Three centuries ago, so the tale goes, a Norwegian fiddler went looking for his lost ox and stumbled across a Norwegian forest creature who taught him a new tune.
Musicians and dancers Toby Weinberg, Ginny Lee and Mikkel Thompson played that song for children at Longfellow Elementary on Tuesday as part of the Norsk Hstfest in the Schools Program.
Their group, Vestafor, has been performing at the Hstfest for nearly a decade, said Lee. Lee and Weinberg live in Syracuse, N.Y., while Thompson lives in Stockholm, Sweden, but grew up in Minnesota.
Children at Longfellow Elementary watch on as the group Vestafor performs on Tuesday as part of the Norsk Høstfest in the Schools program.
They share a great passion for traditional Norwegian music and dance, they said, and want to pass on their love of the arts to the next generation.
Fourth-graders at Longfellow were the third group of the day to hear the story of the fiddler who passed down the song through the generations. Lee explained that the underworld creature known as the huldra in Norwegian folklore is a pretty, seductive woman with a cow's tail, which Lee said she tries to hide. If she marries a human man who loves her in the church, the tail disappears, but it would take some doing to get a huldra into a church, they said.
Lee wore a traditional Norwegian dress with a huldra's cow's tail underneath.
She and Thompson performed traditional dances, one of which included lots of clapping, foot-stomping and kicking. The dance can occasionally be dangerous and might give someone learning it a black eye, Lee said, but not that particular day.
The children were delighted when they were invited to dance with Lee and Thompson. They learned the Circle Rhinelander dance, which involved dancing in a circle and with partners.
Lee said Vestafor will be visiting other classrooms in the area this week and also performing at Hstfest. They also taught music and plays during the Norsk Hstfest Youth Camp.
Norsk Hstfest in the Schools brings different performers to schools throughout the week.
Other presenters include Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux, who does storytelling; Val Arrowsmith, who teaches Swedish language; Ross Sutter, who teaches Swedish song and dance; Paul Wilson and Mary Abendroth, who teach Scandinavian song and dance; Rolf Stang, who teaches about Hans Christian Andersen; David Braddock and Josette Antomarchi who give a presentation on The Tomte and the Troll; Dennis Rusinko and the Viking Age Club, who teach about the Viking Age; Karin Brennesvik, Tom Lovli and Erling Halling, who teach Norwegian dance; and dignitaries from Skien, Minot's sister city in Norway, who will be talking with students at the high school.