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Types of Anecdotes in Han Ola og han Per

We find hundreds of anecdote types . . . represented in Rosendahl's work. Einar Haugen (1988, ix)

An anecdote is a short amusing or interesting story, even a depiction of a minor narrative incident in a painting. One may study many strip episodes as being anecdotal of a kind.

Appropriate stories assist learning and passes on many sides to the culture (sub-culture too), according to the psychologist Jerome Brunner (Also: [Tales: good for learning]. Apt stories can help learning, as in many traditional fables. Moreover, Rosendahl's strip consists of stories in the form of anecdotal episodes and episodes that make up novellas. A typical Rosendahl strip may be said to be an anecdote. Many sorts of folkloric anecdotes have been classified, that is, sorted thematically and numbered. Anecdotes have a loose formal structure - a design - apart from what they are about, that is, their recurrent leitmotifs. The particular forms of anecdotes that are employed in most of Rosendahl's are "numbskull" stories, tells Einar Haugen. The anecdote is the simplest form of the folktale, a single encounter between familiar characters, ending in a jocular resolution (the nub or point). Haugen finds the folktale anecdote ideal for the comic strip. (Haugen 1988, ix)

552 Rosendahl strips have been edited by Joan N. Buckley and Einar Haugen, and published in two very well received collections. About 48 Rosendahl strips were omitted in it. (Buckley and Haugen 1988, vii)

In folklore there are hundreds of anecdote types to draw on. Hans-Jörg Uther's The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography Based on the System of Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson. Vols 1-3 (2004) furnishes details. Among the chosen types of stories and motifs in it one large section is about miracle tales. Another, very widespread sort of tales are anecdotes. These and other sorts of tales are grouped with allotted type numbers (ATU numbers), and the chains of actins described briefly. Literature references are also given.

Another way of grouping folk tales is by using three large groups of tales:

  1. Helped by animals;
  2. Helped by tools and things, some of which work like magic;
  3. Helped by medicine, right or wrong.

Rosendahl's comic strip reflects similar wishes and underlying strivings: in the strip, contrivances, contraptions, or appliances are presented as potential helpers, but need to be handled with care and skill. The many contrivances are results of the mechanical, technological revolution; they are the folk heroes' difficult helpers. The protagonists also depend on farm animals all along. That some animals speak, is not a main point throughout the strip: animals are made use of for gains. There are also some odd attempts at cures for disease or weakness, and at times home-remedies.

In essence, being helped with one's adaptation process is very much of what the strip is about between the lines. The documentation that follows, is mainly folkloric.

Anecdotal Strips

Rosendahl strip episodes may be termed anecdotes, or terse, graphic tales. Some of their themes are found in folklore. For example, "Ola minding the house" (51) is a type of folk anecdote, labelled The man who does his wife's work (AT 1408).

Haugen adds that Rosendahl or his publishing editor provides literary reference by entitling one of his stories "Ola and Per Act Out a Numbskull Story" (64). An illustration of "foolish imitation' is a strip in which Per accompanies his wife, Polla, to a social occasion; she has carefully instructed him to do exactly as she does. When she falls into a puddle, Per follows suit (96).

Einar Haugen discusses such cases. There are still other folktale types to bring to bear on Rosendahl's strip; there are other themes of folklore to add to the ones given by Haugen above. (Haugen 1988, ix).

The folklore of Scandinavia reflects in burlesque ways both toilsome conditions, poverty and the wit of exploring ways out by fantasy and equipment. The following sumps up three important theme types (or motif types) found both in Norwegian folklore and Rosendahl's strip:

  • Being helped by gadgets and equipment in the good hope of getting a decent life;
  • Being aided by animals, and depending on them;
  • Being assisted by wonderful medicine.

We find all three types exemplified in Han Ola og han Per. One may suppose that many features, capabilities, and wonder-gadgets of Norse gods underscore cumbersome sides of being a Norseman or Viking; yearnings for getting a less toilsome life. Many late inventions have come fairly close to Norse and Scandinavian folkloric imagery by now.

