Town hero of Narvik, Norway - Svarta Bjørn

Kai Bonsaksen | Live the World

November 23, 2022

The town hero of Narvik is called Svarta Bjørn. I thought it could be a good idea to internationalize a little bit of information about what goes on up in my beautiful city of Narvik, Norway. Check out the Narvik article for more about this special town. Right outside Narvik there is Håkvik, you can read about that too.

Who is this person?

Her original name is Anna Rebekka Hofstad. She was a cook at the construction that built ''Ofotbanen'', the connection between Norway and Sweden. This railroad connection is essential for the existence of the city of Narvik.

When did she exist?

She was born in 1878 and died in 1900. She died in a fight with another chef.

What did she do?

She cooked meals for the workers and was called ''Svarta Bjørn'' because of her big physical force and stamina. In English, she would be called ''Black Bear''. She took great care of the construction workers. The traditional name of a construction worker is ''Rallar'' in Norwegian.

Here is a presentation of Svarta Bjørn in a song

Why do our city care about this personality?

She is the image that we like. Someone who can carry a lot of heavy items like firewood when it is cold. She is described as curious, adventurous, eager, and hard working. She is in her 20s and has black hair. Her image is built upon someone who can take guardianship of a lot of workers who can't do the same thing that she does.

Is this really someone to look up to?

Another point is that she could be an average citizen who represents the working class people. She could be you and me. That is one thing that also draws people towards her. Although, when she is described by others, she is above average than other people. So, not like you and me. This is where the conflict arises. She is the average person who works hard and takes responsibility. At the same time, she is also the heroine of our city. One possibility is that she is not that great of a person but randomly picked and don't deserve the fame she is getting. A second possibility is that she was part of the typical working class and did the extra things that made her more skilled and knowledgeable and liked by others. To be honored because she stuck out of the mass in regards to competence.

The hero archetype

That could be a motto we could describe her as. If you are familiar with archetypes, she is the Hero archetype. She wants to improve the world with her strength and has the fear of being vulnerable.

There's a Swedish recording based on her too. It is made by Inger Jacobsen and Henry Skilbred

How did she manage all that pressure she had?

Apparently, It was her ability to resist exhaustion and her knowledge about dealing with huge amounts of responsibility that she had inside of her which made her do what she did. She's very often described as a heroine.

What do we think about her now?

People think of her as the symbol of a people that know how to work hard and take care of people. People up here tend to like people who do those two things. Work hard and take care of people.

How is she celebrated?

We celebrate her every year in ''Vinterfestuka''. In English, ''Winter festival week''. A week full of activities and fun stuff to do the whole week. One person is picked out to represent Svarta Bjørn and is going to be around 20-30 years old, with black hair, and wearing the clothes that Svarta Bjørn wore. This person shall be ''curious, dark, and unafraid'' it is said. They also need to have extensive knowledge about the railroad ''Ofotbanen'', ''Narvik'', and the place ''Tornehamn'' in Sweden.

In ''Vinterfestuka'', we dress up as they did back then in 1800. The men dress like the construction workers, and the females dress like Svarta Bjørn. The kids dress up like Pokemons, teddy bears, and Superman. Even the people in the shops dress up like the people from that time. It is very cool. Vinterfestuka 2018 is from 9th of March to 18th of March.

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