The Hidden People & the Magic Brooch

In Norwegian folklore, a story recounts that a woman washed only half her children when God paid a visit. Ashamed of the dirty ones, she hid them. God decreed that those that she hid would be hidden from humanity. They became know as the hulders, or hidden people, the shapeshifting spirits of the mountains who visited the human world to carry out abductions and strengthen their own gene pool.

Midsummer was the high season for attack, as the doors to the spiritual world would open and these supernatural beings were released. Rites of passage, especially around the time of weddings and baptisms, made Norwegians especially vulnerable.

Silver, believed to have protective qualities that reflects such spirits back onto themselves, became a rural Norwegian’s armor. Ladies wore brooches while men wore silver collar pins, shoe buckles, coat buttons and decorative knives, which served as a spell-breaking tool.

The brooches came in varieties of styles. More ornate ones had pendants in the shape of an even-sided cross, cut-out sun wheels or diamonds. But the most fetching were the byggkornring or barley-kernal ring brooches. These were presumably made by hudrefolk themselves, who were expert silversmiths and created pieces more beautiful than any human hand could make. How Norwegians obtained these pieces can be explained in their folklore.

The legend of The Interrupted Wedding describes the possible origin of these supernatural brooches. In one version of the tale, a young maiden named Elli Bakken was alone up in the summer cabin weaving when her fiance entered in a panic and insisted they get married right away. When she saw her dog glaring and growling at him, Elli become suspicious. Then a crowd of people entered the cabin. Two somber-looking women stood a distance from the others. “Your dog doesn’t seem to like people,” one of them said with a wink. “It might be best to let him out.” Elli had a hunch that these people might in fact be hudrefolk. She took the dog out to the edge of the woods, tied a red ribbon around his neck as a signal for help, and sent him home. She went back into the cabin to prepare for the wedding. As one of the women pinned a large filigree brooch at her neck, she whispered, “Stay calm, help will come.” Then Elli remembered that years ago two girls had disappeared from that very cabin, and she knew that it was those girls who were trying to help her now, so she cooperated.

Down on the farm,  the dog entered the house and barked with all his might at the gun that was hanging on the wall. When Elli’s mother spotted the warning ribbon, her father saddled his horse as fast as he could, then rode up to the farm of Lars, Elli’s real sweetheart. When the two men arrived at the cabin, they saw a long row of saddled horses. They looked inside to see a table piled high with food for a party, and Elli dressed as a bride. The men fired a shot over the top of the cabin. “In Jesus’ name!” Elli exclaimed, and crossed her hands over her throat. The hudrefolk quickly tore off Elli’s bridal finery, but could not pry the brooch that Elli held tight to her chest. The hudrefolk rushed out of the door like tumblweed and Elli was saved.


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