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Teachings of Prairie Clowns: Ola and Per and others
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Ola and Per strips

What We Can Learn from Ola and Per

Understanding differs, yet many persons can find much and significant wisdom embedded in Peter Julius Rosendahl's comic strip Ola and Per. What follows is a series of rather terse statements that may be derived from - or read into - three Ola and Per strips (strip links below).

You get to the strips if you click on their titles. See how far you agree with all the sayings that follow, or add some of your own if you please. At any rate you can read the statements as strip comments and reflect on them as you like.


Fruitful study should bring on maturation.

To ascertain how far the following propositions fit "Han Ola og Han Per", there is a sample of strips to study. If you take a look at the strips before reading the following comments, the bet is you will get much more out of them.

The comic strip allows for many different takes, and there are many other angles to it than mine. However, a fruitful study hardly disregards "AIR-BOC". The acronym shows the first things to tackle. They are: Author, Identity, Readers, Background, Other literature, and Criticism, critics. [MORE]
      You can regard the following points as a series of comments to a few numskull strips, as wide-sweeping nudges in general, or in both ways, just as you like. I think it is possible to read each statement as a comment to the strip it comments: Click up the strip and look at it alongside with the statements, if you feel for it. It may at times be entertaining.

The comments are patterned according to the general research design [LINK] - with a structural grid at bottom: [LINK]


16. When the Profit Went Up in Smoke

  16. When the Profit Went up in Smoke. - September 3, 1920

LoSomewhat inhuman forethought backfires in time

Tao-illustration Two farmers show some uncultivated features; but they don't give up walking the long road toward having plenty through material means and technical assistance in bringing that about - and things go wrong from lack of proper knowledge. Lack of proper handling ruins the business; being unskilled is something one may have to pay for.

The Midwest is deep into pig farming, also called pig industry, because the inherent worth of these intelligent, sensitive animals has been reduced for it. They are described like "things of production", actually. I do not think that we get a good life by such reductionistic, profit-seeking activities at large, as life itself gets flattened by it.

Beastly enthusiasm for profit and the like is not the best enthusiasm there is.

Ola and Per reflect farmers' hopes and ideas and enterprises. Conversing with someone that diverts attention may be dangerous.

There were many sorts of pressures among immigrants, not only the sort of pressure through which Per explodes a pig inadvertently.

Instead of contemplating and preparing a new implementation by small steps and with enough forethought as to safeguards, the farmer inventor ignores to keep his mind to what he is administering. As a result he kills a pig.

The ancient I Ching oracle says, "A person . . . in an inferior position boasts enthusiastically (and unwisely). This arrogance inevitably invites misfortune. (Hexagram 10)" How true it is. Enthusiasm or eagerness spanned to very egocentric enterprises, fail many a time till some cool way has been won.

Force feeding seems somewhat inhuman.

Enthusiasm that enables needs to be coupled to a soberness which awakens from false enthusiasm could be very favourable. ◊

To put animals under undue pressure (ill enthusiasm) may rebound.

LoHuman enough core values are needed in life too. One such value is "let animals be animals"

Per is often found hoping that blunt perseverance brings good fortune, and ignoring the dangers that are involved in his enterprises. (3)

It is fit to know the weaknesses of the scheme, and to know its strength as well. ◊

Ola and Per show how resistance can be overcome.

A man explodes a pig. Changing the course is advised. For it is a bad thing for a man to let himself be deluded by too inhuman enthusiasm. ◊

Not highly sung, ancient virtues of heroes can bring deliverance, but clarifying things a whole lot, and then proceeding without whim.

One is to adhere to the straight course. ◊

He who knows the seeds (initiating causes of things) of disasters, does not have to be arrogant.

A big shock can refresh many.

Ola and Per are rooted in popular sentiment.

If Per goes on thus he's sure to bring disgrace on himself. ◊

Under the circumstances, there are no helpers that qualify.

Better accommodations and proficient ways need thought

The struggle for making a living must not be carried on in vain.

In keeping with the situation, few words are needed.

