Day 7 of my travels with The Clipperton Project around the Faroe Islands.
Today we were still in Tòrshavn and we had two talks from two fascinating Faroese people.
The first: Birgir Kruse who has a great knowledge on all aspects of the islands, and writes a blog called Birk Blog, which, unfortunately for us, is written in Faroese, a language not currently translated by google :( But you should still pop on over for a nosey, as photographs speak all languages, and his are brilliant.
Unfortunately the space we met him in was a coffee shop, although lovely, it was quite noisy, and as I was sitting quite far from him, I didn’t quite catch all that was being said… but… I’ll do my best to give you a quick run through of a few things I learned from the notes I scribbled down!
- The Faroese language has only existed as a written language for about 130 years.
- It’s thought that if the Faroe Islands had belonged to Scotland the language would’ve been replaced by something more akin to Gaelic, and Faroese would’ve died out a long time ago.
- There is a way of speaking known as “sweet Danish” which is a mixture of various Scandinavian languages, and allows for a mutual understanding between the nationalities.
- The country is very religious, even in modern times.
- All villages have a church that is representative of The Danish Church.
- Religion also has a strong presence within the country’s politics.
- Most Faroese people do not recycle. It’s not a part of their culture at present.
- Fishing used to be the biggest industry within the Faroe Islands, but is no longer. They can’t do it cheaply enough, and there simply aren’t enough fish left.
- The derive a lot of power from wind energy, and are currently attempting to develop power from water currents, but as it is a very expensive undertaking, it’s development is slow.
Birgir was a fantastic person to speak to, and I just wish we’d had a little more time with him, as I still had lots of questions!!
(photo below pinched from Birgir’s blog)
Next stop was at the Faroese University for a talk with Tota Arnadottir, an expert on languages, literature, folklore, and faerytales… yes, I loved her! she was talking about everything I was interested in!!
(Photos below pinched from Mhairi Law)
The fairytales in Faroese culture are younger than some of the older folk tales and ballads, and they have in some parts been appropriated from different cultures (heavy Celtic, Scottish, and Norse influences), yet still retain a Faroese flavour.
I was disappointed to learn that there are no written collections available as reading material – even in Faroese – as I would’ve loved to adopt that kind of book. Within the culture, stories are verbal, as with most, yet here they live on in the verbal a lot more than other cultures. Stories are told over shared meals, or sung in the ballads, and chain dances.
Tota then went on to tell us three stories… but as I visited the places the myths were created in, I’ll wait until later on to tell you these tales! One from Mikladalur about The Seal Woman. One from Tjørnuvík about the hidden people. And the third about Risin og Kellingin. So, keep on following this journey to learn those tales…
The hidden people, or Huldufólk, are a large part of the mythology surrounding these islands. The Huldufólk are elf-like people who are larger than humans, grey in colour, with dark black hair, and live inside the rocks of the mountains. Although people no longer believe in these tales, there is still a respect for the hidden people. Large rocks, where they are said to live, are not moved or damaged for fear of angering the Huldufólk living within. Stories of those who have done us such, and met with a nasty fate, make for popular tales within the Faroes, and Iceland, where the Huldufólk are also present in mythology.
I like the idea of the Huldufólk and would like to work them into my work at some point. I also like them, in that they are a faerytale that makes sense. They are shaped by the landscape and by real life. They could be real. I like fantasy that is interlaced with reality, it makes for much more interesting storytelling. If you didn’t think, even if only for a second, that the creature you were being told about, or reading about, was real… would the story be as good? would you be enraptured? would that shadow dancing in the corner of your eye be quite as convincing? the shadows beneath the waves as enticing? If we believe, even for a second, that magic is real, the faeries exist… then they already do.
Tota went on to tell us about the great ballads and the chain dance.
The chain dance is simple. Link arms, two steps to the right, then one to the left, all the while chanting the words to the songs. One person leads these chants, and traditionally it was such a person who also “wrote” the stories. Those with lots of experience make for the best leaders, and it is the leader who sets the tone, and rhythm for the dance. A good leader makes for a good dance, and vice versa.
These dances have been a great preserver for the language and the traditional stories, and although the style of dance is common throughout Europe, it is the Faroese who have maintained the culture of the chain dance above the others.
Now, it is becoming a little more difficult to attract young people to take up the tradition, but there are musicians, who are modernising the classic tales. Some purists find this detestable, but I think the adapting of tales to suit the tastes of the modern in order to preserve them and keep them alive is fantastic.
One such example is TÝR who have combined the traditional music with the contemporary…
The Faroese have a great music culture!
(Photo below pinched from Lea Kannar)
Thanks Tota, that talk was fantastic!
I had a little wander around town after the talk, doing a little souvenir shopping, buying a TÝR CD, and stopping at our favourite cafe Brell for a quick hot chocolate before returning back to the hostel for dinner.
Dinner… and salsa dancing in the kitchen!!
After dinner, a few of us headed out to Sirkus for another night of fantastic live music. The name of the duo who played there completely escapes me, but they were great! and José managed to get a few good songs in with them too!
The toilets in Sirkus have some awesome graffiti!!
Another brilliant day!
More to come soon…