‘Bergtatt’ – my new favourite Norwegian word

Bergtatt: the word itself is captivating, enchanting and encompassing the images I have from Norwegian folklore. I have not written for a long time. I had some good reasons: finishing PhD (not there yet) and summer time. When I heard in the beginning of July that Norway would open its borders -even for Belgians- my heartstrings started to sing. I had to go. And life brought me to the north of the arctic circle. When and where the sun does not disappear. I joined some Norwegian friends in the explorations of some beautiful landscapes, swimming in fjords, visiting big wood saw mills, and hiking to glaciers à la Frozen 2. During a hike in the mystical Sami indigenous lands, one of my friends taught the word. I felt spellbound by this word and it got stuck in my mind, even after 2 weeks I am still feeling the magic of this word that I decide will be the title of my new book.

What, new book?

The story for a third book is already growing for a year in my mind. I got the idea during a trekking in Hokkaido, also in company of one of these Norwegian friends. After we ascended a steep icy snow slope of a remote volcano landscape and I had been cursing him in three languages, I got the idea, as if it flew from a mountain top in my head. Elizabeth Gilbert would call this the Big Magic. In the past year, this story has been growing and distilling in my belly, bones and brain. The original title was ‘women who look like mountains’. But after 13 months ripening in imaginary oak barrels, the idea is ready. Just on time. Next month I will start a 2 year mentorship called ‘Writer’s Academy’ in Antwerp. I am not going to tell too much about it, apart that it is about breaking a family curse, several generations of women and mountains. And Bergtatt seems the magical new working title.

But what does bergtatt means?

Bergtatt means “taken by the mountain”.

It has two interpretations:

1. in folklore and fairytales: imprisoned in the mountains
E.g. The princess was captured by the troll. In Norway you hear often stories about beautiful troll women (huldra) luring men in order to boil and eat them.

One of my friends claimed he and his cousin really saw one when they were 15. They ran to her, but then she suddenly disappeared. Let me share a photograph of on the indigenous Sami lands where he was almost “bergtatt” and, thus, where he taught me this word.

2. Getting so enchanted or spellbound that you forget everything else.
For example, the hiker was captivated by the mountainous scenery.

I am not sure if such word exists in English, Dutch, Japanese? Well, I am not surprised about no Dutch translations as we do not have real mountains in Flanders and the Netherlands 😉., but now I am curious for similar words in Norwegian, Dutch, English that have so many layers and call images of landscapes and stories in just one breath.


Isn’t that a beautiful Norwegian word?