Tongue cutting in Lofoten

March 2, 2022

Tungeskjæring i Lofoten

Tongue cutting has long traditions during seasonal fishing in Lofoten and is deeply rooted in the culture of the inhabitants of Nusfjord. This is a tradition for the very youngest and allows them to make money. Renate, born and raised in Nusfjord, shares a story about how this tradition takes place.

The snow descends slowly into the fjord, and a fishing boat is approaching, loaded with cod.

The kids come blasted from school and down on the quay. They put on their overalls, oil rigs, and get their knives ready. They then find their tongue box with their name on it and burst onto the pier to be the first to arrive.

Tongue cutting is deeply rooted in our culture and is reserved for the very youngest in the fishing villages. If you come as an adult on the fishing pier to cut tongues, you are literally «thrown» out of there.

When the fish enters the pier, the head is removed from the fish and thrown into large vessels. Then the tongue cutters, girls and boys from the age of 5 and up to 16, take the tongues and step on what is called a «tungepik». They pull the head back and cut the tongue off.

Then they thread the head on a large needle, with rope in it, and when there are 12 heads on the needle, they tie this together and hang it on a rock.

The children do this job from the end of January to the beginning of April. Many bicycles, mopeds, and telephones are bought with this money. The undersigned purchased a 14-foot boat with a 15 hp engine at the age of 9 for the tongue money.

Child labor, you say? No, this is done by the children voluntarily. They get paid well and start and end whenever they want. They are not employed by anyone.

Cod tongues are a delicacy, and my daughter Astrid sells for 60,- NOK kg. When I was little, it was NOK 25 kg, and when my dad cut, he got 2 øre a piece.

An unofficial record is held by Isak Tøllefsen on Husøya, weighing 402 kg in 13 hours. It gives an excellent hourly wage. 

EN | Norwegian