Greatly coveted things in olden times might have easily been projected onto gods and goddesses and spoken of as god-equipments in a search for somewhat better living. The belt, gloves, and boomerang hammer of Norse Thor illustrates it well along with his "airplane" cart drawn by two he-goats. The flying cart would correspond to airplane engines. Thunder was reckoned to be the sound of the thunder-god's chariot. He had human friends. Thor was called on for help in military enterprises. (Munch 1981, 37-40)


Three Main Forms of Help

A. Farmers Helped by Animals

One third of the Norwegian population emigrated, and most of them to the United States. They brought with them stories of Norse gods, goddesses and heroes, humorous folktales and inherited values as part of their culture. As US farmer such immigrants dreamed of, wished for and went for fertile land, crops, and fine farm animals to live on. Ola, Per and Lars illustrate such things in a long row of anecdotes. The main thing is not that of being of Norwegian extraction, though, but of being prairie farmers. (Lovoll 1998, 1999)

Narratology is the study of structure in narratives. The drift of the "chain of action" along with patterns and pursuits in some folk tales has been analysed and mapped by the Russian folklorist Vladimir Propp and the structuralist Algirdas J. Greimas. In Norway, Gudleiv Bø shows that the detailed mapping into sequences and actors of Propp and Greimas is not much fit for Norwegian folk tales, which are much simpler organized than Russian folktales. Further, Freudian interpretations and Jungian interpretations of fairy tales may also be found, and they mix. (Propp, Greimas; Bø in Sundland)

Dealing with animals is toilsome and often troublesome. In the strip the farmers are struggling with the skunk (2), the wolf (7), the rat (30), the bear (52), the rattlesnake 61), chicken lice (98), flies (240), and chinch bugs (568). Other animals are domestic and helpful but can still be troublesome, like cows (3), pigs (5), bees (22), horses (43), dogs (119), mules (163), and chickens (167), shows Haugen. Farm animals and farmers live together in a continuing half-symbiosis. With the exception of ecological and humane farming, today's' farm business tends to exploit farm animals by taking their freedom away and finally taking their skin from them as well. The reduced living conditions and detractions from the essential worth of free animals is sustained by an attitude lessing the inherent worth of animals towards "plants" to use. Also: to reduce the worth of plants to "things", like minerals, is another step down when speaking of essential worth. It speaks of, in one word, exploitation.

Lessening of essential worth, by the loss of freedom, being hemmed in by loss of sound and natural living-conditions are keys to what Per in particular favours for the sake of "progress" or making some money (eg, 16), as he struggles to live on with his family. The use of reductive labelling and measures are for exploiting others. There were more common bonds between people and their animals in earlier times, when people and farm animals were bond by a common fate, often living together under the same roof. Be that as it may, considerate contacts with plants and animals are greatly highlighted in folk tales. In one of their aspects they serve to socialize young ones into ways of handling cattle, other animals, even fruit trees. There are many folklore examples of being sensitive to animals, trees and much more. (Haugen 1988, 1988, xi.)

The magic gifts in several folktales make for success if well handled. The folk tale hero in Norwegian tales tends to start in poverty and end up rich, due to being helped on and up by magicians, magic gifts and animals, well wed and well off. Such a get-successful fare is the quite typical, general drift of folkloric "Miracle Tales." The goal of leaving home in a lot of folk tales is to "find happiness (Norw.: finne lykka)", which also means "to do well." Per in Rosendahl's strip strives for much along such lines, often by gadgets and the like to make farm living better, and also by insensitive exploitations of animals.

Helped by willing animals - folklore outlooks

All the animals that appear in folklore, are they really and truly the willing, great helpers that ask to be slaughtered after rendering good service?

In many fables and animal tales animals talk of the burdens that human press on them. Folk tales tend to leave out that at last they eat their horses too. In some tales, old, infirm and soon-to-be-slaughtered animals escape from their owners. The Grimm tale of the Bremen musicians have counterparts in Scandinavian folklore too, as in The animals in night quarters (AT 130). This is the same type of tale as Grimm's The Bremen Town-Musicians. The desolation of being discarded in old age lies at the back of many more tales as well.

In Rosendahl's strip, animals talk a little but may show ill will toward the farmers, who abuse some of them, if not all. For example there is an old sow that seems unreasonably difficult to kill. And yet, the strip is marked by ambivalence toward animals (3, 5, 16, 25, 45, 48, 66).

In many fables and animal tales, animals may reveal something about ourselves by how they act and what they say. There are very many such fables in Europe. (See Gibbs 2002).

