The legend about Mari

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The road through Maristien (Mari's path) was finished and put to use in 1895. Before that, one had to make a long detour to get from this side and over to the Fosso farms on the other side of the smooth, bare rock faces. One could very well take Maristien itself, a somewhat dangerous journey. We have many dramatic descriptions from tourists who have taken that route. One of them, Jules Verne, who took Maristien (Mari's path) in 1863, wrote a particularly dramatic description. Maristien is named after the girl Mari, about whom there are many legends. These legends are essentially similar to one another.

There are several versions of the legend of Mari, but the one reproduced below appeared in the "Maana" newspaper on 22 July 1921 and was found for us by the Rjukan Library:

"Øystein, the son of one of the richest and biggest farmers in this valley, and Mari, the daughter of a poor crofter, had fallen in love. For Øystein's parents, this was a disaster and they refused to tolerate the relationship. They would not allow the daughter of a crofter into their family and did their utmost to prevent it. As a dairymaid, Mari would spend all of her summers on a mountain farm high up in the mountains. As long as she was there, Øystein's parents were happy. It would be very difficult for Mari and Øystein to meet each other, and Øystein's parents felt that their son would be safe during the summer.

But true love is strong and it makes one inventive. It can overcome the toughest chains and obstacles. So in the evenings after the sun had gone down behind the snowy white mountains and the cows had fallen asleep inside the barn, Mari left the summer farm. Like a bird, she flew over rocks and streams down through the ravine where the "Maana-river" tumbles yellow white into the "Rjukan Waterfall".

Underneath a weather-beaten pine tree she sat down to wait. Until a dark shadow on the rocks showed her that Øystein was on his way up from the ravine, in good stride and with a spring in his step. This was their meeting place; here they sat on many a summer and autumn evening, safe from being taken by surprise. This was a protected place, for hidden love had discovered it. No one would ever dream that anybody would dare to go to the ravine by the waterfall. Especially not in the dark or in foggy weather.

Before daylight Mari would be back on the mountain plateau again with her cows and Øystein would be down in the valley. They had been meeting like this for a long time.

But one night it was darker and windier than usual. The thunder roared, sounding like thousands of wild giants climbing out of the crevices and like big rocks falling down the mountainsides. The wind blew as if it was going to blow everything away. But Mari had arrived at the meeting place. She sat as usual underneath the pine tree, where broken branches and twigs fell down into her lap. She prayed to God for Øystein, for herself and for the cows. Between the gusts, she could hear the wind making a strange sound in the treetop as if complaining to her about something. The fog got thicker and thicker, and in it Mari thought she could see spooky images gliding past. The sound of the storm and the fog made her very frightened. She sighed and prayed, listened and waited with great anxiety. She had never experienced anything like this before.

Suddenly she jumped up as if stung by needles. There was something deadly about the atmosphere. The storm roared and the rain was pouring down. Suddenly somebody called her name, and she answered. The voice called back again and again. She recognised it as being Øystein's voice. During breaks in the storm she could hear him coming, climbing up to her, closer and closer. She could no longer bear to stand still. She ran to meet him.

But at that very moment a gust of wind burst through the ravine and the rock walls seemed to shake. High boulders rolled down the mountainside and into the ravine. Mari clung tightly to a bush. She was scared to death. She called out Øystein's name again and again. No reply. She neither saw, nor heard him any more that night.

Morning came and the sun started to rise. The storm had passed and it had stopped raining. Mari sat still under the pine tree. But deep down in the ravine by the waterfall she caught sight of a smashed body. It was her beloved. The water flowed beside him, washing blood away from his hair. In that place death had come to him.

Mari felt a great sorrow. Slowly she walked back to her cows on the mountain plateau to faithfully continue her work.

But on many a night that year and in subsequent years she returned to the pine tree. She walked along the path and listened for Øystein who would never come to meet her again, until one stormy night when the wind was again roaring through the mountains. Then Mari did not come back either. They found her body in the same place as Øystein's.

Compassionate people buried her beside Øystein in the consecrated ground of the church graveyard."

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The legend about Mari

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Torget 2, 3660, Rjukan
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