord, 136
  Nordangsdal, 135, 149
  Nord Fjord, 117
  Nordland, 15, 152
  North Cape, the, 168
  Northern Lights, the, 169
  Norway in winter, 168
  Norwegian Established Church, the, 139
    missionary societies, 142
    Tourist Club, the, 111

  Odde, 27, 35, 41
  Odin, 48
  Öie, 132, 149
  Olaf Kyrre, King, 2, 78, 113
  Olav Trygvessön, King, 48, 118
  Olden vand, 126
  Ormheim, 162
  Oscar II., King, 75
  Östensö, 29

  Pagan mythology, 48
    temple, a, 49, 114
  Peasant proprietorship, 12
  Pilot, the Norwegian, 1
  Posting, 23, 132, 149, 158
  Ptarmigan, the, 171

  Quaint customs, 61, 63, 124
    form of greeting, a, 124
  Queer story of a Finn, 57

  Ragnvald, Earl, 114
  Rambæren Glacier, 95
  Rauma, the River, 160
  Reformation, the, 140
  Reindeer, 171
  Ringdals-fos, 35
    -vand, 37
  Rites, heathen sacrificial, 49
  River fisheries, 163
  Rock carvings, ancient, 13
  Roldal, 36, 41
  Romsdal, 160
  Röros copper mines, 103
  Rosendal, 13
  Rosenkranz, barony of, 13
  Runic inscriptions, 13, 107
  "Rype" (ptarmigan), 171

  Sacrificial rites, pagan, 49
  "Sæmundar Edda," the 17
  "Sæter" girl's tale, a, 54
    life at a, 68
  "Sagas," the, 47, 61
  Saint John's fires, 60
  Salmon-fishing, 130, 163
  "Samlag," the, 21
  Sandene, 122
  Sandven Lake, 45
  Santhal Mission to India, the, 142
  Scholarships, travelling 145
  Schools, Church, 143
    Continuation, 145
    Forestry, 101
    Grammar, 146
    "Gymnasia," 146
    National Primary 144
    People's High, 146
  Scientific institutions, 147
  Sea-fisheries, the, 163
    serpent, a, 60
  Seine nets, 163
  Seljestad, 41
  "Seven Sisters'" Waterfall, the, 153
  Ship-building, 13
  Ships, Viking, 14
  Silver mines, 103
  Sivlefos, 92
  Skaalan, 122
  "Ski" (a snow-shoe), 99, 170
  Skjæggedalsfos, 35
  Skjærvefos, 26
  Skjolden, 111
  Slinde, 77
  Snorre Sturlasön, the Skald, 48
  Snow-shoes ("ski"), 99, 170
  Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Monuments of Antiquity, 51
  Sogndal, 77
  Sogne Fjord, 67
  Söholt, 158
  Solvorn, 113
  Södmöre, 132, 152
  Sör Fjord, 27, 40
  Sorcery, Finn, 57
  Spinning wool, 8
  Spitsbergen, 40
  Sports, national, 169
  Stalheim, 90
  Standing stones, pre-historic, 114
  Staple food of peasants, 17
  State and religion, the, 139
    forests, 100
    mines, 103
  Stavanger, 2, 23
  Steamer, on board, 1, 78, 95, 118, 129
  Steganaase, 84, 93
  Stor Fjord, 152
  Storvatsgrube, 103
  Strynsvand, 122
  Stuefloten, 162
  Styve, 84
  Sulitjelma mines, 104
  Sultevik farm, 156
  Suuelvfjord, 150
  Sun-worship, 60
  Superstitious beliefs, 53
  Suphellebræ, 75
  Suphelledal, 73
  Sverre, King, 77
  Sweden, 21

  Tapestry-weaving, 31
  Tegner's "Frithjof Saga," 67, 172
  Telemarken, 32, 104
  Temples, pagan, 49
  Teröen, 41
  Textile fabrics, ancient, 31
  Theological college, 148
  Thor, the Thunderer, 48
  Throndhjem, 105, 168
  Timber-felling, 99
  Tithes, church, 141
  "Törfisk," 165
  Tourist Club, the Norwegian, 111
  Travelling scholarships, 145
  "Trolds," 49, 53, 59
  Troldtinderne, 160
  Tryggestad farm, 135, 149
  Trygvessön, King Olav, 48, 118
  Tyssedal, 35
  Tyssestrængenefos, 39

  Ullensvang, 27
  Ulvik, 24, 26
  Underdal, 57, 94
  Underworld, the, 54
  University, Royal Frederik, 147
  Urnæs, "Stav-Kirke" at, 113

  Vadheim, 67
  Valahei mines, the, 104
  Valdres, 105
  Valhalla, 49
  "Valkyries," 49
  Valleys, formation of, 43, 106
  Vasenden, 26
  Veblungsnæs, 160
  Vengetinderne, 161
  Vermafos, 162
  Vestnes, 158
  Vetle Fjord, 51
  Vettisfos, 110
  Vide Sæter, 123, 132
  Vik in Sogn, 29, 51
    "Stav-Kirke" at, 51
  Viking Age, the, 47, 48, 68
    ships, 14, 29
  Violin, the Hardanger, 33
  Visnæs, 122, 131
  "Volsung Saga," the, 30
  Vöringfos, 40
  Vossevangen, 24, 29, 85, 93, 101
    -Bergen Railway, 24

  Warships of the Vikings, 14, 29
  "Waterfalls, the highest, 35, 40, 110
  Weddings, customs at, 64, 87
  Wild animals, 170
  Winter in Norway, 85, 167
    sports, 169
  Witchcraft, 58
  Wolves, 171
  Wood-carving, 28, 30
    -cutting, 95
  Wool-spinning, 8
  Working-men's colleges, 146

  "Younger Edda," the, 48
  Yuletide customs, 61

  Zululand, mission to, 142







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