Farmers may find themselves helped by stories that present their dealings with and exploitations of animals as all right, and say that persons are "helped by animals". Related tales:

  • AT 300 - The Dragon-slayer
  • AT 302 - The ogre's (devil's) heart in the egg
  • AT 312 - The giant-killer and his dog. Bluebeard
  • AT 314 - The youth transformed to a horse
  • AT 511A - The little red ox
  • AT 530 - The princess on the glass mountain
  • AT 531 - Ferdinand the true and Ferdinand the false
  • AT 545B - The cat as helper
  • AT 550 - Search for the golden bird
  • AT 551 - The sons on a quest for a wonderful remedy for their father
  • AT 552 - The girls who married animals
  • AT 554 - The grateful animals
  • AT 559 - Dung-beetle
  • AT 566 - The three magic objects and the wonderful fruits. Fortunatus
  • AT- - The saving blood
  • AT- - The shepherd boy and the bear
  • AT- - The white-bear that dug up the boy
  • AT 1161 - The bear trainer and his bear
  • AT 1651 - Whittington's cat
  • AT- - The queen and the calf
  • AT 325 - BIRD - The magician and his pupil
  • AT 326 - FISH - The youth who wanted to learn what fear was.

Served by animals

Helping or serving animals appear in variants of the fairy tale type AT 402, The mouse (cat, frog, etc.) as bride. In another tale, AT 545A, The cat castle, either the cat or dog is the helper, and so on. (See Hodne 1984)

Folklore tales about being served and helped by animals are explained and elaborated on: [Served by Animals]. Different attitudes toward plant life are expressed in AT 328, Jack and the beanstalk and the unnumbered "The man who wanted to hang himself on Wednesday evening." In that sort of tale an old oak tree is made to talk and tell where treasures lie hidden.

B. Helped by Equipment: The Mechanical Revolution's Links to Norwegian Fairy Tales

Norse myths and some Scandinavian folk tales and stories of inventors illustrate a slow process: "First imagined, next made into products." Ørnulf Hodne presents a survey of all the types of Norwegian fairy tales with variants. Being helped by equipment is a key element in roughly thirty of these types. The equipment envisioned in such tales, the various gadgets, reflect on the one hand former deep-set needs among humans, and spell out imagined solutions to some of them. Several magic tool and things of fairy tales have since appeared, reminding of what was former magic tools and things through advanced enough technology. Thus: What people of old imagined and presented as magic things, have since become products of technology, and some can make life better as long as it lasts.

More than sixty different devices are invented or bought by Per: Haugen says "one could compile a complete inventory of the life of Midwest farmers from the strips." They give a detailed depiction from the mechanical revolution of farm life at the time, with Rosendahl drawing dangerous devices and machines to get to grips with. And, "As Joan Buckley suggested . . . a number of these machines have since been invented and marketed," Haugen tells, and concludes about the strip, "It deserves a high position in American immigrant literature." (Haugen 1988, x-xii)

Buckley further finds that "With Ola and Per as the center, the strips show two neighbors who go through an endless variety of experiences with one or the other coming up with some fantastic new idea . . . [Per's] genius is coming up with new patents that make the farm family more dependent upon mechanical devices, possibly thereby reflecting Rosendahl's own interest in new inventions.

[Per's] most common means of coping with his world and realizing his dream is to come up with some complicated gadget . . . Part of the irony of the humor is that many of these gimmicks anticipated real technological developments. (Buckley 1984, 14, 18, 22)

"Gimmicks anticipating technological developments" is a deep theme of both the strip and miracle tales where magic objects have a central place. In some of them the hero is given magic or splendid objects as rewards, and by help of them he wins a good hold in life. (Buckley 1984, xx). Handy equipment is very much of what Per goes for. He is dedicated to contraptions and outfit to help farm life, not unlike his maker, the cartoonist Rosendahl. As Buckley says, the character Per serves as something like an alter ego (second self or counterpart) to Rosendahl. Buckley point out that there are many contraptions in the strip, and some of them were in fact patented later by others than Rosendahl. She specifies about two dozen contraptions, with the end note "But with the machine the person becomes a working part, usually the one who botches the mechanism." Maybe so, maybe no. It depends - (Buckley 1984, 22).

It could be good help to select only very fit equipment and make decent use of it, tending to it as needed, and "ride on top of things" also, including the washing-machine, refrigerator, and well protected computer. In some cases it is as with a knife: in the wrong hands may work harm, but wisely handled it can work good, for example if used with a fork. Per often fails, but not very often through contraptions per se, but through not designing them well or not operating them all right. He is frequently lacking in forethought and consideration enough, and further, he reveals great lack of risk analyses. Such knowledge is at times hard-won. Per illustrates that too.

