Kroting

For centuries, Norwegian farmhouses had open fireplaces. A raised hearth was built in the center of the floor, with a smoke hole in the roof above. These “smoke houses” with a central hearth and/or corner fireplace were common along the western coast.

Tveismestova, the oldest building in the Hardanger Folk Museum Collection.

Kroting was a simple way of decorating a house with smoke-stained logs and few or no windows. In Fiddling With Fate, the 10th Chloe Ellefson Mystery, Chloe senses why it was important:

Chloe imagined living through a dark, cold winter in this dark, sooty room. Firelight flickered against the walls. Wind whistled through cracks, and sleety snow beat against the lone window. The air smelled of smoke and unwashed bodies. Somehow she understood that the designs brought comfort.

Kroting at Tveismestova.

Women mixed chalk with water or sour milk, and used their fingers to paint the geometric designs on the walls. Kroting was often done in conjunction with the major housecleaning undertaken for holidays or a wedding.

Kroting at Tveismestova.

Some of the geometric designs may have been decorative, but some employed symbols invoked to ward away evil and protect the inhabitants.

Another building at the Hardanger Folk Museum, Tronestova, dates to between 1650 and 1750. The kroting here uses white and a red derived from local minerals.

Kroting at Tronestova, Hardanger Folk Museum.

Several buildings now restored at Oslo’s Norsk Folk Museum also came from the southwestern part of Norway. The example below was copied in the 1940s from a pattern in a Hardanger farm.

The chalk decorations were not permanent. Very few original examples of kroting exist today, but fortunately some of the designs were saved. The reproductions found in these historic buildings provide a glimpse of life in dark Norwegian cabins hundreds of years ago.

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