• Sweden's news in English
 

'It's high time for us to rethink our romanticized view of Sweden'

Published: 21 Jan 2014 13:25 GMT+01:00

Many Swedes grew up with Astrid Lindgren's layered and vivid tales about Emil, Ronja and Rasmus. Even today they are important and influential stories about people, relationships and adventure. Bullerbyn (The Noisy Village), Lönneberga, and the Västerhaga orphanage also tell a story about a Sweden from a time gone by; a Sweden that we learned to both love and marvel at through countless tales told by one of the country's most cherished writers. Our image of the Sweden that we asked our grandparents to tell us about when we were children is, more the part, told by Astrid Lindgren.

At the same time, many of her books sparked debate when they were first published. Pippi Longstocking, for example, was accused of contributing to the "wildness of young people". Yet, Astrid Lindgren's stories about the Sweden of iconic 'Gärdsgård' log fences, orphanages, red cottages, and Saltkråkan (Seacrow Island) played a more important role that lessons learned in school when it came to shaping the accepted view of the Swedish cultural heritage.

This romanticized image of contemporary Sweden is important to today's debate about Sweden. Not least because the political debate often revolves around the preservation of ideals and beliefs from a time long ago. When the Sweden Democrats disguise xenophobia and outdated values as dreams about a time gone by and preserving the past, it's is time to think about what sort of stories Astrid Lindgren would tell about our time. What questions will our grandchildren ask us? How was the Sweden that shaped us? Who is the "Emil" of our time? I know what I think about the sort of stories Astrid Lindgren would have told.

About a guy in Lönneberga whose name isn't Emil, but Samir and who, when he was a child, was a troublemaker; who played pranks, found mischief, and when his father scolded him fled to the nearest football pitch. That this rowdy boy, just as Lönneberga's Emil, would end up on the local council in Hultsfred was hardly anything the residents of Lönneberga would have believed.

About Ronja, the robber's daughter who finds her contested and sometimes forbidden love, not with Birk, the son of the head of a rival clan, but with the daughter Ylva. And I would hope that Ronja's and Ylva's love for one another would be as obvious to us as the one between Ronja and Birk described for us by Lindgren in the classic Ronia the Robber's Daughter (Ronja Rövardotter).

About Pippi, who wasn't chased by Prussiluskan from social services and who Tommy's and Annika's parents never shook their heads at. A Pippi who is instead praised, admired, and fascinates those around her for her outspokenness, her criticism of reigning norms, and going her own way. We might today know her instead as Lady Gaga or Beyoncé.

About an orphan boy who, just like Rasmus, left the orphanage and his homeland in search of a family and someone to love him. Our time's Rasmus, however, is named Sinan and is an unaccompanied refugee child from Afghanistan. In the same manner as that of Rasmus's world, where only blonde girls with curly hair were selected from the orphanage, no one at first welcomes Sinan with open arms. When this is told, I hope that it's as natural to get angry at those who want to send back Sinan to Afghanistan, as it once was to get angry when the police wanted to take Rasmus back to the orphanage.

About Bullerbyn, which is no longer inhabited by traditional nuclear families, but instead by "star" families (stjärnfamiljer), a recently minted Swedish term referring to families of different constellations. Where Britta and Anna living only with dad in Bullerbyn is as natural as Olle, who, though he lacks a father, gains a sibling when mom Lisa undergoes insemination treatment. It's a Bullerbyn where children play, find adventure, and where everyday life is an ideal worth longing for.

About Saltkråkan, which no longer plays out in the Stockholm archipelago, but thanks to free movement and economic growth, might take place somewhere in the Mediterranean archipelago; maybe on a small Greek island with whitewashed houses with blue shutters. Where Swedes travel every summer and where the occasional islander, like Saltkråkans Söderman, mutters something like, "Well, here come the summer residents. They are like the locusts of Egypt."

About the Lionheart Brothers, a story that, when told to us was just a fairy tale from a time that never existed. Even this time it's about two brothers who dream of a life of freedom and fight for good. The difference is that their escape is for real and is from today's Syria. Hopefully in the future, that reality will feel as strange as the tale of the Brothers Lionheart felt for us.

About an open, modern, and respectful Sweden is what I think Astrid would have told. Where people come from all over the world to work, study, love, and to escape from war and persecution. Where everyone's love was equally recognized and respected. Where being critical and outspoken defeated modern sexism and traditional gender roles. Where growth and mobility made the world bigger and more open. Far away from the romanticized wooden fences, xenophobia, and gender roles of the 1800s.

Rasmus Törnblom
First vice-chairman of the Moderate Youth League (Moderata ungdomsförbundet)

This article was originally published in Swedish by the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper. English translation by The Local.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Sweden to crack down on silly police reports
A police spokesman told The Local they receive many complaints from people who lose their car keys. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/SCANPIX

Sweden to crack down on silly police reports

The Swedish government announced on Thursday that is is going to launch an investigation into valuable police time being wasted by officers forced to deal with unnecessary reports and complaints. READ  

Booming exports boost for Sweden's economy
The Swedish economy is growing. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Booming exports boost for Sweden's economy

Figures showing a surprise financial growth spurt in the second quarter of the year have been hailed as proof that Sweden's economy is on the road to recovery. READ  

Swedes' viral plea finds sender of bottle message
A close-up of the letter Herman Andreas Brunbäck Larsen enclosed in the bottle in 2004. Photo: Sara Hoffman

Swedes' viral plea finds sender of bottle message

A Swedish family has told The Local how they tracked down the sender of a mystery message in a bottle when their Facebook appeal went viral – 11 years after the letter was thrown into the sea by a Norwegian boy. READ  

Why buy a house when there's a Swedish island?
The island is situated between Nacka and Lidingö in Stockholm. Photo: Eldh

Why buy a house when there's a Swedish island?

