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Polla, Dada, Mari, Værmor and Lars
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Four Characters

The in-laws of Per are Værmor (Norwegian for mother-in-law), and her husband, Lars. Lars is also Per's brother.



Per's wife Polla is a city girl from Fargo in North Dakota and probably born in America. She prefers city life, speaks city Norwegian and does not know about the techniques of farming, such as milking a cow. According to Bengtson she "represents the encroaching outside "Yankee' world, while the others remain static . . . a strange yet familiar fantasy world", and she seems "to remain distant and indifferent to Ola and Per's zany world." (Bengtson 1977, 2, 16, 17; Haugen, in Rosendahl 1984, 28, 30, 36)

She is taken to represent a transitional Norwegian-American wife of the time.



The little girl Dada is the daughter of Polla and Per. She appears to be an all right child. There is not much detail about her. (Bengtson 1977, 17)


"Several times Ola's wife, Mari, enters, but she is usually said to be on her way to Minneapolis or Norway," explains Joan Buckley. (Buckley 1984, xx)

Mari appears only a few times, and this has been seen as one of the strip's oddities by Haugen. "She returns from Norway, then leaves him for Minneapolis, comes back, but soon leaves for Norway." (Haugen, 1984, note 14)

Værmor, Per's Mother-in-Law


Per's mother-in-law is called Værmor, a Norwegian term for it. She comes out to the farm and turns out to be difficult to deal with and tougher than many other mother-in-laws. She cannot stand to see anyone loafing, and still she eventually becomes Lars' wife. After she has been kidnapped by gangsters, they let her loose, even begging her family to take her back. (Buckley 1984, xx)

The hatched-faced woman (she got a beard and also got bald by accident in some strips) is often found to carry folk life emblems like a rolling pin, chore pail or pitchfork . . . weapons against lazy men-folk! She often gives vent to and lets us peep into American frontier "expressive routines". (Bengtson 1977,15; Haugen 1984, xx)




Appearance: Per's newcomer brother, Doktor Lars, has a long, scraggly beard, a hat that grows longer with the years, and a jug of moonshine [illegally made spirits] as his emblems. (Haugen 1984, xx; Buckley 1984, 14; Bengtson 1977, 14)

Other descriptions: He is thought to be "a lovable and amusing character". The "educated fool" Lars is Per's elder brother who at first plays the nykomar (newcomer) role, well-schooled but not very productive, someone who gik sju aar for presten where one year normally would be quite enough. Lars then went on and studied at the universities in Christiania (Oslo) and Berlin. (Rosendahl 1988, ix; Bengtson 1977, 14, 15)

"Newcomer Lars is the butt of all jokes because he even fails to understand the English words that have been incorporated into his countrymen's Norwegian," observes Einar Haugen. Lars is plunged into the vernacular mishmash language that is used, and is made to look ridiculous through not getting it all the time (Haugen 1984, 32-33). Further, Lars is likely to symbolize the dangers of useless intellectualism and corrupting urbanism, says Bengtson, who goes on to describes his character type as the educated tramp, which is a type that has fascinated storytellers for many centuries. So Lars becomes the butt of community jokes. (Bengtson 1977, 14-16)

Vicissitudes of Lars

In the Norwegian-American comic strip Ola and Per (in translation) a newcomer on the prairie appears in strip 20. It is Doctor Lars arriving from Norway, the brother of the farmer-inventor Per.

In the first strip Lars looks much dignified till his brother Per gives him a ride on his bike and he falls off without Per noticing it - a difficult feat indeed. Afterwards Per calls him a son-of-a-gun, which Haugen translates into "fordømt tulling". Other translations are possible too. "Son of a gun" in American English is a euphemism for son of a bitch" but it is also used about someone who is "affectionately or kindly regarded." (Encarta Dictionary)

From being a nice-looking doctor in the very first strip, his beard grows longer and his hat higher, and he himself gets thinner and obviously maladapted. He is made a butt of joke he appears in. Later he starves, steals (strip 147), and drinks much so-called molasses from a jug he "always" carries with him. At least molasses is the final version of what is in his jug.

Lars is hardly given an all right welcome by his brother; this academic goes insane, steals, lives in abject poverty, marries his brother's mother-in-law, and is at times trouserless for other reasons. But he survives.

Now let us look into the ambiguitiy Rosendahl spins around the content of the jug go Lars. He claims it is black molasses, but is hardly believed (strip 219, 149). Others suspect him of having hooch (so-called moonshine in his jug, that is, illicitly produced alcohol.

In strip 148, Lars tries to climb a fence and falls on the ground, with his jug out of reach for some crucial moments. He seems terribly "fond of jug".

Moreover, the mere sound of a jug makes Lars come to after falling down from an airplane and on his head (strips 378-80).

Then, very near the end of the strip (episode 588), Lars comes to the rescue when are lacking syrup for their pancakes. When asked, "Is syrup what you have in your jug, Lars?", he says, "Of course. I have never had anything else in my jug."

Lars and His Folksy Characteristics

Insignias are distinguishing marks or signs. The high hat, jug, and long beard are informal, low-key, yet key insignias of Lars. His overcoat serves to distinguish him too, but it changes from black to white after some switches initially. Still, we recognise Lars easily by his long beard, high hat, jug, and overcoat.

Similarly, apostles and Catholic saints in the Middle Ages were equipped with insignias too, when they were painted in churches to enlighten the multitude. Thus, St. Peter has a golden key (to paradise), St. Paul a sword, and other saints carry their particular insignias too. The insignias and marks of various martyrs are somehow regulated by Catholic conventions. Interestingly, many conventions of cartoon making are similar to those of making teaching art in Medieval churches, and the popularity of some of these "folk heroes" have risen too, as saints rose to glory by church edification in cartoon-like fashion in earlier times

The newcomer Lars appears in scores of episodes. In some of them he takes part of the main action, in others he just happens to be around. He takes part in many adventure episodes, where his botanical knowledge often is useful. For example, he identifies a coffee plant and pancake tree - On the farm, however, his botanical expertise seems useless for some reason or other (eg, strip 131).


Ola and Per literature

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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