• 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 When the Sweden Democrats disguise xenophobia and outdated values as dreams about a time gone by and preserving the past, it's is time to think about what sort of stories Astrid Lindgren would tell about our time.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
Homeless to 'skip' long rental queues in capital
There is a long queue for housing in Stockholm. Photo: Image Bank Sweden

Homeless to 'skip' long rental queues in capital

Some of Stockholm's homeless population are set to be offered permanent accommodation in the city centre, as part of efforts to help them reintegrate into society. But the move is a highly controversial one in the capital where there is a long queue for first hand rental contracts among tax-paying residents. READ  

Nine more jailed for Stockholm Nazi attack
Police in Kärrtorp in December 2013. Photo: TT

Nine more jailed for Stockholm Nazi attack

Prison sentences of between three and eight months have been handed down to nine men involved in a neo-Nazi demonstration in Stockholm in 2013. Swedish courts have already punished fourteen others for their role in the brutal violence. READ  

'You have to be active, that's the whole point'
Magnus Melander and Linda Krondahl of THINGS. Photo: The Local

'You have to be active, that's the whole point'

What if you took a bunch of exciting start-ups and some of Sweden's biggest companies and put them all in the same place? You would get THINGS, a brand new hub designed to fuse software and hardware and creativity with experience. The Local got an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour ahead of its launch on Thursday evening. READ  

Alcohol becoming more accepted in Sweden
More and more Swedes are going for drinks after work with friends. Friends drinking: Shutterstock

Alcohol becoming more accepted in Sweden

Swedes are renowned for being 'lagom' but a new study on the alcohol habits of the Nordic nation looks set to challenge their reputation for moderation. READ  

Sweden sees Ukrainian asylum seeker boom
The Maidan Square in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo: Gustav Sjöholm/TT

Sweden sees Ukrainian asylum seeker boom

Sweden saw a huge spike in Ukrainians seeking asylum in 2014, with nearly eight times more applicants than the previous year, according to Eurostat data analyzed by The Local. READ  

What's on in Sweden
What's on in Sweden: March 26th - April 2nd
Say Lou Lou perfoms at Debaser Medis on Friday. Photo: TT

What's on in Sweden: March 26th - April 2nd

Alternative duo Say Lou Lou present their new album in Stockholm, and a musical tour of all the great American hits translated into Swedish hits the road. Here are some tips for fun activities over the next seven days. READ  

Thousands to be hit by Easter rail delays
Train delays are expected over Easter weekend in Sweden. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Thousands to be hit by Easter rail delays

Tens of thousands of Swedish travellers are set for rail chaos over Easter, one of the country's busiest holidays, with delays of up to three hours expected on some lines. READ  

Swedish council outlaws elephants in town centre
Elephants may no longer roam Kalmar's streets. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/SCANPIX

Swedish council outlaws elephants in town centre

You would not normally associate elephants with Sweden. But one town in the Nordic country has decided that it's better to be safe than sorry – so it has created a new bylaw forbidding elephants from parading its streets. READ  

Tough times ahead for Swedish energy giant
Is Sweden's state-owned energy firm Vattenfall facing further write-downs? Photo: Nora Lorek/TT

Tough times ahead for Swedish energy giant

Swedish energy giant Vattenfall could face asset write-downs of around eight billion kronor ($942m) as electricity prices are set to fall across the globe, the company has told specialist magazine Dagens Industri. READ  

Hiding still 'indefinite' for Swedish artist Vilks
Lars Vilks pictured in Karlstad earlier this month. Photo: TT

Hiding still 'indefinite' for Swedish artist Vilks

Swedish artist Lars Vilks who is believed to be the intended target of one of the Copenhagen shootings, says police have told him he can never return to his home in southern Sweden, as he prepares to hold a debate in a secret location on Wednesday night. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
How to never miss your favourite weekly features on The Local
Gallery
People-watching: March 25th
Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm is the 'Boston of Europe'
National
Which words are changing in Sweden's latest dictionary?
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
Blog updates

20 March

 (The Local Sweden) »

"Greetings from Stockholm, where we spent Friday morning getting excited about the first solar eclipse to..." READ »

 

19 March

Fighting for Women & Diversity in Malmo (Stockholm in my American Heart) »

"It takes one person to make noise. This is Muna Mohamud’s mantra as she strives to..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Is this house 'un-Swedish'
National
Sweden pays tribute to victims of Germanwings Alps crash
National
Neo-Nazi activity rising in Sweden
National
How to make Swedish Waffles
Gallery
Property of the week: Torslanda - Hjuvik
National
Stray dog Arthur moves in with Swedish owners
Sponsored Article
Ten tips for succeeding as a start-up in Sweden
National
Sweden triples maximum limit at asylum centres
Gallery
People-watching: March 21st
National
Why elderly Swedes are among the world's happiest people
National
TIMELINE: Gothenburg shootings
National
Can Sweden's feminist party score success in neighbouring Norway?
National
Why Brits can't get enough of Sweden
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's solar eclipse
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Royal wedding countdown begins
National
Viking ring reveals Islamic ties
National
TIMELINE: Julian Assange sex allegations in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: March 18th
National
One in three Russian diplomats are spies, says Sweden's Security Service
National
Hitchcock opera set to hit Gothenburg stage
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Northern Lights on show across Sweden
Technology
Why Swedish pop star Robyn is pushing for more girls in tech
Gallery
Property of the week: Umeå
National
Introducing Sweden's Eurovision 2015 entry Måns Zelmerlöw
Gallery
People-watching: March 13th - 15th
National
Why have Swedish prosecutors made a U-turn in Julian Assange case?
Sponsored Article
How Sweden and India can work together
Politics
Who's the new young leader of the Christian Democrats?
Travel
Why are Swedes so obsessed with Mallorca?
Gallery
Princess Estelle celebrates her mother's name day in Stockholm
National
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Obama's anti-Semitism team heads to Stockholm and Malmö
Gallery
People-watching: March 11th
Technology
How a Swedish app is teaching children to empathize
Swedish grandparents put on disguises to snatch baby
National
Why Sweden may not be as gender equal as you think
Politics
Why does Russia blame Sweden for the crisis in Ukraine?
Gallery
Property of the week: Smögen
National
Listen to the English remix of a Swedish 'genitals' song gone viral
Technology
'Swedish women are strong and ambitious'
National
Why are 11 Roma people suing the Swedish state?
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Stockholm job fair helps immigrant entrepreneurs
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

3,421
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