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Happy Times in Norway

Happy Times in Norway

Sigrid Undset
Copyright Date: 1969
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Happy Times in Norway
    Book Description:

    Happy Times in Norway is a moving and delicately humorous picture of Undset's own blissful home life before her nation fell to the Nazi occupation. Captured here is the excitement of a Norwegian Christmas, the Seventeenth of May, and summer in the idyllic mountains, as well as the chaotic adventure of raising two energetic boys. With vivid detail and illuminating descriptions of the landscape, Happy Times in Norway is infused with the wish that those cherished days could come again.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8464-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Part I Merry Christmas

    • 1
      (pp. 3-10)

      “POTATO-DIGGING VACATION” BEGAN WITH RAIN AND ended with rain, and the boys were bored and cross. They could not find anything to do themselves, and nothing that Mother and Thea suggested was any fun.

      “You ought to be ashamed of yourselves,” Thea said. “In the country the children have to go out and dig potatoes rain or shine. You don’t even do so much as help straighten up the garden for your mother.”

      What she said was so true. At all the farms around the little town, grownups and children alike were out in the muddy potato fields, bent over...

    • 2
      (pp. 11-18)

      THE NEXT MORNING THE WEATHER WAS THE SAME, EXcept that the rain had thickened into sleet, but now and then a few wet, gray snow splotches fell to earth. It was, at least, snow. Later in the day, large soft flakes appeared, the garden turned white, and the tree branches began to bow under a burden of heavy, wet snow.

      The boys leaped to life. They got their skis down from the storehouse attic and began overhauling them, and soon the whole house smelled of turpentine and tar from various mixtures of ski grease Anders had warming—and boiling over...

    • 3
      (pp. 19-24)

      THE NIGHT BEFORE LITTLE CHRISTMAS EVE, THEA AND Mother worked in the kitchen until long after midnight. The headcheeses and the pigs’ feet had been stowed in the brine, the last cooky boxes were closed and carried up to the little storage closet, and Thea had set the sponge for bread and coffeecake. Now she had thrown open the window to rid the kitchen of its cooking smells.

      “Does Madam see? I really think it is beginning to freeze.”

      They went out on the stoop. The sky was black and filled with sparkling stars. They stepped down into the garden...

    • 4
      (pp. 25-36)

      IN NORWAY IT IS CHRISTMAS EVE THAT IS THE GREATest and the most sacred time in all the year. To Anders and Hans, Christmas Eve started in the morning, when the tree was carried into the large parlor where the fire-place was and Thea brought all the boxes of Christmas tree trimmings down from the attic. The boys became very busy wrapping up their presents and writing the names on the outside—getting their fingers and their jerseys inky—while Mother was downstairs trimming the tree. Every once in a while the boys found an excuse to slip down.


    • 5
      (pp. 37-44)

      IT IS THE CUSTOM IN NORWAY THAT ON CHRISTMAS DAY people stay quietly at home, or go out only to be with their closest relatives. Even the skiers who swarmed over all the roads and fields, beaming with delight over the first snow of the year, kept together in family groups. Big boys, who ordinarily spend all their free time on their ski club’s training ground, stay home and take a quiet morning walk with their mamma, and sometimes with grandmamma too. Fathers putter around in the fields this day instead of going to their cottages in the mountains. They...

    • 6
      (pp. 45-54)

      THEA HAD DECORATED THE LONG BREAKFAST TABLE with sprigs of evergreen, candles, and flowers. It sagged under all the good Christmas food. And in the snow outside the door stood the bottles of beer, and the old brandy decanter from Great-grandfather’s house. Godfather was very particular that the Christmas brandy should be the temperature of the snow.

      As they sat waiting for Thea to come down with Tulla, and Gunhild to come with Brit, the children ate cookies and cracked nuts, for all during the Christmas season the big old copper bowl filled with fruit and nuts and cookies stood...

    • 7
      (pp. 55-70)

      AFTER THAT THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS PASSED quickly with an abundance of fun and good things all around—except quiet and order in the house.

      Every morning there was the same Jerusalem disturbance. It took time to get that herd of children to the breakfast table. And afterward, it took still more time to get them rigged out in their coats and caps and steered out the door. It was necessary to search out the least wet of their garments from all the things that were drying all over the house. And someone was always siting down to crack nuts and...

  4. Part II The Seventeenth of May

    • 1
      (pp. 73-84)

      “WINTER-SPRING” IS THE NAME PEOPLE IN NORWAY give to that odd season that begins in February. When day after day the sun beams down from a high and cloudless deep-blue sky and every morning the whole world is encrusted with glistening frost crystals—but later in the day all the eaves are dripping. The sun licks the snow from the trees, and one sees the tops of the birches beginning to turn a shiny brown and the bark of the aspens taking on the greenish tinge that betokens spring.

      Snowdrifts still lie high along the roads and fences and on...

    • 2
      (pp. 85-95)

      FINALLY ONE NIGHT CAME THE RAIN. FOR THREE SUCcessive days it streamed down, mild and still.

      “Mother,” said Hans triumphantly, “I thought it was just something people said. But now I can hear it—the grass grow.”

      Yes, the soft, sweet sound of falling rain that awakens the smell of earth and the first green blades of grass that are breaking through the earth. . . .

