NAW’s new friend
An interview with a very unusual type of person—and a call for help
Emily C. Skaftun
Norwegian American Weekly
At NAW, we get a lot of inquiries from people who think we can help them with things. Finding lost relatives, planning their trip to Norway, locating a source of gjetost in Missouri. But when a long-time reader brought this one to us, well, we knew right away it was different.
Nils Anders Wik has an extraordinary story to tell. Honestly, we would have found it pretty hard to believe if we hadn’t met him in person. What follows is his incredible tale.
Nils Anders Wik: I came from a very large family who worked on a farm. We were all but invisible, my brothers and I, to the human family who thought they ran the farm. Oh, sure, once or twice a year they would leave out some grøt for us, as though we were no better than the farm cat, but we did our part anyway. It was what we’d always done. What our parents had done. We’d lived on the farm since before it was cultivated, in the trees and rocks, so what else would we do?
Emily C. Skaftun: Where was your farm? Do you remember the name?
NAW: We didn’t think too much of names. The people called it something-dahl or something-stad, I can’t remember. They called us nisser, so that just tells you how much they knew.
But anyway, I was a young man and irked at doing so much for the farm with so little recognition. I would hear the young man from the other family boasting to a young woman he fancied: “Oh yes,” he’d say, “Our potatoes seem almost to spring from the ground on their own,” or “We have the silkiest sheep—as though combed by angels.”
It wasn’t angels. It was us. And a lousy bowl of porridge at Jul was our only reward.
My father didn’t like my attitude, so he sent me away, but not before I’d infected my brothers with the same bad attitude. We left together, traveling far and wide, and found ourselves at a furniture maker’s. He was struggling, had no sons to help him build cabinets. We wanted to make a name for ourselves, and so we entered into a wager. If any of us could create a cabinet as beautiful as one of his, we would share in the shop and I inherit it when he passed.
He made his first, a very finely painted entry. Then it was my turn. I knew I could do better. I’d once been a tree, so I called upon the essence of the wood before me. I envisioned the shape of the wood, the joints, the hinges. I called upon the colors of berries and leaves to finish it off.
ECS: And then what happened?
NAW: I really couldn’t say. I awoke in a dark place, and pushed open a door, and I realized that I’d been in the cabinet that I made. It was as beautiful as I’d hoped, and I knew that I’d won. But then I saw that the room I was in was different, unfamiliar. Everything looked different but a couple pieces of rosemaled furniture. The furniture maker and all of my brothers were gone.
And things just kept getting more different. I witnessed miracles, mechanical monsters lumbering along. Humans communicating via magic like we hidden people once did. I was in a different part of the fjord, perhaps, I thought. A place where they lived like we always had. I thought maybe harnessing all the magic I’d needed to make the cabinet had transported me.
ECS: When did you find out the truth?
NAW: As I wandered the city, I learned that it was a place called Ballard. I learned that much time had passed—a hundred years or more. I learned that I was far from the hills and fjords of my homeland. I was on a faraway fjord attached to a different ocean. I learned that the region I’d come from was called Norway, but I still can’t comprehend how very, very far away it is.
A family took me in for Jul. They celebrated much as the family I’d lived with long ago had, with some of the old traditions. And they showed me your paper, your Norwegian American Weekly. And that is how I found you. Can you help me?
ECS: I don’t know. What is it you want?
NAW: I want to find my family. My father, my brothers, my sisters. After whatever happened to me, I worry for my brothers. I suspect that furniture-maker of foul play.
ECS: Assuming they weren’t magically interred inside furniture, will they still be, you know, alive? After 100 years?
NAW: Of course!
ECS: Have you tried anything else to find them?
NAW: Yes, I’m afraid I have already made entreaties at a very high level. I have even spoken to the Ambassador from Norway. A very nice man, he was, but he ultimately couldn’t help me.
ECS: You spoke of magic communications. Tell us more about that.
NAW: Your twitter, your facebook, your internet. We have always used these, though without your shiny devices.
ECS: So can’t you use that to find your family?
NAW: Well, it hasn’t worked yet. A lot could have happened to them in all this time, even if they did escape from the furniture-maker. Maybe they’ve been looking for me all this time. Or maybe some other fate has befallen them. But I’m trying not to worry; why would you make me start to worry? Can you help me or not?
ECS: Well, we’ll try. Readers, if anyone has any information about Nils Anders’s family, who may or may not be trapped inside Norwegian furniture, please contact us using twitter or facebook. Include #NAWnisse in your posts. With your help, we’ll get Nils Anders back to his family!
You can watch Nils Anders’s progress by following him on twitter: @NAWnisse
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 9, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.