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The Bonde Revolt in Hjartdal in 1540

Dag Aanderaa: The Honor of the Telemark Bonde and the Power of the King

A DOCUMENTARY REPORT published by the Hjartdal Community in 1990.

Reprinted here by permission of the Hjartdal Historielag

Introduction

Telelag obtained permission to reprint this translation of the original article rom Hjartdal Historielag.  It provides a unique glimpse of life and society during the 1500s and the importance of a man's word and honor; also it shows that some of the old superstitions were still in use with the quotes from the Black Book. The dissatisfaction of the local population in regards to the Danish King's abrupt method of changing the religious faith by edict from Catholicism with the introduction of the Reformation, plus the rough handling of the native population by the German miners and the foreign governing authorities contributed to the revolt in 1540. It also explains one of the stereotype images created about the people of Telemark regarding manslaughter perpetuated by Priest Peder Clausen's book in 1632. A few definitions of words used in the article have been provided. Spelling variations of place names are due to spelling used at the time of authorship.

 

Definitions:

  • Bonde is the singular form, bønder is the plural form: Many bønder families have owned their properties since ancient times. They were a class of people who from ancient times, together with the Nobility, the Clergy, and -- in later centuries - the wealthy city dwellers participated in the government of the nation. Even through the 400-year domination by Denmark, they remained free men. Their properties were called garder (gard in the singular form) and, in this translation, the term "estates" is used for that word since "farm" is not a proper translation. Words like "farmer" or "peasant" are also not proper translations of the word bonde.

  • bodstikka - a stick sent from gard to gard to call people together for a ting or send an important message

  • dalar - In 1550 it equaled 2 mark or 32 skilling

  • fant is the singular form, fantar is the plural form - a tramp but used here as a derogatory term for the German miners

  • fogd or fut - futar is plural - the bailiff and tax collector i.e. the King's representative within both the judicial system and the revenue service. He could have several parishes as his area of responsibility.

  • fyrrøyra - fire tubes was the words the bønder used for guns at the time of the bonde revolt

  • hovudsmann, hovudsmenn is the plural form - commander, chieftain or castellan at a fortress like Akershus

  • Kongsbrev - a special license or permission granted by the king.

  • len -- an administrative unit that was served by a lensmann.

  • lensherre - the foremost representative of the king in the len

  • lensmann -- were often the chosen from the richest and most informed bønder in the district. They served a dual function as the King's representative to the bønder population and the bønder representative to the King. At one time in the 1500s, the large, old lensmann districts were divided, so that there usually was a lensmann in each ting district. They were in essence the local law enforcement official. They had the responsibility to capture and imprison criminals, when soldiers were conscripted it was there responsibility to make sure the man appeared before the Skien draft board, land boundaries and logging disputes were also there responsibility. If the fut was unable to collect taxes, it was up to the lensmann to collect them. He was also responsible for making arrangements for the ting.

  • lodd - a weight measurement that was 1/16 mark

  • marks -- coins

  • prestegjeld -- a parish that may contain more than one church (a sokn consists of only one church). The people within the boundaries of the prestegjeld paid for a parish priest's work.

  • syssel - a governmental unit; sysselmann - District governor, royal official

  • ting - the legislative and judicial assembly of free men

Darrel E. Johnson, Telelaget Genealogist


The Bonde Revolt in Hjartdal in 1540 

"Gunvor, fantar are coming below on the hill." Anne Sommundsdaughter ran into the house at the Annås mountain summer pasture in order to warn her sister. "They are probably not ordinary tramps," said Gunvor, "it is worse than that, they are the German miners who were here before and they say that they have kongebrev that gives them the right to do anything."

Svein Ækre of Manndal was in the Brunkeberg church that Sunday in July in 1539. The Seljord Priest Jens Lauritzen thundered from his pulpit: "These shall now pay fines to the King since the Bishop of Hamar has been dismissed and has traveled away: Egil Olson for adultery because he had intercourse with Gisle Brekke's wife -- 20 daler," he began.
Svein did not like this. Since the new teachings had come three years ago, there was more and more backsliding, there were more and more cases which indicated no one any longer needed to present oneself and confess and in several prestegjeld there was no longer a priest.

"Svein will take vengeance for this," Gunvor shouted after the two Germans who now went calmly from Annås with cheese, butter and salted meat. But that was not the worst. Anne and Gunvor had been raped that morning, Gunvor for the second time. "Kongebrev," the fantar said, "but was rape the will of the King?" Gunvor wished that it had not been a Sunday when mass was celebrated because then Svein would have been there and chased them away, yes, chased them all the way out of the country.

Outside the church, Jens Lauritzen told the church people to listen to the following: Superintendent of Mines Hans Glaser, on the basis of the duty the bønder had to supply support for the King's representatives, has announced that the places at Golmsberg and the estates located there shall be occupied by German people and that the bønder who lived there must find other places to live. Furthermore, the bønder must take the Germany miners into their homes and give them hospitality. The contents of the order were that a weekly market be held every Saturday and that all the bønder who resided 3 miles around it should bring to the market whatever they had to sell. They should not sell it to others, either to the fogd or to their hired folk as they formerly did, but sell it only to the miners who wanted it.
"Humph, sell," snorted Aslak Sigurdsson to Svein Ækre, "they usually pay only round pieces of silver, small and not useable for anything. If we melt them, there will be nothing left. "If I should sell anything then I would want to receive silver good enough to make spoons out of or else grain, but only if it is worth something", Svein contended. He did not like Saturday as a market day since it was Maria's day. The Virgin would certainly not want them to do business on that day.

