Fresvik

the village of fresvik

The village of Fresvik is found on the southern side of the Sognefjord, where it enters the Aurlandsfjord. The village today is part of the municipality of Vik, but it used to be part of the municipality of Leikanger. The village mainly makes its money through traditional agriculture and tourism based on the beautiful nature and its rich cultural heritage.

the place name of fresvik

The name of the village was originally Frøysvik, named so after the Norse God Frey (Frøy). We know of Frey from Norse mythology as being one of the Vanir Gods, who towards the end of the war with the Aesir was traded to these as a hostage along with his father Njord and his twin sister Freya. Above all else Frey was the God of soil fertility and the weather, along with wealth, happiness and peace. There is a lot of evidence that points towards Frey being very much a worshipped God in the late Iron Age, a time when the soil and growing things on the land was of a very high significance to the people that lived on the farms and lived off the land. Per H. Bøthun has suggested that the farm of Hov may have been where “hovet” (a Norse place of worship) dedicated to Frey may have been.

the first farm

There is a lot of information to suggest that Bøtun is the oldest farm in the village, and that all the other farms branched off from that farm. This is in no small part based on the study of etymology, and the origin of the word “bø” which comes from the Old Norwegian “bær/byr” meaning farm. When linked with the word “-tun” (a word used to refer to a yard, in this case on a farm), it is an easy assumption to make that the name of the farm means the “yard of the farm”. This may have come about as the population on the farm increased, and more of the farm was divided up to become separate farm yards. In regards to such an assumption, the name reflects a need to name the oldest yard of the farm area.

the glacier fresvikbreen

The glacier Fresvikbreen covers an area of about 15km2 (5.8 sq mi), and is found east of the mountain of Huldakyrkja, east of the village of Fresvik. The highest point of the glacier is at 1648m.a.s.l., but the arms of the glacier starts at 12-1300m.a.s.l.. Unlike on the main glacier (Fresvikbreen) a few hundred meters away (100m=328ft), travel along the arms of the glacier has been possible without the use of rope. South of the glacier you find the mountains of Langafjellet and Handadalseggi at 1511m.a.s.l. and 1431m.a.s.l. Hunting contraptions made to hunt reindeer consisting of “leiegjerde” (built up borders of stone that formed a path the animal would follow into a trap), animal pits and “bogastille” (man built hiding places of stone) have been found on Handadalseggi. The stone borders are also found by the glacier itself, some of which disappear underneath the ice. This proves that the glacier was less wide at the point when the hunting contraptions were in use, during the Iron Age, or earlier.

a «Huldre» tale from the valley of heljedalen

A “hulder”, is a mythical Norwegian creature said to be a beautiful woman, whose supernatural origin is only apparent due to her having the tail of a cow.

East of the Glacier of Fresvikbreen you find the valley of Heljedalen, where in the past you found a mountain farm. A tale from this seasonal farm claims that it was plagued by “huldrer”, this being especially true for one of the young milkmaids. Every Saturday she would be chased by a “hulderkall” (a male hulder, said to be nowhere near as beautiful as its female counterpart, but instead quite the opposite) who wanted to marry her and his entourage. The milkmaid’s boyfriend had to travel to the mountain farm and play his mouth harp in order to keep the supernatural creatures at bay, but one night he lost his harp and the “hulder” party began to dress the girl as a bride. It ended with the boyfriend having to go fetch the minister, who carried holy fire through the valley, scaring the beings away. From that day forward the valley was called Heljedalen, helje meaning holy.

the valley of fresvik-jordalen

All of the farms in the village had seasonal mountain farms in the valley of Fresvik-Jordalen. The path to the seasonal farm is 30km (18,6miles) long, and is far above the sea level. In some places the road crosses paths with the outer parts of the glacier, and the highest point is at 1240m.a.s.l. at a place called Rjupeskar. One of the landmarks on the path is the built up cairn “Fresvikvarden” which has seen sacrifices being made there up until modern times. In the village book published in 1965 Per H. Bøthun suggested that the cairn, which supposedly was originally named “Røssevarden” was built to honour the Norse God Frey. This is based on that the Old Norwegian word “hross” means horse and the knowledge of Frey having connections to horses and the worship of the animals. The valley of Fresvik-Jordalen is known for offering very good pastures, and we know of several examples of disagreements between people from Fresvik and Vik in regards to the rights to using the seasonal farm area.

fresvik today

There are currently approximately 280 inhabitants in the village of Fresvik, and excluding the farms themselves “Fresvik Produkt” is the leading employer. The village comes alive in summer when it is a popular destination for tourists both from Norway and abroad. The beautiful nature and the hiking opportunities are the biggest attractions.

(Photo: Ruben Bøtun).

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