I’m decompressing for the day after teaching a four day workshop on Norwegian Billedvev (tapestry) at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. My friend Annemor Sundbø shared a funny video from the Norwegian television network.
Here’s my rough translation:
Is your man freezing? Knit a “forhyse.” In the old days young women had a trick when a man was a bit slow to propose. She knitted a forhyse as a gift for her sweetheart. In the older rural culture, this was considered a bold trick to check the intentions of a suitor. (Because if the man returned that gift, he was also rejecting the giver.) Do you want to knit a forhyse? Remember to use wool that doesn’t itch!
The clip was a teaser for a the first episode in a new television series, “I gode og onde danger“, (In Good and Bad Days); this one was on men and engagement customs. I enjoyed the whole show, which used old photos and clips from campy old Norwegian movies.
At one point, social anthropologist Thomas Walle described the forhyse in a few ways: it was like a sort of mitten, a little house that a man would have in front, you put your equipment in it…
He said that we might think that women were somewhat passive in earlier times, but sometimes they could give a gift that was a little more direct or evident, a little bit on the edge of what would be considered expected or accepted.
It was a gift that pushed the situation to the next level. If perhaps a couple had been seeing one another for a while, it was a way for a woman to bring up the otherwise unmentionable part of the marriage relationship. It forced the issue, and if the gift was rejected by the suitor, the woman was, too.
Walle said that a mother might ask her son, “Have you received a forhyse?”
I look forward to the upcoming episodes. The next one is about engagement customs from the woman’s side.