 

The Planning of the Mining Operation

The writer added that King Kristian III -- who came to power in 1537 -- had a great desire for the riches that existed in the Norwegian mines and particularly the riches at Gullnes in Seljord which was Norway's first organized mine 100 years before Kongsberg, that is, in 1524. The Reformation also occurred conveniently for him because then it was the King and not the Church who was allowed to administer the nation's wealth.

The King appointed Hans Glaser as his mining superintendent and sent him to Telemark in 1539 together with 100 miners from Saxony and all kinds of equipment that was needed. This should be distributed to several mines in Telemark. Gullnes was a copper mine where silver also existed. It was re-discovered in 1537 and operated at the expense of the King by German mining experts. Led by Ambrosius Zeuesler and Melchior Mardorff and it was said "that it was a rich silver mine". It is quite well-known that the Danes and the Germans did not behave gently at that time when they entered Norway, and we can imagine why these miners, who came at the request of the king and with his authorization, felt they had the permission to do whatever they wanted with the poor, naive bønder. Add to this the fact that the mine was located in a desolate, thinly populated area where it was difficult to obtain the necessities of life. The Germans were used to better things than what the Telemark bonde had, and they were therefore not satisfied with his everyday offerings. (Landstad)

The writer wanted to make the point that the planning did not include erecting buildings for those who were to work at the mine. There was probably a thought behind this that the Norwegian bønder were just as easy to subdue as the people on the continent. From this period, there were several condemnations of peasant revolts on the continent, but they were all put down without particular problems for the rulers. For several centuries, the bønder in Telemark had predominantly been independent owners of their estates and to a large degree lived their lives without any particular interference from the authorities; in one way, Upper Telemark had been a separate state. Kristian III and his men had certainly not taken this into account.

Hans Glaser had been on a tour in Telemark in 1538 and had evaluated the opportunities for the King. He made some suggestions, particularly regarding "Gengerd", that is, the right the King and his men had to housing, food and transportation when they traveled through the land. The writer wanted to emphasize that this right was to a considerable degree expanded to and applied to the King's miners in certain situations.

In addition, the transportation was considered: "In order to allow the traffic to proceed more easily along roads and across lakes and rivers, he proposed that the Dutch and the Germans ought to be able to acquire gards where the roads crossed. The bønder would get other gards in compensation. At the same time, the tax collectors were strongly admonished to see to it that the priests kept up their farms with good buildings, including, at all times, a good supply of fodder, food and drinks in the house and lodging for travelers at night, all of this at a reasonable price. He complained that it was almost impossible to get food and lodging when he and his men traveled through Telemark, and those who finally took them in, demanded unreasonable pay. He then proposed that a stamping mill and a flourmill be constructed by Skien. He would like a mint to be established near Skien because there was a shortage of coins in the country. Wille tells that in some coin collections there are marks with the year 1543 and the Norwegian lion on one side. He therefore believes that this mint press was constructed, and that those marks were minted from silver extracted from ore that came from Gullnes. Flatin, Seljord I

These are some of the proposals offered by Glaser:

7. None of the surrounding forest ought to be sold to foreigners, but rather set aside for use by the established smelting works.
8. That the locations at Glomsberg and the surrounding gards ought to be occupied by German people, and that the bønder who live there ought to be given other garder; otherwise they would not want to sell their own properties.
16. That all the bønder in the entire Telemark region must have a price established for cows, hogs, sheep, geese, chickens, and other such animals, which were not to be sold to tax collectors or to their servants as has happened previously, but to the miners who are willing buyers, because the former send such items out of the country. (Wille).

The writer wanted to comment that part of Glaser's suggestion was to build housing in Fyresdal but not in Seljord. Furthermore, it was not suggested that the bønder have a duty to work or provide transportation. This was not documented anywhere even though several documents mention that there were such duties.

Hans Glaser was also able to report that there were metal veins that could be mined at Moiseberg and that were located on the estates of Slystul and Aslestad in Fyresdal and at Samsonberg in Sandsvær. In addition, there were rich deposits of iron at Fossum near Skien. Glaser immediately received authorization to develop his plans. When he traveled to Norway for the second time in 1539, he had with him documents for the lord of the manor at Akershus, Peder Hansen Litle, and the lensherre Erik Ugerup in Skien; they, on behalf of the King, were to help the mine superintendents so that the 50 mines in Seljord could be examined and possibly developed. The samples that were sent to Germany from Seljord promised good results and Glaser made better regulations according to the German methods for the mines, which were developed by German men. These were under particular protection of the King. (Torjusson)

It appears that there was a problem from the start because of the rough handling of these regulations. The responsibility remained with the lensmann in the Skien syssel or len, the Danish Admiral Peder Skram. He himself was never in Skien but received income from the len. He had fut Soverin Skrivar at Bratsberg as his administrator.
There is basis to believe that this fut did not have a good reputation among the mine superintendents. Glaser reported in a letter to the King dated the 26th of July in 1539 that the futar in Norway were not strict enough with the bønder. He contended that they had to make certain that the bønder treated the mine superintendents in a better fashion. Glaser was not satisfied either with the power the futar had to take care of the roads and of overnight housing for the travelers. - (Telnes)

