Gudbrand i Lia (Gudbrand on the Ridge)
Most native Norwegians have been told our fairy tales as children. Read by our grandparents and parents – for generation after generation, again and again.
These tales are ancient. No one knows how old they in fact are, but they seem to be older than our Norse myths in their original form and composition, where the latter is similar or the same to all of them. The details in the fairy tales have been changed to a higher or lesser degree throughout time. Our fairy tales have in this way survived throughout time, because they are orally transmitted riddles that contain hidden knowledge and wisdom. They are layered, packed with symbolism and at the same time easy to remember in literal form.
Our Norwegian fairytales are in many ways over time “adapted” to Norwegian local customs and our cultural details – but the fact is that our Norwegian fairy tales are very similar to other European fairy tales. Some of them are even almost identical. Examples of this can be the English fairy tale “Little thumb” where we have the same tale, with a local twist. The same goes for several others. This only tells us how old not only the Norwegian fairy tales are – but the equivalent European tales are as well. We can, not by todays scholars or “scientific methods or sources”, but by every logic conclusion, every indicative method, rationality and reason – trace our fairy tales back to the earliest known form of “bear cult”. Our tales are packed with such symbolism – in plain sight, and in many cases even more so than our myths. I believe our fairy tales not only by certainty can be traced back to pre-Christianity, but even back to the Stone age. The tales were “wrapped” differently back then, naturally – but the theme, the patterns and the codes are, and have always been - primordial!
One example of this is how these fairy tales, which all are pagan the core, survived as an oral tradition during the forced Christianization of the Norse tribal structures. The new Christian priests did not understand them, what knowledge and message they contained – and the fairy tales thus went to a higher degree “under the radar” of the Christian deconstruction of our Norse heritage. Several of them were added “some Christian elements”, such as “priests” and “churches” etc., something that would be quite natural when one knows how the Christianization process went on in our areas with prosecutions, torture and murders.
The Norwegian fairy tales, as our Norse myths, have the same roots as other European fairy tales and myths. They have different details, local twists and adjustments – but the main content, the main foundation and “building stones” are all the same. Ergo, the message and the hidden knowledge are the same, even if the “code” appear in different wrappings.
In the book – Our Traditions – in a pagan, mythological and cultural perspective, there is made an overall list over which components our myths and fairy tales contain;
- an ancestor
- a guardian/witch/Valkyrie/midwife/wolf/bear/dragon/serpent
- a child/youth/hero
- a struggle (a spiritual struggle)
- a reception of memory, wisdom, knowledge, honor and spirit
- a sacred symbolic marriage
- a re-incarnation
The fascinating fact is that this small, but “eternal” content list is found in, not a few, but in all – in different forms, and on different levels of the same process and patterns.
In this Norwegian fairy tale series, we will try to connect this to our dear and well known “good night stories”. We will try to crack the codes and the riddles. To be able to do this, you must mentally discard all monotheistic mindsets. You must have a circular world view. You must read the fairy tales with pagan optics – and we will need to merge in our Norse pagan world of symbolism and metaphors.
The same way the brothers Grimm wrote down the German fairy tales, Asbjørnsen & Moe went around Norway and wrote down ours. Tales, in an oral tradition, were during the National romantic period documented in writing. A period in Norwegian history that can be named a “mini renaissance”, where the interest for the pre-Christian elements and the “Norwegian Golden Age” were lifted forward, when Norway at the time being a historical province under Sweden and later Denmark, was to become a nation of its own.
Luckily, there was no similar or comparable counter reaction from the Christians and the church as it was during the actual renaissance in the late middle ages – due to reasons that are out of the theme in this book; but, the important thing is that the fairy tales were kept. Something we can be very thankful for, because there would hardly have been the same general knowledge today – if there was no such “modern documentation”. In our high-tech, hedonistic, un-spiritual and un-European modern civilization; they would probably have been gone by now. The pre-WWII generations kept these tales to some extent. Their children and grandchildren would have discarded them into oblivion, if they were not written down.
