Search for Nils Anders’s family begins in Minn.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons Mindekirken, Hans’s home, in sunnier weather.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Mindekirken, Hans’s home, in sunnier weather.

Nils Anders Wik
Norwegian American Weekly

Some weeks ago the good people at NAW took a call for me, from a lovely woman in Minnesota who thought she might know where one of my brothers was! Things looked a little tense around here, and seeing that I couldn’t do much to help I ducked over to Mindekirken to chat with Ethel Olsen Plasek and see about meeting Hans.

Plasek first met Hans on a snowy day some winters ago. The storm had blacked out power to the 84-year-old limestone church, and she was the first one there. Heading down to the fellowship hall in the basement, she started to get an eerie feeling. And then she heard Hans’s voice.

He was cranky, she reports, grumbling about new-fangled coffee makers and insisting that the old style ones were far superior. Plasek looked all over the church basement, but nowhere could she see the source of the voice.

Some people would think they were going crazy; some would blame a ghost. Luckily, Plasek knew better than that. “I thought he was a troll,” she told me. That startled me. I mean, really. To think a troll would be a relative of mine? But Plasek explained that she hadn’t actually seen Hans. He lived in a tiny stabbur above a coat rack, and no doubt enjoyed the occasions when his whole house found itself transported to the center of a table laden with goodies.

It was snowy again when I arrived, and the church was quiet. Plasek had offered to introduce me, but Hans sounded shy to me, so I chose to pop in there on my own. Many, many years ago I too had been shy, hiding from humans by turning into a rock or fashioning a quick hat out of mushrooms or wildflowers.

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“Hans?” I called softly. The voice that returned a wary “hei” was thin and reedy, the sort of voice that could never be mistaken for a troll’s. Well, perhaps a very, very young troll, scarcely past his larval stone stage.

Hans invited me into his stabbur and made me some coffee, and we chatted about the old days in the old country. He laughed when I told him how I’d ben tricked by that lousy old cabinet-maker. “You should have known better,” he said.

I know.

Norway is a different place now than it once was, he told me. He’d been back to Kristiania—Oslo, he corrected himself—a few summers ago when something massively wrong had occurred and his family had called him home to help protect their adopted humans. It had become a baffling expanse of concrete, jammed with humans… much like the city that had sprung up around his current abode in the basement of Mindekirken.

Still, he told me with a sigh, “this place is my home.” Hans came back from Oslo as soon as he could, and he’s been protecting the Norwegian church ever since.

“I admire that,” I told him. “But don’t you get restless? Don’t you want to see the world?”

In response, my host shrunk—and I don’t mean metaphorically. Sure, sometimes he’s big enough to slam doors or scare off would-be vandals, but at the prospect of adventuring he was almost too small for his stabbur!

So there you have it. Hans is a very nice Hidden Person, and surely we have friends and cousins in common, but he’s not my brother.

I will, of course, keep looking! You can follow my journey on Twitter (@NAWnisse, #NAWnisse), and if you know anything about my family, please contact my friends at NAW (, (206) 784-4617).

This article originally appeared in the March 20, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.