The second thing I did when I arrived to Norway was to buy a book (the first thing I did was to eat in huge amounts). I came into a little book shop placed in the Oslo-Gardemoen airport and I saw a little book titled “Norwegian Folk Tales”, and what can I say except I loved it? It’s a very kind reading, for they’re mainly tales, but it contains a very interesting foreword in which we can see the conception of the nordic hero.
His social status
The nordic hero is usually a traveller, a wanderer. This is the counterpart to the “medieval knight” or the “greek warrior” social position, who use to have a very good reputation. Here we can see that is, indeed, their poor condition what makes them be in strange situations, advertures with a clear opportunist purpose or battles in which they will have to use the brain. A good example of it are the kids in the story “The Boys who met the Trolls in the Hedal Woods”, who have to face some trolls after they get lost in the forest while searching where to beggin.
No dignified purposes. No humility. No diligence. The protagonist of the nordic folklore is arrogant, proud, insolent, opportunist and a trickster. Nevertheless, he usually has a big heart and the luck favours him.
“Humility, obedience, diligence or devotion gets one anywhere”. —Asbjørnsen y Jørgen Moe.
This make them get out of hard situations by using the imagination. Brain comes first, then the sword (he’s usually a good fighter). This get us closer to a great greek hero (the greatest in my opinion): Ulisses. The difference is, as I said before, in the social status (besides, Ulisses is not a prick).
An exemple of this is the fox in “The Fox as Sheperd”, who learns to sheperd with the only purpose of eating the farm’s animals, in which he infiltrates by using his brain.
Concerning the moral message
Finally, I’ve got to say that there is a moral message in nordic tales, but it has not a nice tendence. Depending on the story the message can be “learn to lie”. We can say that the hero in the nordic folklore doesn’t always learn a lesson, but usually is a good ending for him.