It is interesting to examine the role that the futar actually had in the Norwegian society. Many of them were hated by the bønder. Many revolts against the futar have been incorrectly interpreted. They may have been revolts against private persons, who misused their positions, while they were interpreted as revolts against the King's power. The fut was supposed to -- as the middleman between the lensherre and the common people -- watch over the government's laws of all kinds but he was also supposed to guard private ownership and protect the bønder from acts of tyranny. From Glaser's "Recommendations", it is indicated that he did not have confidence in the futar. The futar evidently did not see any profit for themselves in the mining operations. This is probably an explanation for the fact that futar were not particularly helpful in dealing with the Germans.

On the next Sunday, Svein Ækre was with his wife at the Annås summer dairy pasture. He soon realized that something was wrong. Gunvor was not particularly willing to talk about what had happened but Svein did not give up trying to entice her to tell him. After a while, they had the opportunity to be alone.

"How can it be as you said out their, Gunvor? That those damm Germans took your food, is one thing, but are you afraid that they will come back and harm you?" "They have already done it, Svein, two times." "That explains a great deal! Then I must insist that my honor as a man has been violated by what you have done with other men". "Believe me, Svein, it happened because the men overpowered me. I was so afraid, afraid that you would not believe me, that I did not tell you about it immediately."

Svein had problems being convinced. He had heard many times from the Priest about one part of the nature of a woman, the woman as an offspring of the snake in the Garden of Eden. Nevertheless, his anger toward the German fantar made him embrace Gunvor. His male honor was at the same time violated and it was a German who would now pay with his life! He thought about how important it was that the word should not get out about Svein Ækre that he was weak and could not protect his household. For Svein it was necessary to be as firm as his forefathers at Ækre had been. He thought about Tov Niridson who one day stood alongside the open hearth and hung up his pants to dry. His neighbor Tolv Eilivsson was also in the house and he happened to step on Tov's foot. "You trod on me and I have a sore foot," Tolv snarled and then one word after another was uttered until Tov took a wooden club and struck Tolv in the skull. It turned out to be his death. Tov announced his marriage -- at the same time that the killing was done -- to Egil Manndal who was also present. Tov said, "God have mercy on me! I have been damaged by striking Tolv Eilivsson to death. I beg you for God's sake to announce this." And Egil proclaimed it for all of the people at the celebration of the announcement of the marriage at Hagbardskvammen the same evening. Tov was condemned to pay a fine for the killing and the fine according to the agreement with Tolv's family; it was rather large because he had used such a degrading weapon as the wooden club.

If he could now only find the German, then he would use the knife. Nevertheless he was in doubt. He would use the knife to defend himself or to kill an equal. But was the German fant his equal? His thoughts went back and forth to both ideas. The most important factor was now to revenge the rape of Gunvor. That was his duty. Svein progressed to Gullnes but then retreated. He had heard that there could be 80 Germans there so he wanted to gather more bønder first.

 

Power Organization with Many Killings

The author wanted to include something about killing in the Late Middle Ages. In the period from 1300 to 1550, 0.5 killings per every 100,000 inhabitants per year are documented in Norway. Those killings that are documented are only a small number but on the basis of foreign research we can set the real loss nearer 15 killings per year. Comparably in Norway during the period between 1961 to 1965, there were 0.15 killings per 100,000 inhabitants per year. This has, however, increased during the years up to our time.

It is natural to believe that the people of Telemark were characterized by the fact that it was usual to kill particularly people in high positions. The Priest Peder Clausen in his book in 1632 expressed himself in this way about the people of Telemark --
The inhabitants are evil, impious, hard, wild, and rebellious people. Most murders commonly committed in the Kingdom of Norway take place in Telemark, -- some are brazen, devilish scamps, who commit adultery, murder, killings, heresy, and live a reckless way of life with fighting and other accompanying vices and troubles more than all others who live in this country. Their greatest desire in the old days was to kill bishops and priests, tax collectors and military officers, and it is deemed to be true that in one church in that county, seven priests were killed, in some other places one or two, and in some places more.

Actually, research demonstrates that this says more about the people of Telemark as boasters than as killers of Priests. Most of the killings were probably among equals. It was not aggression that created a quick and forceful reaction to an insult. The fact that fights could so easily result in death and bodily injury was due to the fact that men normally carried weapons and the fights were usually connected to drinking. Such killings were judged by the authorities but, in the 1500s, they still did not result in a death penalty but only fines to be paid to the Bishop. A person who had killed must also make an agreement with the family of the person killed and pay fines to them.
Becoming a killer under such circumstances was therefore not considered a dishonor in the eyes of the people of the district. Somewhat later when killers were made outlaws, there were many reports that the people of the district helped the condemned man survive.

From this it is natural to believe that some German miners were killed but that was not the case to a large degree. The basis of this is that they were seen as fantar and not as equals. Fantar were usually chased away with a stick.

Through the autumn, Svein Ækre met with many dissatisfied bønder in Telemark. The German fantar had rights in all cases, according to the King's document. But what was a King's letter worth when it came from a King who had dismissed their Bishop, removed what was beautiful from the churches and had also taken all the Church's property before he forced them to believe in a different manner due to the Reformation.

