“Once upon a time,” the way most famous most Norwegian folk tales start. Although Soria Moria Castle states There was once a couple who had a son, the idea is basically the same. The people in Norway are used to long and harsh winters and have had to find something to pass the time for centuries. One of their more prominent methods of passing the time has been the re-telling of folktales. Possibly the most famous, Soria Moria Castle is one of their favorites. In the following pages a brief description of this most wonderful tale will be presented, along with an analysis of the function the tale and a summary of archetypal values, characters, and ideas expressed throughout the story and how they relate to the culture of Norway.
The folktale, Soria Moria Castle, involves a young male named Halvor, the folktale hero of this story. All he ever wanted to do was rake in the ashes no matter what his parents did to try and get him interested in other things. Then one day he left with a skipper to go out at sea and see foreign parts. After a while a storm caused the boat to end up on an unknown coast. Halvor went ashore and found a path which led him to a great castle. Upon entering the castle, he found a beautiful princess who was surprised to see him, and she warned Halvor about a Troll who lives in the castle and eats people. But Halvor said the Troll does not scare him, so the princess told Halvor to get the Troll’s the sword and when the Troll came Halvor chopped its four heads off. After freeing that princess, he continued on his journey to rescue the other two sisters of the princess. He eventually came to another castle, bigger than the last, where he found the second princess who warned him of an even bigger troll than Halvor had faced before. But Halvor showed no fear and when the Troll came in he chopped its six heads off with its sword. He continued on to the last castle, which was the biggest of them all. Inside he found the youngest and most beautiful princess. This time a giant troll with nine heads came, but Halvor managed to chop all of them off as well. After that, Halvor lived with the three princesses in splendor and wealth, but he got restless and missed his parents, so the princesses gave him a magical ring that let him wish himself home and back, but warned him that he should not mention their names to the people back home. Unfortunately, Halvor did mention the princesses, who took back the ring and left for Soria Moria Castle. Halvor was disheartened that the princesses had left him, and he went to find Soria Moria Castle. He bought a horse and traveled to a hut where an old woman asked the Moon for directions to the castle. The Moon did not know but the West Wind did, and the West Wind led the way to Soria Moria Castle. Halvor kept up with the West Wind because the old woman had given him magic boots that cover fifteen miles in ever step in return for Halvor’s horse. Once at the castle, he found the princesses and it was agreed by all at the castle that Halvor should have the best one of them.
This story exemplifies a classic folktale. It contains many common traits of
folktales, such as a folktale hero, a quest, and magical items. The folktale hero is the
main character, Halvor. Like many folktale heroes Halvor is scoffed at by his parents
who think he will never do anything with his life. His mother described him as lazy, he would never do anything, and his cloths were always in rags and tatters. Furthermore, Halvor went on a quest, or a “journey taken in search of a person or object of great value.” In this folktale the hero he overcomes three Trolls and wins the prize of three beautiful princesses. Also like many folktale heroes, Halvor receives help from magical items and people along the way: the magical swords allow him to kill the Trolls, the magical ring allows him to travel back home, the magical boots help him travel to Soria Moria Castle, and he is aided by an old woman and the West Wind. This tale, like most tales of quests, can be regarded as symbolic of real life in which people must overcome challenges and obstacles in their paths, similar to how Halvor had to overcome the three Trolls and find the princesses. This may be why this folktale survived for so many years through oral telling, long ago, by family firesides and at social gatherings in villages and country places through the whole of Norway. It is characteristic of most Norwegian folktales in that it contains a unique undertone of realism and folk humor. Tales like this traveled through Norway during the Middle Ages and were absorbed into the existing lore. They were primarily told for entertainment, and the storytellers themselves were highly esteemed if they were good, each one having his own style of telling a story. All told, this story contains the classic elements of a folktale with a folk hero and his quest, as well as exemplifying traits of Norwegian folktales.
The Norwegian culture, because of their harsh climate, is highly based on entertainment. After all, what else is there to do during freezing winters? They rely on all types of activities to keep them occupied during the winter season. Many of these include various forms of art and music, but their favorite has always been telling and listening to stories. Now the stories are written down and published in books, but before they were all told by word of mouth, much the same way Soria Moria Castle was. Although this culture has many myths, they have never been as popular to the Norwegian people as folk tales. These folktales express many archetypal values, ideas, and characters. On of the most common archetypes expressed is the idea of one person raising above their birth circumstances and becoming great. In Soria Moria Castle the boy, Halvor, rises above his birth to eventually kill trolls and marry a beautiful princess. Another archetype that is expressed in this tale is a man is willing to do anything for the woman he loves. Halvor leaves his home again to chase his dear princess across many, many miles just so that he may get her back. He is forced by a horse, and to follow The West Wind to find her. The princess herself is an archetype. She is the typical princess in folktales throughout the world. Beautiful, and willing to marry the man that has proved his worth time and time again, and unwilling to marry the one that has done nothing. Halvor is also an archetypal character. He represents the hero that is present in so many cultures throughought the world. He is walking along for the sake of walking along, gets hungry, decides to stop and ask for food, and ends up killing a troll. After killing this one troll and rescuing the princess he held captive, he decides to kill two more trolls, and rescue those two princesses too. In the end getting to marry one of the princesses is his reward.
Although short and sweet, Soria Moria Castle does a good job of expressing the Norwegian culture, along with archetypal characters, ideas, and values. It also is entertaining, which explains the purpose of all Norwegian folk tales. In the past paragraphs all of these things were discussed with a brief summary of the tale itself.