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Book Reflections – The Lure of the North 

The Lure of the North is a compilation of three essays written by British travellers in mid nineteenth century.

The 19th-century boom in mass tourism, fuelled by the introduction of the railways, brought with it the rise of travel writing. Guided excursions such as “Cook’s Tours” (the first of which was led by Thomas Cook in 1841, and went from Leicester to Loughborough) were not for everyone. Many preferred to strike out alone into the depths of foreign lands. Of these foreign lands, Norway appealed to the more intrepid: the grand scenery, exotic peasantry and comparative cheapness of the Far North suited the enthusiasm of the young (or female) tourist.

The Lure of the North is part of series of books to pique interest in the treasures held by The London Library. The series is called ‘Found on the Shelves’.

William Dawson Hooker wrote a very interesting essay about his visit to the far north of Norway. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the way of life of the Norwegians, Sami and Finnish immigrants in the mid 19th-century. Particularly interesting is the description of the two dances that he attends. Interestingly, he writes that the singing by the Sámi is monotonous and not good. However in the movie Sameblod I really enjoyed the rhythm and cadence of the Sámi yoiking.

Emmeline Lowe in 1857 anonymously wrote about her journey with her mother as “unprotected females” through Denmark, Norway and Sweden. According to Lowe

The only use of a gentleman in travelling is to look after the luggage, and we take care to have no luggage. “The Unprotected” should never go beyond one portable carpet-bag. This, if properly managed, will contain a complete change of everything; and what is the use of more in a country where dress and finery would be in worst taste?

It was great to read about Lowe’s impressions of the Norwegian peasants that she stayed with, especially when she caught her own goose for dinner. It was also nice to read about her travels around Dovrefjell and Snøhetta (where I’ve been).

Nidarosdomen (cathedral) in Trondheim (where I live) dates from the 11th century and is famous. It has for a long time been a popular destination for pilgrims and sightseers. When Lowe was urging English travellers in Norway to explore Dovrefjell instead of heading to Trondheim she said

The usual route for the English is to continue straight on to Trondhjem, take the steamer there, and coast round to Christiania again – quite plain sailing, but you will have no real idea of what Norway is. The great beauties of the road terminate at the Dovre-fjeld; from the summit you will have had a good idea of the stern character of the scenery further on. At Trondhjem, the only remarkable object is a church, thought to be a wonder from being of stone instead of wood, otherwise common-place enough.

Edward Stanford, Junior joined 5 others on a purpose-built boat for a month on Hardanger Fjord. I quite like flatbrød but he doesn’t

At Moster we had our first taste of a Norwegian “station” (hostel) – i.e., bare bed-rooms and plain wholesome living – but were very pleased with everything except the flad-bröd, the bread of the country, a thin wafer-like substance resembling crisp brown paper intermingled with blotting, sawdust, and straw… we saw piles of it packed from floor to ceiling in several houses.

All three writers had positive things to say about the honest and simple ways of the rural Norwegians that they interacted with. All three also comment on the Norwegian love of singing and there were several references to bunad (traditional Norwegian formal clothing) and the beauty of the Norwegian women.

I enjoyed reading these three short essays. Ironically, I didn’t feel any lure of the north before moving to Norway on an expat assignment, instead I sort a break from over-work. I certainly have loved it here!


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This entry was posted on April 29, 2017 by in travel writing and tagged , , , , , , , .
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