For native Europeans, for our keeping and preservation of our culture; one of, if not the most important thing we can do – is to tell these fairy tales with passion to our children, every single day, again and again. They are coded in a way that enables this, and they appear in so many variants and numbers, with so many different wrappings – that this is possible. They are made like this with intention, indeed. They are made in a way that when you are exposed to them, you will start to ponder, sooner or later. You will eventually crack the codes, recognize the patterns, or at least start to do so.
Metaphors, kennings and hidden meanings are paganism. Our knowledge is not open in plain sight. As in every story, in every myth – you are invited to a spiritual battle…
The first fairy tale we are going to look closer at is “Gudbrand i Lia” (Gudbrand on the Rigde).
Gudbrand i Lia
There was once a man named Gudbrand; he had a farm far beyond a ridge, so they called him Gudbrand i Lia. He and his wife lived so well together and were so well settled that everything the man did, the wife thought was so well done that it could never be done better; whatever he did and how, she was just as fond of it. They owned their own farm roads, and they had a hundred daler (coins) lying on the coffin floor, and two tied cows in the barn.
But then the wife said one day: "I think we should go to town with the one cow and sell her, so we could get some pocket money. We are such good people that we can have some coins in our pockets, like others have. The hundred daler that lay on the coffin floor we can't spend, but I don't know what to do with more than one cow. And a little we will win at that too; that I don't have to take care of more than one, instead of having to feed and take care of two.
Yes, it seemed Gudbrand thought it was well and properly spoken; he took the cow and went to town with it to sell it. But when he came to town, no one would buy a cow.
Oh well, thought Gudbrand, then I can go home again with the cow; I know I have both booths still, and it's just as far back and forth, so he went to stroll home again.
But when he had come some distance along the road, he met one who had a horse to sell, so Gudbrand thought it was better to have a horse than a cow, and then he exchanged with him.
When he had walked a little further, he met a man who was walking and feeding a fat pig in front of him, and then he thought it was better to have a fat pig than a horse and bartered with the man.
He then went a little further; then he met a man with a goat, and then he thought it was better to have a goat than a pig, and then he traded with him who had the goat.
Then he walked a long way further until he met a man who had a sheep; with him he swapped, for he thought: It is always better to have sheep than goat.
Now that he had walked some time again, he met a man with a goose; then he replaced the sheep with the goose.
And when he had walked a long way, he met a man with a rooster; with him he swapped, for he thought like this: It is always better to have a rooster than a goose.
Then he went to the far end of the day; but then he got hungry, and then he sold the rooster for twelve shillings and bought himself food. "Because it is better to save my life than to have a rooster," thought Gudbrand.
Then he went on the way home until he came to the nearest neighbor's farm; there he stopped.
"How did it go in town?" the people asked.
"Oh, things have gone so and so," Gudbrand said ". I can't praise my luck and I can't load it either," and so he told it all, how it had gone from first to last.
"Yes, you will be well received when you come home to your wife," said the man on the farm. "Help you! I wouldn't be in your place."
"I think it could have gone much worse”, Gudbrand said; "But whether it has gone bad or well, I have such a good wife, she never says anything, no matter what or how I do things."
"Yes, I know, but not because I believe it," the neighbor said.
"Should we bet on that?" said Gudbrand i Lia; "I have a hundred daler lying at home on the coffin floor, dare you bet the same?"
Yes, they bet, and then he stayed there in the evening; in the darkness they strolled together over to Gudbrand´s farm. There the neighbor was standing outside the door listening, while the man himself went in, to the wife.
"Good evening," Gudbrand said as he entered.
"Good evening," the wife said; "oh thank god you are here!"
Yes, he sure was.
Then the wife asked what had happened to him in town.
"Oh, so and so," Gudbrand replied, "there is nothing to praise. When I came to town, no one would buy a cow, so I exchanged the cow for a horse."
"Yes, thank you very much for that," said the wife; "We are such good people that we can ride, like others, and when we can afford to keep a horse, then we can get used to one. Go down and place the horse, child!"
