Norway is a kingdom in northern Europe, one of long winter nights and sorrows, as shown by much use of antidepressants - on the European top level. Put another way: Things are not always good in Norway, but a few summer days and nights may be fine: well, it depends on what you are used to. Yes, some sides to life are hard and bad in Norway, and UN statistics that ranks Norway among the happiest, most rewarding countries to live in, is not all there is to tell about Norwegian living. Not at all. It depends on who you are and what you are struggling with or against, including poverty, which has been growing among immigrants in particular.
Norway is shaped like a mountainous, bulky and tilted ladle (see a map). It is the second least densely populated country in Europe. Most of it borders on the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea. The extensive coastline is home to many (poisoned) fjords. Norway also borders on Sweden to the east, and Finland and Russia too, up north. Its capital is Oslo.
Two and a half centuries of Viking raids ended in 1066. After about a hundred years of civil wars, Norway expanded its control overseas to parts of the British Isles, Iceland, and Greenland in the 1200s. Norwegian territorial power peaked in 1265. The country weakened for the next six centuries or so, and was the underdog in its two consecutive centuries-long unions with Denmark, until it was ceded to Sweden in 1814, after Denmark-Norway had been on the losing side and Sweden had been on the winning side in the Napoleonic Wars. Rising nationalism throughout the 1800s led to Norwegian independence from Sweden in 1905. [WP, "Denmark-Norway"]
Underseas oil and gas reserves were discovered in its waters in the late 1960s. Fish farming has later been rewarding, and so has industry, by and large. Today Norway has got rich by its oil, and there are still oil reserves below the sea in a great many areas waiting to be explored, especially if the oil prices rise again. Oil, natural gas, minerals, lumber, seafood, fresh water, and hydropower help substistence.
Until about 2013 Norway was the world's largest producer of oil and natural gas outside of the Middle East. However, with falling oil prices (after 2014), many oil and gas reserves beneath the ocean floor may get too expensive to get to. A new mantra for the official policy in Norway today (2015) is readjustment - away from too much oil dependency, that is. Overall conditions are good, as reflected by UN statistics: for ten years in a row it has put Norway on top of its list of "best countries to live in". Add a pinch of salt to such statistics, for it is based on a set of critieria that deserve to be challenged.
Norway is a democracy with a representational monarchy, and maintains close ties with the European Union and its member countries, as well as with the United States. Norway is one of the biggest financial contributors to the United Nations.
Some of the cultural treasures of Norway can be traced back to the Viking Age, and some a bit further. Viking poetry is found here, and some of the people's proverbs are found in Norwegian on other pages (links are further down). Several of its fairy tales have been very well received world-wide too, through translations of Asbjornsen and Moe tales.
The first known inhabitants "came from the Hamburg area": they were of the Paleolithic Ahrensburg culture (11th to 10th millennia BCE).
Because of Norway's high latitude, there are large seasonal variations in daylight. The topography and climate varies considerably also. From late November to late January, the sun never rises above the horizon in the north, and daylight hours are very short in the rest of the country.
The brown bear is the largest predator on the mainland, and the common moose (also known as the "European Elk") is the largest inland animal. In the adjacent ocean the sperm whale is biggest, and the more or less harmless basking shark is the biggest fish in the waters of Norway. Read more: [WP, "Norway"]
Below is a sample of Norwegian proverbs put into American English, with an introduction. They are from some of the finest Norwegian collections (listed at the bottom of the page). Over half of the proverbs were collected by Ivar Aasen (1813-96) (below).
The collection of 3500 Norwegian proverbs adages and proverbial fragments that the sample originates in directly, is partly bilingual, and contains more information about Norwegian proverbs.
The selection consists mostly of sensible pinpointings, and some of them may seem obvious if they are not given figurative meaning, which is a central part of the proverb tradition: We combine a proverb with some happening or occurrence, and as a result the proverb takes on perhaps interesting and striking meanings, as the case may be.
Some proverbs offer sensible hints and a bit of humour by scanty means, as in "The king has to sit on the same as us (his bottom). [Br 104]." The proverb may help under-dogs against unbecoming servility.
The Norwegian of this collection is normalised, moderate Nynorsk Norwegian, which is close to many dialects and first recordings of Norwegian proverbs, notably the collection by Ivar Aasen. Simple wording is preferred throughout.
