Norwegian People

From a linguistic standpoint, the Norwegians, like the other Scandinavians, belong to the Aryan group. Racially, however, the Scandinavians have some well-defined characteristics that make it impossible from an anthropological point of view to put them in the same class with the darker types of many other parts of Europe. Among the historical races of Europe—the Aryan-speaking peoples—there are at least three distinct race types : the blonde long-heads, the brunette broad-heads, and the brunette long-heads.

Forty years ago the origin of the historical races of Europe seemed to most scholars to have been definitely settled. It was believed that they came from Asia during the period of Aryan migration—possibly 1,500 years before the Christian era—and that they all belonged to the same race—the Aryan race. During the last two decades, however, that theory has been abandoned by modern scholars, as the result of most searching and exhaustive investigation. It does not come within the province of this chapter to enter into the details of this long and complicated controversy ; we can only give some of the general conclusions. Thus, for example, in the opinion of one of the most competent scientists of the nineteenth century, the late Thomas H. Huxley, the three principal race types of Europe are European types—not Asiatic. In the revised edition of his works, published in 1896, he maintains that the evidence on the question is consistent with the supposition that the three race types referred to above “have existed in Europe throughout historic times, and very far back into prehistoric times.” And he adds : “There is no proof of any migration of Asiatics into Europe west of the Dnieper down to the time of Attila (fourth century, A. D.)”

In a word, modern science has entirely upset our school-book theories on the origin of the European races ; nor does it sanction the supposition that the Scandinavians were the tail-end of a Teutonic pro-cession, switched off into Scandinavia as this pro-cession came to a halt in central Europe after its long march from the highlands of Asia. On the contrary, modern investigation has made it possible to contend with much force that Scandinavia even in prehistoric times (as later, during the Viking Age) was, as Jornandes, the Gothic historian of the sixth century, A. D., says, officina gentium, vagina nationum (the source of races, the mother of nations)—that the prehistoric Scandinavians, like their descendants the Vikings, were a prolific and conquering race, forced, possibly by over-population and a restless spirit of adventure, out of their northern homes, and that every country in Europe has, at one time or another, received such a fructifying stream of emigration from the Scandinavian North as has flowed over the broad prairies of the United States and Canada.

Modern scholarship and research have made it possible to go farther, and contend that Scandinavia was the cradle of the Aryans. In 1886 a very notable book making this contention was published by the Austrian scholar, Dr. Karl Penka. It attracted a great deal of attention. A number of noted English scholars wrote articles on the book, among them, Mr. Huxley and Professors Sayce and Rhys of Oxford; all were profoundly impressed by Dr. Penka’s argument. Professor Sayce had long been one of the most ardent defenders of the Asiatic theory. But in 1889, after a careful study of Penka’s book, he wrote:

“This hypothesis that southern Scandinavia was the primitive Aryan home seems to me to have more in its favor than any other hypothesis on the subject yet put forward. It has the countenance of history. Scandinavia, even be-fore the sixth century, was characterized as `the manufactory of nations,’ and the voyages and settlements of the Norse Vikings offer an historical illustration of what the prehistoric migrations and settlements of the speakers of the [primitive] Indo-European language must have been. . . . The Norse migrations in later times were even more extensive, and what the Norse Vikings were able to achieve, could have been achieved by their ancestors centuries before.”

In fact, a startling argument may be made for Scandinavia as the primitive home of the Ayrans. This argument is largely based, not on historical analogue, as indicated in the extract from Professor Sayce, but on investigations in the comparatively new fields of archaeology and anthropology. It must be said, however, that the Aryan question has no longer the importance that it had a decade ago. Such a thing as an original Aryan race from which the historical races of Europe (and some of Asia) sprang, has be-come more and more remote as the discussion of the question has proceeded. All that we can now legitimately suppose is that, in the neolithic or stone age, the inhabitants of Europe were Aryanized from the point of view of language. Although no absolutely definite knowledge as to whence this linguistic trans-formation came is likely ever to be reached, the Aryan discussion of the last two decades has served to emphasize the antiquity of Scandinavia and to ac-cord a large measure of general historical importance to the early migrations of its primitive inhabitants.

But as this is a Scandinavian, rather than a Norwegian question, we shall have to leave it with these general observations:___

Scandinavia was not fit for human habitation during the Great Ice Age. According to competent geologists, the glacial ice disappeared from Denmark, southern Sweden and southern Norway about 18,000 years ago. And Oscar Montelius, the greatest archaeologist of Sweden, thinks it highly probable that the Scandinavian countries became inhabited not long after that time.* Denmark and southern Sweden were inhabited earlier than southern Norway. There seems to have been an expansion in every direction from the “Baltic hive.”

