Category Archives: History

200 years since the last war

200 years ago today was the last time a Nordic country was at war with another Nordic country. That calls for a celebration!

Foreningen Norden (an organization to promote Nordic cooperation) celebrated this event by posting this picture on their Facebook page:

200 years since Nordic countries were at war with one another

200 years since Nordic countries were at war with one another

Are you familiar with all the flags?

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Support the production of a new Viking movie!

Imagine you’re an ordinary 13 year old boy minding your own business, when Thor (the God of Thunder – not the Marvel character) suddenly appears in a stroke of lightning and takes you to Valhalla. And imagine that the Norse mythology is not just a mythology – it’s real!

This is the beginning of the book Erik Menneskesøn (Erik Son of Humans), written by Danish Lars-Henrik Olsen. Now there are plans for making this book into a movie – a movie I really want to see!

The reason why I want to see it is not because I liked the book (well, I did but I was not really in the target group for the book when I read it). I really want to see this movie because the director seems to take history seriously. And she seems to be thorough with the details, making this a (hopefully) historically correct movie – maybe the first historically correct Viking movie ever.

Check out how she sees the movie:

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Vikings had sick pay

Scandinavia is known for our generous benefits for people who get sick. You can take time off from work with full pay (you’ll need your doctor to sign some documents if you’re sick for extended periods of time) or almost full pay if you get sick. A common cold or cancer – you have a right to keep your job and to keep your monthly income.

One would think that this was something new. You know – crazy Scandinavians and our welfare state – but actually it’s not. I found an article that referred to the first mentioning of sick pay. Guess when that was? Around year 1000. Go Vikings! (no, not the football Vikings – the real ones).

King Magnus Lagabøte's (1238-80) law.

King Magnus Lagabøte’s (1238-80) law. Not the first law that addresses sick pay.

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Vikings – in Copenhagen, Denmark

I went to my birth town Copenhagen this weekend and the main purpose was to see the Viking exhibition at the National Museum. If you follow this blog, you probably already know that I`m fairly interested *cough* in Vikings and seeing this exhibition was high on my list of things I wanted to do.

And they didn`t forget that Vikings were women too!

And they didn`t forget that Vikings were women too!

Vikings who couldn`t afford swords, carried axes

Vikings who couldn`t afford swords, carried axes

These posters were everywhere in Copenhagen

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Hans Christian Andersen – the ugly duckling

On my current trip through Denmark I visited Odense – Denmark`s third largest city and also the birth town of Hans Christian Andersen. Or H.C. Andersen, as he is known as in Denmark.

Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen

You may not immediately know who Hans Christian Andersen is, but I`m sure it`ll ring a few bells if I mention The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Little Match Girl, The Princess on the Pea and The Emperor`s New Clothes. These are just a few of the huge amount of fairy tales Hans Christian Andersen wrote.

Here is a full list of all of Hans Christian Andersen`s fairly tales. 

Poor background

The city of Odense has made a museum for Hans Christian Andersen, using his childhood home as part of that museum. If you ever go to Odense, I can really recommend that you visit this museum. It tells the amazing tale of Hans Christian Andersen`s life and that life will take your breath away. The beginning of his life is sad like The Ugly Duckling but the in the end he was acknowledged like the swan who grew up in the duck`s nest.

Hans Christian Andersen`s childhood home in Odense, Denmark

Hans Christian Andersen`s childhood home in Odense, Denmark

 

Today Hans Christian Andersen`s childhood home looks cozy and charming but when he grew up there, his family was only one of five families residing in this house situated in the poor part of town – a part of town where 30 percent of all the children were born out of wedlock; a huge sin back then. The house had dirt floors and Hans Christian Andersen`s family had just one room in the house.

Hans Christian Andersen`s parents were married but his mother was an illegitimate child and she had a daughter out of wedlock when she married Hans Andersen, Hans Christian Andersen`s father. Hans Andersen was a poor shoemaker who gave up his trade to become a soldier. Unfortunately soldiering ruined his health and he died fairly young. Hans Christian Andersen`s mother was a washer woman, taking clothes from the rich people of Odense down to the stream to wash them. At some point her life became to harsh for her and she turned to alcohol.

Widow next door

Hans Christian Andersen`s life could have turned as ugly as the life of most of the children he grew up with if it hadn`t been for his neighbor, the widow Mrs. Bunkeflod. She was not a rich woman but she was learned and had been married to a priest and poet. Therefor she had a small library in her house and she invited the young Hans Christian into her home to read. He soon spent most of his days in her library, reading everything he could, and he was also invited into intellectual discussions with the widow and her sister-in-law.

Rich citizens of Odense saw Hans Christian`s talent and paid for his education which took him away from his childhood city, but he never forgot Mrs. Bunkeflod. His very first fairy tale was dedicated to this widow who was so valuable to his finding his way to becoming a famous fairy tale author.