      “Yes, it is true. Now we can hear the grass grow.”

      The fourth day the sun came out and before evening all the birches were golden with tiny buds shaped like mouse ears....

    • 3
      (pp. 96-122)

      MOTHER WAS AWAKENED BY A FEARFUL CRASH. BEyond the dark treetops the sky was beginning to turn yellow, and in the birch grove a pair of thrushes chattered their protest against the disturbances. It was not yet three. . . .

      Another. It was probably that old cannon in the artist’s garden down the hill. Apparently he too had taken the boys’ part against the authorities—naturally enough, for he himself had been a schoolboy in the town once upon a time. There it went again! Banging and thundering came from far and near in the spring night, from firecrackers...

  5. Part III Summer Vacation

    • 1
      (pp. 125-132)


      “Right after St. John’s, Hans.”

      “Mother,” then asked Anders, “Godfather wrote he and Uncle George are coming to meet me at Ringbu as soon as the Boy Scout jamboree is over. We’re planning a three weeks’ camping trip. Could I join you at the saeter afterwards?”

      “Of course. How nice of Godfather and the professor to want you along on their camping trip again this year, Anders.”

      “Yes, very nice. But then, of course, you know I make myself useful too. I am a kind of orderly for them, you see.”


    • 2
      (pp. 133-157)

      THE BOYS’ REPORT CARDS COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE. They could have been much better too, of course. But both of them passed, and that was almost more than Mother had dared hope for.

      The little town where Hans and Anders had their home lies directly on one of the main routes of summer vacation travel. And all who passed through the little town had to stop off and see Maihaugen, the big outdoor museum for which it is renowned.

      The story of Maihaugen is a story in itself. Anders Sandvig was the name of a young Norwegian dentist who had...

    • 3
      (pp. 158-172)

      THE ODOR OF NEW-MOWN HAY DRIFTED IN FROM ALL the meadows of the valley the afternoon that Mother and Hans drove up. Mowing machines clattered on every farm, and hayrakes jangled softly across the fields. The river flowed broad and full, flooding the fields in the bottoms—on the little isles out in the water only the tops of the alder trees and the roofs of barns and sheds showed—and the water was bluish-green now, for the thaw had started up on the snow fields of Jotunheimen. Wild ducks, each with its train of ducklings looking like puffs of...

    • 4
      (pp. 173-185)


      “Oh, mother, pick up these stitches that have been dropped. I pulled out one of Janna’s needles . . . and, mother, may we borrow some thumbtacks?”

      “Thumbtacks? Are you mad?” asked Mother, casting her eye over the damage to Janna’s sweater. “I have no thumbtacks up here.”

      “Oh, yes, mother, just look and see. Maybe you have some among your writing things?”

      And sure enough, miraculous as it seemed, in a tin box where Mother kept such things as tape and rubber bands, she found a package of thumbtacks....

    • 5
      (pp. 186-197)

      IT WAS GETTING ON TOWARD FALL. ONE NOTICES THE coming of fall earlier in the mountains than in the valley. The leaves on the blueberry bushes had a red cast, and the branches were heavy with dark, ripe berries. And everywhere on the marshes shone the cloudberries. These were still hard as stone and lacquer red.

      In Norway people think there is nothing so good as cloudberries. Certainly the cloudberry is one of the most beautiful of plants. The big broad leaves are a deep, deep green with a tinge of bronze and violet in them, the flowers in the...

    • 6
      (pp. 198-207)

      THERE WAS NOT MUCH FOR MOTHER AND ANDERS TO talk about these days. Every morning after breakfast he took his fishing outfit and went down to Tromsa. But his luck was not good. Sometimes he came home empty-handed, sometimes with one or two tiny trout in his pocket. Ingrid’s cat got them. He rarely caught any fish big enough to be worth the trouble of cleaning and frying. Tromsa was not good fishing, and Anders, apparently, was not much of a fisherman.

      Once in a while he went berrypicking with the other children. Blueberries were incredibly thick this year and...

    • 7
      (pp. 208-218)

      LITTLE SIGNE’S STAY AT KREKKE SAETER TURNED OUT to be a great disappointment to Hans. She was not one bit impressed by the doll house. On the contrary, she made several rather unkind remarks about its past—a past that could not be concealed.

      On the other hand, she became utterly infatuated with Janna’s sweater, which now had actually begun to take on lines that were rather stunning. The frank admiration of this little town girl was so stimulating to Janna that she would scarcely do anything but knit, knit, knit all day long.

      “Oh dear,” said Little Signe, “how...

    • 8
      (pp. 219-226)

      ONE DAY MRS. HOLE CAME UP TO SEE HER SAETER AND she was almost like a summer guest herself. For when a farmer engages a dairywoman for the summer, she takes full responsibility and has full authority over everything concerning the saeter, and it would be the peak of bad manners if the farmer’s wife allowed herself to interfere in any of the dairywoman’s work.

      Besides, Mrs. Hole probably needed a little vacation. Her husband had been building and fixing a little of everything around on the farm down in the valley this year, breaking and draining new ground too,...

    (pp. 227-230)
    Sigrid Undset
  7. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-231)