Between stressing families and noisy youths paws a collection furry, neon-colored creatures. In one corner stands a pink dog and a blue cat and trying to get to a call of Katy Perry's "Roar," which appropriately enough is played over the PA system. A large, nondescript fur animals with beaks and wings make some clumsy attempt to get their paws around an orange bowling ball.
The animals have come out of the woods, and collected on a rundown shopping center in Oslo east.
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A suitcase full of fur
A few hours earlier in the day. We stand out in the winter sun with Astrid Hansen. She is one of a group of 15-20 people who gathered outside the bowling of Veitvet center.
- Right now I feel just empty. Excited I get only when we enter, says 29-year-old and looks away slightly towards the other at the small parking lot.
Inside the hall is Norway championship bowling in full swing. That's not why she's nervous. Astrid shall not participate in the championship. Astrid is "Furry". Today she is on her first bowling match.
The gang she is with one of the smallest, and perhaps the fussiest subcultures out there. It is mostly men. Some older and some younger. Apparently there is nothing that sets them apart from the others coming and going this Saturday morning. Like Astrid, several of the large suitcases or bags.
In the purple suitcase Astrid is two fur outfits she has made herself. A pink dog called "Temples" and the brown fox "Asha". On special occasions, or when she feels extra social, she is wearing the pink suit.
- Astrid Hansen
One is that you will be. Inside the jersey, no one sees you.
- Has saved me socially
Astrid is quiet. She is dark, with a hint of gray in her long hair deferred. In most ways a normal girl. She speaks softly and low. Near the other people she chooses often placing themselves in the outskirts.
It has always been for her.
Before she began to walk with fur costume she was "the quietest girl in the class." The one who always stood alone, watching the others. She was just there, but did not exist, as she describes it herself.
- I'm probably not so easy to approach. I've avoided other people ... I have somehow never quite known what to say, says Astrid and biting her lower lip gently.
- I'd probably not so good for a while, I think ... She pulls a bit.
- I have always been a lot to myself, never had so many friends that it does something. For my part, well this really saved me socially. I guess I've gotten a little spark of life again, one might say. She looks down at the ground.
I'm probably not so easy to approach. I've avoided other people ...
When she is "temple" or "Asha" she feels safer. When she knows that she is part of an environment that has the same interests as her. This makes it easier to be with others. Without her constantly need to think about or be afraid of being judged.
- You are the one will be. Inside the jersey, no one sees you. Although I have become more social and outgoing. I dare to be more normal in a way, although this is not exactly look so normal, she says and laughs a little of what she says.
Dress up like animals
Astrid is not alone. All over the world there are thousands who dress in fur suits. For a very few, it is a lifestyle. The phenomenon originated in the U.S. in the early 1980s as a "hairy" relative of the environment around the fantasy and science-fiction. They call themselves furries, fur animals. In short, they are a group of people who have a very strong and special attraction to animals.
Think of anthropomorphic animals like Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, and add characters from various video games and cartoons.
Some dress up in full costume and live out fantasies, most of us have known since childhood.
There are many reasons why people become furries. It varies from person to person. Most people find interest through cartoons and video games. Many come from the environment around anime and cosplay, Japanese cartoons and masquerade associated with this.
For some it's a sexual thing, but within the community there are also many who reject this. Most telling about the other reasons why they dress in fur.
Some feel almost like an animal trapped in a human body. Others like the creative and artistic. For them it is an opportunity to create and develop imaginative characters, sew costumes or subscribe. Some make music or movies, or just hanging around because they think the environment is exciting.
Currently, the Norwegian environment little. Somewhere between 100 and 200 Perhaps it is only between 20 to 50 as Astrid, who is in suits and fur live life fully. But the environment is growing. Internet forums as Norwegian Paws and Furaffinity testify that there are furries all over the country.
Turn into animals
This Saturday has many turned up. Record number, I know. They have reserved three courts. When the time is approaching five, moving the herd slowly into the alley.
There has meanwhile arisen a crisis. Having been told to use bowling there are several that will not change. "- It has never been before ...", whispered it. Some shoes will simply destroy the illusion and experience of the costume, explaining one of fur animals.
