The name Endre, Andy in English, is common in Norway. In Norse mythology, Endre was one of Odin’s sons. And in modern Norwegian, the name also has echoes of ‘change’.
When he was little, Endre lived in a town, surrounded by shops and tower blocks, by traffic and noise. But his Nan lived in the countryside, not far away. When he was old enough, he could cycle there, often going to stay for the weekend. And there he would play with his good friend, Nikolas, who lived on the farm next door. The pair of them went swimming in the lake, chased after and caught caterpillars and moths with their nets in the meadows (there were so many different kinds, Endre collected over 100). But his Nan was getting older. It had been a long time since she had kept any cows. Best of all, Endre liked to go off with his nan in to the forest up to their secret place where they waited, hiding behind trees and bushes, for the young foxes to come out and play.
Endre’s Nan had made it clear to all her family she considered Endre the one to take on the farm after she died. For her, he loved the farm as she much as she did and would carry it on in the same way. And so, when she died, Endre inherited. The town continued to grow, right onto the edge of the forest. A new, shiny shopping mall opened nearby.
Endre hadn’t been at the farm very long when there was a knock on the door. It was a logger, telling him that the price of timber was at an all time high. Now was an ideal time to cut to down the oaks and pines in the forest and sell them and make a rich profit. ‘But I, er…don’t know. It’s too soon.’ ‘But you don’t have to do anything. I’ll do all the work and we’ll share the profits 50:50. You just need to sign here.’ Endre pictured his trees chopped down. ‘No’, he said. ‘I’m not cutting them down’, and closed the door.
The next day, Endre heard another knock at the door. Two smartly dressed men were standing outside. ‘Endre, I’ll come straight to the point. We’re from the shopping centre and we want to buy your farm. This area is perfect for us to expand into. We can give you lots of money and you will be rich forever.’ Endre shifted his weight from side to side. ‘I’ve not been here very long. It’s too soon for me, erm…’ ‘…wealth you’ve never imagined, Endre. Just think of it. All those cars you’ve wanted and holidays! From Bergen to Rio! Picture it, you could be sitting, eating coffee and raspberry pie in the Café Kloseret tomorrow!’ Endre hesitated, before taking a step back. ‘No, I don’t think so, no. My forest is not for sale’ and shut the door.
The next day, he couldn’t believe it. There was another knock at the door. Outside were three businessmen, dressed in shiny new suits and polished shoes. ‘We’d like to buy your farm, Endre. It has got prime development permission. We think we can make you an offer you will like.’ ‘My farm is not for sale’, Endre said quietly. ‘Oh, good business technique, Endre! We know the shopping mall people have been sniffing around. What did they offer you? Never mind, whatever it was, we’ll double it…’ ‘It’s not for sale.’ ‘Oh, nice one, Endre, I can see you’re holding out for top dollar and you’re right. This place is worth the very best price. Why should you settle for less? Ok, I give in. We’ll treble their offer!’
From somewhere deep down inside and with a force he had never produced before, ever, in his young life, he felt the force of nature, of the wild calling, rushing out of him and screamed, ‘I don’t want to be rich! Go now. I don’t want to sell my farm’ and slammed the door.
The next day, there was another knock on the door. ‘Oh, no, what now?’ He didn’t want to open it but reluctantly trudged to the door. There stood his old playing companion, Nikolas, now owner of the farm next door. ‘How are you, Endre? It’s great having you back here. We can go chasing after butterflies again, go swimming or take the boat out on the lake, fishing. We can go camping up in the mountains…I’m so happy you’re back.’ But he could see Endre’s face was troubled. ‘What’s the matter, Endre? You have your Nan’s farm. Why do you look so miserable?’
And Endre explained about the logger, the shopping mall people and the three businessmen in their dark, shiny suits, about all they wanted was to make him rich. ‘Oh, I know about them. They’ve been to mine too. I told them I wasn’t interested. And the farm the other side too, they’ve been there and they’re not interested either. They’re already rich and live in the city and like to come here at weekends.’
But this alarmed Endre even more. His forest joined with Nikolas’, which joined with his other neighbours’. ‘What if one of them sold their bit of the forest? What would happen then?’ ‘Umm’, Nikolas nodded, ‘we need a plan.’
The next day, Endre rang the Royal Palace. ‘Allo, King here.’ ‘Allo, my name is Endre. I live in a forest, which is extraordinary for its biodiversity, especially for its many butterflies, including several rare ones.’ ‘I see’, said the King, ‘I will send my inspectors over shortly to look at it. Goodbye.’
Some time later, two inspectors arrived in the forest and stayed there for two weeks. They counted all the insects and orchids and their special habitats and then left to write their report for the King.
Endre waited patiently by the phone for a call. One day passed and the next and the day after and the day after that, the phone never rang. He waited so many days. Then one day, Endre was sweeping his hallway, when the phone started ringing. He rushed across the room to pick it up. ‘Allo, is that Endre?’ ‘Yes, speaking.’ ‘Allo, Endre, the King here. I’ve received the inspectors’ report. They highlight the exceptional number of rare butterflies and moths in your forest and so I’ve decided to make it into a National Park. Goodbye.’
Endre couldn’t believe his ears but the news in the papers and on TV soon confirmed the decision. He and his good friend, Nikolas, were delighted. Now, they could play again in the forest, whenever they liked, go swimming in the lake, walking, or skiing. Do all the things they thought they might lose forever.
All of this happened some years ago now. And though Endre is still alive, he’s much older now. If you like, I can take you to the National Park where you can see his farm. You may even get to meet him. His own granddaughter, Maria, visits him at weekends. They often go for long walks in the forest, sometimes camping. Round the fire, Endre tells her stories about the mountains and the fast flowing waters and of the trees. He tells her about the wolf and the raven and the salmon and all the other animals and beings which dwell here.
But best of all, the two of them love to go up into the forest to their secret place, the one that only they know about. Sitting behind the trees and bushes in the warm sunshine, they wait for the young foxes to come out and play in the sunlit clearing.
And here they are!