If now the question be asked: Whence came the first settlers in this Baltic center? the answer must, in view of the remoteness of the epoch and our lack of adequate knowledge of it, be a theoretical one. Penka’s theory that the progenitors of the Scandinavians came from central Europe with the reindeer, which wandered north with the receding ice-sheet, is a fair working hypothesis. Archaeologists recognize that there was a Reindeer Age in Europe at that time, and that man lived there at that time, for reindeer horns have been found with carvings of the rein-deer upon them. We also know something of the race-type of this period, for a number of skulls have been found. And the striking thing with regard to the most ancient of these skulls is that they are of the dolichocephalic (long-headed) type, which is the characteristic Scandinavian type. Here, then, is an indication that the type of race represented by the famous Neanderthal skull of Germany may be the source of the Scandinavian race. That type of race belongs to a very remote past, and yet Huxley, in Man’s Place in Nature, says “there is evidence of physiological continuity of the blond long-heads (the Scandinavian type) with the oldest type of skull found in Europe.”

For the average reader, who may not feel disposed to discuss “skulls,” the question of the antiquity of the Scandinavians may be put as follows:

The racial existence of the Scandinavians far ante-dates the first beginnings of Athens and Rome. They have maintained their identity as a race to the present from time immemorial. They have clung to their own soil for ages, in the literal sense of that term, and have on this soil developed out of most primitive conditions. Here they gradually evolved, or at any rate maintained, that race type characteristic of Scandinavia—the tall, blue-eyed, dolichocephalic blonde, whose original home can be traced to no other part of the globe.

The proof of this lies mainly in the fact that during the latter part of the Stone Age, a tract of country, including Denmark, southern Sweden, southern Nor-way and northern Germany, furnishes richer and more beautiful relics of stone implements (and later of bronze) than any other part of Europe. Furthermore, the large majority of the skulls that have been found in the burial mounds and passage-graves of these archaeological periods coincide with the type of the historical period.

The wonderful power of expansion of this blonde race during prehistoric times has already been referred to. The influence of this expansion during pre-historic times and during the Viking Age marks it as one of the great historic races of Europe—the one, possibly, which has contributed to European civilization those elements which have made it distinct from the civilization of the Orient.

Turning now to Norway, we may remark that during the early archaeological ages Norway was much more sparsely settled than southern Sweden and Den-mark. Professor Brogger’s investigations show that Norway was inhabited more than 5,000 years before the Christian era. And there is no valid reason for believing that the first settlers were not ancestors of the race that appeared on the scene of historic action during the Viking Age. There is absolutely no ground, on the other hand, for the old theory that Norway was first inhabited by a race of Lapps or Finns.

The preceding discussion will have shown that the Norsemen are the immediate kinsmen of the Swedes and Danes. They are also closely allied with the Germans, the Dutch and Britons of Anglo-Saxon descent.

Census returns show Norway as having nearly 65,000 more women than men in her population. This fact can be largely, if not entirely, accounted for by two facts. (1) The extent of the fishing industries along the northwest coast, in which numerous lives are lost every year, thus abnormally increasing the number of fishermen’s widows. (2) The continual stream of emigration to other lands, the greater number of emigrants being men.

The Norwegians are, as a people, inclined to democratic simplicity, and to independence in their personal activities. Life on lonely farms or in very small, isolated hamlets, has bred in them the habit of managing their own affairs. It has also produced, as a lonely life is apt to do, a certain reserve in their manner towards strangers. At the same time they are genuinely hospitable at heart, for life close to the soil and familiarity with all the elemental needs and hardships of daily existence make them ready to lend a hand when another is in need of friendly service.

The average Norwegian has a good mind, and the education he has received in the public schools tends to give him confidence in using it. He reads, and is fond of discussing social and political problems. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are rights jealously cherished.

A generation or so ago there was a good deal of mutual distrust between city and country people—the natural result of circumstances in a land where travel was especially difficult, preventing town-dwellers and farmers from seeing or knowing much of each other, and keeping their ways of doing things very different. Under the present conditions of readier communication, people are better acquainted, and the sensitive pride of a countryman is no longer in such danger of being hurt when he comes down to Christiania, where the standards are those of the Continental cities.

Both in the towns and in farming communities, there is a lively appreciation of worldly prosperity. People are quick to ask, “What did that cost?” In the towns this is readily accounted for just as in other urban centers, where living continually tends toward greater elaboration and competitive display. On remote farms, it grows out of a keen realization of the wearisome toil required to wring out of the thin soil of little mountain-walled fields anything more than the barest necessities of life. Farm buildings, broadcloth coats, silver and linen and bank-accounts stand for such long hours, weeks and years of back-breaking labor, that it is only natural they should be valued in proportion to their immense costliness. It is not at all surprising, when one comes to think of it, that a strong love of property should often be conspicuous among dwellers in the farming provinces.

Love of country is a sturdily aggressive quality in the Norsemen of to-day, as it has been all through the centuries. The fact that the people are more given to emigration than any other Europeans, except the Irish, does not disprove this statement. Norwegians do emigrate in remarkably large numbers (chiefly to the United States of America; see Position 2), because the slender physical resources of the home-land are actually insufficient to yield everybody a living, and they desire their children to have increasing opportunities.

But no people in the world are more heartily in love with the land of their birth. As somebody has wisely explained, loyalty to a new flag is perfectly consistent with loyalty to the old soil. A man’s love for his wife need not lessen love for the mother who bore him. And those who do spend their lives on the native soil are full of affectionate faith in Norway’s destiny, as they are proud of her heroic and picturesque past.