Click to see the TV program about Ivar Orvedal and Måren (in Norwegian)

Who was Hilðr? That was one of the open questions the poetIvar Orvedal asked himself during the development of the project in her name. Ivar is a multi-talented artist from Måren.

In the tiny hamlet (as in: four people) by the Sognefjord he lives on his family farm and organises art events. Also known from the TV-show (Norwegian national broadcasting) Der ingen skulle tru at nokon kunne bu (Where noone believes anyone could live) from 2008 (Click the image —–>).

January this year he contacted me, as he was loooking for a storyteller for a project – a cultural workshop with children and youngsters at Stadlandet where the theme was the legend of Saint Sunniva in the light of the norse myth of Hilðr.

This was music to my ears.
St. Sunniva

The bones (pun intended) of the legend of Sunniva is this: She was an Irish Christian princess with the choice of either marrying a violent heathen king threatening her lands or to escape. Her most faithful underlings, seven men, followed her into a boat with no oars and no sails. Sunniva put her faith in God and let Fate decide where she and her followers would end up.

Fate led them ashore on a small, stony, barren island. Selja outside Stadlandet. Here they lived in peace and piety. Until people who had their sheep on the island blamed them for stealing their livestock. Well, they were immigrants after all, so there was great cause for skepticism. Hakon the Powerful sendt a group of men in a boat to kill or drive them away. Sunniva and the men escaped into the cave and prayed to be delivered from these heathens.

The municipality of Selje (left) turns into Stad (right) in 2020, but Sunniva remains together with a fjord horse, a local breed.

God did not disappoint. A mountain block fell and blocked the cave opening. Soon the pious group left for Paradise.

Some years later Olav Tryggvason was king of Norway and busy christening his lands.

Two merchants were voyaging across the seas when they saw weird lights erupt from the stones by the cave.

They found bones smelling like ambrosia and emanating glorious light. They brought them to the king.

He listened to their story and spoke warmly of Christianity. The merchants were so moved that they converted then and there.

The story of Sunniva and the seven Selje Men, which is probably a variation of existing stories that was attached to the finding of old bones in the cave at Selja (The Legend of the Seven Sleepers is an example), became a key story in the christening of Norway. A monastery was established on the island outside the cave and the relics of Sunniva were transported to the important port city of Bergen in the 12th century. But the saint has remained a symbol of the region, a fact which is clear if you look at the municipal coat of arms of Selje.


Hilðr was a daughter of Høgne. She seems to be related or symbolically connected to a (valkyrie with the same name. Hilðr means battle.

She decides to break with the rules her father has decided for her life, escaping with a man of her choosing, Heðin. In some versions of the myth a point is made that she uses this man for her own machinations, but this can also be interpreted as a very male gaze on a woman daring to break with the norm.

With Heðin and his men she sails to an island. There they live freely until the battle ships of Høgne appear on the horizon. Hilðr goes down to the beach, and in the spray of the waves she stands, speaking to her father fuming from the bow of his ship.

She offers him a ring as a pledge to leave them be. But her father refuses. He shows her his sword. When it is drawn, it can’t be sheathed before it has tasted blood. Høgne’s forces rush ashore, clashing against the men of Heðin. At the end of the day, all are dead except Hilðr. At dawn she takes a cup, filling it with water the colour of dawn. With magic and spells she raises the dead, and the battle continues for all eternity.


Two women. Two ships. Two who broke with the expectations other people had to them and their life. Two who wanted something else. Just before the workshop was set to begin, a sailing boat rushed across the Atlantic Ocean, carrying a young woman filled with pure will. A will to break with the established norms. And, as was the case with Hilðr and Sunniva – that kind of behaviour does not sit well with those enmeshed in the old system. Some men spoke of Greta in a similar fashion as patriarchal poets of old described Hilðr.

I did not come to Stadlandet with a finished text. The concept of the workshop was that everyone should allow for free expressions, improvise, listen and create a space for things to unfold. But when Greta arrived to New York after her symbolic crossing, a key symbol appeared to me: A braid.

Three women. Three braids. One red. One black. One brown. The main focus was braiding the stories of Sunniva and Hilðr, ending in the story of Greta and all the kids that refuse to do things the way we’ve always done them. Those who want something else.

The Workshop

The artists of the workshop: Poet Ivar Orvedal, Musicians Lina Lambertz and Jakob Eri Myhre and the storyteller

The workshop was a collaboration between poetry, music, song, movement and storytelling. It was a true joy to work with both the fabulous people in the picture above and the children that participated and entered the work with their own wishes, energy and presence. And the entire process was also inspired by the imposing nature in Stad, the wind, the mountains, the powerful sea.

A song with three voices was spontaneously made by Lina and Jakob during a short car drive while we were there. The song got a text meeting me, and before we knew it, it was the main theme of our performance.

Voice 1 Voice 2 og 3
Oh, How will it go? Oh, where can we sta-ay? Listen to your Heart
Oh, How will it go? Oh, where can we sta-ay? Fate will show the way
Oh, How will it go? Oh, where can we sta-ay? Listen to your Heart
Oh, How will it go? Oh, where can we sta-ay? Fate will show the way

Hilðr has received some support for further development next year. I look forward to new heart journeys, adventures, meetings and stories of something else. Of meeting the wall and becoming an opening.

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