LoBravery and bad judgement rebounds too

Foreseeing is the needed element, and one fine means of providing for the family. (5)

One must make proper use of the means.

Taking precautions is good.

These characters persist into bad accidents over and over.

Many ancestral means could be at a loss in a new and very different environment. ◊

Ola too has to make strides in his farmer position.

The great man contains the means in himself.

Carelessness in guarding things furthers complications.

The inspiring effect of the accident can move all settler hearts,

One is to perceive the first trace of good fortune (or misfortune) and take proper action.

Tensions and complications need to be eased fast and well, for new things to work. ◊

When the hindrance is past, deliverance from it has come.

A good man cleans the air somehow.

Settlers carry immigrant burdens on their backs

Victims of bad judgement may have to withdraw.

The cartoon serves as a weapon against all that's false and low. ◊

The experienced practical person is not blinded by enthusiasm.

If there are any residual matters that ought to be attended to, it should be done as quickly as possible, so that a clean sweep is made and no retardations occur. ◊

The sudden change may have great importance. ◊

Think well or long enough before you act.

One recuperates in peace and keeps still.

In those days settlers took up the use of motorised devices and farm machines.

Bravery is not enough.


  1. Somewhat inhuman forethought backfires in time.
  2. Human enough core values are needed in life too. One such value is "let animals be animals," or life gets flatter.
  3. Bravery and bad judgement rebounds.
IN NUCE To administer inhuman gadgets, force feeding and the like inevitably fails at large in the long run. Many weaknesses of current situations may be understood in such a larger perspective. To implement effects of bad judgements is not good enough.


30: A Quaint Way of Catching Rats

  30. A Quaint Way of Catching Rats. - January 21, 1921

LoTo preserve composure is important, as seen by the consequences of lack of it

Tao-illustration Birds and beasts alike are marked by excellent power of perception and discrimination, and so they do very little havoc to one another unless they fight for a territory (turf) and a mate with their horns and claws and paws and teeth.

This failure should develop into the ability to stripping things (like Per's clothes) away, revealing the underneath: thus the shining light of the intellect may begin its work.

When it is one's fate to undertake new beginnings, a premature move might bring serious set-backs, if not disaster.
It is important to preserve inner composure, also for the chastiser.

To think calmly and avoid excess is far better than what brings about a flood of tears.

The end of the path that is started, is not marked by an empty space, but more like blisters as bad as those from lying in the sun in the course of a day.

Clarity penetrates the nature of man and decrees, "Enjoy life while it lasts, or else -"

Serious concentration is important, and so is the ability to think well about procedures and consequences. ◊

An opportunity to make a good connection should be seized.

LoA whacked person can cultivate freedom and associates

Caught in buttock-whacking, men may not find it easy to sing of their freedom.

The able man attract those with whose help he can combat many of his difficulties.

Much in life depends on how the clarity functions. ◊

Fire has no definite form but a whacked person knows something about it anyhow.

When man recognises his secret handicap and makes himself dependent on the harmonious cultivation of himself and awaits his allotted time, much good can happen.

Unmasking goes before improvements. Per has to get out of his pants to improve his situation here.

It is important to seek out the right assistants. He might find them if he avoids arrogance and associate with his fellows in a spirit of humility.

LoTo capture someone dangerous may work well

Very premature effort, without the necessary guidance, ends in failure and disgrace. (5)

Clarity of mind is rooted in life but can consume it.

To accept help in a difficult situation is not a disgrace.

If one is seriously intent, there is no great blame, but one can loudly bewail misfortune all the same.

The great man continues the work after his mishap.

Beset by hindrances some lose their way.

In a pucker where it is our duty to act, false reserve should deter no one. ◊

Evil must be cured at its roots.

To eradicate rats in the pants or evil in political life - it is best to root out bad habits.

When the right helper is found, all may go well.

We may happily take captive a rat and chop off the head of it, but not overdo it.

If the difficulties are too great for some, they get stuck and never find their way out; they fold their hands and give up the struggle. Such resignation is the saddest of all things.

A first meeting may be beset with difficulties.

We may participate with guidance.

