Elves whispering

3 min



(Reading Alfernes hvisken [The Elves’ Whisper]/Johan Sebastian Welhaven):   

It is a beautiful summer’s day,   
the cooling grove has raised its shade,allowing the leaves to rustle.   
Elves flutter in the air,whispering gently: “Oh make haste, come to ourgrove home!”   


A nineteenth-century ideal was to exist as a complete human being in harmony with nature. Johan Sebastian Welhaven’s poem, read for us by the actor Erland Bakker, about a young man who goes into a forest inhabited by whispering and questioning elves, is typical of that period: The forest was seen as a place of thought, emotion and tranquillity, of closeness to nature. Many people think of forests in the same way today.  

Sharam Khalifeh came to Norway when he was three years old. He was a Kurdish refugee from the Al-Tash refugee camp in the desert outside Bagdad. Today he teaches sports and outdoor recreation to ninth and tenth graders. He has crossed Greenland on skis but his favourite place is the forest.  

Sharam Khalifeh:   

I’m not religious, but the only time I’ve felt … a feeling that something exists that is divine, that there’s something cosmic, which is, well, something very intense that is not possible for me to describe, has been when I’ve been out in nature.  

Perhaps when I reach the peak of a mountain and see the landscape unfold before me on the other side. It’s difficult to describe that feeling. It’s so powerful that it chokes you up. 


It is so sheltered, it is so quiet,   
where the blossom will tumble onto your breast  from the heavily-laden linden branches,and if you want to have sweet dreams,then you can rest quite softlyon the mossy stones.   
Sharam Khalifeh:   

For me, being in the forest is about an absence of stress.   

I feel that I can find peace there much more easily. There are fewer distractions.    

And so I feel that perhaps it’s there that we thrive best, in a very profound way, as creatures of nature.   

The urban environment is artificial, it’s something we’ve created and in some places you don’t see a single trace of nature, of what the planet actually is.   

But when I go out into the forest, then I’m not necessarily in Nittedal or Oslo or Norway, I could be in a forest in Kurdistan, I could be in Latin America or somewhere else. And that’s something I also like very much, that it’s much easier to dream yourself away to another place, so that national borders and the things that divide us … we’re all equal out in the forest and things like social class and all that disappear, it’s completely irrelevant to the trees.


At this gentle bidding, I wander   
out along the shady footpaths   
into the green chamber of the forest;   
where I hear a slow clamouring,   
where the elves are whispering once againbehind vine-covered tree trunks.