Astrid will run "partial," animal head, paws and tail. The rest she takes on when the bowl is finished.
Noticeably disappointed they carry the equipment with them. They have borrowed two small rooms where they can change. The transformation from human to animal is a tedious process. First a layer of clothing and face mask to protect costly suits against sweat. A range also on a small corset before he sneaks into the thick layers of synthetic fur. More people need help to get all the gear in place.
When my paws out of the sweaty locker room, they transformed into animals.
Astrid has decided the brown revedrakten today. The pink dog, a friend borrow. "Asha" is ready for her first bowling match.
For many, this is not something you choose to be, it is simply something you are. Although I was born that way, I think.
Norway's first "furry"
In Norway probably started it all in 1994. Then the cartoon enthusiast Steinar Eliassen across a site for furries. He was immediately enthusiastic about what he saw. The following year he stood as a lone Norwegian participant at a meeting in Los Angeles.
Nearly 20 years later, the 41-year-old father of the family is still one of the most active in the Norwegian environment. It is he who arranges's bowling.
- This is not something you do to become popular. Actually it was pretty lonely for some years. For many, this is not something you choose to be, it is simply something you are. Although I was born like that, I think, says Steinar serious.
He lives in Norway, just outside Doylestown. In a small townhouse packed with teddy bear and animal pictures he keeps to a wife who is also furry, and her two children.
In the locker room he is about to become "Sayh" a wonderful mix of mandarinand and red panda. A "Panduck," as he calls it. The suit is so big and unwieldy that I must help him to lace up duck feet and the large wings.
- I do not know why, but I always felt like that. It was always clear that it was a bird that would be my character, he says.
For Steinar is it like to be an animal trapped in a human body. He has always identified strongly with animals, and feel a strong spiritual connection with their characters.
So strong that when the huge bird head is hoisted into place he puts the furry paw over his beak and signals that now is the end of the talking. In full costume he communicates only with a few small nods and gestures.
To get out of the locker room, he must pry their way through the narrow doorway.
- The animal in me takes over
In "Dame locker room" also has Astrid got the suit. For her it was almost by chance that she was furry. Unlike Steinar she feels no spiritual connection to their characters.
Not yet at least.
For her, it's mainly about the social. And if the costumes. Astrid has always been interested in toys, comics and design. She is creative, loves to sew and has made cartoons that have been published in several newspapers and magazines. It was supposed to be her way into the environment.
For me, it was liberating. Just talking to people though quite large.
- I have always been aware of what it was and that they were there, but I never thought anything special of furries before a few years ago, she says.
In 2011, at a meeting for comic fans, she became acquainted with a furry. With her interests was easy to find the tone. Gradually she became drawn into the environment. Eventually she agreed terms. It was when she was she "saved," she says. Now she crawled almost only other furries.
- For me, it was liberating. Just talking to people though quite large. Finally I met someone I knew how I could communicate with, she explains.
After a while, she decided to create her own animal nature. Suddenly there appeared a figure she could not let go.
- "I must have suit!", I thought, says Astrid.
A short time later she had rigged up in a corner of the living room and had started to sew her first costume. It was the brown fox "Asha", which is now headed for the bowling alley. Since it has thus reached a new fur animals in her life. It is the slightly more playful "The temple", which is a mixture of wolf, dog and little cat.
- Now the only animal in me more and more, she says, laughing a little himself.
- This is about belonging
Although the term and interest for most people might be perceived as odd, are the driving forces behind very normal and human.
- There are certainly many different approaches to this, including outside of the purely psychological individual may have. For many, it's probably primarily about belonging, says Arnbjørg Engenes, who is a sociologist at Vestfold University College.
All people have a need to be part of a social community. All we have also strategies to gain entry. Some choose soccer jerseys or T-shirts with their favorite band, the second thus fur suits and living that fantasy.
- What is special is that it has so many strong elements of play and childishness. There are very few other subcultures that have, she says.
She thinks it's one of the reasons why furries have a relatively low social status, and that they largely have ended up being ridiculed and looked down upon.
- Worse to come out as gay furry than that
The most common representation in the media and popular culture are typical nerds and losers. The controversial radio host Howard Stern has repeatedly made condescending articles about the environment. Major TV series such as "Entourage" and "CSI" have used them as humorous touches. On the web there are numerous sites and discussion forums that make fun of them.
