The legend of Bal

By Ballangen Museum

Ballangen • Ofoten

300 years ago, a French man named Bal was said to have lived in a small village in the Ofoten region. The village, Balsnes and the surrounding area, Ballangen, were named after him. Bal owned three copper mines – one in Ballangen where you can still see the foundations of a smeltery, and two with unknown locations. Bal was a cruel and ruthless man, and he abused and mistreated the indigenous sami people that lived in the area. He would hunt their tame reindeer for sport, or steal the animals to use them for pulling carts. He even murdered several sami men. Bals house was filled with sin and filth. Orgies, violent fights and drunkenness was a common sight. Animals were driven to death, women were abused, and the nearby farmers were impoverished.

The hatred toward Bal grew and grew, until one day the locals had had enough. They joined forces, and drove the foreigners out of the Ballangen. Bal, however, was seized and killed – they tied him to four hourses, and tore his limbs apart. The sami were afraid that a new tyrant would fill his place if Bals mines were to remain open. So they swore that they would throw stones into the mines to fill them up – every year for fifty years – as they passed the mines during their migrations. A belief spread among the sami that any person who disclosed the location of the mine would be killed by and an evil spirit.

People in the area have always said that the legend of Bal is true, and that the location of the copper mine is merely forgotten. Some evidence supports this: there are a few small mines with copper ore in the mountains of Ballangen, but the main mine where all this ore came from still hasn’t been found.

Ballangen, however, is not named after a man named Bal. The place is mentioned by the name Baganger in literature as early as 1430-40.

Sources:

Amund Helland: Topografisk-statistisk beskrivelse over Nordland amt. Andre del. (s. 146 f.)
Amund Helland: Topografisk-statistisk beskrivelse over Nordland amt. Fjerde del. (s. 475 ff.)

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