Monday, August 27, 2018

Hardanger Strings

Hardanger strings arrived in the mail today. Doesn’t indicate much real progress on my part, besides taking the time to find and order them, but they tickle me nevertheless.

And the package art-work, Fanitullen, The Devil’s Tune.

At a wedding, a fight broke out, as they did in those days.  The fiddler, wanting to be somewhere else during a fight, as we still do today, went down to the cellar to get more beer, to help calm things down.  He found the Devil atop the beer barrel, playing this tune.  Listening to it, he learned the tune, and played it for folks afterwards. 

Or something like that.

Here’s a decent version of the tune by Bukkene Bruse -- Fanitullen.

An 1853 painting by Adolph Tidemand (source).

And the words, in Norwegian by Jørgen Moe (1813-1882) and English translation by Espen Andersen.

In the hardened days of yore
when with beer and brawn
the knives of Hallingdale
from their sheaths were often drawn
when women to the feast
funeral shirts would bring
with which they would swathe
their dead husbands in

there once took place a wedding
somewhere in Hemsedale
where song and dance did cease
and the men did ring the vale.
In the center of the floor
framed by shoulder-broad men
two stood with knives unsheated
and a leather belt round them

And like columns carved
unmoving, serene
another four stood
as guardians of the scene
They lift burning torches
toward the blackened beams
where curls of smoke collected
to a dark and brooding stream

In vain two women try
howling, to stem
the living wall of bodies
raised before them
Angrily they’re thrown back
and left to despair
while the fiddler quietly sidles
toward the cellar stair.

Down he goes to tap beer
as the winner of the fight
may have need to kiss
the bowl's rim tonight.
Within the belt they'll duel,
blood running like sap
the vein will need refilling
from the beer casket tap.

Standing in the cellar
he saw a bluish glow
someone sitting on the casket
tuning fiddle, holding bow.
This man held it backwards
tightly to his chest
and as soon as it was tuned
put his fiddle to the test.

There came a song of wonder;
It rang like angry words,
Like steel bite into wood
Like fists rammed into boards.
It jubilantly roamed
Around the darkened cellar hall
And came to a halt
At the sound of a fall

Quietly the fiddler listened
to the mighty flow
It was like the music’s eddies
went down his spine and brow.
He quickly asked the other
“Where did you learn that song?”
The answer: “Don't you mind that,
But remember it – for long!”

But as the man bent down
Reaching for the tap
He saw a horned hoof
against the casket rap
He forgot to tap the beer
And ran up to the hall
Just as the men were lifting
The body from the fall

Fanitullen it is called
This wild and haunting spell
And in Hallingdale they play it
And they play it well
And when its tune is singing
to beer and feast and brawn
again knives of Hallingdale
from their sheats are quickly drawn


Well, back to installing pegs on a different violin. 


  1. Very cool tune! I'll be looking forward to hearing the Hardanger when done

    1. May take me a while before I can play the tune like that. :-)