Fanitullen (Devil's Tune) is an old Norwegian folk tune - known as a slått - from the 18th century.

Fanitullen is played on the Norwegian national instrument the Hardanger fiddle, which has four or five lower resonating strings and four upper strings usually tuned in harmony with the lower strings. The four upper strings would often be tuned in different ways, creating a hypnotic drone which is said to have put fiddler's in trance on many occasions.

The haunting, eerie sound from the fiddle coupled with the myth that Fanitullen was the work of the devil, made it forbidden for most of the 18th and 19th century. According to legend, Fanitullen was conceived in 1724 on a farm named Myljo Larsgard, and the poem below describes how the tune came into being.

The words for Fanitullen was written around 1850 by Jørgen Moe (1813-1882), a priest and an author. Jørgen Moe travelled across Norway with Peter Chr. Asbjørnsen in the 19th century, gathering Norwegian myths and fairy tales. Their tales of trolls, waterfall wizards ("Fossegrimen") and wood nymphs ("Huldra") are now a national treasure.

The poem should be recited along with the music, not sung.

In the hardened days of yore
when with beer and brawn
the knives of Halling Dale
were quick to be drawn
when women to the feast
funeral shirts would bring
with which they would swathe
their dead husbands in

There stood a wedding
somewhere in Hemse Dale
where song and dance had ceased
and men did ring the vale.
In the center of the floor
framed by broad-shouldered men
stood two with knives unsheated
and a leather belt round them

And like statues carved
unmoving, serene
stand four other men
as guardians of the scene
They lift their burning torches
toward the blackened beams
where the smoke curls collect
in a dark and brooding stream

In vain two women try
howling, to stem
the living wall of bodies
raised before them
Angrily they’re thrown back
and left to despair
but the fiddler quietly sidles
towards the cellar stair.

Down he goes to tap the beer
for the winner of the fight
can use a chance to kiss
the bowl’s rim tonight.
The two within the belt
will lose blood like sap
the vein will need refilling
from the beer casket tap.

But entering the cellar
he sees a bluish glow
someone sitting on the casket
tuning fiddle, holding bow.
This man held it backwards
tightly to his chest
and as soon as it was tuned
he put the fiddle to the test.

That was a song of wonder;
It rang like angry words,
Like steel bites into wood
Like fists rammed into boards.
It jubilantly roamed
Around the darkened cellar hall
And came to a halt
At the sound of a fall

Quietly the fiddler listened
To the mighty flow
It was like the music’s eddies
went to his spine and brow.
He quickly asked the other
"Where did you learn that song?"
He answered "Never mind,
But remember it – for long!"

Now the fiddler bent down
Reaching for the tap
And then he saw the hoof
against the casket rap
He forgot to tap the beer
And ran up to the hall
Just as the men were lifting
The body from the fall

Fanitullen it is called
This wild and haunting spell
And in Halling Dale they play it
And they play it well
And when its tune is singing
to beer and feast and brawn
the knives of Halling Dale
again are quickly drawn

Translated to English by Espen Andersen ( Original Norwegian version is at
A 30 second clip of Fanitullen can be heard in MP3-format on this URL:
or you can get the whole two minutes here:

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.