The strip indicates one has to learn to calibrate technological products and use them for good, avoiding harm and damage, making risks less. The strip protagonists are into learning to develop and handle tools and equipment in the first phases of the technological farming revolution in America, as Joan N. Buckley and Einar Haugen both point at (1984, 14; 1988, xi, xii). In many areas, today's farming has gone further and is more like a business-minded enterprise.

Magic Items of Fiction Coming True

Psychoanalytic and Jungian traditions seek to note what is presented on the surface and judge those features as possible symptoms of deeper issues that are speculated about, at times in rigorous ways. Sigmund Freud thought dreams express symbolically our hidden desires, needs, etc. Also, in Carl Gustav Jung's view, a dream is an interior drama: "The whole dream-work is essentially subjective, and a dream is a theatre in which the dreamer is himself the scene, the player, the prompter, the producer, the author, the public, and the critic." (Jung, "General Aspects of Dream Psychology,” The Practice of Psychotherapy, CW 16, par. 509; Freud 1913)

Jungian analysis is less restricted than Freudian analysis, and could fit graphic strip narratives. [Sequenced stages]. Jungians adapt aspects of folk tales to the theoretical system and constructs of Carl Jung. Also, parts of the Transactional Analysis (TA) of Eric Berne compare certain happenings to so-called life scripts (life plans, in part deeply subconscious ones) for possible benefit. (Freud 1900; Jung 1974, Hall 1983, Berne 1976; 1973, 42 ff.)

Some scientists, notably among them Albert Einstein, are known to have made use of their images and dreams. "Creative achievements are instigated by dreams or forms of dreaming as the regular case. Spontaneous forms of consciousness try out in a groping manner possible solutions and present them to waking consciousness in sudden Eurekas," says Franz Strunz in Dreaming Abstracts, Vol 3, No. 4, Dec. 1994, p. 281).

The content of many nightly dreams and the fantastic and surreal imaginations of folklore share some properties, in that dream topics and objects longed for in folk tales may reflect deeply felt wants, and at times solutions. In folklore most solutions turn out to be imagined, but in the arena of technology and science some ideas are explored and turned into reality by careful and meticulous labour. Hence the Nobel Prizeman August Kekule von Stradonitz (1829-96) said in 1890 by way of warning, "Let us beware of publishing our dreams until they have been tested by the waking understanding."

A further example of what it sometimes takes to make daydreams come true: Albert Einstein discovered the special theory of relativity one day he lay daydreaming on a hill one summer's day. He imagined he rode on sunbeams to the outer end of the universe, and then came back to the surface of the sun. From that he concluded that the universe had to be curved, against anything he had learnt about it earlier. The "dream" took a few moments of his time; proving it took years of hard work to prove his ideas mathematically. At present they have massive support in modern physics.

Physicists like Albert Einstein and Richard P. Feynman have both described metaphoric, image-rich thought processes they had during some of their most original scientific discoveries. Images can inspire further thought. That can well be a basic principle in art and science and otherwise. Strip drawings can inspire ideas about handling too. As for inventions by Per, "many of these gimmicks anticipated real technological developments," writes Buckley. (Buckley 1984, 22)

The Inventions of Per in the Light of of Scandinavian Folklore

Gadgets that are remotely and not so remotely akin to some of those in Rosendahl's strip can be traced back to mythologies where cherished gods and goddesses have equipment and weapons to dream of if hard and poor conditions evoke yearnings for such help. Below are two of them:

1. Thor of increased strength could ride through the air by he-goats and a chart. Ola and Per learn to ride through the air after the inventions of the brothers Wright and others. Thor's mastery of electrical discharges is a bit akin to Per's "toying" with electric fences that kill all his pigs (377), while strokes of lightning and thunder resembles Ola's and Per's use of dynamite too often. (Wad 1985; Munch 1981, 1986, 37-40)

2. Frey of fertility, the son of Njord, ruled over the weather and the harvest, happiness, peace, and prosperity. He rode a wonder-boar (or hog) through the air and on water. The collapsible boat Skibladne that could sail on land and sea, and always has fair wind, could be carried in his pocket. He also owned a sword that struck by itself. His wonder-equipment may be seen as forerunners of inflatable rubber boats, hovercraft and other nautical vessels. Many farmer activities relate to the things Frey was associated with, including riding one's animals. (Munch 1981, 43-46)

