Google+ Followers

Saturday, January 14, 2012


     geiranger fjord

I've taken an interest in having a look at Scandanavian cultures, from Finland to Iceland, to Greenland. These are the descendants of the Vikings, or so I suppose. Getting some understanding of what it was about the Vikings, the Nordic wild men who wore helmets with bull horns sticking out of them. I've heard about the Vikings all my life, but knew little about them except they were from Norway, I supposed, and that was about it. Snow and ice everywhere all the time. I've been curious about what the fjords are like. Fjord is a word I remember from learning it in school, what an odd word it was, like when I learned island, that it was not is-land, but I-land. First grade. Substitute teacher that day. I thought it interesting that the coast of Norway had fjords all up and down it. Learned that Nazis used fjords for submarine hiding places during WW2. Norwegian skiers are consistently great skiers in international competitions. It's a country of mountains and snow. What else would you do there, besides ski and ice skate? One thing, you could work your ass off on a farm among rock cliffs a thousand feet high all your life in a dysfunctional extended family, fish and dream of America.

In the time of the Vikings there was no America. It was Turtle Island then, though the Vikings surely did not know it by that name. Danes settled Iceland, Greenland and probably over into Nova Scotia. I believe it's in Massachusetts that evidence of Viking visitors was found. Here, in our county, in Piney Creek, Phonecian markings have been found on a rock. Just because those people didn't have satellites and atomic bombs, it doesn't mean they were mindless. A dozen or more guys set out with oars and sails, an understanding of the night sky in relation to the earth. I see the fjords in movies and get a feeling for what they are and what they're like to look at from a boat in the water between rock mountains and cliffs both sides. People live in them. I look at the map of Norway and see fjords penetrating over a hundred miles inland, the western part of Norway stripped to bare rock by millions of years of wind from the North Sea up there where the Atlantic current makes the turn from going north along Greenland and Iceland and having to make the turn, like a U-turn in a river or creek, the water eats at the land until only the rock remains.

The satellite map of Norway looks like a large rake went over Norway, left to right. As long as the land masses of earth have been in the configuration they're in now, the constant wind and surges of storm, the wind full of water, most often ice, beating at the land until only rock cliffs are left, 500 ft to 1000 ft high, immoveable objects in relation to irresistable forces. The fjords are now veins running deep into the country, boats the form of transportation, boats for fishing, probably the way of life all up the coast to Trondheim and over the top of Sweden to Finland, where ice never thaws. Mountain people have the name world-round of being tough people for work and fighting. I'm beginning to have an idea that fjord people would make a good match for mountain people. What I saw in the film, I AM DINA, by Dane director, Ole Bornedal, made in a Norwegian fjord somewhere in the Bergen region, told me life in the fjord villages was intimate, extended family. Everybody hard working. Women had their hard work and the men had their hard work. The religion was absolute.

I've been paying attention to the architecture in Oslo I've seen in a few films, HAWAII, OSLO mostly filmed in the old parts of the city, and TROUBLED WATER in the newer parts of the city. I've gone to google maps and looked at Oslo from above. It looks like what I think of as bastions everywhere, buildings that look like their walls are 3 feet thick, like if a dump truck loaded with gravel was to hit one at 100mph, gravel would have gone everywhere, the cab accordioned to about a foot thick and not a dent in the side of the building. Might scratch the paint, but no more. Makes me wonder about the nature of the Norwegian people before Oslo became a city, in the time when they lived by fishing along the coast of fjords. Inland was mountains. It suggests to me that all along the history of people in that land now called Norway have lived in the face of the storms of the North Sea. I imagine the wind flying through those fjords for dozens of miles, icy wind raging through the wind tunnels. Surely, the people who settled along the fjords knew the best places to be out of the worst part of the wind. Generation after generation of people in direct relation to the North Sea where the landscape of Norway turns the ocean current all the way around. It seems natural the architecture in Oslo would have the power of presence of the Rock of Gibraltar. It looks like no force of nature could overwhelm the buildings of the old part of the city, like the cliffs along the coast.

If the Vikings consisted of people from Norwegian fjords and the Danes, who also face that North Sea, but without the mountains. These would be people whose lives had been lived in boats fishing. Taking off in a sailboat with a dozen or so others, they'd have no problem going anywhere they wanted. Fish were all around them anywhere they were. Take a horde of men from the fjords in boats with oars and sails, whose arms and legs are pure power, them going at it with axes and spears against Scottish and Irish, also people of the North Sea, shaped by the wind. I'd say it would be a formidable battle. It must have sent terror through a coastal village when the Vikings landed. Maybe. I don't know. Mind going off into imagination. The root of it is the people who came up in the Norwegian fjords would be formidable people. Much like mountain people in that what happens in the fjord stays in the fjord. And, like in the Appalachians, a similar culture all along the chain.

One thing I see, Norwegians are familiar with living in isolation. Though a day trip by boat to the next village couldn't be too bad. They live in a world of water and boats, fishing, familiar with silence and solitude. I see a certain comfort with silence in what films I've seen from Norway. The people are not chatterboxes. Surely, Oslo has its punk set trying to be like on tv. I see a Protestant stillness in them, not a stillness from within, but a stillness from culture, like in the American old-time Protestant culture. From earliest childhood, one is taught not to fidget, to sit still, no frivolity, only straight-faced sober demeanor. I think of imagining living among Norwegians. I'll never get there in this lifetime, so I can see these places in films made by some of the more interesting directors I've seen. Erik Poppe of Norway, Ole Bornedal of Denmark, Bille August of Denmark, and a string of satisfying film makers. Since I discovered not long ago the Swedish influence on my nature from the preacher in the church I grew up in, a Swede from Minnesota, I am seeing in films from Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo, that I feel very much at home among the Scandinavian people. I'm loving my tour of Scandinavia through some of the finest films I've ever seen.


No comments:

Post a Comment