Norwegians split over how to stack logs but united in burning love for firewood

Wood is stacked during a Norwegian TV programme on the topic of firewood. photograph: lars mytting via the new york times

Wood is stacked during a Norwegian TV programme on the topic of firewood. photograph: lars mytting via the new york times

 

The TV programme, on the topic of firewood, consisted mostly of people in parkas chatting and chopping in the woods and then eight hours of a fire burning in a fireplace. Yet no sooner had it begun, on prime time last Friday night, than the angry responses came pouring in.

“We received about 60 text messages from people complaining about the stacking in the programme,” said Lars Mytting, whose best-selling book, Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood – and the Soul of Wood-Burning, inspired the broadcast. “Fifty per cent complained that the bark was facing up, and the rest complained that the bark was facing down.”

He added: “One thing that really divides Norway is bark.”

One thing that does not divide Norway is its love of discussing Norwegian wood. Nearly 20 per cent of the population tuned in at some point to the programme, which was shown on the state broadcaster NRK.

Solid Wood spent more than a year on the bestseller list in Norway. Sales have exceeded 150,000 copies, not far below EL James’s Norwegian hit, Fifty Shades Fanget, proof that thrills come in many forms.

Friday’s programme opened with the host promising to “try to get to the core of Norwegian firewood culture – because firewood is the foundation of our lives”. Various people discussed its historical and personal significance. “We’ll be sawing, we’ll be splitting, we’ll be stacking and we’ll be burning,” the TV host said.

But the real excitement came when the action moved, four hours later, to a fireplace in a farmhouse. The fire burned all night long. Fresh wood was added through the hours.

“I couldn’t go to bed because I was so excited,” a viewer said on the Dagbladet newspaper website. “When will they add new logs? Just before I managed to tear myself away, they must have opened the flue a little, because just then the flames shot a little higher.

Solid Wood’s publication appears to have given older Norwegian men, a traditionally taciturn group, permission to reveal their deepest thoughts while seemingly discussing firewood. – (New York Times service)