Exodus’ Gina Lawrence gets her nose out of her favourite book, The Hobbit, just long enough to live the real thing in fjord Norway …
Tiny cloud-like puffs of fluffy wildflowers, little white cushions scattered on a bed of bright green grass, encircled by a theatrical backdrop of soaring mountains. After a childhood spent reading and re-reading The Hobbit, I had magically been transported into the realm I’d envisaged since the day I’d taken that slim volume off my parent’s bookshelf.
Half expecting to bump into Elrond or Gandalf, we set out each morning into a landscape of mythic, epic proportions. The little details remained soft and delicate – petite wildflowers and sculpted orchards – but the grand sense of scale, the ragged claws of a glacier gouging deep valleys out of the mountainsides and into the salt waters, added a raw, unrestrained power to the landscape. I could almost hear the classical soundtrack to the ‘Lord of the Rings‘ films playing in my head.
Just as in Bilbo did, we began our journeys from a cushioned armchair. Nes Gard lodge was reminiscent of the book’s uneventful opening set in “a hobbit-hole, and that meant comfort.” The cosy C18th farmhouse was built entirely from wood, flooded with light from the windows which overlooked the Lusterfjord just metres from the front door. Candles adorned the tables in the evenings and the three-course dinners would be enough to satisfy the hungriest dwarf army.
Atop a silver-grey crag we paused, eyes thirstily drinking in the mirror-like jade fjord beneath. The water here is so clear you can refill water bottles from any crystalline stream, and even at 1,000metres high overlooking the fjords the undulations of the bed were visible beneath the water. The wind whistles between the lichen-laden crags, whisks the hair away from my cheeks and suddenly I feel much like a very little Hobbit on a very big adventure. The sheer scale of the scenery is enough to make me feel half the size I usually am.
We catch our breath and jokingly we teased our guide – “Is this where the trolls live?”
He turned to us, dead-pan, and without skipping a beat he replied in all seriousness, “No. The trolls live in Jotunheim.”
It was moments like this that it became clear that in a previous life Asbjorn had been a teacher. We all hovered, slightly unsure whether he was making fun of us.
“Jotunheim,” he continued, “Means the home of the trolls. Jotun, troll, heim, home. They live only in the high mountains.” In Norse mythology, all giant trolls live in one of Nine Worlds – Jotenheim being one of these worlds. Absjorn’s eyes light up as he enthuses about the National Park. From the top of one peak, he tells us, you look down upon two lakes – one blue freshwater, the other green fjord waters, staring from the ground like heterochromic eyes. “It is very strange, very beautiful.” He assures us. “You will see tomorrow!”
The real question of course, is whether we’ll see any trolls. “Oh no.” Asbjorns scoffs at us asking such foolish questions. “They will be asleep, of course!”