According to Julie

Why are the beds so short? (English version)

5 Comments

My main excuse for not blogging much this summer is that I’ve been working. I’ve spent 8 hours a day at the Norwegian Folk Museum, an open-air history museum with historic buildings from all over the country. I’ve answered all sorts of questions from tourists, but the ones I get the most often are: “Why are the beds in these houses so short? And why are the doors so low?” I’m sick of these questions and from now on, I’ll just tell any tourist who asks them: “I can’t be bothered to answer you right now. Find out for yourself on http://www.espen.com/julie”
Ok, first of all, it’s not because people were shorter in the 1600’s. They were a little shorter, but not much. Take one look at any other piece of furniture from that period and it should be obvious. And don’t believe what the guides who don’t work at the museum tell you. They are WRONG.
Stupid things guides may tell you:
The beds were short because people slept sitting up. This was so they could have their weapons ready (swords most likely) and attack any nighttime intruders.
The doors were low so that anyone coming in had to bend down when coming in. This made chopping their heads off much easier.

There are two problems with these theories:
Problem 1: Sleeping with a sword under your pillow is a good way to get yourself or others who are in the bed with you cut in half.
Problem 2: Even the most bloodthirsty Viking would avoid headchopping in his own house. Chopping off someone’s head creates a mess that I think we would have found traces of if these theories were correct.
The truth is: It’s cold in Norway. Have you ever slept in a long, cold bed and dreaded the moment when you have to stretch your toes to the farthest, coldest end? With short beds, that problem is eliminated. Our ancestors slept curled up to keep warm. The doors are low to keep warm air inside and cold air out.
By the way: the beds are all between 160 and 170 cms long, so I could sleep quite comfortably in them. They look shorter because they are so wide (each one has room for about four people).

5 thoughts on “Why are the beds so short? (English version)

  1. ikke hatt problemer å sove der fordi det kunne sove fire der🙂
    nå har jeg lagt igjen en kommentar som til og med affilierer med teksten i bloggen din

  2. haha, brukte jeg affilierer sånn nogenlunde riktig??? burde vel ha holdt meg til: relevans eller noe annet, linket til, sammenheng… jada..
    det blir to kommentarer

  3. I’ve also been told that in the 1800’s people slept sitting up to avoid tuberculosis, which is why beds were shorter. Another myth? Thanks for your answere. Eilene

  4. I haven’t heard of the tuberculosis explanation, but I am generally sceptical to anyone sleeping sitting up – I mean, have you ever gotten a good night’s sleep that way?

  5. I just watched a special on the History Channel about The Free Masons and they said people slept sitting up for quite some time because they “thought it was better for their health”

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