Many therefore choose to live out the interest in hiding.
Astrid and Steinar are two of the few who choose to stand openly with your name and face. For most it will be too difficult. Many dare not even admit interest in friends or family.
- For some, it is actually a major barrier to come out as furry than coming out of the closet as gay, says Steinar before bowling.
- I know furries who lives at home with parents who have no idea what they are doing. They hide suits and smuggle them out when they are on the hit, he said.
Currently, there are in fact few who find it healthy or natural for older people dress up as something that looks like it was taken from a picture book for children.
For it is fur animals differently. And visible.
Becoming more courageous
Inside the bowling is almost full. When fur animals transcends into it as if someone pressed the pause button. The sound level drops and bowling balls are left in peace. More to come over to take pictures or ask about what's going on. Some whispering and pointing. More simply shake their heads over what they see.
"- Is there a bachelorette party?", "- Plays the music video?». It is clear that more has Ylvis `" The Fox "in mind when they see the small herd.
Fur animals can not seem to be affected by all the attention. It appears in the least. Now that the fur has come on, the atmosphere is noticeably different than moments ago. Quiet chatter and nervous laughter disappeared. Several starting to take some careful dance steps, or to pose and do pranks for the onlookers.
A few of the animals go and greet those in neighboring lanes. The kids are doing great eyes when a big blue fox suddenly comes over to hand out hugs. A small child is so scared that it starts to hylskrike.
- A bit like Russian suit or bachelorette party
- Although this is undoubtedly special interest, they are not really so different from football fans, or anyone else who is heavily into a particular concern, says Lars Jørun Langøien.
Langøien is a social anthropologist and has written thesis about cosplayers. It is a phenomenon that is closely related to furry.
For some fur suit mean a chance to live out a more playful and social side of himself. It could also be something to hide behind, which means they can be who they want to be, he explains.
- There will be an opportunity to get away from the ordinary, mundane everyday life.
Lars Jørun Langøien
... They both dare and ability to break with what is considered "normal".
As furry they can play and extend the boundaries of their own identity. Do things that are not socially acceptable, or that they may not dare to normal.
- It is a phenomenon most of us know. It is like the Russian suit or stag party. The costume makes you dare to expand their usual repertoire, he says.
He believes that being a furry in many ways requires far more of a person than many other communities. It is extremely much more taboo than other subcultures.
- So even though this very much could be called a "nerd culture", I'd be very careful to call these people losers, says Langøien.
Disappearing in the crowd is in fact not easy when you are dressed up as giant, live cartoon characters. It takes courage to live out that in many ways bothersome interest.
- It just shows that they both dare and abilities to break with what is considered "normal". One can just as easily turn it around and look at some of them, socially, as a strong people, he said.
Lars Jørun Langøien, social anthropologist
It is like the Russian suit or stag party. The costume makes you dare to expand their usual repertoire.
- Nice to get out among people
The bowling has the worst commotion subsided. Fur animals appear to have found its natural place among the other guests. When one path is a black cat and drinking cola and eating french fries while waiting for it to be his turn to play. A gray wolf is straight out of the parquet after sending the bowling ball in the gutter of "enteritis" time.
Astrid gets only four throws before she goes back and change into full costume. After all, fur is all about today.
When she comes back, there are already some who have given up for the day. In the suit, it quickly becomes hot. More is soon to change. When they come back, they are fur-free faces red and dripping with sweat.
Astrid goes back and forth. Greet someone, turn off and a short chat. Although she has been fitted with an electric fan in the head of the costume, she soon out in the parking lot. This time with her friend in the pink suit.
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- It's nice to see something new for a change. Get out. Hitting people, not just sit at home and stare at the wall, she said.
Soon she also goes to the locker room and begins to undress. The face glisten with sweat as she takes off her mask. She is hot and tired, but when she pack up your bags, there is no doubt that she is happy with what she has experienced.
- I'll definitely next time, she says, smiling broadly under the sweat bangs.
But first she partying with the other fur animals. Then the suits get be left in the purple suitcase.