The Search for Thor
by Randi Millman-Brown
Thor Jensen, 36, moves from Oslo to Hammerfest. He is promoted to bank manager, becomes engaged, and takes a one-month hiking trip through occupied Finnmark in 1941. By the end of the year, he is dead, leaving behind a mystery, a diary, and many questions. This column chronicles his great niece’s attempt to solve that mystery.
Oct. 6 was the 77th anniversary of Thor’s untimely death. In honor of the day, I had a psychic reading with a medium.
We started our session by talking freely about my research project and how things were going. After about 15 minutes, the sky turned dark (it was 10 a.m.), there was a giant boom of thunder and lightning, and it poured buckets. I thought this was an auspicious beginning to the morning.
The medium asked a few questions that she hoped might give her a sense of place and perhaps some insight into Thor. I then handed her Thor’s gold pocket watch (See www.norwegianamerican.com/heritage/pocket-watch-possible-clue). She held it carefully and closed her eyes.
One of the first things she said to me was that Thor had indicated to her that I needed to start writing. This I already knew, as I have been spending countless hours on research. I started writing the minute I got home. She felt that he was at peace, but he could tell I needed to be on this journey of writing his story.
The research has been frustrating over the last couple of years. There have been no easy paths. What the medium suggested was that if I just found the information I wanted right away, I wouldn’t have pursued writing this novel and wouldn’t have gone on this incredible journey in the first place. I had never considered this and realize now that the path I’ve taken has been extremely important to me.
We also discussed some specific topics—one being the missing hospital records. If you recall, the hospital in Hammerfest told me that they couldn’t find any records (the hospital itself had been burned to the ground in the Scorched Earth campaign at the end of the war, but I have always felt some documents might exist in some archive). However, maybe the records weren’t there because he never was taken there at all. If he was already dead, there is the possibility that his doctor or another local doctor came to collect his body. (Researching this later, we found three doctors in Hammerfest in 1941—see photo). The record of his death then might lie with this doctor or even the coroner rather than the hospital. I posed this question to the Hammerfest history group on Facebook, and I now have a name of the son of one of these doctors, who I plan to contact as soon as possible.
I also feel the need to comment on my previous article where I express my frustration with the Norwegian librarians I worked with this past summer. To be fair, it was July, and many senior librarians and archivists were on vacation. Second, I have gotten a lot of assistance from many people all over Norway, so I apologize if I have offended anyone who has helped me or will help in the future.
I will certainly remember this Norwegian saying as I continue the research and writing: Å skrive noe bak øret.
Translation: To write something behind the ear.
Meaning: To make a mental note of something.
Randi Millman-Brown is an art historian, photographer, part-time genealogist, and writer living in Ithaca, N.Y. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared in the October 19, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.