One of the many wood troll carvings at the Sons of Norway in Fargo, North Dakota.
Since it has been reported by The Daily Mail that the Viking apocalypse — Ragnarok for those of us in the know — will happen this Saturday, February 22, I figured it doesn’t matter that the History Channel’s Vikings Season II premiers on February 27. I also figured that it would be appropriate to post three photos I took on Thorsdag evening at the Sons of Norway in downtown Fargo, North Dakota (pie day is every Thursday at lunch, too). Within the Sons of Norway is the Troll Bar which, in turn, is decorated with several wood Norsk troll carvings that run the perimeter of the tavern.
Trolls have increasingly interested me as of late. In genealogical e-mail conversations with Valerie Larson-Wolfe, a distant Swedish-American cousin of mine (who lives in Chico, California), she mentioned that our great-great-Swedish uncle August used to remark on how, as a young boy, he used to see trolls in and around his family’s farm near Ïvo in southern Sweden.
As a historian, I am interested in this not necessarily to prove or disprove the existence of trolls. Rather, I’m interested in it in from the standpoint of a social historian or folklorist: if people say they are seeing trolls, they are doing this for social reasons that might not be clear to outsiders. I’m interested in unpacking those reasons. If you’re in Iceland, though, you get the privilege of having your Supreme Court decide on whether or not to protect known elf sites (links on that here, here and here).
This, in turn, has gotten me thinking a bit more about sightings of small people in world history. On the northern Great Plains, it isn’t uncommon to hear stories from Mandan-Hidatsa or the Oceti Sakowin oyate of small people sightings. These sightings are amazingly important to particular cultures — much in the same way that the notions of a man walking on water or rising from the dead three days after the Roman Empire executed him are amazingly important to particular cultures too (yes, I just went there). Happy ragnarok weekend everyone. See you all on the other side (or on Monday).
Leave a comment | tags: Elves, Fargo, Iceland, Kringen Lodge, Larson Family, Norway, Scandinavia, Sons of Norway, Sweden, Valerie Larson-Wolfe, Vivian Barth | posted in Uncategorized
Yesterday, late afternoon, I texted Sean Burt to see if he wanted to meet up for some long-overdue conversation at Würst Bier Hall in downtown Fargo, North Dakota. After he confirmed, I bundled up and started my southward trek down the east side of North Broadway. Along the way I noticed a woman taking a picture of the historic First Lutheran church. I asked if she was getting a good picture, and we chatted just a bit, and she said she was up from California for a meeting. I noted that she was a committed meeting-goer, coming from California to a Fargo winter for a meeting. Here is how the conversation roughly played out:
Aaron: “California is a long way to come for a meeting.”
Californian: “Yeah, but it’s worth it: a bunch of us just met here at First Lutheran about re-igniting the Daughters of Norway chapter here in Fargo.”
Aaron: “Ah, good deal. My great grandparents were Swede, and there’s a lot of continuity worth sharing throughout Scandinavia. Are you ethnic Norwegian?”
Californian: “No, I’m Polish.”
Aaron: “Oh, I see. Is your husband Norwegian?”
Californian: “No, he’s Algerian.”
Aaron: “Oh, I see. That makes sense. Well here’s my card. Let me know if and how I can help you in the future.”
So I was satisfied with having met an ethnic Pole from California who just finished a meeting in Fargo about firing up the Daughters of Norway once again. Heritage groups are fun that way. It’s only a matter of getting involved.
Leave a comment | tags: Daughters of Norway, Fargo, North Dakota, Norway, Scandinavia | posted in Uncategorized
Yesterday I visited a project area in the Sheyenne River Valley in southeastern North Dakota, and on the way back from fieldwork I stopped by some static public historical signage and historical Scandinavian-American log cabins on one of America’s Scenic Byway routes. I snapped some photos, downloaded them in the computer last night, and then started to do a bit of research on the archaeological project area: history often informs the archaeology, since much happens with the history of an archaeological site before archaeologists have a chance to descend on it.
While looking through a series of digitized photos, I came across a historic photo in the Digital Horizons/ND Institute for Regional Studies archive. The photo is titled, “Building at Fort Ransom, N.D.,” and it is a log cabin today located some miles north of Fort Ransom, N.D. I compared the historic with the modern this morning. Below are the photos I’ve looked at: one is a 1950s photo of the cabin, and below that is a June 16, 2013 photo. Note the gable-end elevation, and compare the shapes of the logs, and the seams of the logs. You’ll notice that they match one another.
A photo of the Slattum cabin in the 1950s.
A June 16, 2013 photo of the Slattum Cabin. Note the gable end elevation, and compare the seams of the log cabin with the seams of the gable elevation in the 1950s photo. They are the same.
As the public historical signage said, this cabin was built in 1879 by Norwegian immigrant Theodore Slattum, and he originally hailed from Christiana, Norway. He immigrated to Fillmore County, Minnesota in 1870, and he and his wife, Jorgine, relocated to the Sheyenne River Valley in 1879, where they built this cabin. They also raised nine children in the cabin (they modified the original cabin from what it looks like here in the photos). In 1945, this cabin was moved to the Fort Ransom Historic Site, and then moved back to this original location at some point around the turn of the 20th century (this is likely why the description of the cabin’s provenience is what it is within Digital Horizons/NDIRS; and this is also an example of how history informs archaeology, and not the other way around).
The Slattum family, this photo from the public historical signage at the cabin site. Photo taken on June 16, 2013.
1 Comment | tags: Archaeology, History, North Dakota, Norway, Scandinavia | posted in Uncategorized