At a Sunday mass in February, Gudmund Uppsund from Kviteseid, Guttorm Bratli from Mo, Sveinung Skårnes from Sauland and Svein Ækre from Manndal met. Although there were many bønder from Seljord who were at Brunkeberg, nevertheless it was long after the mass was finished that they could gather. They had all experienced or often heard how the Germans comported themselves and when Svein Ækre could tell about what had occurred with the women in his family, the fighting spirit was kindled. The people of Seljord had experienced the duty to deliver food to the Saturday market and now there was no grain left for bread in the district. It had developed so far that the district was called "Breadless". The others were particularly filled with hate for the King's men who now wanted to take from them the old secure Christian faith and the freedom they had developed. They were also accused of the revolt by the lensherre when they now refused to pay what they had as debt in the form of fees and rent to the Bishop. They would not, of course, pay them since they no longer had any Bishop!

Svein Ækre could tell them that the other bønder in Manndal now turned them away when a German fant told them they needed something. They were away from home when the German requested a ride and a bad year with crop failures had resulted in no food being available for sale.

Gudmund Uppsund had for a while had sått og rådslått (position and consultative powers) among the bønder from Seljord, Lårdal, Hjartdal and Tinn. He now turned to Svein, "Listen you man from Manndøl! The German has violated your family; we will fight for your rights. All we who are gathered here will meet again before Mattismess and go against the Germans."

On the 23rd of February they gathered from all of these districts and from Vesterlen also. There were bønder from Fyresdal, Nissedal, Kviteseid and Mo. Gudmund Uppsund wanted to have the strength of 7 men and took a bit of the herb Montara and tied it under his right arm. Since the Germans had, of course, such dangerous weapons, Guttorm Bratli had provided himself with the herb Panserrot or Herbeam Victoria so that then no weapon could injure him. Sveinung Skårnes had a copy of "The Black Book" and from this he learned how the arrows would not injure him. In his own fashion, he wrote these words on parchment and carried them with him:

Araba. Omet.
Arliful Cularuom et Aruoru,
Prole
Kablamat y all canus

There were almost 200 men on their way from Brunkeberg in the dark, up Ordal, across the Grønli summer pasture. On skis they could run down to Gullnes and be ready when the 80 miners came to work in the mines. They did not find Hans Glaser since he had traveled away. But they had weapons and could throw fire. They gathered juniper and carried it to all the mine openings, put fire to it so the logs were ignited and the smoke went into the mining drifts. The miners had to get out, 80 of them, without weapons while the bønder had spears, axes, scythes, arrows and bows.
Sven Ækre was surprised that there were only 50 miners at Gullnes. He thought there would have been more, but was now satisfied that they were outside of the mine and down on the ice. At a distance, he managed to look around. In the gray morning light, he saw 12 black figures that were up by the smelter at Hyttebekk, directly over the inlet from Gullnes.

"So there are 12 more!" Svein thought of getting Gudmund Uppsund to turn the army of bønder around and bring these 12 along. But no, it was like rounding up sheep, it was clear what they had in the herd in front of them. And it would have been easy to lose them. In addition, he did not know where Gudmund was. He did not know whether the army could hear Gudmund.

Therefore Svein did not alert the others about those 12 who were left -- not then. Twelve Germans at Gullnes were anyway not more than they could manage as long as the men who had raped were not among them.

The German miners were chased across the Sundsbarm ice toward Sanden, down Kivledalen to Seljord and then all the way to Skien. The Germans did not fight but only ran for their lives and really wanted to get home to Saxony. The bønder managed to get the miners to go so fast that they thought they would go right to Germany and that they would never come back. Therefore, all lives were spared. On the whole way, they met bønder who joined in chasing the fantar. The chase ended in Skien where they met the fut Søverin Skrivar and gave him there demand that only 12 German miners should remain at Gullnes. The miners should also not have permission to carry weapons.

 

The King's Army against Telemark

The author added that what happened on the part of the officials after this was well known through the documents. Søverin Skrivar sent a letter to the hovudsmann at Akershus, Peder Hanssen Litle, where he told that he had discussed with the bønder about letting the miners be in peace. The bønder should now reconcile themselves to having the miners among them. Since the letter did not have a single seal, the miners did not dare return to the mines again. Therefore Peder Hanssen had arranged for lodging for 20 miners in Skien and had given them each 2 lodd silver for the time being. This may indicate that Peder Hanssen did not completely trust Søverin Skrivar. His word that the bønder would be forced to have the miners with them was clearly not enough for either hovudsmann or the miners. (Telnes)

Peder Hanssen wrote to the King in Copenhagen on the 27th of March to inform him about the difficult situation that existed after the miners had been chased. He reported that the bønder did not want to have more than 12 miners at Gullnes and that they should not have weapons. Furthermore, they did not want to pay interest and fines that formerly was sent to the Bishop on the grounds that they did not have a Bishop any longer. Peder Hanssen and Claus Bilde, the hovudsmann at Bohus, would now write to the bønder in Telemark and negotiate with them. They would insist that there could certainly be more than 12 miners at Gullnes.