Ever dreamed of owning your very own Swedish island? This gem in the heart of the Stockholm archipelago could be yours. If you have 65 million kronor ($7.5 million) to spare, that is. READ  

Swedish terror suspect released from custody
Lawyer Lars Salkola at Gothenburg District Court on Friday. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

Swedish terror suspect released from custody

UPDATED: A man detained by a Gothenburg court on suspicion of committing murder in Syria has been released from custody pending an ongoing investigation. READ  

Swedish thieves use mobile app to rob man
Swedish app Swish allows users to transfer money in real time using mobile technology. Photo: TT

Swedish thieves use mobile app to rob man

In cashless Sweden even robbers have had to change their methods, with thieves on the island of Gotland resorting to the popular money transfer app Swish to extort money from their victim. READ  

Gothenburg rocked by 'fairly big' earthquake
An earthquake hit the Gothenburg area on Wednesday evening. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Gothenburg rocked by 'fairly big' earthquake

A rare earthquake shook the Gothenburg area in western Sweden on Wednesday evening. READ  

Child's toy bow and arrow spark police alert
A Stockholm police car. File photo: TT

Child's toy bow and arrow spark police alert

After a summer of violence the southern Swedish town of Malmö is on edge, so much so that a full-scale police operation was launched for what turned out to be a child playing with a toy gun and a bow and arrow. READ  

What's on in Sweden
Five fun festivals to get you partying in Sweden
The Medieval Week on Gotland. Photo: Marie-Anne Björkman/Medeltidsveckan

Five fun festivals to get you partying in Sweden

Sweden is gearing up for a number of great festivals this week. Check out our favourite five picks as well as a handy interactive guide to all of Sweden's best events. READ  

Heavy rail travel delays expected across Sweden
Train delays are expected on Thursday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/SCANPIX

Heavy rail travel delays expected across Sweden

UPDATED: Commuters or summer tourists experiencing Sweden by rail are set for travel chaos on Thursday as delays are expected in several parts of the Nordic country. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
How a century-old Russian sub wreck got Sweden into a frenzy
Gallery
People-watching: July 29th
National
How to become a Swedish woman
National
Free bus cards for refugees in Sweden
Lifestyle
New snaps of Sweden's baby prince
Blog updates

24 July

Editor’s blog, July 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Dear readers, Our most read story this week was our tongue-in-cheek guide on how to become a..." READ »

 

15 July

Climate Change: A New Risk Assessment (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world today.   The UK is..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Why are Swedes so scared of Russian submarines?
Gallery
Property of the week: Simrishamn, Skåne
National
Why has Snoop Dogg said he will never return to Sweden?
Sponsored Article
Getting pregnant the Swedish way
Features
Five outrageously harsh tourist comments about Sweden
Sponsored Article
Why is Sweden still working with Russia?
Gallery
People-watching: July 24th-26th
Travel
Seven ways to beat the Swedish rain
National
Should Sweden's alcohol stores be open on weekends?
National
How to become a Swedish man
Gallery
People-watching: July 22nd
Lifestyle
How to never miss your favourite features on The Local
National
Royal husband on 'breadwinner' role
National
Stockholm to ban all cars for one day
Sponsored Article
Outsourcing drives Apreel's Europe growth
Gallery
Property of the week: Sölvesborg, Blekinge
National
Questions over who would replace Swedish PM in a crisis
Gallery
IN PICTURES: July summer snaps
Gallery
People-watching: July 17th-19th
National
Why are Swedish women joining Isis?
Travel
Ten Stockholm streets you just have to walk down
Sponsored Article
'Swedish women must demand their partners use a condom'
Sport
Did UK football parents threaten Swedish kids?
Technology
Stockholm scientists find world's oldest sperm
Gallery
People-watching: July 15th
National
Angry Swede uses bird nest as fake speed camera
National
Meatball row as Ikea changes recipe
National
Sweden's new princess in spotlight
National
Slimy slugs go on sale to raise cash for EU migrants in Sweden
National
Crown Princess Victoria turns 38
Sponsored Article
Harstena: Life in Sweden's secret archipelago
National
Is this the best marriage proposal story in Malmö's history?
Sponsored Article
'Biofuels critical for climate-friendly flights'
Sponsored Article
Gaps don't have to kill your Swedish CV
National
Why summer could be the best time to invest in a Swedish property
Gallery
Property of the week: Bollnäs, Hälsingland
National
Swedish house on sale for one krona
National
Would you give this ugly food a home?
Gallery
People-watching: July 10th-12th
Travel
Foreign hikers in Sweden set to get more help in English
National
Prince Nicolas enjoys first summer
National
Meet the amazing Swedish granny who loves theme parks
National
Stockholm to host Eurovision 2016
Travel
Five quirky summer tours in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: July 8th
Sponsored Article
'Swedish industry needs US trade deal'
Sponsored Article
Sweden's 'incredible' chance to connect
Sponsored Article
'Today's refugees could be tomorrow's Zlatan'
Sponsored Article
Crans-Montana: International expat hub
Sponsored Article
‘I don’t feel Swedish, I feel international’
Sponsored Article
VIP Mingle at Almedalen's hottest event
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,292
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se