The Norse had few and bad roads for most part. In the course of time greatly desired objects wishes could have been be depicted as delightful equipment of gods, even. Along this line of thought wonder-beasts might be slaughtered and fed on only to be brought to life and served the next day again, and the next, and so on. The means to form helpful animals for food and drink are not developed into perfection by Per (16), however. (Munch 1981, 87)

It could be that a lot of wishful thinking is brought about by a great shortness of food, difficulties of transportation, and also engenders deep faith in certain objects – many of which later have been realized a long way through technology too. Many gadgets and contraptions of Per may be seen as indicating the same root drives. They also relate to the sort of difficulties the Norwegian-American farmers repeatedly found themselves in and recognized in Rosendahl's strip, as Joan Buckley tells (1984, 20, 22, 24 etc). Making the farm pay is a major concern. Mechanical outfit is a means to that end. So just as Norse gods excel to a large extent by means of transportation and weaponry, the strip characters of Rosendahl – folk heroes already – speak for many Norwegian Americans a few generations ago.

There are some 30 Norwegian folk tales that show help by magic things or such equipment a few centuries ago:

  • AT 313 - The girl as helper
  • AT 330 - The smith outwits the devil
  • AT 400 - The man on a quest for his lost wife
  • AT 425 - The search for the lost husband
  • AT 480 - The spinning women by the spring
  • AT 507A - The monster's bride
  • AT 513 - The Helpers
  • AT appendix, into AT 300 - The Raven Helper
  • AT 560 - The Magic Ring
  • AT 561 - Aladdin
  • AT 562 - The spirit in the blue light
  • AT 563 - The table, the ass, and the stick
  • AT 565 - The magic mill
  • AT 569 - The knapsack, the hat and the horn
  • AT 570 - The rabbit-herd
  • AT 577 - The king's tasks
  • AT 580 - Beloved of women
  • AT 590 - The prince and the arm bands
  • AT 591 - The thieving pot
  • AT 592 - The dance among thorns
  • AT 594* - The magic bridle
  • AT 611 - The gifts of the dwarfs
  • AT- (i.e. unnumbered - The princess with the golden ball
  • AT- - The magic hazel stick
  • AT- - The man who competed with the devil in mowing the grass
  • AT- - The three brothers
  • AT- - The three riders who wanted to go to Paris
  • AT- - The wonderful player
  • AT- - The young Alv

A separate page furnishes details: Tool Tales.

A brief overview of the categories in the international AT(U) catalogue helps to put the AT numbers in perspective: The types of tales are divided into these groups and subgroups:

  1. Animal Tales (AT types 1-299).
  2. Ordinary Folktales (AT types 300-1199):
    1. Tales of magic, Wonder tales;
    2. Religious tales;
    3. Aitiological tales
    4. Novelle (romantic tales);
    5. Tales of the stupid ogre.
  3. Jokes and Anecdotes (AT types 1200-1999):
    1. Numskull stories;
    2. Stories about married couples;
    3. Stories about a woman (girl);
    4. Stories about a clever/stupid lucky/unlucky man(boy);
    5. Jokes about parsons and religious orders;
    6. Tales of lying.
  4. Formula Tales (AT types 2000-2399):
    1. Cumulative tales;
    2. Catch tales.
  5. Unclassified Tales (Narrationes Lubricae) (AT types 2400-2499)

More: [Folktale types classified]

Most of the tales in the survey above are classified under "ordinary tales", which comprise about half of the catalogue. One notes the "assonance" between young people of the countryside going out into the world, and immigrants to America in the 1800s. To what degree some of the farm contraptions of Rosendahl's strip resemble the objects of folk tales earlier, is open to debate. For example, is the dandy stool that Lars makes in the smithy out of Værmor's inedible pie an instance (375-76) of outwitting the devil, and thereby a strip variant of AT 330? Answers depend on how figurative the outlooks interpreters are.