The hovudsmann reported that there was a Priest from Telemark with him at the fortress at that time -- Landstad believed that it was Nils Jørgensen of Hjartdal -- and that he believed that this Priest would be able to do a great deal to reach an agreement with the bønder of Telemark. Peder Hanssen also contended that the King would send as many miners to Gullnes who could protect themselves and also supply them with so much flour and malt from abroad that they were self-sufficient. Since he did not want to use any other recourse, he finally reached this solution. King Kristian did not approve of this. He became angry and sent two letters on the 2nd of June. The first one was to Claus Bilde and it gave him the order to gather military power and travel to Telemark in order to reprimand the men of Telemark. Since he feared that the bønder could be too strong, he sent an order to Thord Rudt, hovudsmann at Bergenhus, that he also, with his military men, should remain ready at the border to support them from the other side if that were needed.

"It is our will," he wrote" that the mines are to proceed, and if the bønder refuse to allow that, then we are going to administer punishment and destroy them as soon as there is a sign of misconduct, for we will not tolerate such rebellious and disobedient subjects living in our kingdom". (Landstad)

Stig Bagge, who at that time was in charge of Lista District, was also supposed to come with an army. The latter was a Norwegian squire who previously had served under Henrik Kummedige as tax collector at Lista. In 1536 he took over the entire district. These men were given orders first to negotiate with the bønder to see whether they were willing to use common sense and learn to accept the miners of their own free will. If the bønder refused to do this and stuck to their rebellion, they were to invade Telemark with all their forces and with a strong arm and force establish the mine itself and later punish those bønder who ought to be punished. (Telnes)

The hovudsmenn summoned the bønder to the ting and from the report to Claus Bilde we know about the condemnation of the bønder: In accordance with the King's order we have negotiated regarding the articles in this manner. On the first Monday after St. Jacob's Day (June 26) we negotiated in the legislative session with the general public in the Western District of Telemark. There was not a single attorney in the district except one who was absent. There was no negligence or skulking except for some who were to pay their fines to Your Grace in such a manner that each one would give a cow, a sheep, a pound of butter, and would work four days in the mine whenever the mining superintendent would call them. The following Tuesday we negotiated with the bønder in the parishes closest to Skien who had not been part of this rebellion so that they could be of assistance to Your Grace regarding the mine. Each man was to haul one load to the mine this year, and one load every year at a time when the road conditions are at their best. (Torjusson)

 

This report also tells about the ting at Hjartdal but we will wait a little with that. The King still kept the military powers ready in Telemark in case the bønder attacked with weapons. The King's army was led by a German or a Dutchman whose name was Hans van Dresyel. In Hjartdal there were at first only those two hovudsmenn with some men with them to make preparations for the ting against the perpetrators of the revolt in the spring. But when they heard rumors that a bønde army was on the way, they sent a request for more of the King's military men. They were afraid that the band of bønder had grown large and realized that it would soon be futile to go against the bønder.

"A council was held and they agreed to send a message to the army of bønder that they should lay down their weapons and meet at the ting empty-handed so would they obtain peace and good conditions." -- (Flatin in Seljord I.)

Svein Ækre had been worried all summer in 1540. After chasing the fantar he thought that the King might at anytime send several hundred Germans against them. At the time of St. Olaf s Day (July 29th), bodstikka was sent to Manndal with information about the King's military power that was on its way up to Telemark. Svein gathered the men of Manndal and sent bodstikka on to the western districts. After a successful day of hunting bears, he had a pot of bear blood that would be useful. He drank it and felt the strength come seeping through all his limbs. He immediately rushed up to Gunvor at the Annås summer dairy to warn her that the clash would occur. He warned Gunvor and then she remembered what had happened earlier. She was glad and proud that her husband would defend her like that.

On the evening of Monday, the 2nd of August, he traveled down to Flatdal. There he met several bønder who had weapons and were from Seljord, Vinje and Lårdal. Some few were also all the way from Nissedal and Fyresdal. They had axes, bows, spears and swords. At night they traveled farther over Vadder toward Hjartdal. Then it was early on Tuesday, the 3rd of August in 1540. In Ambjørndalen they came together with the bønder from Tinn and Hjartdal. Sveinung Skårnes, the man from Saulen was there also. He wanted to win the battle and took up his little "black book" and read as follows:

To Win in Battle -- If you are going to fight with someone, who is your superior, then take this document with you and you will gain superiority even if he is worse than the Devil.

Sillomondus et hæritid
Filli hongstus nobis
Coriander Cordo
tempus alliqvo
tugarji motan
Commidatibus.

Since he could read some and had parts of the black book, there were some who contended that he should be the leader of the band, but they were not all in agreement about that. Many wanted to have Bendik from Fyresdal because he had not been among the leaders during the chasing of the fantar. But they could not agree. In the narrow Ambjørndalen with high mountains on each side, Svein Ækre contended that they should be able to stop the military men. But he was afraid of the fyrrøyra that they had. Svein went over to Sveinung and asked if there were not danger in them. Then Sveinung only took out his book. "Hear you Svein from Manndal, now I shall read for you." To Overpower Gunshots: When you hear that any one is shooting, then cut a piece of turf up under your right foot, turn it over and put the green side down. As long as the turf lies like that, you will be not be hit by these shots.

