The Job Kids Have In Norway Makes Selling Girl Scout Cookies Look Like Child’s Play

Pay a winter visit to Norway’s remote Lofoten Islands, north of the Arctic Circle, and it’s impossible to miss the rows of headless fish carcasses hanging from wooden racks to dry. If you follow the two-lane road, you’ll arrive at the dock of H. Sverdrup AS fish factory in a town called Reine. There, you’ll find a group of kids with sharp knives and bloody smocks, ready to make some serious cash. The kids are known as as tungeskjaererne, or tongue cutters. Cod tongue, tender and jellylike, is a local delicacy. It’s described as the best meat of the fish, with the consistency of filet mignon. For as long as anybody can remember, tungeskjaererne have been responsible for the local cod tongue trade, with most kids making $11,000 in a single season. It may seem bizarre that when school’s out kids as young as 6 head straight for the dock and spend hours in the numbing cold coated in fish guts and wielding sharp knives like experts, but they're proud to be a part of the tradition. The task itself involves spearing the head onto a giant metal spike and then slicing out the tongue. The heads are thrown into a bin, to be strung up and dried for export. Most tungeskjaererne spend their earnings on things like iPods, computers, and beefing up their savings, but almost all give a big portion to their parents to help out their families.