Among the magical objects that Scandinavians have dreamed of are:

  • A bridle that tames all kinds of horses - The farmers in the strip have problems with mules too, but do not go that far.
  • A gun that always hits its aim (or a gun with magical bullets) – Rosendahl's characters often carry guns and aim and shoot at times, and it seldom goes well.
  • A magic lamp – Electricity arrived and was put to work speedily.
  • A magic scythe that never gets blunt – They got engines to do the hard work that scythes did earlier.
  • A magic table cloth (a table cloth that supplies itself with food) – The inveterate farm inventor Per is not even close to it by his manifold household inventions, but he invented an iron cow that "works in theory" [386, 387]. Some of his contraptions were in fact patented by others.
  • A purse that never becomes empty (a self-filling purse) – Their glee in finding a box of gold indicates how glad they would have been for a bank account that never would run dry. Per squanders his new-found wealth recklessly, while Ola becomes a victim of investments.
  • A ship that travels both on land and on water – The characters do not have a need for it on flat land. However, they take to airplanes.
  • An apple-tree with golden apples – The nearest the strip characters come is finding a paradisiac flapjack tree on a deserted island.

Modern counterparts to "magical lamps" glow on street corners, in homes, in gardens, and more is to come. Magic scythes are a lot like forerunners of mowing-machines. To fill in a little more, in Snow-White (AT 709) a "magic mirror" is envisaged; it tells the bad stepmother that Snow-White lives; it is used to view far-away happenings. TVs, PCs and cell phones with Internet connections help similar viewing of happenings from far away.

Technical inventions of Per and many former Norse and other dreams and fairy tale objects have since come true to some degree; in part in a large way. With the great arsenal of machines and guns and handy gadgets today, the on-going question is whether we are able to deal with such items and other facets of living. A bet is "No."

Similar designs of tales and legends seem to reveal similar wishes (urges). For example, the Norwegian legend "Gullfebla" (it is the name of a cow) shows a yearning for cattle that produces more and fatter milk. Rich, fat milk was a dream for undernourished boys and girls – and some of Norwegian stock went to America. There is, likewise, a Scandinavian legend of flying through the air. In Norway it is known as "Johannes Blessom." There is a similar tale in Swedish, and the Danes have a legend about a medieval Danish saint who got a ride through the air from Rome to Denmark one Christmas Night. Leonardo da Vinci did not stop by wishing he could fly, and actually strove to design such means of transportation. Centuries later the brothers Wright and many others succeeded through aeroplanes. Through helicopters and air planes and many other artifacts we can "ride like birds" or "ride on big birds".

The stance is: Legends give us insight in group fantasies. One may also take into account that legends and folk tales intermingle in reflecting group fantasies. Birgit Herzberg Johnsen about legends: "They are group fantasies . . . Stylistically legends are objective, but on another level they express the attitudes and values of the storyteller (1997-99)."

The Adventurers' Uses of Dynamite

Technological equipment includes explosives. Explosives are made use of in some strip episodes (7, 34, 66, 220, 328, 471). For example, the strip buffoons use nitroglycerine to get the peel off potatoes (107), and dynamite to get rid of stubs (34) and cannibals (328).

Alfred Nobel first made nitroglycerine more stable, and later, in 1866, added a silica to the oily fluid, nitroglycerine. The mixture could be turned into a paste shaped into rods suitable for holes and the like. Nobel also invented a blasting cap. Dynamite became very successful and made Nobel rich. In modern dynamites much of the nitroglycerine has been replaced with ammonium nitrate.

In the first case the strip's protagonists "crack a nut with a sledgehammer", that is, they are ignorant of the fact that nitroglycerine is highly volatile and extremely dangerous. What is more, they are not apt at using it in fit doses, and the building explodes. Even their fireworks backfires (471).

Apart from the strip's dynamite explosions, engines blow up a few times in it too. Some would say unforeseen explosions are quite unavoidable results of dealing with new, technological equipment, just as when Alfred Nobel invented dynamite. What the prairie buffoons often ignore, however, is "handle with care" and insight. Buckley, however, holds a less progressive and much more pessimistic view on the subject. Referring to Per, she says:

His genius is coming up with new patents that make the farm family more dependent upon mechanical devices . . . These patents, however, serve mainly to complicate daily living, and their use results in chaos. (Buckley 1984, 14)

In spite of technological advances human beings never really change . . . But life changes . . . Progress is really an illusion . . . But if human beings don't change, the one certain result of their simply being alive is confusion. (Ib., 22)

They take in stride the daily frustrations and problems, and despite constant disaster." (Ib., 24)

As mentioned above, new inventions carry with them needs of handling, troubleshooting and for troubleshooting devices. The characters repeatedly reveal a great need for getting essential instructions, for learning those instructions, and for troubleshooting routines and sound safety standards throughout. At least accidents were much rarer with dynamite than with nitroglycerine.

