The Daughters of Dover
Dover around the World
By kind permission of the Dover Mercury, (KMG),26th July 2007
Dovre, Oppland, Norway, situated in the Dovre National Park, in one of largest national park areas in Europe! The town has a population of about 2,900, is between the Dovrefjell and Rondane National Parks about 340km north of Oslo. The National Park is one of the last, virtually intact, high mountain ecosystems in Europe and supports musk oxen, wild reindeer, wolverine, arctic fox, approximately 400 species of birds as well as diverse and rare plants.
Musk ox, (ovibos moschatus), had lived in the area from the last ice age but due to climatic changes and intense hunting had become extinct. However, in 1931, ten animals were brought from Greenland, released and the herd multiplied. Unfortunately WWII took its toll on the animals; many were probably killed for meat, so in 1947 a further 23 were brought to the area. These bred and there are now about 120 animals and have become the symbol of the town.
Dovre's rich history also goes back a long way and they are particularly proud that Harold I of Norway, (circa 885-933), who united Norway, married a local girl, Snofrid Svanesdatter. According to legend, she refused to marry him until all of Norway was under his sway! Snofrid then became the ancestress to some 25 Norwegian kings, however, on the death of Harold I, his sons did divide the country.
Olaf, Snofrid’s great-grandson, as a young man participated in numerous Viking raids along the coast of Britain, which included a campaign to invade in 994. While in Britain, he was converted to Christianity and the following year led a successful rebellion in Norway. Crowned Olaf I in 995, he again united the country and founded, as his capital, the city of Nidaros (now Trondheim), about 75 miles north of Dovre. Olaf ‘s main objective was to force Christianity on Norway. The Norwegians preferred the old religion, so Olaf singled out the men of Dovre and forced them either to accept Christianity or death, most reluctantly accepted.
Five years after his accession Olaf I was killed in battle and Norway was again divided for a short time but reunited by Olaf II (1015-28). Before ascending the throne, Olaf had been in the service of the exiled English King Ethelred II. During this time, he converted to Christianity and so completed the conversion of the Norwegians with equal zeal has his namesake, using the sword against all that refused to be baptised. This led to 1028 King Canute II of England, in 1028, to be called upon to invade. Olaf II was killed but in 1164 he was canonised and became Norway's patron saint.
Olaf III, having also made Trondheim his capital, pilgrims came from all over Norway to the city.
As their route, through the mountains, took them through Dovre, the locals provided many of the shelters, food and fuel. The pilgrim route can still be followed today.
In the early 13th century Norway had reached the zenith of its medieval prosperity but in 1397 Norway, Sweden and Denmark became a single administrative unit, with Norway a province of Denmark. Following this, the country went into slow decline while both Sweden and Denmark became powerful, the people of Norway became resentful.
By the early 17th century Sweden, pursuing expansionist policies, became a major power in the Baltic area and when 1611 Gustav II Adolph, came to the throne in 1611, the country was at war with Russia. A year later a company of 300 Scottish mercenaries were going to Sweden to enlist in Gustav's army, landed at Trondheim. Following the Pilgrim's Route, they came to Dovre arriving during a festival. They stopped and joined in. As time passed they noticed that the more able-bodied men were leaving and on asking they were told, by a young and very beautiful Dovre woman, that they too were going to Sweden to fight.
As the Dovre men were going in the opposite direction to that which the mercenaries planned to take, they queried this. The young woman replied that as they were locals they knew a quicker way to cross the mountains and said that she would show the mercenaries the way. The mercenaries set off but when they reached a particular narrow pass the young woman sounded a blast on a long wooden shepherd's horn, called a 'lur'. The mercenaries were ambushed! A battle, lasting an hour and a half ensued and only 134 of the mercenaries survived. What happened next varies with accounts but it is generally accepted that all but a few of the survivors were executed. These days, the people of Dovre welcome visitors to their town, saying that the main landmark and highest peak is Snohetta (2,286 km) is a popular destination for hikers.
Thanks: Inge Angard, Chief of the Department for Planning and Commercial Business Development.