Svein thought about this. Was it God's or the devil's power that could help him if he used the black book? He was doubtful but, of course, it said nothing about that he should deny God. He used his ax to cut up a piece of turf. Bendik had also heard of a black book against those fyrrøyra. He maintained that it was stated plainly enough there, You let go of a fart just as you hear the shot going off, and at the same time you say: "That one is going back in!"

(A poem in the old Norse style.)
The man from Manndøl seemed to have strength and courage,
But from Seljord they came and lastly those from Saudland to the meeting;
The man from Venje did not want to be the weakest one.
The Lardøl people were tough on the field,
But the man from Fyresdøl went first in the battle line,
And the man from Ordøl did not arrive alone in the Annbjønn Valley.
(Landstad)

Suddenly they heard the twigs breaking down at the Svorte River. The bønde army murmured, they were ready to storm ahead with their weapons. But it was not men with weapons who came toward them. They were two proud men who were dressed in the kind of clothes worn by officials. They had a message from the hovudsmenn. If the bønder would lay down their weapons and meet at the ting empty-handed, then they would obtain peace and good conditions. The messengers waited for an answer. None came. After a while Bendik could inform them that they needed to consider this alone. The messengers went down to the river and waited for a long time for a decision.

There was disagreement in the bonde army. Many talked about the awful fyrrøyra -- with them the King's men could steal the lives of people even if they stood far on the other side of Svorte. Most of them were afraid and wanted to agree to lay down their weapons. Not all thought they could trust the King's men, but Sveinung stood up and reminded them that a man was a man and a word was a word. Thereafter he went down to the King's men and accepted the offer. He was informed that they should come to the ting at the Hjartdal Priest's estate without their weapons. Without a leader the bønder now headed for the Hjartdal Priest's estate. They did not, however, want to lay down their weapons before they had arrived at their destination.

On the way they passed a cabbage field. Bendik pulled up three cabbages, bit into them and said,
Now I'm eating cabbage
Our Lord Jesus will provide my meal,
Because the cabbage makes a convenient meal.
This was thought to help a person when he was to appear in court.

At the Hjartdal church the bønder lay down their weapons on the grassy hillside. The King's men weighted the weapons down with large stones so they could never more be reached. The bønder went calmly and bowed, with expectations of peace, toward the estate of Hjartdal's Priest. Immediately the sound of storming military was heard from all directions. It was a great betrayal. The bønder were surrounded and taken prisoners. "In the new faith, a man cannot be a man and a word is not a word," said Svein Ækre.

 

The Betrayal, the Verdict, the Executioner

The person who wrote the account was able to add that the grassy hillside at the Hjartdal church where the weapons were deposited is still called Bogalis today. That same day, the ting was held at the estate of the Hjartdal priest. There the leaders Klaus Bilde and Peder Hanson were present, as well as three priests, namely Nils (Jorgensen) Jørandson, parish priest at Hjartdal, Jens Lafranzson, priest at Hviteseid, in addition to many other brave men, We have to assume that the priests were putting in a good word for their bønder, but even so, they were treated badly. The communities that had been foremost in the rebellion were Seljord, Laurdal, Venje, Hjartdal, and Tind, and of those, there were two parishes that were found to be most to blame. It is quite certain that Seljord was one of them, but we can't say for sure which one was the other one. From those two parishes, 16 men were selected who had been the primary instigators of the disturbances; five of them were executed immediately on the priest's farm, and the sixth one was made to be the executioner. The other ten paid for their lives with 1040 lodd of silver and the gard Sundsbarm where the Gullnæs Works was located and which is now the property of the King. (Landstad)

We do not know the names of many of the men who were executed but tradition reports that one of them was Guttorm Bratli from Mo and another was Sveinung Skårnes from Sauland. H. J. Wille also mentioned in the first draft of his book that Gudmund Uppsund from Kviteseid was supposed to have been the executioner for his godfather. He then said: "It is not proper for the godson to execute his godfather, but for the godfather to execute his godson". The execution then took place immediately. (Torjusson)

There is a plowed field named Brådaråker on the priest's farm in Hjartdal. Earlier there was a meadow with many graves and mounds, and it still happens that they find bones when they are plowing. This is the location of the bloody executions where the leaders of the army of bønder were cut down. Bradaraker is now severely troubled by apparitions. At night, especially around olsok (St. Olafs Day, July 29), one can see blue lights burning there, and people dressed in red jackets swinging their swords and cutting each other. Among the 16 instigators we know the name of only Svein Ækre from Mandal who lived quite close to Guldnaes. He was one of those who were permitted to pay for themselves with a fine, and he paid for his life with the value of his farm Bakken in Svardal, which he for that reason had to sell. But that was not all. Every man in the two parishes had to atone by surrendering 1 cow, 2 sheep, 12 lbs. butter, 4 bushels malt or flour, and 1 ounce of silver. Those who were landowners gave 2 lodd of silver in addition to working four days each at Guldnaes. The three other parishes got off by having each man pay the same amounts of food as above and by working four days in the mine. However, in addition to all this, they had to kiss the whip, apologize in all humility and promise to amend their ways in a declaration issued that same day from Hjartdal's Parsonage on behalf of the general public and signed by the lensmann and five men from each parish as well as by the three priests who were present. It sounds like biting mockery when the bønder in this letter call King Kristian Fredriksøn III "their most highly beloved, merciful Lord". (Landstad)