The use of explosions in the strip is an easy, effectful way to round off a single strip. Ola and Per are also venturing into the unknown as adventurers. From time to time they appear to need to get rid of cannibals by dynamite. In one episode they save Lars thereby The cannibals are blown up, Lars not. Then again, in one episode an old sow is walloped in the act of eating about 25 kg dynamite. The old sow is not seen anywhere from then on.

The use of black gunpowder became a part of several Norwegian folktales as well. Not only explosives against trolls, but also tobacco are ingredients in some (Bø and Hodne 1974, 48, 60-69). Tobacco is used for making old women thankful and helpful, and gunpowder is used to blow up trolls and arrive at a way, be it a road or otherwise. The rugged terrain in many parts of Norway still calls for blasts and very expensive measures where roads or railway stretches are supposed to be made.

C. Into Illnesses and Cures on One's Own

Dealing with illnesses and troubles plays a quite large part in the strip. Parts of the struggle to keep the farm and get affluent, are about dealing with such as diseases, vermin, and ageing.

Joan Buckley finds the characters are "trying to adjust to the inevitable changes of daily life [where] people . . . need cures for disease or weakness [etc]." In episode 55, insomnia is the problem, and counting the clock ticks is tried out against it, in vain. In episode 61 Ola and Per want to make medicine for rheumatism out of rattlesnake fat, but they are too scared of the snake to get it, and run away. In episode 84 Per has a backache, and is told by Ola that there is an old cure: to lie down and have someone walk on his back with his knees. While Ola is in the middle of "helping" Per out in this way, an ox tosses him away and starts goring Per, who thinks it is Ola who is overdoing it. In the next strip (85) Ola needs a bottle of painkiller. In episode 95 they seek a remedy against lice, and in episode 98 they seek remedies against mite. And in episode 127 Polla visits the chiropractor. In episode 142 Per wants to disinfect the smallpox-ridden Lars by sulphur fumes against those "worms." In episode 176 Per gets a gland extract supposed to help longevity, but the mother-in-law gives it to the pigs, who in turn become abnormally vigorous, climbing trees, jumping and frisking around like insane. When værmor complains of a bent finger, Per straightens it out with a bold strike with a stick (191). In the strips 262 and 263 Lars has made a too effective hair tonic, one that gives his wife, Værmor, a robust beard. But when she threatened him with a revolver in her hand to make a hair remover quickly, the new remedy makes her lose both the beard and all the hair on her head, including her eyebrows. In episode 268 Per has eaten "health yeast", feels bloated, and Lars wants to puncture him just behind the ribs – for he has consulted a veterinary's book. In episode 346 Ole gets Per "an old Comforter", a bottle of alcoholic patent medicine. Lars tries to cure a cold with hot water, turpentine, and salt, but somehow bungles and scalds his screaming wife (372). In episode 406 Lars has a backache, which Per wants to strike out of him with the flat side of a board or plank. Unluckily for Per, Værmor intervenes, snaps the board and breaks it over Per's head.

At the back of such clowning is the need to stay healthy and regain health – from time to time by zany, homespun measures. Then, sometimes they seek to heal animals, as in episode 53, where Ola "cures" Per's horse by seemingly killing it with a sledgehammer strike to the head. "The patient died, but the fever left him" corresponds to the slapstick lesson at the bottom of the incident. (Buckley 1984, 22)

Folklore to Compare With

Curious remedies and attempts and cures with fears and superstitions point to a real need among immigrants to stay healthy. In olden times (too) people on the one hand envisioned and fantasized about great cures and miracle remedies along with. Those who were said to be able to heal others, were looked on in part with suspicion, in part with fear, as reflected in the attitudes of Norwegians to the Cyprianus, a book of said remedies and the like, including incantations. It was held to be of the Black Arts, and hence avoided by most people, excepting parts of the clergy. In folklore much as been divulged about idiotic superstitions and many hopeless cures. On the other hand Norse people and later generations could make fun with serious things too, including illnesses and how people react to them, both as healers and patients. (Hodne 1999; Rustad 1999)

Healing objects and anecdotal plots are both found in the folkloric catalogue of folktale types. Some of them are about cures or attempts at cures. In fact, the latter, biggest part of the catalogue deals with humorous stories, some of which deal with cures or needs for cures. People tell tales about illnesses for a variety of reasons, and great fascination is one of them. Earlier, as on the prarie among settlers and in modern society as well, an illness could be fatal and disrupt a lot. A farmer could die from a cold that grew worse, before penicillin was discovered and put to common use.