"Yes," said Gudbrand, "I don't have the horse; when I got a little way on the road, I swapped it for a pig."
"No, no!" cried the wife, "it was just as if I had done it myself; thank you very much! Now we can have pork in the house, and something to offer people when they come to see us, we too. What would we do with the horse? Then people would say we had grown to such big shots that we could no longer walk as before. Go down and place the pig, child!"
"But I don't have the pig either," Gudbrand said; "When I got a little further, I swapped it with a milk goat."
"Oh no, oh no, as well as you do everything!" cried the wife. "What should I do with the pig when I really think about it; people would just say: over there they eat up everything they have; but now I have goat, then I get milk and cheese, and the goat I still retain. Let the goat inside, child!"
"No, I don't have the goat either," Gudbrand said; "When I got some distance on the road, I swapped the goat and got a good sheep instead."
"No!" cried the wife, "you have done just as I wish for everything, just as I should have been there myself. What should we have done with the goat? I would have to climb rocks and valleys and get it down again in the night. No, when I have a sheep, I can get wool and clothes in the house, and food too. Go down and let the sheep in, child!»
"But I don't have the sheep anymore," Gudbrand said, "because when I had walked a while, I swapped it for a goose!"
"Thank you for that," said the wife, "and many thanks too! What should I do with the sheep? I have not a spinning rock, and I do not care to sit and tow and work clothes either; we can buy clothes now as before. Now I get goose fat, which I have long been urging, and now I can get feathers to my little pillow. Go down and let the goose in, child! "
"Well, I don't have a goose either," said Gudbrand; "when I got a little further on the road, I swapped it for a rooster."
"I don't know how you found it all out," cried the wife; "It's all like I had done it myself. A rooster! It's the same as you had bought an eight-day clock; for each morning the rooster crows at four, so we can get on our feet in due time. The goose? I can't make the goose fat, and I can fill my pillow otherwise. Go out and let the rooster in, child! "
"But I don't have the rooster either," Gudbrand said; "When I had walked yet another piece, I became hungry, and then I had to sell the rooster for twelve shillings, to save my life."
"Now thank you for doing that!" cried the wife; "how do you do it, you do everything exactly as I would wish. What should we do with the rooster? We are our own masters, we can lie in the morning as long as we want. Thank God - when I have just got you back, doing everything so good, I need neither rooster or goose, neither pig or cow. "
Then, Gudbrand opened the door…
«Have I won those hundred daler now?» he said, and the neighbour had to confess that he had.
Well, that was the version of the fairy tale Gudbrand i Lia, at the time when Asbjørnsen & Moe wrote it down. So, what is this story about? What is all this symbolism? Let us dissect the different components, and later accumulate them togheter in a process and a pattern;
The name Gudbrand
This name consists of two parts, and is a typical and traditional Norwegian name;
- Gud (of Norse Guð) meaning God/Gods.
- Brand (of Norse brandr) meaning fire/sword.
So, we can say that this name could be translated as «sword of the Gods». As we know clearly from Norse mythology, our myths are all about «God-making». That we, ourselves, become the Gods. That the Gods are us, as well as present in all of nature, and that we become the Gods through honor and re-incarnation. That we wander in shadows and shapes, where our own accumulated ancestral spirit changes bodies and stays forever young – re-born in the kin, accumulated through the life of our ancestors (which are us).
The second part of the name – brand, is related to fire and sword. This is obviously a weapon – but symbolically it is more than that. It represents the rays of the sun, the rays from Sól that all life originates, thus the lightning that brings life to Jörð (earth/soil). It´s the pagan symbol of a king, together with the crown, which also represents the sun – the attributes together with the moon - of the masculine aspect of nature – the Sky God.
As we know from our mythology, the Sky God is Týr. Her carries not only the sun and the moon, but also the attributes of Óðinn – the spirit, the ancestral spirit, your blood memory and accumulated ancestors.
So, a sword (or a spear) which is also an attribute of Óðinn, would also represent the umbilical cord. Fire is always equivalent to blood in our myths. This attribute is as we know connected to the placenta, the head of Mímir (the ancestor).