Hans Christian Andersen`s house seen from the other direction

Ugly duckling

Hans Christian Andersen wasn`t just born into a duck`s nest, he was also physically an ugly duckling. Letters written by people who`d met him usually mentioned his physical appearance and it was only people who really knew him, who talked about his appearance in nice terms. Most people mentioned how extraordinarily tall he was – he was 185 centimeters tall, which was around 20 centimeters taller than his contemporary men (and about average of Danish men of today) – how thin he was, his huge nose and his strange facial features.

Apparently he was very vain and when he started earning money from his fairy tales, he spent quite a bit on clothes and hats. He was sometimes referred to as a dandy.

Hans Christian Andersen, the dandy

Hans Christian Andersen, the dandy

 

His fairy tales

Hans Christian Andersen wrote a ton of fairy tales and so many of them have received international fame. His fairy tales are extraordinary because they can be read by a child (or to a child) and the child will immediately fall in love with the tale because of the drama or the characters. But when you read his fairy tales as an adult – and I would recommend that you do just that if you haven`t already – his fairy tales offer a rather complicated moral which shows how Hans Christian Andersen looked at the world and the people he met.

It`s been discussed if Hans Christian Andersen`s father was really the king of Denmark because of the fairy tale The Ugly Duckling. Was Hans Christian Andersen truly a swan (a prince of sorts) that grew up in the duck`s nest? It`s a huge discussion but I must admit that I don`t like it much. It`s as if some people can`t fathom that the son of a poor shoemaker and an alcoholic washer woman can have talent – he must be the son of the king. I say that talent can grow anywhere, especially if you have a neighbor like Mrs. Bunkeflod.

Hans Christian Andersen`s fairy tales. How many do you recognize?

Hans Christian Andersen`s fairy tales. How many do you recognize?

 

Disney ruined The Little Mermaid

One of the things I`m truly angry about is how Disney ruined The Little Mermaid. Hans Christian Andersen was very careful about the moral in his stories and in this story the moral (in my very simplified interpretation – there is much more depth to the tale than this) is how you should never change to be attractive to another person. That doesn`t fit with the story of The Little Mermaid, you say? No, it doesn`t fit with Disney`s version of The Little Mermaid because in that version The Little Mermaid gets her prince after having suffered and gone through a lot.

This was most certainly not the way the original story ended. In Hans Christian Andersen`s The Little Mermaid, the mermaid never managed to attract the prince. She was mute since the Sea Witch`s price for giving the mermaid legs was her voice. And without her voice she could never talk to the prince. He acknowledged how beautiful and devoted she was but since he never got to know her as a person, he never fell in love with her. Unfortunately for the mermaid, the prince ended up marrying someone else and the little mermaid died. Or “became foam on the water” as Hans Christian Andersen calls it.

Here you can read the original non-Disney version. Read it to your kids!

The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen

Wikipedia about Hans Christian Andersen

Which Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale is your favorite?

 

 


Going to Aros (Viking version of Århus)

I`m spending parts of Easter in the second largest town in Denmark, Århus. Århus had her city rights in 1441 but one can trace back the city to the 8th century. Århus, or Aros, as they believe the city was called back then, is celebrating her Viking history my inviting all visitors to their Viking museum. This museum is tiny but it was free and it offered some interesting information.

Long houses and pit houses

In most Viking museums and village reconstructions they`ve rebuilt the typical Viking long houses where 20-30 people lived and slept in one large (long) room. I`ve already visited plenty of those places and have also posted about them here. But the museum in Århus has reconstructed a different kind of house – a pit house. Apparently this was a type of house for the poorer and less well connected people.

The museum was dark so my pictures of the reconstruction weren`t very good but here`s a picture of their drawing of a larger house and a pit house. The museum dated these houses to around year 1000:

Small Viking pit house situated below ground level.

Small Viking pit house situated below ground level.

 

The pit houses were situated about one meter below ground level to keep them warm in the winter and, as you can see from the picture, they were really tiny.

So with this small tale of pit houses I`ll let the Vikings of Aros bid you goodnight 🙂

Viking museum in Århus - Aros - Viking family greeting visitors at the door.

Viking museum in Århus – Aros – Viking family greeting visitors at the door.


The Vikings are Coming

I can`t wait until the third of March. Why? Because of this trailer for the series about Vikings on History Channel:

 

Vikings are coming – the trailer

 

It`s very short and it only shows Vikings running around with axes and swords – the Viking myth, if you like – but there was one detail which made me jump for joy: They`ve included a female warrior – a shieldmaiden – in the series. Shieldmaidens have become almost invisible until recently. The archaeologists of the 19th and 20th century were too colored by the time they lived in and the gender roles they lived by to be able to see that women had to fight too in the Viking age. Some to defend their villages but some also went abroad to find riches – just like their male counterparts.

So March can`t come soon enough for me. Maybe more people will realize that Vikings weren`t just men. They were women too!

Female Viking Warrior

Wikipedia about History Channel series “Vikings”