When we arrived in Norway, nobody told us to beware of the sheep.
The fjord region of Norway is a magical land; a combination of Ireland’s rolling green hills, Switzerland’s picturesque red houses, and Canada’s snow-capped rockies, all situated along endless weaving water inlets. Pick any spot at random, and from there you can admire at least two waterfalls. Sure, it’s cold. So cold there is a Norwegian saying: We don’t have a summer– only two months of poor ski conditions. So cold the setting of Disney’s Frozen is based on a real fjord village (Undredal: population 112). So cold, when we switched trains in the mountains, hail beat down on our faces– in the middle of June. But damn, was it beautiful.
We arrived by ferry in Aurland at 4pm. It was the first partly cloudy day after a series of wholly cloudy and rainy days, so we decided to take advantage of the rare peak of sunlight by going for a hike. We chose a short-ish route, estimated to take about an hour and a half. Although it doesn’t get dark in Norway until midnight, there was no need to be heroes. An hour and half was about all I wanted to invest before hunkering down with a $16 beer. (Oh yeah, dollars are about as valuable as Monopoly money in Scandinavia.)
The route took us along the shoreline, straight up the mountain, along a ridge, and back down the mountain to our bed and breakfast. A no brainer.
We nailed the shoreline walk. Not one mistake made.
But after two and half hours of wandering the mountain forest, we accepted that we maybe-possibly-probably-okay definitely were lost. We made this decision after our makeshift trail ended at a fence so tall and wide we couldn’t circumvent it without serious Spidey skills.
We turned to assess our options, and that’s when we saw them.
The blood thirsty momma sheep, and her two creepy lambs.
They approached us directly, with intention, as if they knew us. As if we had slighted them. As if, in a previous life, we were shady car salesmen who sold them a lemon whose brakes failed and sent them over a cliff, and they’d waited two-hundred years for this opportunity for revenge. As if they were the wolves and we were the lambs.
The sheep charged. You might be thinking– what’s the big deal? They’re sheep. Just kick them away. But sheep are animals. Big(ish) animals. They have teeth, and cloven hooves for boxing gloves. At 250 pounds, they are pretty much Anderson Silvas on four legs. We froze. When the ewe was within eight feet, she growled. And when I say growl, I don’t mean a cute little baa-baa-black-sheep croon. I mean a wild dog growl.
(Don’t bother googling “sheep growl” in order to see what I’m talking about. You won’t find it. I’ve tried. The Internet will surface a video of an amenable woman getting shot in the butt with a hot dog gun (true and horrifying story), but it is completely devoid of any authentic sheep growl. I blame it on some underground mastermind sheep PR campaign. The same campaign responsible for the definition of the word “sheepish”. Lack of self-confidence, my potential-hot-dog-target ass!)
With small, hesitant steps–no sudden movements!– we skirted past them, leery of the drop at our backs and the possessed mammals at our fronts. But once we eased by them, they followed us– and snarled. So we retreated, and they cornered us against the fence.
“Are sheep dangerous?” I asked Phil from the side of my mouth.
“I didn’t think so,” he said, in a tone that implied he was now rethinking all his previously held beliefs about farmyard animals.
“What do we do?”
“We make a run for it.”
And we did. We sprinted past the sheep, up the very steep hill, aiming toward what appeared to be a road in the distance. I felt the breath of the brutes on my heels, and I couldn’t help but notice that Phil never once looked back to confirm I was not being torn to pieces by those woolly beasts (are we sure they aren’t descendants of woolly mammoths?).
Fearing the monsters at our backs, we never expected what lay beyond the hill crest.
The monsters’ homestead.
“We have to hop the farm fence and get to the road,” Phil said.
“But what about the sheep??!” I cried.
He gripped my shoulders. “We have no choice!”
Phil cut himself hopping the barbed wire fence, and helped me over. Then we climbed up a hill so steep we had to claw at it with our hands. We fled with the ferocity of Dr. Grant running from the Gallimimus.
The exertion triggered my asthma.
“I can’t make it!” I cried between wheezes. “I need help.”
The sheep were closing in. Phil extended his hand. “Come on!”
Since I am here to tell the tale, you already know we made it out of there alive. We did, and saturated with relief and gratitude for our escape.
But the experience left us changed. For instance, I now wonder if, all these years, we’ve misunderstood that notorious childhood rhyme. Everyone talks about Mary and her little lamb like the animal was her faithful friend. Everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go. It followed her to school one day, etc. After this experience, I’m pretty confident that lamb was stalking that poor girl, and when the children laughed and played, that was just an example of nobody taking Mary– the victim –seriously.
It’s time we finally listened.