In Norse times (Viking times) people said that gods had wonderful objects, and some were for curing people, like the apples of the goddess Idun. In over twenty-two types of tales in Norwegian folklore, healing and health remedies are vital to the action. A need to combat illness and get well is reflected through them in fanciful and very unprofessional ways. These are the tales:

  • AT 50 - The sick lion
  • AT 311 - The giant and the three sisters
  • AT 432 - The prince as bird
  • AT 461 - Three hairs from the devil's beard
  • AT 551 - The sons on a quest for a wonderful remedy for their father
  • AT 566 - The three magic objects and the wonderful fruits
  • AT 590 - The prince and the arm bands
  • AT 611 - The gifts of the dwarf
  • AT 613 - The two travellers
  • AT 660 - The three doctors
  • AT 709 - Snow-white
  • AT 753 - Christ and the smith
  • AT- - Jesus cures his friend
  • AT 924 - Discussion by sign language
  • AT 1135 - Eye-remedy
  • AT 1137 - The ogre blinded (Polyphemus)
  • AT 1641 - Doctor Know-all
  • AT 1843 - Parson visits the dying
  • AT 1845 - The student as healer
  • AT- - The cat's eye
  • AT- - The quack

More: Twenty-two Types of Folk Tales on Illnesses and Cures.

Rosendahl's strip shows similar, underlying needs as the folktales appear to do, but the times had been changing, and "patent medicines" were resorted to rather than most cures of folklore.

When Lars by accident eats rat poison, it vivifies him (415, 416). By the way, warfarin, which is used to induce internal bleeding in rats and kill them, is also used to treat or prevent blood clots in veins or arteries of humans. Many are treated against thromboembolism by warfarin, but it increases the risk of severe or fatal bleeding.


Anecdotes in Han Ola og han Per, regarding comic strip episodes as anecdotes, the Norwegian-American strip Ola og Per by Peter Rosendahl, Literature  

Buckley, Joan Nagelstad. "The Humor of han Ola og han Per." In Peter Julius Rosendahl. 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.

Buckley, Joan Nagelstad. "Peter Julius Rosendahl: The Creator of Ola and Per." In Peter Julius Rosendahl. More han Ola og han Per. A Norwegian-American Comic Strip. En norsk-amerikansk tegneserie, edited by Joan N. Buckley and Einar Haugen. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1988.

Buckley, Joan N. and Einar Haugen. "Preface." In 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.

Bø, Olav, and Bjarne Hodne, eds. Dei tri blå tårni. Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget, 1974.

Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. 3rd ed. New York: MacMillan, 1913.

Gibbs, Laura, tr. Aesop's Fables: A New Translation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hall, James A. Jungian Dream Interpretation: A Handbook of Theory and Practice. Toronto: Inner City Books, 1983.

Haugen, Einar Ingvald. "Ola and Per: Folk Heroes of Norwegian Americans" In Peter Julius Rosendahl. More han Ola og han Per. A Norwegian-American Comic Strip. En norsk-amerikansk tegneserie, edited by Joan N. Buckley and Einar Haugen. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1988, ix-xii.

Haugen, Einar Ingvald. "The Language of Han Ola og han Per." In Peter Julius Rosendahl. 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, 26-39. Online at National Library of Norway.

Haugen, Einar, and Joan N. Buckley. "Han Ola og Han Per." NAHA publication 1984.

Johnsen, Birgit Hertzberg. "Norwegian folktales and legends." Bergen: Bergen Guide. 2010.

Jung, Carl Gustav. Dreams. Tr. R. F. C. Hull. Bollingen /Princeton University Press, 1974.

Munch, Peter Andreas Norrøne gude- og heltesagn. Rev. ed. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. 1981. (A work based on an English translation of the book: [Norse gods etc.]

Rustad, Mary S, ed., tr. The Black Books of Elverum. Lakeville, MN: Galde Press. 1999.

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.

Wad, Jesper. Boomerang: lav dem selv. Odense: Stavnsager/Joker, 1985.

Zempel, Solveig, ed., tr. and introduction. In Their Own Words: Letters from Norwegian Immigrants. Oxford: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.

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