Proverbs I have changed, are marked with a star (*). Proverbial utterances I have added, are marked in the same way.
The letters at the back of the proverbs refer to the collections below, and the numbers following the letters, refer to pages.
A burning light may go out, a sailing man may drown.
A child's grief is soon put out.
A fair wind at our back is best.
A grey patch is better than a bare side.
A tied dog does not jump farther than his cord.
A tied up man is sorrowful.
Age is nothing to boast of; you get it for nothing.
Age probably leads to something worse.
All birds cannot be hawks (some are just cuckoos).
All birds cannot be hawks.
All don't like the same thing; some like it cold, and some like it hot.
All food does not come upon one single dish.
All madmen are not the same.
All masters are born, but none is born a master except the billygoat.
All sense is not housed in one single head.
All shoes are not sewn on the same last.
All the fat floats together.
Another's horse is always strong.
Another's steak is always fat.
Away is not to be at home.
Bare are buttocks without breaches.
Barter is for fault.
Barter is to favour two and not just one.
Best that vende mens it goes vel.
Better (be) aware beforehand than quick afterwards.
Better (be) wise beforehand than aware afterwards.
Better (be) wise beforehand than wise afterwards (after the damage or accident).
Better a whole ship than a broken one.
Better an empty purse than wrongly got money.
Better barefooted than without jeans.
Better be limping than footless.
Better be unmarried than badly married.
Better be without money than without honor.
Better bend than bump.
Better bend to get through the door than run one's head against a stone wall.
Better grey than bald Better grey hair than no hair.
Better know a little too much than too little.
Better know for sure than just guess.
Better know rightly than hope wrongly.
Better learn from one damage than many.
Better let ten guilty ones go free than judging an innocent man.
Better lie uncomfortably than to cover oneself with a rag.
Better little than nothing.
Better ten hairs on the head than one in the soup.
Better to live with certainty than in the hope.
Better too full than too early empty (about stores).
Better turn in the brook than in the waterfall.
Better turn than go astray.
Better unlearned and bright than erudite and foolish.
Better whole than mended well (probably).
Better wind one's way on dry land than lie in water and call (for help). (A warning against walking on weak ice).
Beyond the mountain there are people too.
Blind hen finds a corn too.
Blindest is he who doesn't want to see.
Boatless man is tied to the land.
Bookless man is (quite) blind.
Bookless man may struggle badly.
Both gentlemen and fools speak freely.
Certainty is better than hope. D: Better sit with certainty than walk with hope.
Child memories will last long.
Children are pauper wealth.
Children do children's work.
Documents do not forget.
Either conform to the customs or flee the country.
Even the best horse may stumble.
Even the best swimmer may sink.
Every cloud has a silver lining. There is nothing so bad in which there is not something good D: Things are never so bad that they are not good for something.
Every little bit helps (contributes some) - IA).
Everybody looks at others, and none on himself.
Everybody wants to put the axe in the bear-skull, but nobody wants to hold the handle.
Everyone has seen his cradle, but none his grave.
Everyone knows what to do with a bad (crazy) wife except the one who has her.
Everyone wants to be a gentleman; nobody want to carry the sack. Everyone wants to be great; nobody wants to carry the sack.
Everyone wants to climb the lowest fence.
Everyone wants to hear praise, and nobody blame. Everyone would rather hear praise than blame.
Everyone wants to live long, but nobody wants to age (get old).
Everyone wants to turn the prettiest side forward.
Everyone's friend is faithful to none.
Everything does not go as we guess.
Everything has an end, except the sausage, she has two.
Everything is good for its own use.
Everything is not as bad as it sounds.
Everything is pure to the pure.
Everything is well told that is well received.
Everything must be destroyed that is meant to be so.
Everything needs its time.
Everything serves the thief.
Everything will lie where it is lowest.
Face to face eagles shall claw (fight).
Farmer thrives among farmers best.
From a gruff word both harm and murder may ensue.
From children and drunk people we get to hear the truth.
From harm one gets wise (and not rich).
From nothing comes nothing.
From our years we learn more than from many books.
From small seeds big trees grow.