This is in fact the frame and the symbolism of the name Gudbrand. He is in other words the child, and the ancestor re-born.
Where Gudbrand lives
Gudbrand lives on a ridge «far away from people». The Norwegian term «i lia» means alongside a wall/ridge of a mountain.
In our mythology a mountain always represents a womb, a burial mound, Valhöll, Hél and a state between life and death (also known as Miðgarðr (the state/world in the middle)). Gudbrand lives on the ridge, and he is therefore connected to these symbols – life, death, re-birth, and being the ancestor/child.
The coffin with the coins (daler)
Inside the house (the womb, the burial mound) Gudbrand and his wife have a coffin with coins (Norwegian: daler). These are gold and silver coins. In other words, «eternal» metals, which reflect sunlight. They are hidden in a coffin, and Gudbrand´s wife say that they cannot start to spend any of these.
Well, that is not so strange, because these coins represent our ancestors (the light elves, the reflected sunlight). The fact that they are hidden in a coffin is of course symbolic – just as our ancestors themselves were «hidden» and buried with their wealth in the mound, which only the re-born kinsman could acquire, as descendants through initiation, symbolic re-incarnation and allodial heritage.
So, the coffin and the gold/silver coins are symbols of the dwelling ancestors, the treasure that is always guarded by someone. In the myths we know them as Valkyries, witches, sorceresses, dragons, serpents etc. We know them as those who invite for spiritual struggle – and in this fairy tale we recognize this character as the wife of Gudbrand. His Valkyrie, his Freya!
The wife of Gudbrand
She appears clearly as «the guardian», in this case kind and lovely – as a Valkyrie, as Freya herself – the deity for the sacred marriage, the love between man and women, the mother, the egg etc. She guides him… She keeps and stays in the house – the womb. She keeps and guards the «ancestral treasure», which Gudbrand later will accumulate.
Gudbrand leaves the house
When Gudbrand leaves the house, he leaves the womb. We can clearly recognize this, since he is called a «child» from the point he steps out and re-enters. He dies and comes back – as a child.
The road to town and the different animals
There are seven animals in this fairy tale. We already know from our mythology and folklore that the magic number seven represents the number of years you are a weaning child (naturally), before you become an individual – the years before you would acquire the ancestral spirit.
The road Gudbrand walks, is thus his child years. The animals represent the different stages – like each dwarf does in the fairy tale of Snow White. Gudbrand and all of the animals give the sacred number nine, and thus equivalent to the solar months length of a pregnancy.
Gudbrand is going to town to sell one of the cows. This animal has spiritual significance, not only in Norse tradition. We have the primordial mythological cow Auðhumla, that Ymír feeds of. It´s known as the «creation cow» amongst scholars – even though there is no creation myth in our tradition. There are only myths about life, death, re-birth and re-incarnation.
The cow Gudbrand is about to sell have all this symbolism. It becomes even more clear when Gudbrand switches the cow for a horse. It would describe the process of going from a state of an egg/seed to the state of a fetus – from the cow Auðhumla (the old ancestor) to the new shape. The horse is thus also a symbol of the old king, the ancestor that both devours the mother, feeds physically and spiritually the child, and the one the child rides and needs to fight/overcome to be born/re-born.
So, there is no wonder that the first animal to be acquired on Gudbrand´s journey is the horse.
Gudbrand walks on…., and the next animals to be switched and acquired are of no less symbolic significance. It is the pig/boar. We know this animal from our myths as the totem animal of the Vanír. Freyr, the deity for the ancestor, the king of the elves, the seed etc. rides on his golden brushed boar. This animal is also a devourer, it digs in the forest soil for food. It digs in Jörð (mother earth). The boar/pig is thus also equivalent to the house itself and the giver of the ancestral spirit. The pig/boar devours mother Jörð, the same way the placenta devours and feeds of the human mother, and the seed/fetus is «riding on it» - like Freyr himself.