If one perseveres in all right ways, there's a prospect of great success, in spite of the existing danger. ◊◊


  1. To preserve composure is important, as seen by the consequences of lack of it.
  2. A whacked person can cultivate freedom and associates.
  3. It may work well to take captive someone dangerous.
IN NUCETo preserve a whacked person's composure and esteem, study who are dangerous to him or her, and what associates he or she are to cultivate.


34 - Per Gets an Unexpected Ride into the Air

  34. Per Gets and Unexpected Ride into the Air. - February 18, 1921

LoWe get wiser by difficult incidents we survive

Tao-illustration Adverse times can be speeded up by explosives.

Greatness and justice must be indissolubly united

Obstinacy leads to difficulties — Too silly conduct won't help you.

The handy man will not make the mistake of sitting down where an explosion is about.

One gets wiser by incidents like this.

Kongzi (Confucius) says: "Bloody tears flow: one should not persist in this." ◊

Hold back instead of letting a premature move bring disaster.

LoIt pays well to be very careful with explosives

Difficulty at the beginning brings perhaps order.

Through danger, conformity in handling explosives is established after some time.

Mourning your earlier decisions can at times be beneficial and trouble free.

Acting unthinkingly and without guidance seems eccentric.

Being careful may help order and a better living in time. ◊

Where the slightest eccentricity seems to be 'the' way to do things, it could pay to be careful.

LoA big blast eliminates troubles, and those who had them as well. It could eventually be "nature's last resort" somehow

Explosives like dynamite can be harnessed for both good and bad, possibly.

Someone in testing times of difficulties and hindrances may die or be guided.

The handy man does not continue in what brings misfortune.

Too easily humans become preys of exuberant self-confidence. But a ram who butts against a hedge, cannot go neither backward nor forward.

One has to arrange and organise a sprenging, or . . . ◊

If a man goes on, working at the removal of resistances, success comes in the end.

It is important not to take chances in dealing with explosives.

Robust folks persevere and get aware of plots, in part through faithful and conscientious work

Even excess leads to damage.

Times of explosives can be beset with difficulties — True greatness depends on being in harmony with what is right, not in blowing others away.

To accept help in a difficult situation is not a disgrace. ◊◊

Things can quiet down again at times when inner worth mounts with great force.


  1. We may get wiser by difficult incidents we survive.
  2. It should pay to be careful with explosives.
  3. A big blast may eliminate troubles and those who had them as well. It could eventually be a "last resort".
IN NUCEWe get wiser by taking care so that we survive for a long time.

You may derive your own tenets from a "Get Tao" survey. Here is how to do it: Take a few sentences from each of the three main stages, starting from the top, and combine them cleverly. You may have to brush and modify the outcome a little. Example:

  1. Greatness and justice must be indissolubly united or they bring disaster.
  2. Conformity due to former carefulness, can work well.
  3. Excess tends to lead to disgrace.
IN NUCEGreatness brings on disaster if disgraced for the sake of vicious ones.

Do as you like, even though I suggest you spend time on choosing the most meaningful parts you can find, unify them well, according to the table's underlying scheme. Then you may come up with something really worthwhile in your own sets of circumstances.


Teachings of Prairie Clowns, Ola and Per etc, Literature  

Rosendahl, Peter J. Han Ola og Han Per. A Norwegian-American Comic Strip. En norsk-amerikansk tegneserie, edited by Joan N. Buckley and Einar Haugen. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1984 (Original printed in the Decorah-Posten).

Rosendahl, Peter J. More han Ola og han Per. A Norwegian-American Comic Strip. En norsk-amerikansk tegneserie. Edited by Joan N. Buckley and Einar Haugen. Bilingual Edition. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1988.

Uther, Hans-Jörg. The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography Based on the System of Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson. Vols 1-3. FF Communications No. 284-86, Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2004.

The material is taken from a major thesis in "American Civilization: Norwegian Immigrant History", at the University of Trondheim:

Kinnes, Tormod. The Humor of Han Ola og han Per Taken Seriously. Major Thesis in American Civilization. The English Section at the Department of Foreign Modern Languages. NTNU, Trondheim, Spring 2007.

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