Getting a small part is better than a long quarrel.
Good love glides easily and smoothly and pays in time.
Great fear and spanking hardly make the boy extremely wise.
Honor the old, teach the young.
If the man does not heed time, time does not heed the man.
If you bend the bow too much, it will break.
If you bend the rights, they will break.
If you build your house as everybody counsels, it will never stand straight.
It is easier to learn from the damage of another.
It's best to stop while things go well.
Merely book makes none wise.
Most prayers go unanswered anyway.
Not everyone can become pope in Rome.
Not everyone can have the bishop for his uncle.
Not everyone can meet one's better.
Only he who wanders, finds new paths.
Other times, other customs (manners).
Other years make other people.
Patchwork is better than bare buttocks.
Rather suffer for truth than get rewarded for lies.
Respect gives power.
Seriousness and fun often go together.
Sometimes the child just has crying to resort to (and it is horrible).
Straight ahead is shortest, but not always easiest.
The ancients were no fools.
The baker and the smith belong to the devil.
The bear and bear hunter are not of the same opinion.
The best cure meets the disease before it enters the home. - Cf. Prevention is better than cure.
The best friends are fewest.
The best joy lasts the longest.
The best remedy against getting drunk is keeping sober.
The billy-goat knows he has horns.
The blemishes of another are easily seen.
The burden of someone else is always light.
The burnt child fears the fire.
The child has to crawl till it learns to walk.
The comparison halts (something is alike, something is not).
The craziest speak most truly.
The day that is gone, you will not get one more time.
The east wind travels where it is supposed to.
The eye is the first thing that is blinded.
The eye wants to be where it is dear, and the hand where it hurts.
The fair wind blows even if the sailor does not see it.
The fair wind blows just as well whether the sailor sleeps or is awake.
The farmer can sow, but not put on the ear.
The farmer cannot invite all.
The farmer himself the best, and his wife the next.
The farmer is no goose because he is grey.
The friend of all is the fool of all.
The maniacs have many funny hours that the sane guy does not have.
The old are to be honored.
The patch always has to be larger than the hole.
The patch is sometimes worse than the hole.
The straightest road is shortest, but not always easiest.
The table catches.
The will be quiet sometime, those who are wild now.
There are at least two sides to a thing.
There is a knack to every handicraft.
There is much poverty in the world, but many to share it (Joke).
There is nothing so bad that it cannot be worse.
There never was so bad a crow that it did not want a mate.
Those who yawn at the same time, are not on bad terms.
Too audacious is often given a beating.
Too clean has no taste.
Too much makes the sack burst.
Too near is little dear.
Too sensitive gets nowhere.
Too sharp may be a burden too.
Too shy gets nowhere ahead.
Br: Universitetsforlaget: Kort og godt. Utvalde ordtak til husbruk (In brief: Selected Proverbs for Home Use). Bergen: Universitetsforlaget, 1978.
By: Bø, Olav, ed: Rim, gåter, ordtøke. (Rhymes, Puzzles, Proverbs) 3. utg. (Norsk folkediktiing 4) Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget, 1977.
Go: Christiansen, Reidar: Gamle norske visdomsord. Norske ordspråk i utvalg. (Selected Old Norwegian Words of Wisdom) Oslo: Cappelen, 1992.
Noo: Almenningen, Olaf, red. Norske ordtak (Norwegian Proverbs). Nesodden: Frifant Forlag, 2005.
Oa: Aasen, Ivar: Norske ordsprog. (Norwegian Proverbs) 3rd ed. Voss: Vestanbok, 1982.
Or: Kragh, Ole: Alverdens ordsprog og talemåder. (Proverbs and Sayings from the Whole World) Copenhagen: Vendelkærs, 1979.
Osl: Jensen, Brikt, red. Ordspråkleksikon (Proverb Dictionary). Tr. Gunnar Gjengset. Oslo: Schibsted, 1996. (Carsten Bregenhøj og Solveig Pått: Politikens Ordsprogleksikon.)
Oy: Aasen, Ivar. Norske Ordsprog samlede og ordnede af I. Aasen. (Norwegian Proverbs Collected and Arranged by I. Aasen) 2nd ed. Christiania (Oslo): Mallings Boghandels Forlag, 1881.
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