We common people who live and work in Seljord, Lardal, Vinje Parish, Hjartdal and Tinn Valley parishes make known to all that in the year 1540 after the birth of Our Lord on Tuesday after St. Olaf's Day, we were summoned to a session in Hjartdal by honorable and well-born man and the stern Knight Claus Bilde, hovudsmann at Båhus, and honorable and well-born man Peder Hansen, hovudsmann at Akershus, in accordance with an empowered and fully authorized order, and on behalf of our Royal Majesty and most Gracious Lord, young Christian King Frederiksen in order to hear and take part in a discussion between the mining authorities and us regarding the rebellion and disturbances between us and to call to account those responsible and mete out punishment in an appropriate manner. So, we poor men admit that we were misled by evil leaders, and that we branded those same mining authorities as evil, and for this great remissness and flaw, we have had the need and we crave, for God's sake, that His Royal Majesty, our dearest, most gracious Lord, may in his gentleness and grace admit us into his good will and grace and not punish us as hard as it would appear justified in view of our guilt and our flaws. We all, every single one of us, commit ourselves on our honor, life, and the loss of inherited rights, from this day on, never to take part in such a rebellion or in other such improper acts against His Grace or against any of the subjects of His Grace, miner or others. Anyone who breaks this pledge, shall have forfeited his cattle and his right to safety, his land and his personal property, and he will never be allowed to buy his way out of this. And we shall all be duty bound to assist in capturing such men so that they may be placed in His Majesty, the King's chains. Those who break our pledge as outlined in our letter are to be called to account in accordance with this same pledge. Also, as the honorable and well-born men, Mr. Claus Bilde and Peder Hansen have hinted at our great shortcoming, the fact that we are supposed to be unwilling to tolerate tax collectors, judges, and lensmenn in our community as in other places in Norway, those people who help us do the right thing, and in other ways teach us and educate us for our own benefit. From now on, we are going to be bound in every way and manner to what is written, that the above shall no longer be found among us, but instead, we shall advance and promote this to the best of our ability and show obedience and compliance towards them. And in addition, in case they want to capture or arrest someone for his misdeeds, then we are going to assist them and in no way work against them. In the same manner, we are going to give our pastors and priests all their due as we ought to. Similarly, we will keep our roads and bridges in good repair in accordance with instructions from Norwegian laws. Neither are we going to shelter or provide housing for anyone who has been outlawed, coming here from another township or county, but inform the tax collectors and lensmenn about where they are, so that they can determine if he is a man we ought not to risk money or property on by housing or hiding him in accordance with the law. And from this day on, no one who is unwilling shall be found among us, but they will have to obey the laws.

As a further testimony that which is here written shall remain unshakable, we ask the hereafter named good men, sworn jurors and other residents to join us in the pledge and promise as certainty for this same oath and pledge that we have made. They are as follows:

  • Gunleik lensmann, Alv Olavson, Peter Eilevson, Alv Torson, Guttorm Gunleikson, Berulv Svenkeson, from Seljord prestegjeld.

  • Auver lensmann, Arne Torson, Vetle Torson, Åsmund Torgrimson, Svein Gunnarson, Aslak Tarjeison from Lårdal.

  • Bjørn Livårdson lensmann, Nils Ånonson, Olav Olavson, Syver Åsmundson, Torgrim Ormson and Bjørn Åvitson from Vinje.

  • Talleiv Torson lensmann, Gjermund Alvson, Salve Bjørnson, Gunleik Torkjellson, Olav Tovson and Bjørn Kjetilson from Hjartdal

  • Halvor Olavson lensmann, Tov from Svadde (sualle), Gudmund Mårheim, Arne Bjørtuft, Gunleik Gjøystdal and Tov Tveito from Tinn

We men here named ask that this oath and pledge, which we have made jointly with the common people, shall remain constant and unbreakable, and we have made this promise and this pledge on our honor, our property, and on the breach of our allodial rights, and along with sworn jurors we are putting our seals on this our letter, and we sincerely appeal to our priests Herr Nils Jorgensen from Hjartdal, Herr Jens Lauritzen from Seljord, and Herr Michel Lauritzen from Kviteseid to join us in putting their seals on it since many of us do not have a seal. Presented in Hjartdal year and day as above. (Torjusson)

This was a great betrayal and a great defeat for the people of Telemark. Halvdan Koht contends that they were not more submissive for all that. On the contrary, the memory remained and tormented them and incited them to revenge. When later the mine failed, they felt that it was certain that this was punishment for the King's men because they had attacked the bønder. Even up to our day they contended that after such an occurrence it was not possible to trust the authorities. The memory of the struggle about the mining remained in Telemark. Among other results, when a man in Telemark found a vein of silver or a vein of any kind of metal, he covered the area and did not mention it to anyone. They did not want any more mines. Eventually, he built a house on the top of it. Perhaps he did that so that he could have it for himself since it was a silver vein.

One theory about the contributing reason for the revolt is that the people of Telemark wanted to have the silver from the Gullnes mine for themselves. They had been silver smiths since the 1500s. It seems that the miners were peaceful for a while and many new German miners arrived. But early in the 1550s the King was forced to give up the copper mine. The miners were supposed to receive a wage in money and there were great deficits since there was so little metal. The people contended that there were dwarfs and troll who took the silver veins.