The two next animals Gudbrand switches to, are two clove animals. From our myths, many fairy tales and folklore, we know that animals with hooves/cloves are symbols of fear and adrenaline. They are connected to what we know as Pan – the life force. The force that sets things in motion. The force that we can define as the accelerator.
The most known picture of such metaphores and symbols are the two goats of Þórr, namely Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr (thunder and lightning). These animals, the goat especially, is symbolically attached to Jörð (the soil), but also Önd (the spirit), the metaphysical, the «horned one» - with attachment both to the sky and the earth. Thus, like Þórr himself and his attributes – the son of Óðinn (the spirit) and Jörð (mother earth).
When we relate such symbolism to Gudbrand i Lia, or any other myth or fairy tale, we know we are dealing with a transition; either an initiation or/and a birth/re-birth – or rather the very start of this process, which basically describe exactly the same.
The next animal Gudbrand switches to, sets the clove animals of Pan (or Loki if you will), in an even more logic perspective; the goose.
This bird we find as a symbolic animal all over our myths and fairy tales. It is connected to ancestors, and it is also a devourer – with its long neck. There are numerous examples of gooses laying golden eggs in our folklore and tales, and these are clear symbols of re-birth and re-incarnation – attached to the ancestral spirit. We even have fairy tales with the goose as the central symbolic part of the tale – and we probably must return to these later, in future books of this series.
Naturally, the last animal Gudbrand switches to is the hen. If you now Norse mythology, you would be familiar with Hönír – the one of three central components in the making of a human child (or any living creature). We also know these three components as Óðinn, Vile and Vé (where the two last also will be recognized as Loki and Freyr). These are kennings (other names for) the spirit (Óðinn), blood/fire (Loki) and the physical body – lík (Hönír). They are symbols of the physical part of the process – and the birth itself.
When we now know the whole process prior to this state, we know now that Gudband in fact is re-born. He even eats physically at this point, because he has to!
Not only do the walk to town tell of the natural states throughout a pregnancy, but it also represents the seven stages before an initiation – a symbolic re-incarnation after seven years/stages.
The return to the house
Gudbrand returns to the house and makes a bet for one hundred daler (silver/gold coins/the ancestral treasure/the blood memory) that his wife would accept his outcome of his travel to town.
He enters the house and is asked questions. Gudbrand answers and tells about every animal that he possessed. His wife, or should we rather say sorceress, talk to him like a child. She calls him «child» every time she comments. Because now, Gudbrand is the child – the initiating child.
The neighbour, yes, he who felt sorry for Gudbrand in the meeting with his wife, follows him to the «battle». He will watch how the bet he made with Gudbrand will go.
Well, as we know, Gudbrand wins the bet. His wife (the sorceress/Valkyrie) thinks the best of him and the result of his long travel. Gudbrand wins the heart of his wife – but also wins the bet with the neighbour and the one hundred daler. The ancestral treasure and wealth are transferred to Gudbrand.
Not only did he accomplish «nothing» during his journey – literally speaking – he won back twice the treasure hidden in the coffin, a treasure of ancestral memory. Gudbrand is in other words re-born, with accumulated Önd (spirit).
He is re-born a better version of himself (his accumulated ancestors) the same way and through the same pattern as when you enter this world as a new-born – or successfully undergo the pagan process of initiation at age seven and later – with seven years in between – compiled into three different and connected cycles of re-birth and re-incarnation. The same way that everything symbolically is complete – everything good is three.
Gudbrand wins, he re-unites with his wife in their sacred marriage – in the house (the mound/the womb).
Is there any moral in this fairy tale? No, there is no moral per se. In the literal sense, Gudbrand walks along and think mainly of himself. He sells an animal to please his hunger. He does not care a lot about any consequence and takes his wife´s goodwill for granted. He wins a bet, for sure, but this cannot in any case be classified as moral.
In fairy tales in general, you would be able to find isolated «heroic» acts and elements of good virtue – but generally speaking; you will find no moral «red thread». Not in our fairy tales, not in our myths.
What can be found in all of them, are the same patterns. The patterns of Nature.