Mythical Beasts of Scandinavia
"We come from the land of the ice and snow, From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow"...OK enough Led Zeppelin If there is indeed such a thing.
This wouldn't be the only music connection to creating a Mythical Beasts of Scandinavia print. You can bet your bottom dollar (or indeed Króna) that if you want to find a mythical beast from this region, you will have to sift through a lot of pages of metal bands that share the name. Never change, you wonderful people.
The elephant in the room......
The word "Scandinavia" is quite vague and there can be many meanings and interpretations.
- In local usage, "Scandinavia" really means Sweden, Denmark, and Norway.
- The "Scandinavian Peninsula" would constitute Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
- "Fennoscandia" relates to Norway, Sweden, and Finland, sometimes Denmark and sometimes not.
-The "Nordic region" would include all the above as well as Iceland The Faroe Islands, Åland, Greenland, Svalbard, and Bouvet Island.
-In broad use, Scandinavia is used as a cultural synonym to mean Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Åland, and the Faroe Islands.
........ And breath.
Got it? No? Fair play, it is damned confusing. Throw into the mix -
- Some of the countries were previously ruled by others within the group.
- A long history of shifting borders, and a culture that ventured far out into the wider world.
- That it is viewed differently by people inside the region than people outside it.
- Several language barriers.
-The Sami people's territory overlaps the 3 countries of the Scandinavian peninsula. They have their own unique and long history and have their own issues with the rest of Scandinavia.
Well, it's going to be a doozy, let's start researching the beasties and flesh this out as we go.
One of the first things we encountered whilst making the map, was that a lot of the creatures were extremely universal, spreading over the entirety of many of the countries, with a language change each time. They also didn't have many names as individuals, quite often things were just "a troll made that", "which troll, did it have a name?", "no, just a troll did it". This is in stark contrast to the UK with its creatures that inhabit a specific area and have their own name e.g Black Annis, Nessie, the blue men of the Minch, (insert least favourite politician here), the Lampton worm, Black Shuck, and so on. It almost seemed to me that the belief in them was so far spread and abundant that it would be akin to us naming every pigeon in an Aldi car park.
After a long time, we had collated the information of all the unique creatures we could find and had sourced some decent accounts localising some of the more widespread beasts. The initial plotting of the map indicated a good correlation between Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, The Faroe Island, and Denmark. This also tied into the wider view of what many outside the region viewed as Scandinavia. So, those 6 countries would be our map, as well as some Sami influence, we wanted to include some of their beliefs within the map, and it would have felt terrible to leave them out.
At this point, we were very fortunate to begin speaking to the amazingly knowledgeable Tommy Kuusela who works for The Institute for Language and Folklore in Uppsala, Sweden. This was a highlight for me, I had read some articles for Folklore Thursday written by him, and they are fantastic. If you want to read some damn fine writing, check out his articles and papers here -https://sprakochfolkminnen.academia.edu/TommyKuusela. He also hosts a podcast with other experts in the field, unfortunately for me in Swedish. Needless to say, this is the man for this map. He was gracious enough to give us his time and advice throughout the making of the map, and for that, I am very grateful. He also turned me onto some key books, story collections, accounts, and thinkers on the subject. Most importantly national archives, Matti Sarmela and his folklore atlas of Finland, and the great works and ideas of Ebbe Schön.
This is usually the point where we say what a joy making this map was, and certainly in parts it was, but in all honesty, the research nearly broke us. It took far longer to pull together a satisfactory list and layout, and we lost sleep over the naming issue and other key decisions, we probably got far too deep into that rabbit hole. Ultimately, it was a rewarding challenge that was well received and massively broadened our knowledge of the region, both in terms of myths and the conversations that We had with people. And hey Neil got to draw longships and trolls which keeps him happy, so it all worked out well in the end.
Thank you to Tommy Kuusela for his help and guidance. Also thank you to everyone who picked up a map and helped support the project.
Prints are available through our Etsy store.
All the best
Neil and Charley