Take this true-or-false quiz about Norway. (It’ll help you navigate Minnesota, or at least understand an episode of “A Prairie Home Companion.”)
(Answers are below.)
1. Norwegians love butter. True or False?
2. Ole and Lena (of joke fame) are both numbskulls. True or False?
3. Norway has no polar bears. True or False?
4. In Minnesota, lots of Norwegian farmers ended up being bachelors. True or False?
5. Norwegian names dominate the map of Minnesota. True or False?
6. Tofte has the highest percentage of Norwegian-Americans. True or False?
1. TRUE: Two years ago, a butter shortage drove prices to more than $100 per pound. Savvy teens got hold of some butter and auctioned it online to help pay for their graduation party.
2. FALSE: “Lena is typically portrayed as the smarter of the two, often explaining where Ole went wrong in his misadventures,” according to Wikipedia, which actually has an entry for Ole and Lena jokes. “Another common character is Sven, who … isn’t as bright as Ole and Lena, but he means well.” (He’s also Swedish.)
3. FALSE: On the remote Norwegian island of Svalbard, polar bears outnumber humans 3,000 to 2,400. (They know how many bears there are because each year, humans count them. In fact, polar-bear spotter is an actual job on the island.)
4. TRUE: Most early Norwegians who immigrated to Minnesota were sons who’d lost out on the family farm. They were no more likely to be unmarried than other farmers, Trent Alexander of the Minnesota Population Center reported in 2005, citing U.S. Census data. Yet by the 1930s and ’40s, one in three Norwegian farmers in Minnesota were bachelors, compared with one in five farmers overall.
5. FALSE: There are only about 80 place names in Minnesota come that from Norway (think Tofte and Nerstrand.) The state tree, however, is the Norway pine. The tree, which is native to Minnesota, got its name from homesick Norwegian settlers.
6. FALSE: Fertile has the highest percentage of residents who claim Norwegian ancestry — a whopping 54.4 percent. How would a butter shortage play in that town?