Thursday, September 28, 2023

Norwegian Troll-Fighting Jewelry - by Jo-Ann Roberts

Earlier this year, when I was asked to be part of a MAPs with an already established following, I gave an enthusiastic "Yes!" Since the premise of the series revolves around a recipe that wins the heart of the groom it was an added bonus as I love to cook/bake...especially bake! While I have a wide range of tried-and-true recipes, I was excited to experiment with something new. 

As the granddaughter of immigrants on both sides of my family tree, I find myself drawn to the immigrant experience, and often include their stories in my books either as a main or secondary character. So, when I decided on Lefse, a Norwegian flatbread as my recipe, I realized I had some serious research ahead of me, as I knew very little about the Norwegian culture, foods, or people.

It was Mother's Day weekend when I began plotting my book, and one of my favorite movies, I Remember Mama, the story of a Norwegian immigrant family in 1910 San Francisco, was featured on TCM. There was a scene when the oldest daughter wanted a modern hairdressing set instead of her grandmother's sølje (sol ya), an antique brooch. This was just the type of tidbit I enjoy adding to my books.

The Legend of the Sølje

sølje is a style of silver jewelry that is distinctive to the people of Norway. And in Nordic folk lore, magic resides in every piece. 

As the story goes, a family living in the land of 10,000 lakes gave birth to a beautiful little girl. But near their home on Eagle Mountain, an evil troll dwelled. One night when all were asleep, the evil troll snuck into the house and inched his way toward the baby. 

But as the troll unwrapped the blanket, a small silver dangle brooch peaked through. Pinned onto her pillow was a shiny sølje. So, instead of taking the baby, the troll took the pin.

The Scandinavian culture always has had a fear of the "hidden folk" or huldra. These troll-like people who lived in the mountains came out and basically exchanged their babies for your babies to strengthen their bloodlines.

So, to protect against that, they parents would pin a small brooch onto the baby's pillow so that if the huldra came in the middle of the night, it would take the pin instead of the baby...sort of like fairies but not necessarily the nicest kind!

Many of the sølje have little disks or spoons dangling down from the center of the pin. Some people believe that if you run into the devil, he's supposed to see his reflection and be so mortified, he'll leave you alone and run away. So, it's sort of a protection against the evil eye, too.

Types of Sølje   

Pins and jewelry vary widely across Norway. A solje completes a traditional folk outfit, or bunard as Norwegians call it. 


Back in the day before we all had buttons on our clothing, the only thing that would hold our clothing together would be silver pins.

Over the centuries, this very simple pin idea developed into something incredibly ornate and beautiful. There would be pins, cuff links, lots of necklaces, and the most ornate sølje would be the bridal crown.


Silver, in many cultures, is very special. It is, basically, a protective element. It was also used to cure sickness, and silver marks the different points in a person's maturity.

Traditionally, individuals received a sølje at three different benchmarks in their life: at birth, upon reaching their 16th birthday, and marriage. But because these are vulnerable benchmarks, the silver is there to protect the person.

Heirloom Pieces

Besides warding off evil spirits, social status has something to do with the sølje, too. Many people throughout history have worn silver as a show of wealth. And depending upon the size of the sølje or the elements in the pins, it would show a hidden vocabulary; married vs. single, where they were from, or what family they belonged to.

Sølje jewelry is still made today in Norway. Each heart, each flower is painstakingly hand-turned silver wire. Special silver drops are placed on the pieces as well. The texture adds to the shine of the pin. The mix of sterling silver and 18kt "tears" on these pieces are truly heirlooms.

It has long been common for wearers of sølje jewelry to pass down the items from one generation to the next. Many ladies of Norwegian descent have collections of sølje heirlooms. Small sølje are sometimes pinned to babies' pillows for protection, even by modern mothers and grandmothers. Even today, brides in Norway wear them on their wedding day to ward off the "Mountain King", just as their ancestors did long ago.

Ironically, I was going through my jewelry box several weeks ago for something silver to wear with an outfit. There, hanging on a hook was a silver chain with a sølje. My daughter had given it to me years ago before I knew what it was. With pride, I wear this necklace for all immigrant women who sacrificed to make a new life for themselves and their families in America.

Releases November 21st

Here's a sneak peek from "Lefse by Linnea" 

Uncomfortable that her heart was overtaking her mind, she tried to throttle the dizzying current racing through her. Although she never mentioned it to Erik, she knew there was something unique about Finn McBride. “You are a kind man.”

“I think the cold and snow have affected my hearing…are you sweet-talking me, darlin’?”

With her actions denying her words, Linnea shook her head, unprepared for his quick strides as he stopped in front of her.

“Don’t deny it, Linney. I’m flattered.” His large, callused hands took her face and held it gently before he pushed away icy, golden-brown tendrils from her cheeks. A moment later, he trailed his forefinger along the curve of her jaw to her chin then down her neck.

The touch of his hands sent a warming shiver through her as Linnea felt his uneven breathing on her cheek. All of her loneliness and uncertainty melded together and drifted away, replaced by a longing for friendship, maybe even companionship hemmed by faith and love.

“What’s this?” He tapped the center of the sølje, causing the teardrops and circular discs to chime softly.

Unnerved by Finn’s familiarity, she swallowed around the knot in her throat. “It’s called a sølje…a Norwegian keepsake handed down through the generations to the oldest daughter. Legend says it’s to keep the bride safe so the mountain king doesn’t kidnap her on the way to the wedding. Others say wearing it helps to deflect evil…or attract a suitor.”

“A suitor, huh?” There was a flash in Finn’s eyes, like light caught in water before his lashes lowered and he stepped closer. Suddenly, she reined in her drifting thoughts.

“Thank you for bringing me home, Deputy McBride,” she acknowledged but didn’t step away, offering a tentative smile instead of the kiss she was sure he’d anticipated. “And for rescuing me…a second time. But I need to dress in some dry clothes, and I assume you have to get back to your duties.” Even to her own ears, her words sounded dismissive. But she couldn’t help it. The man’s nearness made her head spin.

Finn sighed. Yet, his mouth quirked with humor. “I guess it’s for the best.” He reached for her hand. “Walk me to the door, Linney?”

Her fingers tingled when he touched hers, walking—not ahead or behind—but beside her. It was a small thing, but it was something a friend might do, and it warmed her heart. “It looks like the storm has passed,” she announced, pulling open the door. Already, the sky was clearing. And through the clouds, the sun was dropping shafts of light.

“For the moment, darlin’ Linney.”

By the devilish waggle of his eyebrows, she was certain he wasn’t talking about the weather. Managing only a smile, she didn’t answer. She had never come this close to being disloyal to Erik with any man. And especially not with one who had been her husband’s good friend.

Perhaps I’ll keep my distance but maintain a friendship with him, she decided but deep in her heart she knew keeping that pledge might be easier said than done with a man like Finn McBride.

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