Vuggevisen - av Maggie Naylor
You would think, having lived in Trondheim for a couple of years, I would be used to it by now.
Don’t get me wrong, I like it – big old mountains, dramatic season changes – socialized education – but even now, there’s something so fairy-tale about it, it doesn’t always seem all real.
‘Something so Asbjørnsen and Moe.’
Trondheim is a living snowglobe. It’s picturesque, antique, and pocket-sized.
I think that might be what gets to me the most, the sizes of things. Everything here is compact. Fun-sized. This city is like a village that somehow ended up with a hundred thousand people and forgot to work that into the layout.
These are the sorts of thoughts I have when I walk home from school in the evenings. That’s another side-effect of everything being tiny here – no parking spaces. Which is just as well, if I can get away with it, I like walking. The route home isn’t half-bad either. It’s… scenic.
Once autumn began, the road had begun to feel longer. I didn’t mind that so much. It made the streets feel more like home, in their own bizarre way.
I was on that walk home from school the first night winter hit.
I normally wear headphones when I walk, because I like music, but also because the rumbling from the tunnels beneath the mountains interrupts the idea of ‘solace in the woods’ or whatever. Unfortunately, that happened to be the one day I’d forgotten them.
The wind had been getting colder all season. That night, I could feel it prickle the hairs on the back of my neck. ‘Why, before long,’ I thought to myself, with a wry little smile buried behind my knitted scarf, ‘the snowglobe will have some snow in it.’
Still cold, though. I shoved my hands deep into my jacket pockets, hummed a little tune, and watched for cows.
None that night, I noticed. They were probably in for the evening.
The tune I ended up humming was a little lullaby, one a middle-school friend taught me one of my first years in Trondheim. It’s a cute one, about a troll-mother trying to get her rowdy kids to go to sleep. The end always buoyed my spirits.
Funny, I thought, looking up at the great full moon in the starless sky – despite there being no cows around, I didn’t feel, altogether, alone. Must have been the moon, watching me like an eye.
And who wouldn’t want to look? Tiny, snowglobe, postcard Norway.
Even the lakes here were tiny. Through the trees I could see them – car-sized pools, no-doubt overgrown with moss and reeds.
The same middle-school friend with the lullaby used to tell me about a magic white horse named nøkken that lived in the water. She showed me pictures. It was a creepy little devil with glowing eyes, like a pile of seaweed, lurking below the surface – no idea how that was supposed to lure anyone anywhere, but – I stayed on the road regardless.
I hummed all the louder and looked away from the regular little lakes. There were no stars on the side of the sky with the moon, only giant, craggy mountains to look at.
That night, the road was feeling longer than two kilometers.
The wind was picking up, winter winds. It dropped a leaf that I mistook for white in the darkness on my scarf, and for a moment, I fancied it snow.
I rubbed my hands together to try to warm them. Postcards are never cold to touch with your hands, cold is for the things inside the image. Like me, I thought.
Uncomfortable thought, being in the snowglobe.
But it wasn’t true, of course. I’m not from here. My home is bigger, more modern. Not better – in god we trust, it sure ain’t – but it’s mine. I looked into the snowglobe from the outside.
The Spanish moss swung from the treetops in a silent metronome, frosted over like spiderwebs without a spider. I hummed along to the end of the final verse, ready for the grand ending.
As the shape of the bridge became visible on the road ahead, my humming faltered. The car tunnels beneath the mountains rumbled, just once. When it faded, the forest was left in an all-too eerie silence – nothing there but my own footsteps crunching on frosted leaves and the luminous moon.
Shit. I had lost track of the troll-song.
I took a deep breath and prepared to start the lullaby again from the top. The troll-mother was about to put her eleven kids to bed again. I could make out the handrails on the bridge.
Then – you wouldn’t believe it – I had to pause. All this talk about fairytales and trolls must have been getting to me, because you know what I thought of when I looked at that water? I thought that old fairytale, the Billy Goats Gruff, and the fact that I hadn’t seen any cows that day.
What if there was a troll underneath that bridge?
For a moment, the thought was almost… frightening. My cold hands clenched in my pockets.
No, don’t be silly, I told myself. The bridge was far too small to fit a troll. This postcard-road from a postcard-city would never fit a creature the size of a mountain. Even if it was real.
The irony of it is that I was right.
What I didn’t see was how there were no tunnels beneath the mountains by the woods for cars to drive through, how the tiny lakes were so evenly sized and spaced and on their way to somewhere, and how- oh, how! – when I stopped there by the bridge and laughed, loud, about my own big-ness, the night turned its head to block out a few more stars from the perfectly starry night, and two bright full moons looked down on me from up above.