The Reformation, Honor and Death -- The person who wrote the account had an opinion about the reasons for the revolt: Mainly we must see it as protest against the Reformation. It was all right to pay a tax to the Church; of course, they received something back for that. Most important for the people of the Middle Ages was that they had the expectation of salvation for their souls. The Priest and the Church were near. To pay taxes to the King had no meaning since they received nothing in return. That is perhaps an explanation for why the bønder from all of Telemark participated in the revolt. Otherwise it was only those around Gullnes who felt the imposition of burdens in connection with the mining operation.

We have also brought up the idea of "honor" and what it meant for a man in the 1500s. When he was attacked by the King's men and particularly when they violated his wife, he was satisfied with showing everyone that he was too good to tolerate that.

In addition, we cannot avoid seeing that the loss of material possessions to and forced toil for a foreign power created aggression and resulted in a revolt. What about the aggression that would result from the execution of those five bønder on the estate of the Hjartdal Priest? We might expect that it would result in new revolts. That did not happen. To experience a condemnation or to receive punishment was probably the worst for a man of honor. It was less important if he died. And when it was an honorable death, he could even be envied. This was true because, in the 1500s, there was a completely different and closer relationship to death. This was also partly the cause of the many killings.

ABOUT THE BONDE REVOLT IN AMBJØRNDALEN IN 1540, A Resume by Bjørn Rugaas

 

In 1990, it is 450 years since there was a confrontation between the governmental powers -- the King in Copenhagen, the miners at Sundsbarm and other representatives of the "authorities" -- and the bønder in Telemark. It was particularly the bonde class in the present day communities of Hjartdal, Seljord, Tokke, Kviteseid, Tinn and Vinje who protested -- among other reasons -- against the fact that the German miners made themselves at home among the people in the districts. At this time, the Reformation was introduced by the Protestant Danish King. This brought with it changes that were not approved by the Norwegian people. One result of the Norwegian dissatisfaction was, among other things, a tax strike. According to the reports, the bønder of Telemark refused to pay taxes to a bishop whom they no longer had. After several years of the constant opposition between the people and the government, the King in 1540 sent a military force against the Telemark bønder. In Ambjørndalen the army section was met with combative bønder but it did not result in battles. Instead, the representatives of the bønder were captured when they were to negotiate with the military division.

 

The result of this was that the bønder lay down their weapons, probably at Bågålia in Hjartdal right next to the church. The representatives of the bønder were arraigned before the court and were condemned to lose their lives by hanging. There were six men who received this verdict and the last person escaped paying with his life but was forced to be the executioner instead. The legal case occurred at the estate of the Hjartdal Priest, the main building is now located at Nutheim. The court was at Bråråker, right at the churchyard in Hjartdal. The idea for a monument to memorialize the bonde revolt has developed in later times. At the end of the 1930s, there was a committee at work to raise a monument. It progressed so far that Dyre Vaa had made a design. The price would be 650 kroner plus transport. Because of the outbreak of the war, no more progress occurred. Kristian Håtveit was the clerk for the committee at that time. The idea was taken up again by several people now that the time of the 450-year anniversary was arriving. The initiative in the first place was attributed to Anne Haugen Wagn on the basis of newspaper articles she wrote about the subject. In cooperation with the community, it is Olav Tho, the present day mayor, who took the initiative in 1986. It is the Hjartdal culture committee, which has had the practical work of raising this monument, but it has received the good help of the Hjartdal Museum Society, the Hjartdal Bonde Society and private persons within and outside the district. The Hjartdal culture committee thanks all for the cooperation in connection with the monument about the Bonde Revolt.

Hjartdal 15/8/1990 --- Bjørn Rugaas

 

About the Artist

Kari Buen was born at Jondalen in Buskerud and resides in Tuddal in the Hjartdal community. Kari is a sculptress. She prefers working with stone and bronze. Her training in the field is from the Art School in Trondheim, the National Art Academy and from the Folk Art Curriculum at the Rauland Academy. In addition, Kari Buen has attended class as an auditor at the Telemark Teachers College in the Crafts Division. Her debut was at the National Autumn Exhibition in 1960. She has participated in collective exhibitions in several places in Norway and has had several private exhibitions. She has also had joint exhibitions in cooperation with the textile artist, Solveig Stokkenes. Some of her well known works are as follows: the art relief in the church park in Notodden, the relief of the Groven brothers at Eidsborg, the relief for the Ole Bull Academy at Voss, the Fykerud statue, the Heddal girl, the Anne Bamble statue, and others. She has created various prizes and rewards in stone and has completed many private portrait assignments. The monument for Hæge and Eivind Tveiten in Tokke is in process and will be unveiled in 1991 at the Lårdal District Museum at Eidsborg. The work with the monument to the Bonde Revolt in Ambjørndalen is an assignment from the Hjartdal community.

 

About the Location of the Monument

The choice of the parking area at the Hjartdal church as the location of the monument was made after considering several alternatives. The Hjartdal community wishes to make arrangements for the tourists at the monument, which is in the area around the Hjartdal church. Gullik Gjerjordet from Hjartdal is the man who has responsibility for the base of the monument. He is well known through his many years' work as a mason, among other work for his fine masonry at the Lårdal District Museum in Eidsborg and for a number of fireplaces in houses and cabins. The stones in the base are in themselves like a monument since they were brought from the upper part of Hjartdøla.

 


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